Barry Gray wants Cliftonville to maintain momentum against Glentoran
Cliftonville manager Barry Gray wants his players to kick on following victory over Coleraine on their travels last weekend.
Cliftonville are up to fourth in the Danske Bank Premiership, one point behind Ballymena, having won four of their last five league games.
Gray – whose Reds are at home to Glentoran on Saturday – said the win over the Bannsiders at The Showgrounds was ‘badly needed’.
“It was a badly needed win and credit to the players because it would have been easy to have dropped the heads, as we had to make changes before a ball was kicked,” he said.
“But it’s a good step forward and it’s nice for the fans to see us close a game out in the last five minutes without any setbacks.
“The defence did very well but our defending as a team overall was much better and we had the kind of steel about us that I always knew was in there.
“Our goalkeeper, Richard Brush, was only called into action a couple of times but was never really under any huge pressure because of how well the team in front of him did.”
Gray was also pleased with the attitude of his players after Coleraine pulled a goal back.
“When Coleraine pulled one back, the players didn’t panic, they didn’t crumble. The response was very good and we worked really hard right across the pitch,” he said.
We showed good qualities to battle and grind the win out, which is one of the areas we’ve struggled with this season. We always knew we could do that and the players have answered questions that were asked of them, but we need to make sure it becomes a weekly thing.
“The Glens are a good side and they have been playing well. It will not be easy for us,” said Gray.
Glentoran are going into the game off the back of a dramatic Bet McLean League Cup win over Coleraine, which was decided on penalties.
The Oval side steamrollered Ards in their previous league game, clinching a 4-0 victory, but boss Ronnie McFall is still aiming to strengthen his squad in January.
“Although we still need to strengthen in January I think we’re seeing that we have a greater strength in the squad this season, as we’ve been forced into a few changes over the past couple of weeks and the players who have come in have all done very well for us,” he said.
“It’s important to bear in mind how young the current squad is: Cricky Gallagher and Dylan Davidson are 19, James McCarthy and Paul O’Neill 18, Joe Crowe and Nathan Kerr are 20. Robbie McDaid has just turned 22.
“Even Conor Pepper and John Herron – who we’re looking to for their experience – are just 24.
“So we’re building something strong for the future and I think Saturday’s performance showed we’re on the right track,” added McFall.
“I was very pleased with our all round performance against Ards.
“We came out with the right attitude and dominated the game right from the start.
“The thing that pleased me most was that we took control of the midfield early on and didn’t ever let go of it.”