Barry Gray says the performance against Ballinamallard United last night was not indicative of the talents within the Cliftonville team.
The Reds went down 6-4 in a crazy Ferney Park encounter that was littered with individual errors and haphazard defending that has not been reflective of the side in recent months – and which left the Manager just as shocked as the vocal travelling support.
“It was a dire performance,” he admits.
“Full credit to Ballinamallard, it’s no disrespect to them but conceding six goals in one game is just a complete and utter disgrace.
“We all have to take collective responsibility, it is not one that I will wash my hands of. Certainly it was my team that I picked to go out but it certainly wasn’t anything like the team that I have been managing or coaching over the last number of months.”
Two goals down early on courtesy of strikes from Ryan Curran and Sean Noble – who were each afforded ample time and space to pick their spot – the Reds reduced the arrears through Jay Donnelly before further calamity at the back opened the door for Stephen O’Flynn to make it 3-1.
Whatever hopes the visiting support had that the half-time turnaround might spark Cliftonville into greater action was snuffed out virtually instantly when, straight from kick-off, the Reds contrived to concede both possession and then a penalty, with Curran stepping up to extend United’s advantage.
Ross Lavery’s firm finish made it 4-2 before Joe Gormley struck to revive dreams of a turnaround, but James McKenna would restore the Mallards’ two-goal margin when he was given the freedom of the visitors’ half to surge forward and find the bottom corner.
A delightful strike from Gormley restored what flickering hope Cliftonville had of an unlikely salvage act but, again, the Reds failed to build on their momentum and, after spurning opportunities to make it 5-5, were finally sunk when Jonathan Leddy seized on a poor clearance to net from virtually the halfway line in the final seconds.
The Reds return to action in Monday night’s Danske Bank Premiership showdown with Glenavon, with Gray adding: “There are no shortage of big games for us at the minute and this period is a very important one for us.
“We need to get back to doing what we’re good at and being consistent with it. No matter the result, I’ve always said we’re a work in progress and we must never over-react to setbacks, but the players know and I know that there’s a level that has to be met.”