Larne’s caretaker boss Graham McConnell admits that if he can keep the club in Championship 1 it will be “job done” as far as this season is concerned, writes John Gillespie.
A 5-3 home defeat to Dundela last Saturday wasn’t the ideal start he was looking for, and with Larne’s defensive frailties exposed on several occasions, the new man at the helm knows there’s work to be done. But he believes there is enough quality in the group of players he has inherited to keep the club up. However, as the acquisition of ex-Newry netminder Nathan Morley-Hillen proves, he has already been looking around for free agents to strengthen the squad.
“The bottom line is if the team is conceding 11 goals in two games, there is something wrong at the back,” McConnell told the Times in a post-match interview. “The thing at the minute is that we can’t really bring anybody in, so we have got to get working to try and remedy that. To score three goals at home and still lose is the most disappointing part of it for me.”
On his active search for free agents, McConnell said: “It’s an avenue we are looking at as regards to out-of-contract professionals, but with the season two months old, what sort of physical condition are they in? And also, if you are an out-of-contract professional, do you want to come and play in the Championship?”
“The players I’ve got here have the quality, but I said to them at the start of the week that I didn’t think they were fit enough.”
It’s McConnell’s second spell as a Larne boss already he’s thriving in the role. “I’m here because I want to be here,” he said. “I love it. It’s a challenge.”
He added: “I know a bit more about the players after today. I thought before today we might have needed one or two new faces in and that was probably reinforced. But January is a long way away so the players we’ve got are the ones who are going to have to get out on the pitch and win us some points.
“We can’t just sit and go through the motions and wait for January.
“Everything we did this week was to try and go back to basics. We went back to a 4-4-2 which I think the players probably understand better. Everything we did in training and our set-up was all geared towards keeping things as simple as we could for them.
“In this league you have to be fit, you have to be strong and you have to be organised and if you have all those three things then you’ve got a chance.”
Focusing on the positives from Saturday’s defeat, he said: “I thought Gary Workman had one of his better games in a position where I think he is more effective - in the middle of the pitch. Craig Todd played as a left-back and didn’t do any worse than the three other defenders who played in their normal positions.
“I thought they did show a bit of hunger and a bit of fight and, to be fair, I honestly think they deserved to take something from the game.”
McConnell has confirmed his backroom staff as Martin Rodgers and Jonathan Magill. Also joining the club in a coaching role is former Northern Ireland midfielder, Colin O’Neill.