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Form and substance

Barry Gray wants Cliftonville to build on recent form when they travel to Coleraine tomorrow – but knows that the title-chasing hosts will provide the sternest of challenges.

The Reds visit The Showgrounds on the back of six wins from seven outings and, determined to finish the campaign strongly, are well aware of the value of another away day success this weekend.

“We have been going well lately and, as I’ve said, credit to the players for that because they have worked very, very hard to turn things around after we want through a lean spell,” says Gray.

“Winning games is about people doing their jobs all over the pitch and, as well as scoring more goals, we’ve also been conceding less, so everybody’s been doing their bit and we’ve been getting results off the back of it.

“Another big help has been the extra options available to us. We’ve been hit with serious injury problems this season but, when they cleared up, you can see the difference it makes. We’ve still got some but even when it comes to our bench, as a Manager you’re turning round and there’s a raft of players there who are good enough to be in the starting team. We’ve got more options now and that’s been a big help.”

Tomorrow’s showdown comes less than a month before the teams will lock horns in the Tennent’s Irish Cup Final but Gray maintains he’s not looking that far ahead and is fully focused on the Reds’ remaining Danske Bank Premiership commitments.

“When we beat Loughgall, I said that we had 15 points left to play for before we’d think about the Cup Final,” he adds.

“We got three against Ballymena on Tuesday and there are 12 still up for grabs. We want to finish as high up the table as we can and that means winning as many matches as we can. They’re all seriously tough at this stage of the season but, if we continue to work hard, there’s no reason why we can’t keep going in the right direction.”

Sean Graham’s Weekend Preview