NIFL Championship: Dundela v Newington
(Wilgar park, Saturday, 3pm)

NEWINGTON manager Paul Hamilton is hoping a big result against Dundela on Saturday can get their Championship season back on track after an inconsistent period.

The Swans were unbeaten in their first three games before suffering defeats to Knockbreda and Annagh. They followed that up with a resounding 5-2 victory over Ballyclare before going down 2-1 to Loughall last weekend.

 

Those results leave them sitting eighth in the table and whilst pleased with their application, Hamilton is asking for more consistency from his players.

“The league doesn’t lie and we are where we are,” he accepts.

“We’re the new kids on the block and we’re quickly learning that we need to be more consistent and string a couple of results together, but the boys have been really good.

“I can’t fault their attitude, effort and desire at the minute, its just small margins that win you games against the likes of your Loughgall’s and were just a wee bit short on that at the minute.

“Against Loughgall it was a really good game by both teams. We knew their record they had played six and won six, so we knew we were facing a really top team, but we pushed them.

“It was a 10-minute spell they got on top and got the equaliser and we went down to 10 men before losing. There were positives to take, but we also conceded from set plays which we’ll have to work on in training.”

Hamilton admits that it has been a steep learning curve so far, and they will have to stop leaking goals if they want to further move up the table as they have failed to keep a clean sheet so far, shipping fourteen goals.

“In this league it’s very unpredictable,” he acknowledges.

“Going forward we can score goals, but we will work on trying to keep it tighter at the back.

“To a man, the boys have given us everything they have and that is all you ask for.

“Three points are precious in this league and even a point is valuable so we need to start turning some results round our way and we think that will happen.”

The boss took heart from how Newington performed against Premiership side Ballymena in the County Antrim Shield, where they were narrowly defeated 2-1 by the Braidmen.

“The cups were a good experience,” he reflects.

“We knew we’d never win them, but competing against the likes of Ballymena was great. It was a tight game we pushed them close too.

“David Jefferey was full of praise for us and the way we played. He liked our togetherness and work rate.

“He said they just shaded it a bit which I agree with. They play very quick football, but we got a lot of positives out of that game.”

Newington brought in a raft of players ahead of their maiden Championship campaign and Hamilton is pleased with the start to life in North Belfast many have made, saving particular praise for Cliftonville loanee Michael Morgan.

“We’ve a very good squad and they’re all competing week in week out for places,” he reports.

“You have to earn your shirt. The new signings have been great, you’ve young Michael Morgan up top, a 16-year-old kid, a real strong player, as well as the likes of Padraig Slane, Joe Reid and Fra Brennan who have all fitted in nicely.

“There are no egos about them and they’re enjoying the challenge here so we’re happy with the squad.”

Looking ahead to the weekend and Hamilton acknowledges they have another tough game ahead against a strong Dundela side who, under Niall Currie, have won four of their six games to date and recently knocked Crusaders out of the League Cup.

“Dundela are a really good team and they got beat at the weekend, so they’ll be like a wounded animal,” he predicts.

“They’re very strong at home and a really organised team so we know this is a massive game for us to compete against them.

“We got beat on Friday night, so we’d also like to get back on the winning trail.

“In this league you string two or three results together and it puts you right up there in the mix and that’s our aim at the minute.

“We’re looking forward to the game as it’s a big challenge for us and we treat it like that going to these well established clubs.

“We’re not here to make up numbers, we’re here to compete and I just hope we can come out the other end with three points.”
 
Steel & Sons Cup
Elsewhere on Saturday, early Ballymena Intermediate League pacesetters St James' Swifts will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the season when they face Islandmagee in the Steel and Son’s Cup Third round.

Belfast Celtic are also aiming to make it to the fourth round but face a tough tie against Bangor, while there is a cross-city clash at Cliftonville Playing Fields when Crumlin Star host Immaculata.

Willowbank host Grove United, Malachians host Crumlin United and Aquinas welcome Ards Rangers.

Donegal Celtic are in league action, taking on Chimney Corner.