A first-half header from Seanan Clucas prolonged Dungannon Swifts’ feelgood factor and heightened the misery at Solitude, where Cliftonville slumped to a fifth consecutive defeat that could ultimately spell the end for boss Barry Gray.
On the back of four festive losses that saw their slim title hopes snuffed out thanks to a series of disastrous defensive displays, the Reds had resigned to pinning all their hopes on finally ending their infamous Irish Cup hoodoo – which will now stretch into fourth decade.
The final whistle was met with boos from the home support and Gray was honest in his assessment after the game.
“It hasn’t been good enough and, at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with me,” he said.
“We’re sixth in the league, out of the Irish Cup and, in the first week of January, our season pretty much boils down to getting into the Play-Offs for Europe and that’s nowhere near good enough for this club.
“It’s not been good enough from me, the players or anyone involved but I know the buck stops with me.
“Nobody can be harder working than what I am and everyone that surrounds me can back me up on that.
“But we have to be realistic, it’s football and some things just don’t work, no matter how hard you work.
“Questions are being asked and discussions will take place, I know that.
“I’m sympathetic of the fact that the board will do what they believe is in the best interests of the club.
“You can see the reaction of the fans at the end of the game, they’re clearly not happy — and rightly so,.
“It’s a case that the fans, or the vast majority of them, don’t want me. And there are lots of fans that have been supportive and I thank them for that and the players have backed me at every opportunity.
“It’s a results-driven game so it’s a case of deciding what’s best for Cliftonville.”
While Gray was left to bemoan the Reds performance Swifts boss Kris Lindsay was delighted with his charges.
“I thought we were very good, particularly in the first-half,” he said.
“We scored a good goal and restricted Cliftonville to very little. We knew things would be different in the second-half because Cliftonville would be looking for a response and that’s how it ended up going but, again, I don’t think there was anything really clear-cut that we had to deal with.
“Our defenders did their jobs brilliantly — winning their headers, putting their bodies in where it mattered — and, as a former central defender myself, there’s nothing much better than a clean sheet so I’m delighted with that, too.
“If we can translate that into the league more regularly, we can move up the table.
“After we beat Glentoran on New Year’s Day, I said that performances started with the boys up front and worked back from there — and we had more of the same of that.
“I can’t fault the players for anything although I did think that, with a bit more care, we could maybe have caught Cliftonville on the break with another goal in the second-half.
“We’re just trying to find consistency. The last week has been full of highs and lows and that shows you what football can be all about.
“We’ve gone from losing to Ards, which wasn’t good enough and a huge disappointment to everyone at the club, to a great win over Glentoran which we’ve then followed up by beating Cliftonville.”