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Cliftonville must keep on punching after Linfield knockout, says Gray

Cliftonville v PSNI, Bet McLean League Cup Third Round: Solitude, Tonight, 7.45pm

By Conor McLaughlin

Barry Gray is hopeful that Saturday's sensational turnaround against Linfield will finally allow Cliftonville to draw a line in the sand.

The Reds roared back from 2-0 down to claim three points in a dramatic Solitude finale that saw the north Belfast side register their third win in a row and, ahead of tonight's League Cup joust with PSNI, Gray has called on his squad to maintain their standards.

"The players have set that bar for themselves and have shown the sort of performances they're capable of producing," he said.

"It wasn't just the last stages of the game, we played very well from the start and that's the target we need to be hitting week in, week out.

"There's no point in digging in and showing the sort of heart and quality we gave against Linfield if we don't back it up. Now the big question is can we go and land the next punch too - we're expected to beat the PSNI, so the pressure's on us in that respect.

"We came from behind to beat Carrick last week and it was a sort of ugly performance where we had to grind it out but the way we played against Linfield is the way I know we can be. We need to take that result, draw a line in the sand over the early part of our season and say, 'Right, now we're really ready to kick on'."

Gray was thrilled with not only his players at the weekend, but also the Solitude fans whom he believes can continue to inspire from the sidelines.

"That's the best atmosphere I've ever experienced at Solitude as Cliftonville manager, as a visiting manager or just when I've come to watch from the stands," he added.

"It's what this club should be about but I've told the players it's not just down to the fans to generate that sort of atmosphere, you have to give them something to feed off and it's fair to say the players did that against Linfield.

"I was happy for the players to enjoy their celebrations on Saturday night because they deserved them, but there's no point in getting a result like that and not backing it up. We've got to give PSNI our full attention and make sure we take care of things properly."

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