Barry Gray noted the evident rise in confidence that Cliftonville enjoyed the longer yesterday’s clash with Ards progressed.
Ryan Curran set the Reds on course to all three Danske Bank Premiership points when he opened the scoring at Solitude and, despite being hit with the double blow of conceding a penalty equaliser and then missing a spot-kick of their own, the hosts rallied to victory thanks to goals from Conor McMenamin, Rory Donnelly and Joe Gormley.
“It’s been a testing time for all of us because of results over the last few weeks and I suppose the players were probably on a bit of a hiding to nothing because people would have expected them to beat Ards,” explained Gray.
“You don’t get any credit for beating the team that’s bottom of the League, but the message we gave them before the game was just to go and play. Get out there, play your game, work hard, be brave and take your chances when they come – and they did that. You couldn’t have asked for much more on the day.
“Confidence has been low and, after conceding a penalty right on the stroke of half-time and then missing one just afterwards, that’s a big blow and tough to take when you’ve been struggling confidence-wise. The excuse was there if the players wanted it to be – they could have used those two setbacks to feel sorry for themselves, shy away and end up losing another game, but there was a really good, determined attitude about us.”
Gray and his team departed to a positive response from supporters and, a week on from a less upbeat reception, the Manager reflected: “Some of the players were actually telling me to go over and milk that applause a little bit but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that.
“I never did it when we’ve had good winning runs in the past and maybe if we go on another good run, I’d think about it but, at the end of the day, it isn’t about me and never has been. Cliftonville getting the result is all that matters.
“It was nice of them to do that I’m thankful for that support and also grateful to people who sent me messages during what was a very tough week for me personally, but all I wanted from the day was three points and I’m pleased for the players and the Club that we got them.”