Gray focuses on positives after Cliftonville's six-goal romp
Cliftonville 6 Ards 3
Barry Gray says Cliftonville should not let the concession of three goals take away from their sense of satisfaction at banking three opening day points against Ards.
After falling behind to an early Jonny Frazer strike, the Reds responded courtesy of Jay Donnelly, Joe Gormley and Chris Curran before Kyle Cherry's deflected strike reduced the arrears before half-time.
A wild own goal from Scott Davidson restored the hosts' two-goal cushion, with Gormley and Donnelly completing their doubles ahead of opening scorer Frazer wrapping things up with a consolation for Ards.
Gray admitted his men have work to do to sharpen up in defence, explaining: "We weren't overly tested in pre-season, so we expected there to be a few holes and gaps in our performance. The defensive side of things we're concerned with can be dealt with and addressed quite easily and we'll look to start work on that in training on Monday night.
"This game was a big marker for us in terms of where we are and what we need to do. We've seen some things we need to deal with and we'll do that. I've told the players to be happy with what they've done so far and we'll look to tighten up in the areas where we maybe weren't so good.
"Overall, though, I think everyone's going away happy because we've got exactly what we wanted out of the game."
And, having negotiated a successful first 90 minutes at the helm in his new job, Gray added: "What we've said to the players is that we want the Ards game to be the end of anyone looking back on what happened last season.
"People have been talking about bad runs of form, poor records and whatever else - the fact of the matter is they're nothing to do with me, those aren't my stats.
"The team that played against Ards had a new goalkeeper, two new centre halves, a new midfielder and a new forward, so you've five new players in there that had nothing to do with last season, so why keep talking about it? It's gone and our focus now is on making sure we make this season the best that we possibly can."
Opposite number Colin Nixon had plenty of positives to take from the occasion, but was understandably more perturbed by his side's defensive collapse after a promising start had seem them take the lead.
"From being in control, we've pretty much imploded," he said.
"If you give players like Joe Gormley the sort of space we did, he'll do what he does and you'll get punished. You simply can't defend like that.
"We can be pleased with certain aspects of how we've played because we did look good at times, but what's cost us is how we've dealt with Cliftonville going forward. We need to be so much better than that."