Barry Gray says an additional positive he took from last week’s victory over Ards was his players’ immediate assertion that a better performance would be required against Crusaders this evening.
The Reds travel to Seaview for the first North Belfast Derby of the season and, though fully deserving of three points last time out, boss Gray acknowledges that the Crues will be a much different proposition.
“Straight away, everybody was accepting of the fact that we would need to step it up at Seaview,” he explains.
“When we got going against Ards, we were good and we were well worth the win, but we know we can’t take that long to sharpen up against Crusaders. They will punish us and take the sort of chances that Ards didn’t put away, so it’s a big positive that the players recognised that almost as soon as they came off the pitch.”
Cliftonville make the shortest journey of the Danske Bank Premiership programme on the back of three consecutive wins – a run which the Manager acknowledges could have been longer but which he nevertheless doesn’t want anyone to dwell upon.
“In football, it’s hard not to look back on all the ifs and buts. Had we played better against Newry, might we have more points? If we’d held on at Warrenpoint, look where we’d be, but every team can probably say the same. I’ve told the players there’s absolutely no point in looking back over those games because they’re gone and there’s nothing we can do about them now. The only game we can do something about now is the Crusaders game and we want to go there and get ourselves a good result.
“I keep saying it’s all about trying to control the things that are within our control – previous matches aren’t, the next one is. We’ll go into the derby with positivity and we’ll go into it looking to win. These games are always massive challenges and we’ve been putting in a lot of hard work to make sure we’re as prepared as possible.”
Fans are advised that, contrary to what is printed on tonight’s match tickets, the game at Seaview will kick-off at 7.45pm.
Anyone not in possession of a ticket, or simply unable to attend, is reminded that the match will be broadcast live on BBC2 NI.