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Written in the starts

Barry Gray believes a positive start is key to Cliftonville enjoying a good season – but he admits his men face a testing opening day challenge against Glentoran.

The Reds might have kicked the 2017/18 campaign off with a mesmerising 6-3 defeat of Ards but their patchy form over the following weeks ultimately denied them any real say in events at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table and, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to The Oval, Gray is determined to avoid a repeat pattern.

“This time last year, we were in a situation where a new Manager had come in, new staff, new ways of doing things and a lot of new players, all of which took quite a while to come together properly,” he reflects.

“It took us time to find ourselves but we’re in a much better position at the minute and we’re going into the new season much better off than we were 12 months ago. We want to get off to a good start and build from there.

“Our first real objective this season is to close the gap on the teams that finished above us last year and the best way of doing that is by beating them. Our record against the top six wasn’t great and it stands to reason that if you’re not picking up points against those teams, you’re not going to finish above them in the table, so that’s something we know has to improve.

“First and foremost, though, we’re focused on Saturday’s game. You don’t get easy matches at The Oval, so it’s a testing one for us to begin with but it’s one we’re looking forward to, everybody always looks forward to the opening game.”

Supporters information
Cliftonville fans are advised that a collection will be held in aid of seriously ill Kodi Brown. The 10-year-old from from Killinchy, County Down, is currently undergoing pioneering immunotherapy for a brain tumour in Germany. Costing thousands of pounds per week, Kodi’s family – including her brother Blake, who plays for Glentoran’s Under 10 team – are self-funding the treatment, which is expected to last for six months and all contributions will be gratefully received. Anyone unable to attend tomorrow’s fixture but who would like to make a donation can do so online here.

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