INSTITUTE’S Joe Gray is loving his football at the minute.
The midfielder knows he and his team-mates still have a lot of work to do if they want to gain promotion.
Currently sitting in second spot five points behind leaders Ards, Gray is thrilled they are still in with a shout for the Championship title, but he is warning his team-mates things could also go the other way and they may even miss out on promotion.
This weekend they host fellow title contenders Dundela, before facing the league leaders in a few weeks time, but the ex-Limavady United man is already relishing the climax to the campaign.
“As Keeso (Paul Kee) keeps saying ‘there is no point in us looking at what other teams are doing’, we have a job to do and if we want to be in the mix then we just have to keep winning our games from now until the end of the season,” he stated.
“We have a massive game this week against Dundela, we have a chance to take points off a team who is around us in the league and if we can win then it’s their game in hand over us kind off knocked in the head.
“We all know that it’s a big game, but every match from now until the end of the season are all massive for us.
“As footballers come the end of the season you want to be in the mix to win things and get promotion and that is where we are at the minute, so we have to be happy with that.
“You have to be happy as a footballer that you are playing in big games and although it brings a bit of extra pressure on, that is what you want. You don’t want to be just playing out the season in a mid-table position, I have had that before in my career and it’s not nice, it becomes boring, so to be in the mix at the business end of the season is great.”
Gray along with all the experienced players in the squad knew that their Irish Cup exit was a bad day for everyone, but that defeat may have reignited their season again.
“Everybody knew that the Kilmore Rec game wasn’t good enough and we were hurting from that defeat. We can make all the excuses we want, the main reason why we were knocked out of the Irish Cup was because that we weren’t good enough.
“Players had a bit of a point to prove against the Welders, to show people that we are a decent team and that we could bounce back and thankfully we did that. We did show that intensity and desire at the start and the early goal kind of set the tempo from there.
“At times this season we have been slow to start but I feel it’s something we have been learning from throughout the season, but the biggest driving point for us on Saturday was the Kilmore Rec defeat, everybody was up for it and because of that I don’t think there was ever going to be a sluggish start against the Welders.”
The vice-captain, who was in splendid form at the weekend during their 3-1 win over Harland & Wolff Welders, in fact he scored the opener and also created the other two goals, is hoping to maybe score a few more goals before the end of the campaign.
“If I can get a chance when I am in midfield then I’ll hopefully take it. Especially now with (Aaron Walsh) Walshie sitting in there I was given a wee bit of a licence to get forward.
“I just bombed in to the box and Mickey (McCrudden) played in a great cross and it was right on my head, all I had to do was direct it back across from their keeper, so it was nice to get a goal, but it was even better that the team got a nice start to the tie.
“We showed a bit of character against the Welders by bouncing back with a win and what was even more pleasing was that we just didn’t walk away with the tie, we had to dig in a bit and show that bit of fight to win the game. For me that was even more pleasing, because you can’t always play the pretty football, you sometimes have to be compact and we showed on Saturday that we can do that,” concluded Gray.