Having gained ground over a first year in the Solitude hot-seat, Cliftonville boss Barry Gray considers small steps as the secret to success this season, writes Patrick Van Dort.
Gray’s debut campaign with the Reds resulted in an Irish Cup final showpiece appearance and Europa League play-off triumph as public rewards for private progress.
Building on those foundations stands as Gray’s goal for the future.
“We want to continue to kick on and realise the potential within this group,” said Gray. “But there is always the risk when you try to force something that you actually undo the good work in place.
“We want to be careful to avoid those errors as we made large, large strides last season and overcame some major hurdles along the way.
“Now it should be about small steps to make the difference and get us to our targets.
“Those final few steps are always the most difficult but we’ve looked at ways of turning the margins in our favour towards securing those extra points.”
Gray accepts any grace period afforded a fresh appointment no longer exists on the verge of a second season in charge.
“I view last season as one in which you can make a clear split between the first half and second half of the campaign,” said Gray. “Towards the end of the season you could see the consistency in performance starting to show and now we want to push on and develop towards that week in, week out.
“We simply did not manage enough points from teams in the top half of the table and had six defeats against those sides ahead of Boxing Day.
“It was night and day the difference between that form and the second part of the season.
“Personally, I hate pre-season in terms of it is false in many ways, so having European football helped our preparations gain that competitive edge.
“It was intense but we are happy with the progress and how the signings have settled so there remains a great sense of anticipation.
“We want to move forward now and make that statement.”