Danke Bank Premiership: Cliftonville 4, Glenavon 2
With a weekend winover Glenavon, Cliftonville ensured they are guaranteed a place at the top table as the Danske Bank Premiership enters the busy Christmas period.
The Reds may be 10 points behind leaders Ballymena United but they are now back in the top four after this win against Gary Hamilton’s men and there is a hope that the consistency they yearn for is coming.
“Our home form overall has been impressive but we don’t talk a pile about it,” revealed Reds boss Barry Gray.
“The facts are the facts but it was important that we followed up last week’s good performance with another one though nobody is getting carried away or talking about titles or things like that.
“We produced a gritty performance against Glenavon. It certainly wasn’t the best football we’ve played, or ever will play, but that doesn’t matter. The reality is we have a 4-2 winning scoreline.”
“It looks very comfortable from the outside but the reality is that in difficult conditions, what with both wind and rain, it was challenging.
“It was typical of the Irish League at this time of year and end to end as well but as long as you come out the right side of it you can live with that and anyway, I don’t want to focus on any negatives but rather give the players credit for the way they dealt with things.
“They worked hard and got their reward.”
Glenavon on the other hand, while always in the game, were finally made to pay for their defensive shortcomings.
“I thought we played some really great stuff but, again, it was back to the problems we are having with conceding really sloppy goals, really poor goals which has been going on for five or six matches,” admitted Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton.
“That will change because we have signed Seamus Sharkey who can play come January and Andrew Doyle, who has been out with a long-term injury, will come back as well.
“But in the meantime, we are down to the young boys and when you have young defenders, they make a mistake and it can affect their confidence more than any other part of the team when they lead to goals.
“If a striker misses a chance, it doesn’t always cost you the game or a midfielder makes a stray pass it doesn’t always have a major impact but if a defender makes an error, it usually leads to a goal which eats away at their confidence”.
“Take young Caolan Marron, who was otherwise outstanding, he makes a mistake after five minutes and it costs us a goal and that’s hard to take for him but he is still learning the game.”
One of Hamilton’s other young students of the game, Mark Sykes, may soon be on his way to another seat of learning.
Port Vale have jumped to the front of the queue for his signature while other clubs like Oxford Utd and Hibernian consider their position.
It seems that the cross-channel transfer that tops his Christmas wish list is imminent.
CLIFTONVILLE: Neeson; McGovern, Harney, A. Donnelly, Ives; McConnell (Curran 72), McDonald, Catney, Garrett (Maguire 90); Gormley, R.Donnelly. Subs: R.Curran 6; Maguire 6.
GLENAVON: Tuffey; Marshall, Marron, Singleton, Doherty; Hall, Grace, Sykes, Daniels (Jenkins 87); McCloskey, Mitchell. Subs: Jenkins 6.
REFEREE: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).