IRISH LEAGUE: Gray’s focus on group rewards at Cliftonville as Carrick target away joy

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray.
Cliftonville manager Barry Gray.

Barry Gray is happy to take the points provided by individual performances but maintains Cliftonville’s long-term success can only be built on group glory.

Rory Donnelly’s hat-trick last weekend marked evidence of a single player drawing on personal talent to make a difference.

Gray accepts the benefits but is striving to assemble a whole more than the sum of the Solitude parts.

“Individual performances have been great but, as manger, it is my job to improve the overall picture,” said Gray. “We are making strides in the right direction and recent weeks have been better but it remains, for me, a work in progress.

“There are still certain areas I want to improve but it takes time and we must respect how that work takes place within a season.

“You try to work on one area then move on to the next.

“Earlier in the season, for example, we had not been scoring enough goals so players had to step up in different areas and contribute.

“Now other areas need work and everyone has to help play a part.

“Against Carrick we need to be wary of dropping our levels and not having the right attitude.

“I’ve been in similar situations in the past with a club in the bottom part of the table going to somewhere like Cliftonville with the feeling of nothing to lose and how anything is a boost.

“If anything, we need to work harder this week to prepare for that kind of challenge.”

Carrick Rangers manager David McAlinden will return to Cliftonville - a club he previously served as both player and coach - aware of the Belfast outfit’s faith in home form but determined to continue his current squad’s development.

“We will treat it like any other away match, try to be solid and get at the opposition,” said McAlinden. “We have some injury issues, especially up top, however, there is no point complaining about something that is part and parcel of the game.

“We will just work hard in preparation and get on with the job of trying to win.

“We were very much in the game last weekend against Glenavon so will look to carry those positives into the Cliftonville test.”