Barry Gray was delighted with the hunger his side demonstrated in yesterday’s comeback victory over Carrick Rangers.
Trailing to a freak goal in the opening minutes, the Reds saw a couple of chances pass them by in the first-half before the introduction of Joe Gormley helped swing things in their favour on what was a testing afternoon at The Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
The striker netted twice to register Cliftonville’s first away win (and penalty conversion) since last December’s visit to the east Antrim venue and, while acknowledging the overall quality of performance was perhaps not what it could have been, Gray was nevertheless encouraged by the determination his side displayed.
“The players came off with an important win and in positive territory where they can quite clearly see the differences between the two halves,” he explained.
“I said to the players that the people walking out the gates don’t give two hoots how we played, or what we done or anything – there is three points on the board and that was our priority coming here. Positive territory and it got that silly stat away from home off our back. We had performances from players that gave us indications of the type of characters we are going to need going forward.
“We picked a side to work for it and do the ugly side of the game, in the first-half we didn’t show that enough. We made a couple of changes at half-time – there wasn’t a panic scenario at being 1-0 down early on. There was no panic from the bench at all, the players obviously took time to react to it and settle back into the game.
“Davy [McAlinden] is smart in how he sets his team up, so it’s hard to break them down here. We gave Carrick the opportunity of having something to hold on to, so we had to be patient at times and go through the ugly bit of it to get level on terms. Carrick are hard to break down, nevermind when they have something to hold onto so early in the game.”
Pleased as he was with the collective team effort, Gray couldn’t help but reserve admiration for the man whose second-half double did the damage.
“Joe Gormley has to be praised for his attitude,” he added.
“He didn’t start the game against and his attitude was spot on before he came on. He took responsibility and delivered what you hope any striker will when they don’t start in any game. Full praise to him, I said to him at half-time ‘Go out and show me exactly why I was wrong to leave you on the bench’ and he was a massive part of winning the game for us.
“There were other players with big performances for us in the second-half in particular.”