Warrenpoint Town park Irish Cup run to catch up with in-form Dungannon Swifts
Irish Premiership: Dungannon Swifts v Warrenpoint Town (tonight, Stangmore Park, 7.45pm)
WARRENPOINT Town travel to Dungannon Swifts tonight on the back of a 2-0 win over Queen’s University on Monday night which saw the club progress to the Irish Cup quarter-final stage for the first time in their history.
The reward for that victory, win came just two days after a 5-0 hammering from Glentoran, was a favourable draw against Larne Tech Old Boys in the last eight.
Defeats to Linfield and Glentoran aside, manager Stephen McDonnell and his players have been on an impressive run this year. The seasiders have recorded wins over Glenavon, Institute and neighbours Newry in the league and are now just eight points away from equalling their season’s best of 36.
McDonnell’s men can leapfrog Dungannon with a win tonight but the Stangmore Park outfit have also been in excellent form lately.
Since the turn of the year, Kris Lindsay’s side have lost just once in six outings and beat Cliftonville and Glenavon (1-0 last Saturday) to also progress to the last eight of the Irish Cup.
Warrenpoint Town boss McDonnell predicts a “good battle” tomorrow night between two sides that have ambitions to finish the league in mid-table.
“We have to focus on every game we’re involved in and we’re lucky to be in a position in the league where we can have a really positive outcome in the last 11 games,” said McDonnell who rejects the suggestion that cup success could be a distraction from the league.
“We’ll focus on the cup when it comes round and on the final of the Mid-Ulster Cup (two days later on Match 5) but there’s no point looking too far ahead. We just have to take it a game at a time and ourselves and Dungannon have been doing quite well recently, so it’ll be a good battle.”
McDonnell made seven changes to the side that lost 5-0 to the Glens for the 2-0 win over Queen’s. With just two days between the games, he says it was: “Just a matter of sweeping it (the defeat) under the carpet”.
“It was a poor performance from us and I suppose it happens at all levels,” he added.
“It was just one of those off-days, we’re still a young panel, we still haven’t got that consistency yet but we’re starting to show more signs of consistency.
“Hopefully it was just a one-off and getting the win on Monday night was good, there were a few changes from the Saturday team so that has left us with a nice headache tomorrow night in terms of team selection.”
A schedule of three games in six days is tough going at any level and Warrenpoint will be without influential midfielder Fra McCaffrey tonight. McCaffrey was sent off against Glentoran and is suspended while full-back Stevie Moan is out with a hamstring injury.
“These boys are working five days-a-week and they’re coming in and having to play three games in six days, it’s a pretty tough ask,” said McDonnell.
“We’re lucky we’re in a position where we could rotate a couple of bodies and keep a bit of freshness.”
A Dougie Wilson goal saw Dungannon account for third-placed Crusaders last Saturday. The Tyrone men have taken some noteworthy scalps on home soil and will move up to seventh with a win. However, McDonnell says Warrenpoint will make the trip expecting a positive outcome.
“It’s going to be very difficult over there,” he said.
“They’ve got some big results there in recent weeks so we understand the game it’s going to be and how tough it’s going to be and the form they’re in but they are a team we certainly expect to take something from.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to go and take something from them but it’s a game we’re ready for and we feel we can get something out of.”
Tonight’s fixtures (all 7.45pm)
Ards v Institute FC, Crusaders v Coleraine, Dungannon Swifts v Warrenpoint Town