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PHIL COOL AS A CUE COMBER.. Rec boss McDonagh confident that his 1A men will avoid drop.

Byline: MAXIE SWAIN

PHIL McDONAGH is staying cool about Comber Rec's predicament at the foot of 1A - insisting he has total faith in his team's ability to play their way out of trouble.

The Park Way outfit gave their chances of beating the drop a huge shot in the arm on Saturday when a strike from Colin Manley, returning to the side after injury, earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Rathfern Rangers.

Though not enough to lift them off the basement, the victory kept Comber on the tails of those teams in and around them at the bottom of the table.

With almost half their league campaign yet to play, McDonagh's men still have to face all their relegation rivals over the course of the final few months, and with his team boasting a raft of games in hand over a number of teams languishing around the drop zone, his knows they still control their destiny.

Furthermore, after swelling the ranks with four new signings - striker Neil Quinn, winger Matty Kerr, and centre backs Mark Whitford and Robbie McAnulty have all checked in recently - McDonagh believes he finally has a squad ready to compete after a quartet of key players, namely Simon Hanna, Jordan Dougherty, Adam Whitehead and Manus O'Gorman, were ruled out for the rest of the season.

"Every game is a cup final. I said that to the players on Saturday, and with the games we have in hand the ball's in our court really," said the Comber chief.

"Now we need to go on a run and that's why Saturday's game was so important to us.

"We still have to play the likes of Orangefield, Dunmurry, Kilmore and Newcastle, the teams around us, and they are big games we need to win. But I do feel confident, and with the players coming in hopefully we get a bit of luck and stay injury free because with the quality of squad we have there I do feel we have enough to pull ourselves away from it."

McDonagh (right) reckons another five or six wins from their remaining 10 league games should be enough to lift them up into the safety of mid-table. "I was looking and over the last couple of years, teams have been relegated on 24.

Whether that will be the case this season I don't know, but we'll be looking to hit 30 points and if we do that I think we will definitely be safe," he said.

McDonagh feels the addition of Whitford and McAnulty to the centre of defence has had a stabilising effect on his team, evident in their shut out against Rathfern on Saturday. "It was a hard-fought game. Obviously Rathfern are going well but I thought we deserved it and it was good to get a clean sheet on top of everything," said the former Dromara Village boss.

"It was a very, very important victory for us. Rathfern are quite an aggressive side and don't give you a lot of time on the ball, but I felt we deserved the three points and it will give the boys a lot of confidence, it was a big, big win so it's all good.

"Things have started to look up for us over the last lot of weeks, we've got a few new signings in.

"The biggest problem for us is the amount of injuries we have had. They have killed us this season.

"We had four out on Saturday and they will be out for the rest of the season but we've been lucky enough to bring in a few quality players and I think it showed on Saturday.

"They've really made a big difference to us.

It showed on Saturday, they tightened up our defence, we didn't concede and they've added a bit of quality all over."

CAPTION(S):

matchwinner Comber Rec's Neil Quinn celebrates with scorer Colin Manley

great scott Comber's Andrew Scott challenges Rathfern opponent Philip McCaw

on the slide Comber's Jack Smith goes to ground in this challenge on Jamie Mitchell of Rathfern
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 20, 2018
Words:676
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