Linfield skipper Michael Gault insists there is “no room for error” as the Danske Bank Premiership enters a crucial stage.
The Blues, fresh from their penalty shoot-out County Antrim Shield win over Crusaders in midweek, travel to third-placed Portadown on Saturday for what will be a testing examination of their title credentials.
They currently top the table two points over Cliftonville, so there is no margin for error with the title holders ready to pounce.
“We know it will be another massive challenge,” said Gault.
“Portadown are a top side, so we’ll go to Shamrock Park determined to try and get another vital three points.
“Portadown have been playing well and are sitting third in the table, which reflects how dangerous they are.
“They have many match winners in their own right, but we’ll be up for the game, make no mistake about that.”
Linfield’s Shield success was a significant milestone for manager David Jeffrey, who intends to step down from the post at the end of the season after 17 trophy-laden years.
The Shield win was his 31st piece of silverware, which equalled Roy Coyle’s club record at Windsor Park.
Gault added: “We were delighted with the win – it was the first one in 22 months so we’ve had to wait some time for it.
“We would liked to have won it over the 90 minutes, which I though our performance merited, but we had to relay on the penalty shoot out. It takes a lot of courage to take penalties, but our guys were spot on – Jonny Tuffey also played a significant part by saving two of the Crues penalties.
“The trophy success will hopefully boost confidence and spur us on to a strong finish in the league campaign.
“When you win trophies, it just makes you hungrier for more, so we’ll be giving it our all in the coming weeks.
“We’ve won one trophy but we’ll not settle for one, as we’d love to finish the season with two.”
Gault also paid tribute to the contribution from the manager, adding: “We were all delighted that David has equalled the long-standing record of 31 trophies for the club. He’s a legend.
“Noe we will try and go one trophy further.”
Portadown manager Ronnie McFall stressed there will be no room for sentiment with his good pal Jeffrey bowing out at the end of the season.
“They’ll be professional – and we’ll also be professional about it,” he said.
“Linfield will becoming with focus on getting three points strengthen their title challenge.
“We need the points for a different reason, to help up claim spot, with a European place up for grabs.
“So it has all the makings of a great game – it usually is between the clubs. There is no doubt Linfield will be coming buoyed after their Shield win, so we must be ready to meet the challenge.”