Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray one eye on Portadown six-pointer

Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray remains a popular figure among the Solitude faithful

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town (tonight, Solitude, 7.45pm)

STRAIGHT-TALKING Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray says it would be foolish of him not to prioritize Saturday’s six-pointer against Portadown over tonight’s trip to title chasers Cliftonville.

The Co Down club may still be rooted to the bottom of the Irish Premiership but hope to reel the Ports in who are just two points better off.

The third-placed Reds can leapfrog Glentoran and move to within a point of leaders Linfield should they bag the three points on offer at Solitude this evening.

Gray, an ex-Cliftonville manager, hopes the north Belfast men go on and win the Gibson Cup – and is also realistic about Warrenpoint's meagre prospects tonight.

“We have to be realistic about it," he said. "Do I really need our boys going out and going toe to toe with the likes of Rory Hale and covering mad amounts of distances before the Portadown game on Saturday? So we’ll assess things after the first 45 minutes and then we’ll take it from there.

"Portadown is a big game for us. Between the two games – against Cliftonville and Portadown – common sense tells you which is the more important."

Warrenpoint are likely to 'park the bus' in a bid to frustrate Paddy McLaughlin's men in the hope of stealing a point tonight. They almost pulled it off during their September visit when they frustrated the Reds for 73 minutes before Ryan Curran grabbed the winner.

“I don’t know what will happen on Tuesday night but we’re not playing like a team that is bottom of the table and low on confidence and getting hammered every week,” insisted Gray.

“We look like a team that is hungry to do well and are competitive every time we go out. The first half of the season was horrible for us – the second half has been miles better and we still have 10 or 12 games to play. We’ve tightened the gap at the bottom and teams are now looking over their shoulder because it’s not the case that Warrenpoint are already relegated.”

The January recruitment of Adam Wixted, Dylan Hand, Dan McKenna and Ray O’Sullivan have given ‘Point the shot in the arm they need in their bid to save themselves from the drop and have picked up four points from their last three league games.

Gray, who remains a popular figure among Cliftonville fans, doesn’t shy away from the fact that he wants his former club to come out on top in the title race.

“Some might say Cliftonville are part-time but they are in with a great shout of the title and I know Paddy has said differently, and I understand why he’s saying that.

“Of course they can win it. It would be fantastic. If I was to pick a team to win the league it would be Cliftonville all day long, but that’s neither here nor there. When you look at the top three teams – resources, part-time and full-time – Cliftonville have done an amazing job.

“If you’re coming into January and you’re up there, you have a chance. We know what we’re up against. We know what our strengths are, we know what our weaknesses are. There is always that added dimension of an ex-manager going back and trying to prove a point, but we won’t be losing sight of what we’re trying to achieve between now and the end of the season.”

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