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Gray Christmas

Barry Gray blasted Cliftonville’s “atrocious” North Belfast Derby display and says referee Raymond Crangle has questions to answer over his role in both of Crusaders’ goals at Seaview yesterday.

Jay Donnelly was clearly bundled over in the build-up to Gavin Whyte’s opener and Joe Gormley was tripped at the start of the sequence that led to Whyte doubling the hosts’ advantage late on, with Gray commenting: “Both are fouls and both are free-kicks – simple.

“Raymond Crangle is the only one in the ground that thinks different. Both are fouls. He has got them wrong and it’s created two goals against us.

“Rory Donnelly has been manhandled the whole game and hasn’t got a free-kick because Raymond deemed it was Rory backing into defenders as they throw their arms around his neck. It was a big show referee for a big show.”

The Manager does not, however, want the officials’ performance to overshadow how the Reds played and adds: “The people we should feel sorry for are the people that have spent their hard-earned money across the Christmas period coming to watch the last two games, because it has been absolutely atrocious.

“We were utter crap. It’s not about the scoreline, let’s not get blinded by the fact we were beat 2-0 – the scoreline is what it is, we’ve created nothing in front of goal with apparently one of the best strikeforces in the League.

“Even though the first goal was a free-kick for a foul on Jay Donnelly, the defensive mishaps after that were atrocious. Our midfield controlled little to none, we forced balls in areas with a style of play that is nothing to do with me because it is nothing that we’ve worked on in the six months since I’ve joined the Club and maybe some players are far too comfortable inside their own zones. They are far too comfortable because ‘wee Jimmy or Joey in the stand thinks I’m a brilliant player’. I’m telling you now the bubble will be burst and burst very quickly, because I won’t stand for it.

“I keep talking about us being a work in progress and I’ve stood by these players, but twice in three days we’ve sent thousands of supporters back up the road with absolutely nothing. There’s one sure thing they’ll get off me and that’s honesty, so when I think something I’m going to tell them and I’ll tell everyone associated because it’s not to be hidden.

“We were on a good run against bottom-six teams – no disrespect to them, but when you play for Cliftonville you’re expected to do that – and if you want to challenge for the League, dishing out performances like this against Crusaders and dishing out Saturday’s performance against Linfield is delusional if you think it’s enough to challenge in any competition.

“They’ll sit inside and think I’m harsh, I don’t care – the problem so far has been that they haven’t been told the truth on an ongoing basis and the bottom line of it is they are making my job very easy because I’m considering if they can’t lift their game for North Belfast derbies, what can they lift their game for?

“I’m not asking for a miracle, I’m not asking for players that have no quality to overnight develop it. I’m asking for honesty, for representation of all the people that work hard in the Club and get nothing for it bar seeing them eleven walk out on the field. It’s not evident in the last two games.”