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Grind rules

Barry Gray was pleased with Cliftonville’s ability to dig in and grind out a result against Ards yesterday.

The Reds found themselves under serious pressure in the second-half at The Bangor Fuels Arena but, thanks to a well-drilled defensive display, limited their hosts to just a single opportunity, with David Elebert’s header crashing off the post.

Gray acknowledged that the overall performance wasn’t easy on the eye but, as well as paying tribute to Ards, said that Cliftonville’s resilience demonstrated a clear improvement from the opening weeks of the season.

“I keep saying we’re not going to get everything our own way,” he explained.

“It wasn’t pretty at times but I’m delighted with how we defended. In August or September, it’s doubtful we would have been able to protect a 1-0 lead for over an hour, but we did it without allowing Ards too many chances.

“Our defence got a lot of criticism at the start of the season but, in recent weeks, they have been superb. It wasn’t just the back four, it was the entire team who defended well.

“I think Ards deserve a lot of credit for their performance. They didn’t give us a minute on the ball and they made us work hard for our win in the second half.

“We’ve got lots of publicity for having the best strikers in the League and that works against us when we come to places like Ards. They’re really hard to break down, really solid, strong and direct. They put balls in the danger area very quickly and they don’t give us a big pile of chance to play. It was nothing more than a tight game and we’re just delighted to come out winners.

“I would’ve loved to see us fully control things and be on top of the game and win four of five-nil – everyone goes home bored, but nobody cares how we won. We have three points on the board and that’s what really matters.”

The victory, which came courtesy of a single Jay Donnelly strike, was the Reds’ second such success on the road this week following Wednesday’s League Cup defeat of Carrick Rangers and the Manager is looking forward to getting back on the training pitch in the days ahead.

“The boys can get a bit of recovery this week, because we’ve had two grinding games this week and its taken its toll,” added Gray, who is hopeful of some better news on the injury front.

“We’ll know more at the beginning of the week with regards to Tomas [Cosgrove] and Ruairi Harkin will be back in training during the week so that’s a positive and it was great to have Liam Bagnall back on the pitch against Ards to give us more options.”