Dungannon Swifts setting sights on top six after flying start
WHO can take on the Irish League’s big guns? The loan arranger?
Dungannon Swifts boss Kris Lindsay is aiming high, heading into this afternoon’s top of the table clash away to Crusaders.
However, he’s also setting his sights realistically, hoping to be a six-shooter rather than top gun.
The Tyrone team are only behind the Shore Road men on goal difference, with the Swifts having beaten Institute, Glentoran, and Glenavon after opening with a home draw against Ballymena United.
Still, Lindsay confirms that the top half of the table was their target before a ball was kicked: “Listen, even before this run of games that was something we we’d be looking towards.
“Realistically, that’ll be extremely tough with the level of competition in the league, with the top six from last year, plus Larne, plus Glentoran. There’s eight teams who will be looking at a bare minimum to finish in the top six.
“But I’ve said all along that I didn’t come to Dungannon just to avoid relegation every year. Yes, that has to be your primary aim but if that’s all you’re looking to do then there’s no point in playing. You’ve got to set yourself targets and try to achieve them.
“We’re not targeting second, third, or fourth place, but that sixth spot is something that we’ve got to aim for. Yes, it’ll be extremely difficult, but you’ve got to set yourselves challenges.
“There’s no point saying ‘Ah, we’re happy just to stay in the league’, because that’s not the case. You have to have ambition and that’s what we’re trying to build towards.”
That building has to include temporary assets on the pitch, with finances far tighter around Stangmore Park than at those other eight clubs Lindsay mentions.
The experienced Ross Redman has been taken on loan from Glentoran, adding to a pair of 19-year-olds borrowed from Linfield, defender Caomhan McGuinness and striker Ryan Waide.
Other recent signings include two 22-year-olds from Ards, goalkeeper Sam Johnston and defender Callum Byers, although the latter is injured at present, and 20-year-old back Dylan King, who scored a long range beauty against the Glens.
The Swifts’ place in the pecking order was illustrated by their losing Christopher Hegarty and Jarlath O’Rourke to the Crues in the summer, adding to the task facing the Swifts today.
“You never want to lose players of that quality,” says Lindsay, “but, in the grand scheme of things, Dungannon are where they are – they’re not competing for league titles. Those two guys have given good service to Dungannon and we wish them well and move on.
“Our signing policy has gone in a different direction: we’ve tried to get young, hungry players with a point to prove, who want to be successful, but also had a little bit of experience in the league.
“We’ve also got our own youth set-up [Dungannon United Youth] which is excellent. We have some players coming through the ranks who hopefully are going to make a name for themselves in the first team.”
There’s no doubt the Crues will test Dungannon at both ends of the pitch – Stephen Baxter’s side have scored 11 goals so far and conceded just two, both in last weekend’s draw at home to big spenders Larne.
The visiting defence is young, including teenagers McGuinness and Caolin Coyle, plus King, who only turned 21 on Tuesday past.
“We’ve had a lot of changes over the summer but they’ve all fitted in really well and hit the ground running,” comments Lindsay.
“Obviously we’re delighted with the start but we’re not getting carried away four games in. There’ll be stages when you go on a little losing run or whatever – it’s about how you cope with that.
“We know that the Crues away are going to be extremely difficult. They’ll obviously be looking to win the title this season. We know the quality they have all over the park.
“It’s a massive, massive test for us – but it’s one that we’ll go into with confidence. We’ve started well, there’s no pressure on us whatsoever… The players are playing with no fear at the minute, so we’ll go there and be positive.
“We know it’ll be extremely difficult and we’ll have to be on top of our game defensively to stop them – but it’s one we can go and give a rattle to because we’ve had such a good start”.
* The Swifts will have to do without both McGuinness and Waide in the third round of the League Cup if holders Linfield progress past Ballinamallard United in their delayed meeting after yesterday’s draw.
The stand-out pairing pitted Coleraine at home to Glentoran, while Glenavon taken on Newry, and Cliftonville will host Bangor.
League Cup third round draw (ties to be played on Tuesday October 8, kick-off 7.45pm):
Ballymena United v Dollingstown
Coleraine v Glentoran
Cliftonville v Bangor
Dungannon Swifts v Ballinamallard United/ Linfield
Glenavon v Newry City
H & W Welders v Institute
Larne v Dundela
Limavady United v Crusaders
* In today’s only other Danske Bank Premiership match, Cliftonville travel to take on Warrenpoint Town.
The Reds could move into second spot on goal difference with the right combination of results, although that would include their north Belfast rivals Crusaders pulling clear at the top by beating Dungannon.
Paddy McLaughlin’s men have had a solid start to the season, losing only once, to the Crues, whereas Warrenpoint have been really struggling. They have failed to score in the league, conceding 12 goals in their three defeats, and were knocked out of the League Cup in midweek by Harland & Wolff Welders.
Their only glimmer of hope so far is that their defence has been improving in the league, conceding six, then four, then two goals, against Larne, Crusaders, and Glenavon respectively. However, Cliftonville’s greatest difficulty today may be the traffic around Newry due to a Pride parade in that town.