Barry Gray revealed that new-found free-kick specialist Levi Ives played through the pain barrier in Cliftonville’s victory over Warrenpoint Town.
After Garry Breen had opened the scoring, Ives – who netted a delightful deadball strike in the Reds’ League Cup defeat of Carrick Rangers last week – smashed in another sensational set-piece before Marc Griffin’s late consolation was followed up by Jay Donnelly putting the seal on the hosts’ 3-1 success.
Afterwards, Gray explained that Ives, who was forced off injured in that encounter with Carrick, was touch and go to even take part.
“We’ve quite a few injuries at the minute and most of the players are close to a return or close to taking part in full training,” he said.
“For this game, we’d an enforced change in the centre of defence and an enforced change in the centre of midfield and even Levi had a problem with his ankle that he played through.”
On his side’s previously untapped goal resource from the full-back’s left boot, Gray added: “That’s two from two, isn’t it? It was a great strike and it was good to see us get three goals without Joe Gormley being on the scoresheet.
“We’ve maybe overly relied on him and asked too much of him at times, but three goals from three different players and none of them being him is another positive.
“Spreading more goals throughout the team is something important that we’ve been working on and it was good to see that happen for us here.”
Gray admits Cliftonville have yet to fully click this season but explained: “Our confidence isn’t as high as it could be because of how inconsistent we’ve been, but one way to lift confidence is to work hard, produce performances and get results and we’ve done that.”
Opposite number Stephen McDonnell admitted he believed a point was up for grabs when his men reduced the arrears with five minutes left on the clock.
Encouraged not only by Warrenpoint’s recent run of late goals but also by Cliftonville’s habit of conceding them, he revealed: “We immediately went to three at the back, loaded more men in midfield and wanted to get bodies forward quicker.
“It was a situation we wanted to make the most of but, unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together for us.
“We’ve been guilty of making mistakes, really poor mistakes, and gifting Cliftonville their goals.
“We’re not happy with how we’ve defended the first one, the second one’s a great free-kick but we shouldn’t have given the foul away and then the third one, we’ve set it up for them.
“The goals we conceded were like the Warrenpoint of six weeks ago.
“We’ve played well but we’ve made poor decisions on the ball that have cost us.
“It’s almost like we’ve said ‘we’ll work really hard to get our goal, but here you go, have three of your own’.”
CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C Curran, R Donnelly (Maguire, 88 mins), Catney, Gormley, J Donnelly, McMenamin (Garrett, 83 mins), McNulty. Unused subs: Neeson, R Curran, McConnell, Lavery, A Donnelly.
WARRENPOINT: McCarey, Hughes, Moan (Norton, 67 mins), Griffin, McGrandles, O’Sullivan, McCaffrey, Watters (Kelly, 55 mins), O’Connor, Wallace, Donnelly (Scannell, 55 mins). Unused subs: J Lynch, M Lynch, Halfpenny, Turker.
REFEREE: Tony Clarke (Newtownabbey).