It would be a tragedy if Cliftonville don't push on from Coleraine win - Barry Gray
Danske Bank Premiership: Coleraine 1 Cliftonville 2
CLIFTONVILLE manager Barry Gray has said it would be a “tragedy” if the Reds don’t capitalise on their morale boosting win away to Coleraine on Saturday.
A Levi Ives stunner and another from Rory Donnelly helped Cliftonville into an early two-goal lead at the Showgrounds, and they saw the game out despite Darren McCauley pulling a goal back for the Bannsiders.
The result moves the Reds into fourth in the table and Gray is very much eager to kick on from there.
“Saturday was a massive win, it moves us into fourth in the table, and if we can get another win over Glentoran next week, we could be in third,” said the Cliftonville boss.
“The league is very tight at the minute and you see there is a swing from week -to-week. A lot of the teams at the top play one another over the next month and there is a chance there to open up a gap, but also to close the gap on Glenavon and Linfield.
“If you look at last season, Crusaders clawed back a massive deficit of something like 13 points, so there is nothing that can be ruled out at this stage of the season.
“Our season can go both ways from here on in: we can open up a gap with the teams below us and close in on the likes of Glenavon or we can let that gap to the top grow – there are pluses and negatives to every scenario.
“But if we don’t capitalise on Saturday’s result, it would actually be a tragedy of sorts for us.”
Cliftonville’s defending has come in for criticism in recent weeks, not least from Gray himself, so the former Warrenpoint manager was particularly pleased with the nature of Saturday’s victory.
“It wasn’t a pretty game, it’s not easy down there – I think it’s our first win at the Showgrounds in two years – but we ground it out,” he added.
“We’ve listened to all the experts in the country telling us what we can’t do and now we’ll have to listen to everyone tell us the result was more about what Coleraine didn’t do as opposed to what we did, that it wasn’t the Coleraine of old.
“But the boys were aware of what we weren’t doing and, in the second-half on Saturday, we looked rigid, we looked solid. Defence has been our Achilles heel the last month or two, but not on Saturday.”
Also at the weekend, two goals in the final 11 minutes helped Glenavon return to the top of the table and overcome a tough Newry City challenge. Andy Hall broke the deadlock on 79 minutes before Ben Doherty made it two in impressive fashion.
Mark Stafford scored in the final minute to ensure Linfield remained on Glenavon’s coattails as they came from a goal down to beat 10-man Dungannon Swifts 2-1 at Stangmore Park.
Crusaders’ long duck continued with a 3-0 defeat to Ballymena at the Showgrounds, Institute beat Warrenpoint 1-0 at Milltown, while Glentoran hammered Ards 4-0 at the Oval.