Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville open to offers for ANY player as Donnelly transfer may not be 'realistic'

Cliftonville 1 Crusaders 2

By Conor McLaughlin

Barry Gray admits he could be busier in the final week of the transfer window than he'd anticipated after watching his Cliftonville side's latest derby disaster on Saturday.

The Reds gifted Crusaders two goals before fans had got comfortable in their seats and, though Jay Donnelly reduced the arrears in injury time, Gray made clear his dissatisfaction with not just the weekend's display, but also with the season so far.

"We are now four games in and, to date, there have been very few individual performances that have impressed me at all," he said. "Dishing out five-out-of-10 performances won't be enough for me and, on that note, I would outline that if there was interest from other clubs in any current Cliftonville player, I would be open for discussion as it's obvious that there may be the need for a further shake-up before the window closes."

Gray has long been linked with a move for former Cliftonville forward Rory Donnelly but, while he acknowledged he is an admirer of the 25-year-old's talents, he insisted concluding such a deal could prove troublesome - although he didn't rule out adding to his strikeforce.

"I keep being told we're top-heavy and that we have too many attacking players, but I'm not sure our goals column would back that up," he said.

"Are we scoring enough? Are we creating enough? That's something we have to look at and I know our supporters want to see us playing attacking football.

"I would take Rory in a heartbeat but, with budget constraints and everyone telling me I am top heavy already, I don't know that it's realistic for us."

Cliftonville got off to a disastrous start when Jordan Owens hooked in from close range from Jordan Forsythe's throw-in - and the hosts' vulnerability at set-pieces was exploited again shortly afterwards when Colin Coates was afforded all the time in the world to touch Paul Heatley's corner delivery in at the back post.

Coates' afternoon would end on a sour note when he was sent off after picking up two quick bookings for fouls on Joe Gormley, but Crusaders' numerical disadvantage was cancelled out when Levi Ives' X-rated tackle on Declan Caddell earned a straight red card from referee Tim Marshall.

Initial fears that Caddell's leg had been broken by the challenge were later dispelled - not least by the sight of the player sitting up on the stretcher and smiling as he departed the scene - and skipper Coates was thrilled to see the Crues extend an undefeated derby streak that stretches back almost three years.

"We got off to the perfect start and pretty much killed the game with two early goals," he said.

"That was something we'd targeted in training, getting at Cliftonville with set pieces because we knew we were bigger than them physically and thought the goalkeeper was maybe a bit hesitant, so we've capitalised on that really well.

"In terms of my goal, everyone seemed to get sucked towards the ball but I just hung off at the back post and it's come through to me and I've managed to put it away.

"If someone like Joe Gormley does that you're talking about great striker's instincts, but when it's a centre-half like me it's just hit me on the knee and gone in!

"In the second half we had a bit more work to do and I probably didn't help anyone by getting sent off!

"I actually think I won the ball for the second booking but that's neither here nor there, is it?"

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