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Tayl of two matches

Barry Gray expects a very different battle to last week when Cliftonville take on Carrick Rangers this evening.

The Reds travel to The Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena for a League Cup Quarter Final challenge just 11 days after securing a 3-0 home victory over the Gers on Danske Bank Premiership duty, but Gray does not expect that match to have any bearing on proceedings tonight.

“Games at Solitude and games down in Carrick are very different,” he admits.

“The pitches are obviously worlds apart and, as the home team, they’ll work us and battle to make things as difficult as they possibly can for us. They were missing quite a few players for the game last week, so they’ll have some of them back which means you can’t read anything into the match at Solitude – it’s gone and won’t be anything like this one.”

Cliftonville’s recent burst of form was kick-started by September’s comeback success at the Taylors Avenue venue, when two second-half Joe Gormley strikes turned things round to earn a first away win in 10 months – and the Manager is hoping the Reds can provide a further demonstration of their improvement when they return to east Antrim this evening.

“That was a match where we dug in, worked hard and did the ugly side of things really well to just make sure we got ourselves the result,” he adds.

“Since then, we’ve been in generally good form, we’re playing much better and there’s been a clear step up at both ends of the pitch; we’re scoring more regularly and we’re keeping clean sheets. So the game down in Carrick earlier in the season was a big one for us in terms of getting ourselves on track.

“The players deserve credit for what they’ve done in the last few weeks and, though we know it’s obviously going to be a real challenge because Carrick will be doing everything they can to get themselves into the next round, we’ll go into the game believing we can make it through.”