Football/Soccer

Newry in danger of making tough task an impossible one - Darren Mullen

Pádraig Ó Meiscill

Newry City v Glentoran (tonight, 7.45pm)

NEWRY City manager Darren Mullen has said they must get their own house in order if they are to avoid relegation from the Danske Bank Premiership at the first time of asking.

Having lost their last six games on the trot, City currently occupy the relegation/promotion play-off spot in the Irish League table, two points above basement club Ards, and 11 points adrift of the relative safety of 10th position.

While Ards have lost their last four league games in succession, Mullen says Newry can't bank on that continuing.

“All we can do is concentrate on the next game, we can't look too far ahead. We need to make sure that we start winning games,” he said.

“I've said already that we can't rely on Ards to keep getting beat to keep us off that bottom spot. They, like ourselves, will be hoping they can pick up wins. We just need to make sure we can look after ourselves and start winning games. It's an opportunity to get three points at home and create a wee bit of space between ourselves and Ards.

“It's been a tough season so far, which we knew it was going to be. We'd like to have more points on the board, but the reality is at the minute we're the ninth best team in the league. The table doesn't lie and we're in the middle of a relegation battle, but it's a test for us and there's plenty of football to be played yet.”

City's latest setback was a Mourne derby defeat to Warrenpoint Town last weekend and, while Mullen had seen plenty to praise in recent performances, he was scathing of the display against their south Down rivals.

“It's never nice getting beat. When we were beat by Linfield, we missed a penalty, hit the post and played well,” he added.

“There were positives to take out of that game, but there's absolutely nothing positive to be taken out of the Warrenpoint game. It was poor, considering that we played so well and should've had them buried on Boxing Day, the turnaround was a disappointing thing.

“Everyone was prepared to go out and try to get a win against our local rivals, but we didn't give ourselves a chance with the defensive mistakes leading up to their two goals. In truth, we never really got started in the game.”

If Newry can fashion a victory over Glentoran tonight, they would reduce the gap to the east Belfast men and Dugannon Swifts to eight points, and Mullen knows they must be at the top of their game to stand a chance of safety.

“It's delicate enough, but if we defend like that [in the defeat to Warrenpoint] and we don't lift our game, then it's going to become an impossible task,” he said.

“We need to make sure that we're playing really well in every single game. You can't pick and choose. It's alright lifting your game for Linfield and playing well, but not being able to do it in a local derby, that's the disappointing thing.

“We just have to treat every game as a cup final and that's the mentality we're after. It's a great game when you're winning – which we've being doing a lot of over the past five years – but when you're not winning then you know more about yourself as a player or as a manager.

“The way football is, the next game gives you a chance to try to redeem yourself, so Glentoran's now the game where we're fully focused on trying to get the three points.”

Jimmy Walker and Dale Montgomery will both miss tonight's game for Newry through suspension, but Mark McCabe, who came off the bench against Warrenpoint after a long lay-off, may see more game-time against the Glens.

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