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Gray’s right to dream

Barry Gray says his players deserve credit for still being in the tie as they prepare for the second leg of their Europa League First Qualifying Round clash with Nordsjælland.

The Cliftonville Manager and his squad fly to Denmark this morning, trailing 1-0 from last week’s opening encounter at Solitude and, while acknowledging their hosts remain firm favourites to make progress, Gray is maintaining a positive outlook.

“The tie is very much alive and that’s the attitude we’ll be taking with us,” he says.

“If you lose the first leg of a European game heavily, then the second match becomes a glorified friendly or even a holiday if you’re away from home. This is neither of those. We’re only one goal behind and we’re going over to Denmark to try and cause a big upset.

“It would be a huge story if we did it because Nordsjælland are big favourites and they’ll obviously fancy their chances of getting a few goals on their own ground, but it’s important we make them work for anything they get. We were well organised and disciplined last week and we need more of the same, in fact probably even moreso now.

“I don’t think too many people expected this scoreline at the halfway stage – I think we’re supposed to be four or five down – and I’m sure our supporters who are travelling over are delighted that the tie is still alive because it gives this game real meaning.”

Having watched the Reds grow into last week’s contest, Gray is hopeful his men can take inspiration from how they performed when they step out at Right To Dream Park tomorrow night.

Asked if he was surprised by how Cliftonville’s fitness levels didn’t wane during the first leg, he replies: “No, if I’m being perfectly honest. It was something we knew would be important and, credit to the players, they’ve come back after their break and they’re raring to go.

“We got better as the first game went on and we would be hopeful that we can create chances in the second leg. We’re not under any illusions, though – it’s going to be tough, much more tough than last week and Nordsjælland are a good team. But when there’s only one goal in a game, anything can happen and that’s the belief we need to hold on to and try to use to our advantage.”