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Swift start

Having called upon his players to stick to the game plan against Dungannon Swifts, Barry Gray was understandably delighted with how Cliftonville commenced both halves in yesterday’s victory at Stangmore Park.

Rory Donnelly’s hat-trick and a penalty from Joe Gormley earned the Reds a 4-0 success that was augmented by Brian Neeson’s last-gasp spot-kick save and Gray, who welcomed his squad for a light training session at Solitude this morning, was full of praise for their application.

“We had a plan and the players delivered it perfectly,” he said.

“Against Dungannon, and especially down there, you know you’re going to have to work very, very hard all over the park. It’s a tight pitch and they get the ball down and play. We had to find a way to combat that while also making sure we did our own jobs and you couldn’t fault anyone on how things went.

“We spoke about the importance of starting both halves sharply and, as it turned out, we’ve scored goals early on in both. The second one has maybe knocked the wind out of Dungannon a little bit and, because they’ve then had to go in search of things themselves, it’s played into our hands a bit because there were more gaps opening up and we were able to exploit them.”

As is appropriate with Halloween looming, there’s no rest for the wicked and the Reds will be back in action when they host Crusaders in tomorrow night’s County Antrim Shield Quarter Final tie – but the boss isn’t moaning about the quick turnaround.

“We just have to get on with it,” he added.

“Obviously the match was supposed to be last week but Crusaders had the Sky game on Monday, so this one had to be put back. It’s a big match and I’m sure it’s one that, under the lights at Solitude, our fans are looking forward to and I know the players are as well.

“We’ve had a Sunday training session just to shake off yesterday and help us get our full focus on the Crues match.”