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Full Time

In-form Cliftonville aren't close to being the finished article yet, warns Gray

 

By Conor McLaughlin

Barry Gray has paid tribute to Cliftonville's sensational run of form but, ahead of a "massive" week, says the north Belfast side are behind schedule as far as his masterplan is concerned.

The Reds travel to Windsor Park for a Danske Bank Premiership showdown with Linfield on the back of seven consecutive victories with just a single goal conceded and, having lifted themselves into third place, can secure that position going into the festive period by banking a second win of the season over the Blues.

September's dramatic comeback against David Healy's men - when three goals in the final 11 minutes saw Cliftonville overcome a two-goal deficit - was the real catalyst for an upturn in fortunes that has lifted the Solitude side from within touching distance of the relegation zone to a virtual assurance of top-six football once the table splits.

Even so, Gray admits he'd envisaged better for the first half of his maiden campaign in the Reds hotseat.

"We're doing okay and I probably don't give the players too much credit for how they've addressed things, but we're still behind where I would like us to be," he said.

"I don't just necessarily mean in terms of league position, there are just ways and means of doing things, the work we do in training, the systems we're putting into play and things like that.

"Me getting to know the players properly and, likewise, them getting to know me took more time than I would have wanted and, even though it's only small, marginal things, they all add up, but they can make a big difference if you get them right.

"We're a work in progress and we're nowhere near the finished article. I would have wanted us to be a bit further down the road come this stage of the season, but we're getting there.

"This is a massive game for us in a massive week. It's one that we'll face up to and, with the form we've been in lately, we will be going there to try and win.

"Yes, Linfield are Linfield and you have to respect that, but we prefer to focus on ourselves and try to use our strengths."

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