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Warrenpoint Town begin their Dankse Bank Premiership campaign against Ballymena tomorrow, Saturday 28 August and manager Barry Gray is approaching his 200th game in charge of the Seasiders.

The south Down side finished joint ninth and tenth last season and while the target is to finish higher up the table, the Town boss wants his side to be taking points off the teams around them. 

“Obviously, we have our internal targets, which we have said to ourselves as a group,” said Gray.

“How we get to that end-line doesn’t really matter. 

“If you look at some of our challenges from last year and you look at where we didn’t compete and pick up enough points against some of the middle third teams last season, which we need to improve on. We can probably do better against the bottom third teams and to be fair last year we picked up quite a few points from the top third teams. 

“You always have room for improvement, but I suppose if we are looking at the teams that are around us in the table last year, maybe two or three spots up, they are the crucial teams this year that we maybe try and see if we can pick up more points against them.

“That is maybe a mini target inside our bigger target, it won’t be easy, but we are confident that we are in a better position now than what we were at any stage last year.”

Gray has been managing at senior level for over 15 years. This is his second stint in charge of the Town, having left to join the hotseat at Cliftonville for a year and half, before coming back to Milltown in October 2019.

This year he feels he has assembled the team he wants rather than inherited and later this year he’ll be in charge of Warrenpoint for the 200th time. He had been known to blow to the proverbial gasket on the side-line, but Gray says he has learned to deal with the stress of management over the years.

“Over the years you might have been victim of trying to control more than what you actually can control and that’s me as a manager,” he said.

“You maybe worry about things that aren’t in your control and that frustrates you and stresses you and it shouldn’t. Albeit it is still stressful at times, but everything is great with experience, isn’t it?

“You learn what is important and what is not important and if it is not important then you learn to leave it alone best you can. I am not saying I am cool headed all the time, but you try your best to only be focused on what you can control, it is easier said than done.”

And Gray is enjoying his second coming at Milltown.

“You have your challenges all the time, there is no doubt about that but if you surround yourself with a good group of people who want to move forward and keep working in that direction and that is all you can ask for,” said Gray.

“That and a big tub of honesty and straightforwardness, you just got to keep your surroundings as good as you can, and I feel at the minute we have done that.”

Around 500-600 fans are expected to be permitted to attend Milltown on Saturday.

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