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Pillar of support

Barry Gray paid credit to Cliftonville’s supporters in the aftermath of yesterday’s Danske Bank Premiership defeat to Linfield.

The result came at the end of a hugely exasperating week that also saw the Reds ship 11 goals in two losses against Institute and Crusaders, with Gray keen to thank the fans on his players’ behalf for the superb backing they gave despite their obvious disappointment.

“It’s been a poor run for us and there’s not a lot of encouragement we can take out of it, but I think our supporters were the biggest plus,” he explains.

“Our performance against Linfield was better than it was against Crusaders but, in all honesty, that’s setting the bar pretty low. We need to thank our supporters for turning out the way that they did because, after Boxing Day, you couldn’t have blamed them for staying away. We probably didn’t deserve the support we received but for them to come to the game, get behind the team and sing and support the way they did – even at 2-0 down – says a lot about them.

“That’s what you need from your fans when things aren’t going for you and hopefully that’s one bit of positivity we can latch on to.”

The Manager was again frustrated with the manner of the goals his side conceded, lamenting the misfortune of Linfield’s first and the ease with which they wrapped up the game with their second.

“We’ve tried various permutations and combinations at the back but, whatever selection we go with, every week we seem to give away preventable goals,” he adds.

“It’s not for the lack of trying from me or the players and I’m not going to hammer anyone but it’s something I seem to keep finding myself saying over and over – I don’t see Rory Donnelly or Joe Gormley scoring goals like Linfield’s second one. I don’t remember us ever being gifted a goal like that. Anything those two have scored, they’ve had to work their socks off to get it.

“The first goal, I’d need to see it again because I couldn’t quite work out exactly what happened – it looked in, it looked like it wasn’t going in, then it ended up over the line. We spoke at half-time about not giving anything else away but, within a minute, it’s 2-0.

“I can’t fault the players for their efforts, they worked really hard but the goals came at really bad times for us. Despite our results over the Christmas period, I still have to credit the players for their commitment levels be it matches, prep, training and everything that goes along with it. These are part-time players and, at a time that’s supposed to be about home and family, they’ve shown great commitment to Cliftonville – and it’s the same for players at other Clubs throughout the League.”