Newry City hoping for a shock result against Cliftonville in Barry Gray's first league match in charge

Sports Direct Premiership. Saturday January 13 (3pm): Newry City v Cliftonville
Pic: Brendan MonaghanPic: Brendan Monaghan
Pic: Brendan Monaghan

Newry City are hoping they can benefit from the new manager bounce when they take on title chasers Cliftonville at The Showgrounds tomorrow afternoon.

New manager Barry Gray got off to a winning start last weekend with a 3-2 victory over Championship side Ballinamallard United in the Irish Cup, but the league is undoubtedly bottom-placed Newry’s priority, and with six points separating them and 11th placed side Ballymena United, they need to start picking up points quickly.

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With that said, Saturday’s game is as difficult as they come for The Showgrounds side as they face a team in Cliftonville who have won seven of their last eight games in the league and have inserted themselves into the race for the Premiership title.

When speaking to the Newry Reporter last week in the wake of his side’s victory over Ballinamallard, Gray was under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead.

“Cliftonville are one of the best teams in the country at this minute in time,” he said.

“We know that it’s a challenge for us. We have lots to work on this week and we hope that we’ll get more out of next week’s game in terms of performance levels. When we come to the head-to-head games (against bottom six sides) that are most important for us , we hope to be in a better position going into them.”

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Whilst Newry have been actively recruiting in the January transfer window, having already brought in Steven Ball, Brandon Doyle and Conor Mitchell in the 10 days since Gray’s appointment, Cliftonville have been fighting to keep a hold of their star players.

Midfielder Chris Gallagher has already left the club for last season’s champions Larne, whilst the Premiership’s top scorer Ben Wilson is coveted by Glentoran, and Ronan Hale is reportedly the subject of interest from English clubs such as Derby County, Wrexham, Bolton Wanderers and Peterborough.

Newry will be hopeful that the outside noise around Cliftonville serves as a distraction, but recent form would indicate that they have a mountain to climb if they are to get a result this weekend. Elsewhere, the two teams directly above Newry – Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts – are squaring off so the gap may widen above Newry at the bottom of the table.

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