While Warrenpoint manager Barry Gray says that Friday night’s 7-0 demolition of Ballinamallard United was the culmination of months of hard work on the training pitch, he has called on his players to remain focussed for the rest of the season.
Stephen Hughes was Warrenpoint’s commander-in-chief, dictating the match in behind his Bolton-bound brother Daniel, helping himself to hat-trick in the process with the other goals coming from Liam Bagnall, John McGuigan, Daniel Hughes and Darren Forsyth.
Gray’s side have now only lost once in their last eight league matches, a run stretching back to a 3-1 loss to the Mallards at Ferney Park at the end of November.
That run has seen the ’Point lift themselves off the bottom of the table and they are now three clear of Institute and just one behind Whitey Anderson’s men and Dungannon Swifts.
“For all the Tuesday and Thursday nights when we were rooted to the bottom of the table, the boys kept their heads right, worked hard and we have kept working through it and this patch of results shows where that work has paid off,” said Gray.
“Last Tuesday night’s training session didn’t do this, it’s been months of concentrating on what we felt was right. It was all on show tonight. Bar the seven goals, some of football was superb.
“This just gives us a sample of what the hard work can do for us. We have to continue to stay focused on what we’re doing. While we’re pleased and we’ll enjoy it, I don’t think anyone is getting carried away and we won’t let them get carried away,” he added.
“It’s another massive week and, for me, it’s difficult because I won’t be here to handle the training but we’ve got to let the coaching staff get the boys two good sessions under their belt.
“It’s a massive game against Glenavon next week and I said to the players, ‘why can we not go and win it’? We went to the league champions last week and got a point and the produced this performance. We got to Mourneview next week and what’s the difference.”
Warrenpoint opened the scoring on 14 minutes when Daniel Hughes’ free-kick hit the Mallards wall and fell to Liam Bagnall just outside the area and the midfielder rifled the ball into the roof of the net past a helpless Fergal Murphy from 20 yards.
John McGuigan then lashed home from the right hand side of the area for his first goal for his new side to make it 2-0 before Warrenpoint just before the half hour before Stephen Hughes made it three when he picked the ball up inside the area on the left hand side and cut inside to slot past Murphy. Daniel Hughes got his goal on 52 minutes as he superbly spun Leon Carters on the halfway line to race clear and keep his composure and fire past Murphy from inside the area to make it 4-0.
Four became five with 16 minutes remaining when Bagnall went through and squared for Stephen Hughes to sidefoot into the empty net for his second of the game.
Hughes then deservedly completed his hat-trick with seven minutes remaining when he flicked home a Bagnall corner and then Darren Forsyth curled home his first goal for the club on 87 minutes to complete the rout.
A despondent Whitey Anderson admitted that some home truths were told in the dressing room after the match following his side’s dismal display that sees them dragged right into the middle of a battle to stay up.
“You look at that team tonight and I feel sorry for Fergal Murphy, the goalkeeper. He’s let seven goals in, but what did he do wrong?” he said.
“The defence just caved in, in front of him. I’ve senior players in there and while I’m frustrated, I’m also very angry with them to be honest.
“They need to go away and take a serious look at themselves, it’s a simple as that. I have to go and take a look at myself as well.
“I’m very hard on myself. We’ve set high standards and we’ve worked hard to get here. We’re going to have to work even harder to stay here.”
Warrenpoint Town: Parr, McDonald, McVeigh, D Hughes (Forsyth 54), S Hughes, Bagnall, M Hughes, Moan (Cowan 44), McGuigan (Grant 68), Boyle, Devlin
Subs not used: King, O’Connor
Ballinamallard United: Murphy, Crilly, Carters, Stafford, Kee, Hutchinson, McCartney, Currie (Beacom H-T), McKenna (Elding 65), Campbell, McLoughlin (Courtney H-T)
Subs not used: McCusker, Smith
Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey)