Belfast Telegraph

Gray: I'm gutted but we must lift ourselves and net Euro spot

By Graham Luney

With Irish Cup pain still raw, Cliftonville must find the strength to secure a European place but manager Barry Gray says his players have the character to salvage something from the season.

This 3-1 defeat to Coleraine at Windsor Park is a bitter pill to swallow and it means the north Belfast side's 39-year wait for the trophy rumbles on but now the players have to lift themselves off the canvas for a shot at Europe through the play-offs.

The Reds will take on Ballymena United at Solitude in Wednesday's semi-final with Linfield welcoming Glentoran to Windsor Park.

Gray says his players will regroup and come out fighting and he also hit back at suggestions this season of a lack of harmony in the dressing room.

"Our challenge as a club is to win two games to get that European spot," said Gray.

"I'm massively confident in the players and every player knows our expectations and what European football brings to football.

"If we want Cliftonville to play at the highest level we must make sure we are in Europe.

"It takes time to build that bond between players and management. We've had all the stories from experts who know little about anything about rifts in the dressing room and it's pure nonsense. There has never been a split in the changing room and today reinforces how the players are buying into what we are doing. We win and lose together and collectively we all feel it for the right reasons.

"The season isn't over but if you look at the top six clubs they haven't had to deal with the personnel changes we have experienced, a full management change and restructure on the football side. Chris (Curran) has seen that at first hand and we have brought in about 10 players, nearly half the panel over a nine month period and it has taken time to implement a new way of playing. The players and myself needed to familiarise with each other and we aren't looking to massively change the squad."

Belfast Telegraph

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