Newry City need to win and hope for favour from Warrenpoint to avoid relegation
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Newry City v Dungannon Swifts (today, the Showgrounds, 3pm)
THREE weeks ago, Newry City's 3-0 win over relegation rivals Ards looked like a season-defining result, especially after the county Down side followed it up with a 4-2 victory over neighbours Warrenpoint Town in their next game.
Those wins made Darren Mullen's men the masters of their own destiny going into the final three fixtures, but back-to-back defeats for them and back-to-back wins for Ards mean that survival is now out of Newry's hands.
Three points adrift, City have to beat Institute this afternoon and hope Warrenpoint beat Ards convincingly enough to force a four-goal swing in the goal difference column. Anything less than that and Newry are relegated.
“The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster,” said manager Mullen.
“We had two great wins, well deserved, but against Glentoran (2-0) we just weren't good enough at all. Then, at Institute… I'm not going to start making loads of excuses because it's not my style, but in terms of the final third, at this level you need someone who's going to put the ball in the net on a regular basis and unfortunately we just haven't had that.
“We've had 14 defeats by a single goal and even in the games against Linfield and Crusaders we've had opportunities but we just haven't taken them. In previous seasons you could redeem yourself but at this level you don't get the chance to.”
Newry's form has deserted them in the run-in but Warren Feeney's Ards have recorded 1-0 wins over Institute and Dungannon Swifts to pull three points clear at the bottom of the table.
“They have a bit more experience at this level than we would have,” said Mullen.
“But it's still all up for grabs and we're certainly not giving up on our Premiership status, we'll keep fighting and see what happens.”
Newry have Darren King and Martin McCabe back in the squad for today's game but central defender Darragh Noonan (suspended) and Karl Moody (injured) are both out.
“There's no point in worrying what's going on at Milltown if we don't go and beat Dungannon,” Mullen added.
“The worst thing for me would be that something happens at Milltown that favours us but we haven't been good enough to capitalise on it at home. From our end, that can't happen.
“It's outside our control but we need something to happen at Milltown and hopefully we can do our own job and there's nothing to say that can't happen – there have been bigger upsets in sport than what needs to happen here.
“If we go and give our all tomorrow and it hasn't been good enough then, so be it, we can hold our hands up and accept whatever comes our way but there is no way we can go out and give anything less than 100 per cent. I know the players won't be like that, the last couple of results weren't down to lack of effort, they were about not being good enough in the right areas.”
Mullen's Newry will fight for every ball tomorrow and hope to claw their way to victory. Whether that is good enough to keep his side in the top flight or not, the Newry manager believes the club is in good shape for the future.
“It has been a tough season in comparison to what we had before,” he said.
“We knew it was going to be but no matter what happens tomorrow, the club is in a far better place – financially, structurally, the facilities… Everything is 10 times better than it was this time last year. No matter what happens, we'll be ready for next season whatever league we're in.”