Football/Soccer

Warrenpoint Town boss McDonnell looking up ahead of Institute clash

Warrenpoint's manager Stephen McDonnell is optimistic his side can survive in the Irish League top flight.

WARRENPOINT Town may have been beaten up and down so far this season but manager Stephen McDonnell is upbeat rather than down about their lowly position.

The border club have lost all seven league matches so far, shipping 26 goals and scoring just two, but their young boss insists: “It’s grand, we’re enjoying it. It’s a different experience, but it’ll stand to us… it’s not the end of the world.”

Indeed, Warrenpoint would even move off the bottom of the table this evening if they beat fellow strugglers Institute, who have only one point from their eight games.

The outside perception may be that it’s a basement battle between those two clubs from extreme ends of Ulster to avoid the drop, but McDonnell doesn’t see it that way.

The 27-year-old adopts a ‘one place at a time’ approach, saying: “There’s nobody is really pulling away yet. At the moment, though, we just need to worry about the team that’s next to us in the league and that’s Institute. There’s no point looking at other teams.

“We need to look at the team directly ahead of us, try to catch them and overtake them, and then, when we’re in that position, we’ll worry about the team ahead of us again.”

Not the use of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

McDonnell acknowledges that this is a huge game for both clubs, but adds: “They’re all important. Every game, even if people don’t expect us to pick anything up, we follow a process of how we do things and we’d still expect a performance against every team.

“Certainly, with Institute being directly ahead of us, it’s a game that we’d have every intention of going to win…”

Part of that positivity is based on the performance produced at The Oval last Saturday, even though that ended in another defeat.

McDonnell admitted that the last-gasp 2-1 loss away to Glentoran was “a real kick in the stones, especially for the effort put in by the team” but insisted that he had no difficulty in lifting his players’ heads after that:

“We came out of the game very positive. If we’d picked up anything there it was always going to be a bonus. Our season isn’t going to hinge on getting results against teams like Glentoran.

“The main thing is that we knew it was a really good performance. We didn’t have to wait a couple of days, we knew straightaway that we deserved something. We didn’t get it – we move on.”

McDonnell publicly labelled his players “lazy” after the 5-1 home defeat by Cliftonville, but he insisted that was a one-off, despite subsequent 4-0 and 3- 0 losses:

“One particular game, that was all. We criticised the players then, rightly so, but other than that we can’t fault their efforts. They’ve shown pride over the last week or two that suggests it’s not too far away.”

Indeed McDonnell argues that the greatest problem facing Warrenpoint at the moment is an injury crisis: “At the moment we’ve a lot of injuries, that’s our biggest concern, we’ve about seven or eight lads out at the moment, a couple of them requiring surgery on an ankle or getting screws put into metatarsals. We’re really down to a bare 14, hopefully we’ll get a couple back soon.

“That’s the way it will be under the January transfer window,” says McDonnell with a shrug – but even then a lack of funds is an ever-present limiting factor: “That’s all we ever do, free transfers or loans – we wouldn’t be in a position to pay for players, that’s for sure.”

Despite all the difficulties, McDonnell is phlegmatic: “Other than that it’s grand, we’re enjoying it. It’s a different experience, but it’ll stand to us. We’re not getting too bogged down – it’s not the end of the world.

“The main thing is to keep in touch with everybody – and not lose sight of the fact that only one team gets relegated.

“As long as we’re not dead and buried, and have an opportunity to react to what has been completely out of our control as regards injuries, at that point we’ll be quite pleased”.

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