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Hard work’s never Dun: Gray

Barry Gray says recent experiences dictate that Cliftonville have no choice other than to be “wary” of Dungannon Swifts – but says that should not inhibit their chances of picking up three points tomorrow.

The Reds travel to Stangmore Park just a fortnight after suffering Tennent’s Irish Cup elimination at the hands of the Swifts, who were also victorious when the sides met on League Cup duty earlier in the season, which is precisely why Gray insists they cannot be taken lightly.

“They’ve put us out of two Cup competitions in recent times and have got themselves together under Kris Lindsay,” he says.

“We have to be very wary of the fact that, in recent times, they’ve found a way to be difficult for us and have beaten us. They’re in a decent run of form and we’re still trying to build a run of form that’s decent for us. We know the challenges but, like last week against Ards, the players will go out and play the game in front of them for the game that it is.”

Gray is hopeful that last Saturday’s victory has helped his players draw a psychological line under a turbulent run of form and believes that, despite losing to the Swifts a fortnight ago, the last couple of performances have hinted at steps back in the right direction.

“I think we’ve been more solid defensively in the last couple of games,” he adds.

“I’m not saying we were perfect in everything we did but we’ve not conceded from open play and that’s an improvement we can look to. I think certain players have stepped up to the mark, Joe Gorman coming into the backline has helped us and brought a freshness to it. Organisation had been lacking but we’ve showed greater team solidness.

“I think a lot of it came down to our midfield as well. Last week, we dictated and controlled a lot of play through the middle, which took a wee bit of pressure off our back line, which allows them to build at the other end of the game, so I think there is a wee bit of both to be complimentary about.”