Daniel Hughes needs to make it impossible for me to leave him out, says Cliftonville boss Gray
Cliftonville 5 Ballinamallard United 0
Barry Gray has challenged Daniel Hughes to shoot his way into the Cliftonville team.
The 25-year-old emerged from the bench to bag a late double as the Reds swept Ballinamallard United aside in a one-way contest at Solitude, taking his personal tally to three goals in two substitute appearances.
Gray - who enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Hughes during the pair's time together at Warrenpoint Town - has no issues with his frontman's work rate but would like to see him put the ball in the net on a more regular basis.
"It's something I've spoken to Daniel about and he knows he needs to work on it," said Gray.
"He brings a lot to the team in terms of his honesty and how much he's willing to work but, at the end of the day, he's a striker and strikers are judged on the amount of goals they score.
"If you're a striker at a club like Cliftonville and you're not scoring, you're not going to be in the team as regularly as you like.
"Daniel has come off the bench in the last two games and got himself three goals so that's obviously a plus - but the problem for him is that all the other strikers are scoring too.
"That's great for the team obviously and, as a manager, it's exactly what I want but, for Daniel, he wants to be doing it on a more regular basis so that he's not the one sitting on the bench."
Hughes' brace - the first a simple finish after Mallards keeper Richard Brush had dropped the ball after being clattered into by team mate Jason McCartney and the second a penalty after he had been felled by Ryan McConnell - put the seal on a dominant display for which Cliftonville set the tone inside 40 seconds.
Joe Gormley saw his header saved by Brush and had another attempt repelled by the keeper before Jay Donnelly struck the hosts' third minute opener - and, just days after his lawyer appeared in court as an indecent images case was opened against the Reds' striker, his celebration bore the hallmarks of a taxing week.
Gormley then bagged a double of his own before the break; heading in after being teed up by Rory Donnelly and then taking full advantage when Brush and Ross Taheny got themselves in a muddle.
It was tough to watch for United boss Gavin Dykes, who has vowed to ring the changes in January as the Ferneymen endeavour to drag themselves away from the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership.
"We've conceded two goals from our goalkeeper crashing into defenders and that sums us up just now," he moaned. "The game plan has gone out the window inside the first few minutes and, really, we could have been behind even earlier than that.
"The table doesn't lie, we're the worst team in the league at the minute but we're working hard to get people in come January and the big thing for these players now is to make sure they're not the ones leaving.
"The important thing is to stick together, work as hard as we can and get as many points as we can to keep ourselves alive in there and then, come January, we'll get new faces in."
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, Curran, Winchester, Gormley, J Donnelly, Cosgrove, R Donnelly. Subs: Dunne, Hughes (Gormley, 64 mins), Garrett (Cosgrove, 37 mins), M Donnelly (J Donnelly, 64 mins), Lavery.
Ballinamallard: Brush, Taheny, Smyth, McLaughlin, McCartney, Armstrong, Burns, Martyn, Owens, McGinty, Brennan. Subs: Clarke, McKenna, Leddy, McCann (McLaughlin, 73 mins), McConnell (Armstrong, 46 mins).
Man of the match: Chris Curran
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Tony Clarke