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Smith is delighted as five players agree new deals

Smith is delighted as five players agree new deals

Gary Liggett (left) has agreed a new deal to remain at Lakeview Park.

Jonathan McNabb

Reporter:

Jonathan McNabb

Email:

sport@ulstergazette.co.uk

LOUGHGALL manager Dean Smith admits Saturday’s defeat to Loughgall was a ‘game of two halves’ as Jamie Johnston’s first-half strike was enough to separate the sides at the Newry Showgrounds.

The Villagers were wanting to put in a spirited response after the Irish Cup semi-final defeat to Cliftonville, but came up short against promotion pushing Newry.

“From our point of view, it was a game of two halves,” Smith said.

“We were poor in the first half, but I felt we were superb after the break.

“The only complaint I would have is that we didn’t carve Newry open or get in behind them enough. 

“We had a lot of the ball in the second-half, but we didn’t make their ‘keeper work enough.

“It felt a bit like an end of season game, but I’ve told the players that I expect better performances in the last three games.

“I can’t be too hard on them because they’ve been superb this season.”

Smith was left frustrated with the manner of the goal that they conceded.

“The goal was avoidable and that was the same against Cliftonville,” Smith added.

“We are conceding too many early goals and it’s a bit of a concern.

“That being said, I don’t think our ‘keeper was overly worked and it was an even game.”

The Villagers this week confirmed that Ben Neill, Ricky Copeland, Marcus Dallas, Andy Hoey and Gary Liggett have all agreed new deals to remain at Lakeview Park next season.

“It is a fantastic foundation to build on,” Smith stated.

“We know we aren’t a million miles away and we will speak to the rest of the players over the coming weeks.

”Ben has done well since coming up through the under-20 side, Marcus has been a tremendous servant to the club and Ricky is a leader for us at the back. Andrew on his day is very threatening and Gary has been brilliant since he joined us in January.

“Going forward, like every other side, we will be looking to strengthen our ranks. 

“The key thing for the players now is that they are playing for their futures in the final three games.

“It’s important that they look after themselves and give me a decision to make.”

Next up for the Villagers is a home clash against table-toppers Institute.

“It will be a big match for Institute as they are chasing promotion, but it’s also big for us,” Smith concluded.

“We want to make sure that we end the season on a high and we want to bounce back from the defeat against Newry.

“We know that we belong in the top six, but haven’t got a rub of the green in terms of the results.

“It’s disappointing to only have one win since the split, but in some cases, I’ve taken positives from the defeats. 

“Institute are a good team and Paddy has them playing some nice football. They will hope to get over the line and get up to the Premiership.

“For us, it’s simply about getting three points and taking it from there.

“There are only three games left, so we want to give it a good go and secure as many points as possible.”

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