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Numbers game for Gray

Barry Gray is looking forward to having some additional options available to him when Cliftonville face Dungannon Swifts tomorrow.

The Reds travel to Stangmore Park looking for a quick return to winning ways in the Danske Bank Premiership after suffering a late defeat to Coleraine last time out – a game from which Gray was nevertheless able to draw encouragement.

“We were a few minutes away from what you could call a really good start to the season,” he explains.

“Beating Glentoran away and then drawing with a seriously good Coleraine team wouldn’t have been a bad start at all when you consider the amount of players we’ve had missing for one reason or another. And it’s not just the players who aren’t there, we’ve also had others playing in different positions to cover absences and unfamiliar partnerships right across the pitch. Unfortunately, we just didn’t manage those final few minutes last week the way we would have wanted to, but there were positives to take from the performance.

“We’ve had a very young and inexperienced bench for the first two games and, for the Coleraine match in particular, it was crying out for a Stevie Garrett or someone of that quality to come on and change things for us, but hopefully we’re starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of injuries and suspensions.”

Gray also maintains that losing to the Bannsiders won’t necessarily make the Reds any hungrier to come out on top this weekend.

“It doesn’t matter what happens in a previous game, you always want to win the next one,” he says.

“We don’t want to beat Dungannon just because we lost to Coleraine – we want to beat them because it’s our next game and there are points up for grabs. If we’d beaten Coleraine, we’d still be looking to win this game.

“It will be a tough challenge because matches at Stangmore always are. Dungannon haven’t had the best start and will want to rectify that very quickly but we’ll not be reading anything into their previous results or performances – they want to win this just as much as we do and we’ll have to go out, work hard and earn it.”