Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville boss Gray warns over new signings during new year

Ards 1 Cliftonville 3

On course: Rory Donnelly and Stephen Garrett toast Cliftonville’s opening goal
On course: Rory Donnelly and Stephen Garrett toast Cliftonville’s opening goal

By Keith Bailie

Cliftonville manager Barry Gray would love to strengthen his squad in January, but he has warned he will not sign players for the sake of it.

On Saturday, the Reds defeated Ards 3-1 to secure their third league win on the bounce but, despite recent form, with Rory Donnelly and Joe Gormley looking lively, Gray would still like to add to his options next month.

"I will be looking for ways to improve the squad but, as I've said before, I won't sign for the sake of it," he said.

"I'll only sign a player if a genuinely think he will improve our squad. It has to be the right player at the right time and on the right money. I won't do anything that puts the club at risk.

"I want to strengthen in key areas but it's hard to find players of sufficient quality in January, so I'm not promising anything."

While Gray would like to strengthen, it's essential for Ards boss Colin Nixon.

His side are four points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership.

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"We desperately need to bring in some new faces in January or we are in real trouble, but the reality is we don't have much money to play with in terms of our budget," admitted Nixon.

"We basically have to release players if we want to bring new ones in, so it's not a straightforward process."

Cliftonville made a flying start at a rain-drenched Bangor Fuels Arena. They were awarded a sixth minute penalty when Craig McClean blocked a cross with his hand, but Gormley's spot-kick was saved by Sam Johnston.

However, they made the breakthrough soon later when Dave Elebert headed into his own net before Gormley made it 2-0.

Rory Donnelly handed Ards a lifeline when he scored a spectacular own goal of his own, only for Levi Ives to complete the scoring with an overhit cross early in the second half.

ARDS: Johnston, Byers, McAleenan, Elebert (Kerr, 32 mins), McClean, E McAllister, Tommons, Cherry (Strain, 54 mins), Nelson, D McAllister, McLellan (M Kelly, 54 mins). Unused Subs: Mooney, McKenna, McArthur, Mitchell.

Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Harney, A Donnelly, Ives, C Curran, Catney (McDonald, 74 mins,), McConnell (R Curran, 64 mins), Garrett (Maguire, 84 mins), R Donnelly, Gormley. Unused subs: Breen, Harkin, McMenamin, McNulty.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)

Man of the match: Joe Gormley

Match rating: 7/10

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