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Run of the nil

Barry Gray admits he’s disappointed and frustrated with yesterday’s scoreless draw with Coleraine – but only because he believes Cliftonville’s performance merited all three points.

The Reds saw a host of chances come and go throughout a dominant performance at Solitude, with the Manager reflecting: “I don’t think our supporters will be celebrating a draw by any means but, in terms of how we’ve played, I think we’ve given them something to latch on to. We’ve given them something that they didn’t get in our last two games and you could see how much they got behind the team and the reception at the end.

“Before the game, I told the players to forget about results and points, it was about giving a performance.

“I made my feelings very clear about how we’d played against Linfield and Crusaders last week, so we needed to see a reaction to that and I think we got probably our best 90-minute performance of the whole season. We were solid at the back, hard-working in midfield and lively up front. All that was missing was a goal. We had the chances, we just couldn’t put one of them away, so there’s frustration again but a different kind of frustration.

“Earlier this week, I was disappointed in the players, whereas here I’m gutted for them. They’ve deserved to win that match and, in truth, it could have been by two or three.”

Having been furious with he Reds’ displays in defeats to Linfield and Crusaders, the boss was pleased to end the losing run and conclude 2017 on a happier note and added: “I told the players from day one that they would get honesty out of me and they certainly got that this week. I mean, I could have come out and said we were unlucky against Crusaders but what benefit would that have been? How would that have helped us? It was more important to get to the truth of the matter and try to address it.

“I’m sure some players won’t have liked it and, on an individual basis, won’t have been happy to hear what was said, but whether or not there was anyone who thought I was harsh or whatever, their response was to give a very good team performance against Coleraine.

“Obviously I can’t be doing that every week, so they need to take things on from here. One point from nine over the Christmas period is probably as bad as we could have imagined it would be, but let’s take this draw and clean sheet, put those two losses behind us and make it the start of another good run.”

Though missed opportunities were what ultimately cost Cliftonville victory against the Bannsiders, Rory Donnelly saw strong penalty claims waved away by referee Keith Kennedy after he was manhandled by Scott Whiteside, with Gray – who had his players back in training today ahead of Tuesday night’s Danske Bank Premiership clash with Ballymena United – concluding: “If the referee has seen it and not given it, then that’s poor, but if he’s not seen it then there’s not a lot we can do about that. We’ll take the point, leave this week behind and focus on Ballymena in midweek.

“We’re in a tough run of fixtures but I’m happy that our next game is against another good team in a good run of form because it means we know we have to be fully switched on and fully at it again.”