Football/Soccer

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray set for Warrenpoint reunion

FAMILAR FACES: Barry Gray will try to take points away from Milltown for the first time Photo Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
By Padraig Kelly

Danske Bank Premiership: Warrenpoint Town v Cliftonville (today, Milltown, 3pm)

CLIFTONVILLE manager Barry Gray can expect a warm pre-match welcome upon his return to Milltown this afternoon – but that’s as far as the goodwill will go according to Warrenpoint boss Matthew Tipton.

The pair worked together last year when taking the county Down club back to the Premiership before Gray, after a 10-year reign, passed the managerial baton onto Tipton before taking up his new role at Solitude.

“We will welcome Barry back because he was such a big part of the football club,” said Tipton.

“However, for us our ultimate focus is on the game and getting the result.

“There’ll be no surprises for Barry tomorrow regarding how we set up.

“I won’t be hiding too much because obviously he knows how we play.

“He would have seen us when working here and he would have watched us when I took over too.

“He’ll know a lot more about my team than I will about his team, I would think.”

The visitors travel to the seaside town hoping to carry November’s sensational form into December. Last month they won five games from five in all competitions, scoring 11 and conceding zero in the process.

Crusaders, who travel to Milltown next week, won six and drew one in November and Tipton said that it’s time for the ‘Point to stand up to these big teams, especially at home, as they try to move away from the relegation zone.

“We haven’t been too far away in our games this season, and that brings a frustration for myself and my coaching staff.

“The boys are going out and delivering maybe 80 percent of what we are looking for.

“It’s those little fine margins that are stopping us from pushing over the line at the minute.

“To be fair, over the last six weeks the boys have been delivering the type of performance that I would be expecting from them.

“We just have to keep beating the same drum and hope the results will follow.

“We need our home form to help us. We can’t afford to say that because they’re the bigger teams we’ll just give them the points.

“We have to make it as difficult as possible and as uncomfortable as possible for these teams when they’re here.

“We can’t have teams coming to Warrenpoint and thinking they can just take away the points with no problems.”

Warrenpoint will attempt to upset the odds without top goal scorer Darren Murray, who is suspended.

“Darren misses out because he has picked up five bookings, so we’re disappointed with that,” Tipton confirmed.

“Apart from that we have a full squad to pick from, nobody else should be missing.”

While Cliftonville have been flying recently, Warrenpoint have been just missing out on some decent results.

They have taken just eight points from their last seven league games, with the three losses in that period all coming by one-goal margins.

The last side to beat them by two goals or more were Cliftonville when the Reds won 2-0 at Solitude in October.

Ards v Glenavon

GLENAVON boss Gary Hamilton felt that some key decisions went against them in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Linfield, only their second defeat of the season. They should bounce back here but they’ll need to be wary of an Ards side that beat Glentoran last week – and also defeated Glenavon 4-0 in a League Cup match earlier in the season. Johnny Frazer misses out with a hamstring injury.

Odds: H: 11/2 D: 7/2 A: 1/3

Verdict: Draw

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard United

BALLYMENA boss David Jeffrey was in defence mode this week as he strongly refuted claims that they were going to sell Jonathan McMurray to Linfield. The United boss may be without Emmet Friars, Willie Faulkner and Conor McCloskey for today’s game as they picked up injuries midweek against Ards. Ballinamallard are bottom of the table and unlikely to get anything here.

Odds: H: 1/6 D: 11/2 A: 9/1

Verdict: Ballymena United

Carrick Rangers v Coleraine

THIS could get ugly for Carrick Rangers if they play like they have been in recent weeks. They have conceded 11 in their last two league games and, in truth, it could have been more. Coleraine hit three against them earlier in the season and it would be a surprise if Oran Keanrey’s side didn’t manage similar today.

Odds: H: 9/1 D: 5/1 A: 1/6

Verdict: Coleraine

Crusaders v Glentoran

CLIFTONVILLE’S form may be making headlines but Crusaders were superb in November, and they should keep on the right track against a struggling Glentoran. Marcus Kane, Calum Birney and Nathan Kerr should be back in contention for the visitors, but it could be another miserable day for manager Gary Haveron.

Odds: H: 1/5 D: 9/2 A: 9/1

Verdict: Crusaders

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

SUDDENLY Linfield’s season has come to life after wins over Coleraine and Glenavon. They could actually jump from fifth to second if results went a certain way today. The signing of experienced striker Kurtis Byrne this week will further improve the mood. Dungannon destroyed Carrick 4-0 last week. That was their sixth time being involved in a 4-0 game this season, winning three and losing three.

Odds: H: 1/7 D: 11/2 A: 10/1

Verdict: Linfield

Warrenpoint Town v Cliftonville

CLIFTONVILLE have often struggled away to Warrenpoint with current manager Barry Gray masterminding some good results against the Reds. Matthew Tipton is in charge of the ‘Point now but they will badly miss top scorer Darren Murray.

Odds: H: 9/2 D: 7/2 A: 2/5

Verdict: Cliftonville

 

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