Having spoken in the build-up about how Cliftonville had been ‘bullied’ on their last trip to Mourneview Park, boss Barry Gray was heartened by his players’ application in yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Glenavon.
The Reds, who travelled to Lurgan without two of the back four that had started the majority of games in recent months, led at the interval courtesy of Joe Gormley’s strike and, though the hosts exerted plenty of pressure after the break, Cliftonvile’s backline – where the impressive Aaron Donnelly shone alongside a towering display from Garry Breen – held firm until Sammy Clingan rescued a point in injury-time.
“It was disappointing to lose a goal so near the end,” said Gray.
“Once the boys calm down and have a more realistic take on it, it will go down as a decent point. The players have to take a lot of credit because we came up against a powerful Glenavon side that were scoring goals for fun.
“The boys certainly worked hard and showed a lot of hunger and desire. They did the ugly side of the game that they were possibly not doing a few weeks back.”
In addition to the frustration of shipping that last-gasp strike, Gray also took issue with what he perceived as intimidatory tactics employed by the home dugout on referee Arnold Hunter.
“Apparently we’re not allowed to tackle some Glenavon players, we’re not allowed to be physical,” he added.
“I must have missed a memo stating that we’re not allowed to do that down here. Maybe the problem is Glenavon couldn’t manipulate the referee the way they would have liked.
“Their bench was up with every challenge Liam Bagnall put in – not in the 60th minute, but in the first 10 seconds. It didn’t work for them, because they didn’t get him sent off. If Glenavon had won the game, there wouldn’t have been a word about it.”