Warrenpoint boss Stephen McDonnell looking for safety net
Danske Bank Premiership: Ards v Warrenpoint Town (today, Clandeboye Park, 3pm)
WARRENPOINT Town manager Stephen McDonnell believes that today's trip to Ards is their most crucial league game of the season to date.
The Seasiders will attempt to secure a first-ever Irish Cup final appearance when they meet Ballinamallard United later this month. McDonnell is hoping to have league safety all but secured by the time of that clash at Mourneview Park on March 30.
It's not surprising then that he has circled their visit to Clandeboye Park with a big red marker.
The Point will have seven games left after this fixture and if they come away with a win they will be 13 points clear of second from bottom Ards with a game in hand. Lose and that gap is much more manageable for Warren Feeney's side.
“It's the biggest league game to date considering the position we are in,” said McDonnell.
“Win and we're more than likely safe, in my opinion. Lose and they're seven points behind us and we have two very tough fixtures coming in the form of Crusaders and Ballymena.
“We understand that it's a huge game. The players understand that too, that's the most important thing.
“We're trying to drum into the players to worry about the cup when it comes because they're going to be judged on the league games going into that semi-final in order for us to pick an 11 for that game.
“We're by no means safe but we have a chance to create a big gap with the games ticking down.
“It would be massive to win against Ards but it won't be easy because they have improved drastically.
“We want to win but it's vital that we come away with something at least.”
Irish Cup run aside, Warrenpoint have really struggled in recent weeks and are out to avoid a fifth straight league defeat.
It's still as not as bad as their start to the season when they didn't take a point from their opening six matches, and McDonnell said that his squad deserve plenty of credit for turning the situation around.
“It's been great coming through after that poor start,” he said.
“It maybe galvanized everyone, created a bit of a bond and we have been able to improve.
“That fact that we have turned it around has been thoroughly enjoyable.”
Their recent poor run owes a lot to the fact that McDonnell has had to make do without key players such as Alan O'Sullivan, Deane Watters, Eamon Scannell and Francis McCaffrey – and he said that things aren't going to be much better today.
“We have been down to the bare bones for the next month and we remain the same.
“We're down key personnel but we just have to get on with it. The boys coming in will have to do a job.”
Ards will be without Kym Nelson who is serving a ban after picking up a red card against Glentoran last week.
The side still left the Oval with an impressive point and that came on the back of a win over Newry City.
Another victory appears necessary today because if they don't, finishing in the relegation spots would seem a certainty.