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Defeated Point remain pointless

12 September 2018

Another week – another defeat for Warrenpoint Town, but manager Stephen McDonnell had a calmer demeanour after this 5-0 defeat to Linfield than that of last Saturday’s 6-1 drubbing against Ballymena and understandably so.

The Point were simply beaten by a better side on Friday night as McDonnell acknowledged and despite the result, it was a better performance against the table-toppers who remain undefeated after six games.

McDonnell rang the changes with six different starters from the previous Saturday. Seanna Foster, Stephen Moan, Conall McGrandles and Fra McCaffrey were all promoted from the bench, Daniel Wallace, back from suspension, also started and newly signed former Ross County man Aaron McCarey replaced Berraat Turker in goal.

Warrenpoint were doomed from the start when they conceded an own-goal just three minutes in and another mistake at the back gifted the visitors their second goal from a free-kick on 36 minutes.

Linfield led 2-0 at the break but it could have been far worse were it not for a heroic goalkeeping display from McCarey, with the Point pinned in their own half for most of the first 45 minutes.

Michael O’Connor made it 3-0 on 53 minutes after a mix-up at the back and to add to the Point’s woes, McCarey, who was by far their best player on the pitch, pulled Joel Cooper down when he was through for goal five minutes later and he received his marching orders while Linfield were awarded a penalty. Andrew Mitchell converted with Turker taking over in nets, and with no sign that the Point would pull even one goal back as a consolation, David Healy’s men romped home with a fifth to rub salt in the wound. 

“I would say there was definitely a slight improvement, but at the moment we just seem to be getting done by the most simple and basic things. Two set plays, two free kicks and what do we keep doing for the rest of the 45 minutes? Give free kicks away. Guys are not actively learning on the pitch while the game is on so that’s a concern we need to try and address,” admitted McDonnell. 

“But listen, you can’t question their effort. They’re certainly putting a shift in, they’re just getting outclassed at the minute. Maybe the confidence is down and any goal it’s just a matter of when you’ll concede the next one. And we’re not firing on all cylinders at the other end which again is probably a confidence issue. It doesn’t exactly add up to the best scenario, especially when you’re with a whole new group of players together. But it’s up to the group, we’re going to have to galvanise and find some sort of inspiration from somewhere.

“ Yes, the fixtures look to be getting easier but they’re not going to get easier, they’re going to be twice the battle in two weeks when we play all the teams in and around us and if we can’t match the battle, forget about everything else,” added the manager who said his side didn’t go into the game with an overly defensive mindset despite Ciaran O’Connor being up front alone for the most part.

“Credit to Linfield, they made that happen. Tactically they pinned us in and caused lots of problems for us. We don’t set up to be four-five-one and just contain, that’s all down to the opposition and the quality they possess. They’re top of the league for a reason and for me they’ll be there come the end of the season definitely. So, while it might have looked to the viewer that we had one up front, that was not the plan. It was due to the quality of Linfield.”

 McDonnell also acknowledged the quality of his new goalkeeper McCarey. 

“He pulled off some really good saves. He’s going to be a hell of an addition for us. We won’t have him next week, it will be an automatic one game ban I believe so, at least it’s not three games but certainly he’s shown us what to expect from a keeper. He made some great saves. He commanded the area. He spoke well, quality information. The problem for us is just trying to put it all together. Just when we get Danny Wallace back from suspension, now our keeper’s suspended and Seanna’s coming off with an injured foot. We haven’t been in a position where we’ve had our best 11 as such all on the pitch at once. I understand that doesn’t always happen and it does come down to a squad game but I’m just looking forward to getting some sort of inspiration and that one result. I still believe that when we come together we’ll be a decent outfit but at the minute it looks very disjointed and it will be concerning of course,” he said.

There were only three minutes on the clock when Warrenpoint were dealt the first blow after a nervy start given last week’s shambles. Stephen Moan conceded a corner that Daniel Kearns delivered into the box. Marc Griffin attempted to clear but the ball fell to Simon Kelly who tried to poke it wide but instead ended up dinking into his own net.

In fairness to Kelly, he almost made amends two minutes later when he came close with a header but that was one of the few chances the home side had as Linfield piled the pressure on, winning ball after ball and corner after corner. McCarey made save after save and the back four worked hard to keep the visitors at bay, but they were 2-0 to the good on 36 minutes from another set piece. Mitchell sent a long-range free into the area. It was headed across the face of goal by Jimmy Callacher and Kearns nodded in from the opposite post.

McCaffrey had a punt from distance minutes later, but he fired wide and the ball was moved swiftly back up the other end again where McCarey saved further attempts from O’Connor and Joshua Robinson. 

Eight minutes after the break it was game over when a ball played in from the right corner flew across the face of goal and found Michael O’Connor who beat Maxim Kouogun and hit the crossbar with a header from the far post. O’Connor got a toe to the rebound and poked home.

On 58 minutes Joel Cooper was through for goal when he beat McCarey who was off his line and was caught in a mix-up with Kouogun. The keeper had no option but to pull Cooper down and he was shown a straight red for his trouble and Referee Ross Dunlop pointed to the spot. Mitchell stepped up and made no mistake with a confident penalty against Turker who came on at the expense of McGrandles.

It was a case of damage control at that stage but there was still time for one more goal and it came from sub Andrew Waterworth who chased down a long ball into the box. Turker came off his line but Waterworth beat him to the ball, skipped past him and stroked into the empty net.  

“The reality is Linfield are a top outfit. You have to put it down to the opposition are better, that’s the reality of the situation,” admitted McDonnell who agreed that one positive is that they won’t be playing teams like Linfield every week. 

“Yeah you can take positives. We’re after having a good conversation there with the group. Again, it’s something we’re going to have to do together. I’ve put the squad there. We’ve a good relationship with all the players. We’re in the moment now. I said to them if this happens for another 10 weeks I’ll be out of a job and there’ll be someone else coming in that you don’t know and you mightn’t play for, and any player that gets relegated or has that on their CV, it’s a test of your mentality and it’s a very difficult period. So, we’re just trying to get through to them, what are we waiting for? Why are we waiting for another two or three weeks? It’s something we need to rectify now, and it needs to happen quickly. 

“Every role of the dice is just going against us at the moment but I’m still upbeat. I still firmly believe in what we’re doing. We’ve got quality. Most of the players we’ve taken from other clubs have played and they’ve played in good teams. So, it’s just a matter of pulling it all together.” 

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