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Wray believes Derg can build on their survival success

Tommy Wray and team-mates Lee McNulty and Andy Sproule celebrate beating Queens.

SKIPPER Tommy Wray believes that with a few additions Dergview can be a more competitive team next season.

The former Institute and Dungannon Swifts defender is to remain at Darragh Park after signing for another season at the weekend.

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The Castlederg outfit finished the season on something of a high by winning eight and drawing two of their final 12 games which included a 4-1 promotion-relegation play-off victory over Queen’s to protect their Championship status.

Wray believes new manager Peter Allen has the nucleus of a good squad going forward.

“I think we showed that in the games after the split,” he said.

“When Peter took over, he brought in a few players and tweaked the formation. We got a settled team with a bit of rotation and we also had players coming off the bench who could make a difference.

“We won the first four games and that gave us a bit of confidence.

“When a new manager comes in it’s like a clean slate and the players responded. You see that at all levels of football.

“In the play-off we showed a lot of character. Adam Dougherty got us an early goal in the first leg and after that we absorbed a lot of pressure..

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“I was silently confident about the second leg – I’m not one for shouting from the rooftop – and we did what we had to do.

“If we can keep everyone together and add a few fresh faces with the same attitude then I have no doubt we can compete.

We know the Championship is going to be even stronger next year. You have Larne, who have the money, Portadown, the teams that came down Carrick and Ballinamallard and by the looks of social media, Loughgall, Welders, Knockbreda have all added to their squad.

“That said money doesn’t always buy you success and we proved that by defeating Larne at home near the end of the season.”

Reflecting on last season as a whole, the accomplished 34-year-old centre-back believes Dergview’s struggles in the early part of the campaign was down to the fact that Allen’s predecessor, Richard Clarke, was unable to replace the likes of Ivan Sproule, Blaine Burns, Nathan Cashel and Andy Sproule with players of similar experience.

Burns and Andy Sproule did return in the new year and that combined with the new recruits bedding in and finding their feet culminated in Dergview avoiding the drop.

Ultimately the pieces of the jigsaw fell into place and while it was a challenging season for Wray and his team-mates it wasn’t without it’s rewards.

“It was difficult to begin with because I had a lot of respect for Dicky Clarke right back to when I played against him at Portadown,” added Wray.

“At the start of the season we missed that experience. The young players that came in had the quality, they were hungry and ethusiastic, but just didn’t have the experience.

“Defensively I always thought we would be strong enough but further up the field we struggled a bit.

“Peter came in, added a number of players and the players that were there responded to a different voice.

“It didn’t take much. Despite results we weren’t that far away. Even when results were going against us the changing room was still strong. The attitude was good, the camaraderie was good, the team ethic was still there. When Dicky left I think the players realised that we were in trouble and Peter was able to use that to turn things around. In the end we survived and we now look forward to the new season.”

And Dergview have wasted little time putting in place arrangements for the 2018-19 campaign.

After agreeing terms to take on the managerial reins on a permanent basis, Allen has already re-signed Wray, Dougherty, Andy Sproule and Lee McNulty this week.

Wray believes Allen’s appointment is the right move by the North Tyrone club.

“Peter’s very enthusiastic, he loves his football and he’s a winner,” continued the defender. “That’s an attitude I identify with. He’s already busy at work and like all things time will tell.

“Hopefully we can learn some big lessons from the season just finished. If Peter can recruit the right players with the right attitude then we’ll be on the right track.

“After that it’s about having the commitment, attitude, desire and being properly prepared. If we can bring that together then we’ll give anyone a game.”

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