BARRY GRAY: ‘You cannot afford to prove so wasteful against a side of Linfield’s quality’

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray. Pic by Pacemaker.
Cliftonville manager Barry Gray. Pic by Pacemaker.

Barry Gray wants to turn Cliftonville’s mixed form into forward momentum this weekend by halting early-season pace-setters Linfield at Solitude.

The Blues make the trip across Belfast aiming to protect top spot in the standings and enhance a perfect run of maximum points and clean sheets.

Linfield boss David Healy. Pic by Pacemaker.

Linfield boss David Healy. Pic by Pacemaker.

In contrast, Gray will face Linfield determined to chalk up a second success following a taste of each points outcome to date.

Having kicked off the league campaign with a spirited victory over Glentoran, the Reds finished down and out at home to Coleraine before leaving Dungannon Swifts last Saturday having shared the spoils.

“Based on results, it is not what we wanted of course but that is just the black-and-white of things so far and we know a win over Linfield this weekend could help kick-start everything, in the same way it managed to boost us last season, albeit much later in the campaign,” said Gray. “We have been dealing with some massive changes in selection and Saturday at Dungannon was probably the first time we’ve come to what, if you like, you would consider our normal eleven.

“It has been frustrating and Saturday seemed to be one of those days when you take into account the numbers of chances we created.

“Teams will leave Dungannon short of points, there is no doubt but we want to look at the situation and analyse how we can improve on turning those small moments into wins.

“High-profile games tend to feature fewer decisive moments and it is up to us to maximise whatever comes our way.

“You cannot afford to prove so wasteful against a side of Linfield’s quality, otherwise you will get punished for any lapses in defence and failure to take advantage of attacking chances.”

Gray admits obvious admiration for Linfield’s dream start but offers a reality check given the early stages of the season.

“You give Linfield all due respect and every team would rather have that record as it stands than anything else,” said Gray. “But we look on it as only three games in and nothing can ever be settled at this point.

“In big games it also comes down to what happens on the day and very much about producing those individual and team performances irrespective of past results, good or bad.

“We want to think of how a win could prove a big turning point for us, as previously, as you need that belief in the ability to kick on.

“We could analyse the Dungannon game as a good point given the club’s ability to prove so difficult to beat but my focus is now on the frustration of a missed opportunity.

“We know this weekend those tiny details can make all the difference in coming away with the right result.”

Wins over Glenavon, Institute and Crusaders have handed Linfield manager David Healy a welcome position at the head of the table but the Blues boss is calling for continued progress.

“Everyone is on a high at the moment,” said Healy on the club’s official website. “The players are cock-a-hoop and one member of the Board told me after last weekend’s win how Bluemen far and wide could be proud of the performance against Crusaders.

“I talked to enough Board members and people after games last season in which everyone was despondent at the results and performances.

“But it continues at Solitude now, the hard work starts again after every fixture and we need to be bang on it to get a result at Cliftonville.

“Standards have been set three games in but as a staff and squad of players we must work together to maintain that level and also look to improve further into the season.

“We want to take that attitude into the next game.”