Cliftonville and Ballymena United up for Solitude battle

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey
Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray is hoping his side can find some consistency as they welcome Ballymena United to Solitude on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds were beaten 2-1 by Warrenpoint last weekend before beating Lisburn Distillery 5-0 in the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night.

Gray’s team is full of attacking threat with the likes of Joe Gormley, Rory Donnelly, Jay Donnelly, Stephen Garrett and Ryan Curran.

But the Reds have been misfiring in recent games with league defeats to Warrenpoint and new boys Newry City in recent weeks.

So Gray was glad to see midfielder Ryan Catney getting in on the act against Lisburn Distillery and praised him for making it back from a back leg break against Crusaders.

“The goal was a nice reward for him because, in recent weeks when performances and results haven’t been where we would want them, he has been one of the constant players that has stood up and is happy to be counted and continues to do that.

“He’s not renowned for his goals it but if you can get him in the right positions he can certainly have a go at it and he’s not afraid to.

“I think he might be one of those players in the dressing room that takes more abuse for scoring a goal than not – and he will certainly make sure that, for the next wee period, nobody will forget that he scored .

“And he has done really well to come back from a bad injury and his determination and will power was second to none.”

And Gray said it was good to see Jay Donnelly on target against Distillery before United come to town and the Reds manager says he rates the player very highly.

“From the day and hour I took over at Cliftonville, I made Jay very aware of how much that I thought of him as a player – having not worked with him,” explains Gray.

“In footballing terms, it’s hard to hide class and he has it.

“He still has work to do, don’t get me wrong, but when it turns for him and things are good, he is certainly very easy to watch,” he said to www.cliftonvillefc.net

And the boss says he was pleased with his side’s showing against Distillery after losing to Warrenpoint last weekend.

“We were professional and did what we needed to do, I don’t think we can read too much into it,” says Gray.

“I was a wee bit disappointed when it looked like we were just going to accept 2-0, but we pushed on for more and that was a positive.

“We created plenty of chances, scored plenty of goals and kept a clean sheet – I think that’s as much as could have been expected,” he added.

And Ballymena United will be glad to get back into action after playing their last game against Warrenpoint Town on September 1.

The Sky Blues were on top form that day and this break probable came at a bad time for David Jeffrey’s side.

And Jeffrey will know that the matches between these two sides were close last season and his men can expect a tough test tomorrow afternoon against a Reds team who will still be smarting from last Saturday’s defeat to Warrenpoint Town.