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Out of a tough spot

Barry Gray was pleased with Cliftonville’s response to a “tough week” in last night’s Danske Bank Premiership victory over Institute.

Ryan Curran’s first goal for the Club and a Joe Gormley double helped the Reds to all three points against a lively Stute side who, despite creating a handful of promising openings, were unable to breach the home rearguard.

“You have to be happy with three goals, three points and a clean sheet,” says Gray.

“Anybody who was at both this match and last week’s game in Newry will have seen the massive difference in performance. I’m always talking about being prepared to work hard for 90 minutes and we saw that from everyone in this game – I can’t fault or criticise anybody.

“The players have had a tough week. Tough because of my actions after losing to Newry, a tough time at training on Tuesday and then another session on Thursday. They’ve had to take on and put up with an awful lot, but they responded well.

“A noticeable difference for me was that there was no real buzz around training on Tuesday – and some might actually see that as a healthy thing. This time last year, we’d have lost a game, come in for training during the week and you’d never know we’d just been beaten. It was very clear to me that the players were hurting on Tuesday, they were disappointed by what had gone on and they were determined to fix it.”

In acknowledging that last night’s win was far from a complete performance, Gray is hopeful it can provide a platform from which Cliftonville can build.

“We’ve got off to a great start with the two goals in the first nine minutes,” he reflects.

“At times, some of our play was very good. At other times, Institute got on top for patches but that’s going to happen against teams like them who work as hard as they do for one another. They played well in spells themselves, but we saw them through and have ended up winning 3-0.

“The work rate that the players showed was exactly what you want. Yes, there are things we’ll look to work on but I said to the players afterwards ‘Go out them gates and ask the supporters how many passes we put together, how much possession we had, how many chances we created and they won’t know or care – but ask them how many goals we scored and how many points we came away with and they’ll be able to answer, because that’s what matters’.

“Let’s use this as a starting point and make sure we build on it. There’s no point in being as poor as we were last week, responding with a much better performance and then dropping back down to those poor levels again – we can’t do that and I know the players are hungry to push on from here.”