IRISH LEAGUE PREVIEW: Carrick Rangers v Warrenpoint Town

Carrick Rangers manager David McAlinden.
Carrick Rangers manager David McAlinden.

Carrick Rangers host Warrenpoint Town on Saturday afternoon hoping to maintain home comforts on the pitch and move further away from the visitors in terms of league position.

A single point separates the sides, with Warrenpoint divided from bottom spot in the Danske Bank Premiership standings by Ballinamallard United.

Rangers manager David McAlinden is keen to embrace the belief within his camp towards building on two positives to date on home soil.

“Everyone wants to make the most of home advantage and we certainly have that comfort level with our own place,” said McAlinden. “But we certainly go out to, especially, win every home game and that is our approach against any opponent.

“Both our league wins this season have come at home and, although you obviously want points everywhere, if we can turn that into a real plus then great.

“But, as manager, I’m more concerned with why we did not pick up more points from previous games.

“It is about capitalising on those opportunities in games more often.

“In terms of Saturday, we are really excited and everyone is looking forward to the game.

“Denver Gage will return from suspension but we also have one other player definitely ruled out and another we need to check before Saturday.”

McAlinden is refusing to increase the weight of Saturday’s result beyond the immediate outcome.

“We have a squad of players capable of handling pressure in any situation,” said the Rangers boss. “We have our own in-house conversations about fixtures so the players understand what is required.

“But it’s not about building up any game over another.

“But people also keep talking about this mini-league with us, Warrenpoint, Ards and Ballinamallard United.

“From my viewpoint it is about getting more out of the group so we can win more games.

“We managed to both win and lose against Ballinamallard, Ards beat us and we got a draw with Warrenpoint.

“In the previous match with Warrenpoint we could have been 4-0 up then 6-1 down before we got going again in the 2-2 draw.

“I was pleased with a point away from home off 2-1 down but, as a manager, not with our defensive display despite how entertaining it may have been for fans.

“This weekend I would take the worst game of football but three points.”

Warrenpoint manager Matthew Tipton is also ignoring any long-term implications of what some consider a battle between two sides expected to face relegation concerns.

“As much as the focus is on two teams towards the bottom of the table, it’s early in the season,” he said. “Irrespective of thinking what three points could do for us overall or how teams might stand six months down the line, we need to view this as an immediate opportunity to beat the side directly above us and move up the table.

“But we must also be realistic and players will naturally look at the table and think this game takes on extra importance.

“So, if you cannot fight that thinking, it is up to us to use that situation as extra motivation.

“Our frustration comes from our return despite no team really completely out-playing us so far.”

Tipton wants last season’s Championship champions to accept life on the main stage and transfer that mindset into positive moments.

“We cannot hide from how things stand and now, 14 games in, the shock of adjusting to everything should be gone,” said Tipton. “We cannot hide behind setbacks and say it comes down to a learning process at this level.

“It comes down to small steps and making the most of those periods in every game when on top.

“At this standard of football you have to expect in various stages of a match to be on the backfoot.

“But that can no longer come as a surprise so we need to be street-smart in our approach.

“We need to dominate possession more often but the group is capable of doing that in games.

“It comes down to trusting our instructions and trusting in each other on the pitch.”