Barry Gray was grateful for the challenge provided by Shelbourne in yesterday’s friendly at Tolka Park, believing it will stand Cliftonville in good stead for the forthcoming campaign.
A Joe Gormley hat-trick combined with strikes from Daniel Hughes, Jay Donnelly and Jude Winchester saw the Reds bag six for the third pre-season game in succession – although Gray admits it could have been more.
“Six seems to be the lucky number at the minute,” he said.
“We were very pleased with the work out; it was a good tough and physical challenge for us – the first-half in particular. That’s probably one of the first times in recent weeks we’ve had that.
“We stood up to it well and controlled large parts of the game, our strikers were on the scoresheet, we got a clean sheet and everyone got the workout that they needed.”
In addition to teeing Gormley up for his first and third goals, Hughes registered the strike of the day with a sensational long-range drive that darted into the top corner little more than a minute after he’d seen a more straightforward opening go to waste, leaving Gray to reflect: “There was a couple of opportunities that we could have tucked away rightly. Daniel finished the difficult one and not some of the more routine ones, but it will come.
“I think it is more confidence in front of goal. If you look at how we are shaping and our organisation work – it put us in the scenario where it was more match-like in the top half of the field. Shelbourne playing their way against us for the first-half in particular allowed us to play properly as opposed to some of the weaker opposition we have come up against that didn’t give us that space or grace to do it.
“We scored six and created another five or six good chances that on another day you would expect boys to finish”.