Dungannon Swifts boss Darren Murphy is wary of wounded champions Cliftonville ahead of Saturday’s clash at Stangmore Park.
The Reds have suffered a festive slump to fall six points off the pace at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Defeats to Glentoran and Crusaders were followed by Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Ballinamallard United.
One positive for Tommy Breslin’s side was Linfield’s defeat on New Year’s Day, a result that keeps Cliftonville hanging on the coattails of the leaders.
Dungannon chief Murphy admits he wasn’t surprised by the Reds’ festive malaise, given the competitive nature of the Premiership.
And he is anticipating a “major test” for his side this afternoon.
“It is another tough match. Cliftonville have gone three games without a win, and I am sure Tommy (Breslin) will want to bounce back as quickly as possible,” Murphy said.
“He will target Stangmore as a place where he thinks they can win, so we have to make it as difficult as possible for them on Saturday.
“It is a hugely difficult game for us.
“I haven’t been surprised by Cliftonville’s recent results. It is a difficult league to win games in because everyone can beat each other.
“You look at the top of the table and it is very tight, and you look at the bottom and it is something similar.
“All teams are capable on their day, and we know we can beat anyone on our day. We have to believe that when we play Cliftonville this weekend.”
While a lot of the pre-match coverage has been on Cliftonville’s recent blip, Murphy insists his own focus is on Dungannon’s basement battle.
“We have our own challenges at the foot of the table, and the bottom four teams have all picked up points recently,” he added.
“Warrenpoint defeated Ballymena yesterday and that tightens things back up again at the bottom.
“You find yourself looking at other results. I was working for radio on Thursday and I heard the results coming through. I heard Warrenpoint’s goals and it was painful listening.
“But credit to them, they have picked up a great win and they are scrapping away.
“I believe in my players, and I am confident we can get out of this relegation scrap.”