Gray cool on Point survival hopes but admits he can do old club a favour in title race
Danske Bank Premiership: Warrenpoint Town v Linfield (Saturday, 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
FEW things are ever certain in football, but Warrenpoint Town’s chances of survival look like a beaten docket, and their manager knows it.
With 18 points left to play for in this season’s Danske Bank Premiership campaign, the ’Point are 12 adrift at the bottom of the table, with Tuesday night’s 5-2 defeat to Coleraine summing up what Barry Gray has called “the season from hell”.
Warrenpoint were well in that game at Milltown, bringing it back to 1-1, until a collective meltdown in the six minutes before half-time allowed Coleraine to net three. With reigning champions Linfield the visitors to Milltown on Saturday lunchtime, even catching Portadown in the relegation play-off place looks well beyond the south Down men.
“The game against Coleraine kind of sums up the season we’ve had, it’s been the season from hell,” said Gray.
“The score-line was brutal. Even though we went 1-0 down, we fought well to get back into the game, we were on the front foot, had two great chances in the six yard box, missed both of them and a few minutes later we found ourselves massively trailing in the game. In that six minute spell, we conceded too many easy goals. Outside of those six minutes, there wasn’t much in it.
“In terms of survival in the Premiership, it’s gone. Mathematically, it’s still possible to catch Portadown and I’m happy to be proved wrong, but it’s not looking likely, is it?”
Gray is in his second stint as Warrenpoint manager, having previously brought the club up through the divisions, and he admits their likely relegation to the second tier will be a cause for reflection on both the club’s future direction and his own.
“The club has to give some serious thought as to what its ambitions are going forward,” he added.
“I’m happy to give them the space to do that and, of course, it will be up to the board to decide about who they would like to see in the manager’s position going forward.
“Do I want to go and play in the Championship? Absolutely no disrespect to anyone in the Championship, but the answer is no. However, if going down to the Championship gives us the breathing space we need as a club to refocus, then so be it.”
Saturday’s result may now be largely academic from Warrenpoint’s point of view, but Gray’s men could still play a part in deciding the destination of the Irish League title. Linfield travel to Milltown a point clear of Cliftonville at the top of the table and there will be many in north Belfast hoping against hope that their former manager can pull something out of the bag against the Blues.
“I’ve had a whole series of calls from my old stomping ground this week, encouraging me to get a win,” Gray joked.
“But Saturday is now nice and simple for us, the pressure is all on Linfield to get a result. For us, it’s about regaining some self-respect. If we manage to do Cliftonville a favour in the process, so be it.”