Gray wants his Cliftonville side to maintain their focus

Cliftonville Manager Barry Gray
Cliftonville Manager Barry Gray

The key word for Barry Gray over the next few weeks is focus as his Cliftonville side attempt to close the gap on the sides above them.

The Reds have a run of games which many would expect them to win.

But Gray knows his side will have to approach those games in the right frame of mind if they are to turn expectations into reality.

“We have a run of games in November against teams in the bottom half of the table, and many would be expecting us to win those games,” said Gray.

“But you have to be very careful when you go into games like this.

“They maybe don’t generate the excitement of playing the so-called bigger sides, and players can take their eye off the ball.

“But these games are so important because in December we have a run of fixtures against the top six, and to give ourselves a real chance in those games we have to have a good November.

“The teams above us also go head-to-head in the next couple of weeks, so some team is going to drop points and we have to take advantage of that.

“That will only happen if we are focused on the job in hand.

“We did that against Carrick Rangers last Saturday. We started well, got the goal and built on it.

“The important thing is we carry that on again this weekend.

“As I said though the last thing we can afford to do is be complacent.

“Ballinamallard will come here with nothing to lose, and if we don’t approach the game in the right way we will get punished.

“We always say to the players to focus on the next game, and right now that is the most important.

“As a manager though I have to look at the bigger plan and what the next few months have in store for us as I want us to have the best possible opportunity to put pressure on those teams above us.”

For the Mallards it is another tough game in their current cycle.

In the past fortnight they have fallen to Crusaders, Coleraine and Linfield as they remain rooted to the foot of the table.

They were put to the sword by the Blues last Saturday, who hit them for six at Ferney Park.

Boss Gavin Dykes admitted their recent exertions had taken their toll on the players.

“From our point of view, we were leggy and we had too many bodies who were simply not able to compete.

“We were well beaten and that was with Linfield with 10 men so I have no complaints,” said Dykes.