The stats don't lie as Gray oversees end of Reds' barren run
Carrick Rangers 1 Cliftonville 2
All week Barry Gray had been told that Cliftonville had not won an away game in 2017 and, although the Reds boss has been in charge for only four of those outings, he was a relieved man after the drought ended at Carrick Rangers.
"It's not massively my stat, but it is the club's and I have been reminded of it several times," said Gray. "I believe it was here that we last won (280 days ago), but I'm just delighted to get the points and get the stat out of the way is important too, it's a massive three points."
The reason for their barren run - which yielded only three draws - was their lack of goals, just five in their last 10 away games and, for 65 minutes at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena, there was little sign of improvement as Carrick deservedly led and Cliftonville fortunate not be more than a goal behind.
But then Joe Gormley took centre stage. The Reds' goal machine has not been firing on all cylinders this season and it was enough to persuade Gray to leave him out of the starting line-up.
Introduced at half-time for the ineffective Jay Donnelly, Gormley fluffed his lines a couple of times before he brought the Reds level with a fine individual effort, leaving three defenders in his wake and finishing superbly.
He also scored the winning goal from the penalty spot after Paddy McNally had pushed Garry Breen out of the way from a corner but that was another significant club stat wiped out after a run of spot-kick failures, likewise dating back to the last Carrick trip.
"Two goals was also good, but from Joe in particular," added Gray. "He has to be praised for his attitude, and that's the response a manager wants from every striker when he does not start. Joe Gormley remains a massive player for us and the fact he didn't start doesn't change that."
Carrick boss David McAlinden was left feeling mugged after the 84th minute winner but was delighted with the players' performance.
"I'm very pleased with the 90 minutes but the manner of their first goal swings the game," he said. "We almost score at one end and they go up the other end and we can't defend. That's massively frustrating because for 99 per cent of the day we went about our work very well and we will play worse and win games."
Their only reward was a third minute goal by Eamon McAllister direct from a corner although, despite creating a number of other chances, they failed to seriously test former team-mate Brian Neeson.
CARRICK: Doherty, Smyth, McMullan, Gage (McNally, 72 mins), Edgar, Chapman, Surgenor, Taggart, McAllister, Roy (Green, 74 mins); Mooney. Unused subs: Morrow, Smith, Malone.
CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson, Cosgrove, McGovern, Breen, A Donnelly (M Donnelly, 46 mins); Curran, Bagnall, Winchester (Hughes, 81 mins), Lavery, J Donnelly (Gormley, 46 mins), R Donnelly. Unused subs: Harney, Caldwell
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)