David Jeffrey believes much of Linfield’s resurgence should be attributed to striker Andy Waterworth.
Waterworth was on target again at the weekend as his predatory double helped the Blues to a 2-0 victory over Dungannon Swifts at Windsor Park.
It was Linfield’s seventh Premiership win on the bounce, and saw Jeffrey’s side edge four points clear at the top of the table.
New signing Waterworth impressed during Europa League action in the summer - scoring on his competitive debut against IF Fuglafjordur in July before being sidelined with a leg injury.
The 27-year-old’s absence was felt as Linfield picked up just two points from their opening four Premiership games - leaving them rock bottom of the table on August 31.
Fast forward to October and any perceived crisis has been rubbished by a stellar run of form.
And Jeffrey believes former Glentoran hit-man Waterworth has been the “catalyst” to their success.
“Andrew has come back and obviously has made an exceptional contribution,” the Blues boss said.
“He has had a positive impact on other people as well. Michael Gault has been absolutely superb. Sean Ward, Kyle McVey, Niall McQuinn, have all played tremendously well.
“Add that in with Jonathan Tuffey and all the rest, then you see how well Andrew has done - he has been the catalyst.”
On Saturday Waterworth broke the deadlock in the 41st minute with a drilled finish before heading home in the second half to complete a 2-0 triumph.
He also hit the post to deny him of what would have been a second hat-trick of the season.
The miss was immaterial to Jeffrey, with another solid display gleaning three points.
“I think we have had one bad performance this season, and that was against Crusaders,” Jeffrey added.
“The rest were good, but people talk about a ‘dreadful start’.
“The reality is it is a results based business and we picked up two points from 12 in our first four games and were bottom of the league. That was the first time it happened in my tenure. It wasn’t too clever.
“But the players have worked hard and played some good football, and Andrew’s return has helped immensely.”
Reflectingon Saturday’s victory, Jeffrey added: “People have this opinion that Dungannon are a team you should comfortably beat – which is a load of tripe.
“Darren Murphy has them well organised and it took something extraordinary to break them open.
“We were better in the second half than the first, but it was a tough encounter.
“But two goals, a clean sheet and three points is very satisfying.”
Dungannon boss Darren Murphy - whose side were forced to drive cross-country to reach Windsor following Saturday’s security alert on the M1 - admitted it was lacklustre defending that gifted Linfield their win.
“The difference today was slack defending from us, and Andy Waterworth for Linfield,” he said.
“That sums the game up - we gave Linfield two goals.
“The first goal was poor defending from us, and Andy Waterworth reacts quickest.
“The second one was a cross, and three of our players miss the ball and Andy Waterworth is standing free to head home. It was too easy.”
Murphy believes his players lacked belief at Windsor.
“I was pleased with parts, and disappointed with others,” he added.
“I think some of the players lacked some belief today.
“They maybe think because they play for Dungannon Swifts, that they are not good enough.
“I don’t mean that as any disrespect to my club, but there was maybe some belief lacking today.”