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Gray: Red Army were on song

Barry Gray sang the praises of the Cliftonville support after watching his side commence the new season with a 6-3 victory over Ards.

Behind early on, the Reds rallied to take control of proceedings and eventually came out on top in a nine-goal thriller and, while acknowledging some defensive concerns over the performance, Gray had plenty of positives to take from the occasion.

“We were very good going forward and could have scored more than the six we put away,” he said.

“We created plenty of chances and there was a good energy to the way we played. There was no panic when we went 1-0 down, people weren’t looking round going ‘what do we do now?’ – they just stuck to the plan and got on with the job.

“The supporters were brilliant too. There was a good feeling right throughout Solitude and I think the fans enjoyed themselves, I’m sure it was an enjoyable game to watch. The players gave the supporters something to shout about and the fans reacted positively. Those things go hand in hand and hopefully that’s the way we can continue things.

“Our negatives from the game were the three sloppy goals we conceded, but let’s not get bogged down in that. Those are problems that can be easily worked on and that’s what we’ll do in training on Monday night.

“We weren’t overly tested defensively in pre-season, so we expected a few holes and gaps in that side of our game. We’ve seen them now and we know what we need to work on but, again, there’s no panic about that. We scored six and got three points, so we’ve every right to be happy.”

And, ahead of Tuesday’s Danske Bank Premiership trip to Coleraine, Gray added: “What we’ve said to the players is that we want the Ards game to be the end of anyone looking back on what happened last season. People have been talking about bad runs of form, poor records and whatever else – the fact of the matter is they’re nothing to do with me, those aren’t my stats. The team that played against Ards had a new goalkeeper, two new centre-halves, a new midfielder and a new forward, so you’ve five new players in there that had nothing to do with last season, so why keep talking about it? It’s gone and our focus now is on making sure we make this season the best that we possibly can.

“We’re not the finished product and we have a long way to go, but let’s not drag ourselves down by thinking too much about things that have been and gone.”