Barry Gray cut a happy figure after Cliftonville’s 3-0 defeat of Carrick Rangers yesterday, with his team’s dedication to keeping the ball on the deck delivering particular satisfaction.
Two first-half strikes from Joe Gormley put the Reds in control ahead of substitute Daniel Hughes wrapping things up late on, leaving boss Gray with just one trifling complaint – and it all centred around the second goal.
“I thought the whole team were excellent and some of our play was great to watch,” he said.
“We got it down and passed it, created a lot of chances and should probably have had another few goals but I’ll take 3-0 every time, no doubt about that.
“That’s much more like what we should be about and the players deserve credit for going out and playing the way they did. Carrick set up to make things difficult for us and to deny us space, but we’ve worked very hard, passed the ball well and got our rewards.
“The second goal in particular was a joy to watch and, in fact, it’s a pity Rory Donnelly’s not been able to finish it off before Joe follows it up. The build-up to it was first class and we had so many players involved in the move. The ball has been played through to Rory but the keeper’s saved it and Joe’s come in to finish it off – but it would have been a hell of a goal if Rory had put it away first time.”
The Solitude success was Cliftonville’s eighth win from 10 outings and, reflecting on an upturn that was kick-started by September’s victory over Carrick at The Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena, Gray added: “People talk about us bouncing back from losing to Crusaders on Monday night but I can assure you it wasn’t spoken about in there.
“With the way we’re going about things, we know we’re going to get setbacks like that one and Coleraine a couple of weeks ago. In general, though, I think it’s very clear we’re progressing in the direction we want to go.
“The win against Carrick down there was a very different type of win and it was an overdue one for us at the time but, since then, we’ve continued to work hard and continued to improve. We’re certainly in a much better place than we were but, in saying that, where we were was crap so let’s not get ahead of ourselves or carried away by anything.
“I think this match showed the players exactly what we’ve been telling them, which is that if we don’t give teams anything, we give ourselves a much greater chance.”