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Setting the benchmark

Barry Gray was delighted with the impact Cliftonville’s substitutes made in yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership victory over Glentoran.

Stephen Garrett was introduced early in the second-half, with Daniel Hughes entering the fray just after Levi Ives had registered the game’s only goal – and both left a positive impression on the Manager.

“It wasn’t our best overall performance, but it was a win that came about due to a very good team display,” explains Gray.

“There was nothing spectacular about us, but the players did their jobs well and we’ve come out on the other side of it with a win, so I think everybody should be happy with what they did – including the subs. They came on and gave us a real lift that drove us towards the win.

“Stevie Garrett really energised us and was a big factor in getting us further up the pitch, then Daniel has come on and worked them really hard. We weren’t just sitting in the 1-0 lead and trying to defend it, Daniel played a role in making sure we kept at it – and that’s what you need, players who are ready to come on and be a positive influence.”

Garrett’s arrival saw Jamie Harney exit the scene, but Gray has moved to allay supporters’ fears over the defender’s fitness ahead of the busy festive fixture programme.

“He was puking his guts up at half-time,” was the Manager’s illustrative explanation.

“We weren’t sure he was going to play but he lasted much longer than we were expecting, so fair play to him for that. He’s had a bug this week and came back out after half-time and tried to give it a go, but he wasn’t quite right so we decided to make the change.”

The victory lifted Cliftonville up to third in the table, however Gray is resolute in his assertion that nobody should see that as the height of the Reds’ ambitions.

“We’re maybe in a wee bit of a false position because of the games in hand, but it’s not a bad place to be when you consider where we were a couple of months ago,” he adds.

“It’s not so long ago that we were eighth or ninth, which shows how much we have improved and how well we’re doing at the minute. Having said that, it’s only third and it’s only December. If that’s enough for anyone, then this probably isn’t the Club for them.”