Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin has thrown down the gauntlet to his players following Saturday’s impressive 3-0 victory over Linfield.
The Reds clawed to within four points of new Danske Bank Premiership leaders Crusaders with a dominating display at Solitude.
A clinical brace from Joe Gormley and a third goal from Barry Johnston sealed three vital points for the champions.
Johnston was sent off in the second half following a heated exchange with Michael Gault after the Linfield captain’s rash challenge on Ryan Catney - a tackle that also earned Gault a red card.
After breathing life into their title defence once again, Breslin has urged his players to “back it up” in the weeks ahead.
“Momentum is important. If we don’t get a result next week, then this counts for nothing,” the Cliftonville boss said.
“I won’t say we have had a few false dawns, but we need to back this up and push on.
“This is the benchmark, and that’s what the players have been told. If we bring this to the table every week then we won’t be far away come the end of the season.
“There are no easy fixtures, so it will boil down to whoever holds their nerve.
“It is all down to play for, and if it keeps going the way it is then the league will be the winner come next April.”
Gormley broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute with a superb finish into the bottom corner for the striker’s 20th goal of the season.
It was 2-0 on 55 minutes with Johnston firing high into the net from inside the box after Linfield failed to clear Marty Donnelly’s corner.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute.
Linfield skipper Gault’s lunge on Catney on the halfway line prompted a heated exchange between both sets of players.
Johnston clashed with Gault, with both players being shown straight red cards by referee Raymond Hetherington.
Cliftonville completed the scoring in the 81st minute when Liam Boyce pounced on a mistake by Sean Ward before crossing for Gormley to tap home.
“We are on a decent run. We are building some momentum which is good,” Breslin added.
“The players look sharper in training, and they are determined. We have just had hiccups, and we have had players missing through injury and suspension.
“We were missing Joe Gormley last week against Portadown, and we won’t have Barry Johnston for next week’s game.
“Those wee pieces of the jigsaw disrupt things, but we are working hard and the players deserve credit for today.”
Linfield boss David Jeffrey admitted his side deserved nothing from the game.
“Cliftonville dominated us in all areas of the pitch. Simple as that,” he said.
“You have to earn the right to play, and if you don’t do that then you won’t win the game.
“Cliftonville earned the tight today and they were far superior.
“There is a long way to go. It is disappointing, but we have plenty more big games to come.
“This shows what we still need to do. We beat Cliftonville several weeks ago when they were going through a difficult spell, and we were most impressive.
“Today, Cliftonville were most impressive.”