Portadown’s Mark McAllister picked up his first BT Sport Player of the Month award on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old has been a major force in the Shamrock Park team’s push in this season’s fascinating Danske Bank Premiership title challenge.
He bagged four goals over the month of December to earn his gong from the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Association.
McAllister, who joined Ronnie McFall’s team after being jettisoned by Linfield over the summer, admitted he was thrilled with his latest accolade.
“I think I’ve fitted in well since my move,” he said. “As a team, we could have done better, having dropped points at Warrenpoint, Linfield and at home to Glenavon.
“But we’ve since bounced back with wins over Coleraine and Institute. Hopefully, we can now push on and make a sustained title challenge in the rest of the campaign.
“Personally, I’m really enjoying it at Portadown.”
Ports boss McFall has hailed the “winning mentality” of McAllister, Michael Gault and Robert Garrett, who all arrived from Windsor Park, but the striker insists it’s a collective team effort.
“It’s a bit unfair on the rest of the team because there is a lot of quality in the squad,” he added.
“Yes, we have brought something else to the table and we’ve help bolster the squad.
“But there were a lot of great leaders already there – the likes of David Miskelly and Keith O’Hara. There are also a lot of good young players emerging.”
When released by the Blues, McAllister was on the verge of moving across Belfast to join Cliftonville when McFall came knocking. He added: “I had a last minute change of mind. I pondered for a long time and thought that Portadown was a more realistic move for me.
“If we can steer clear off injuries and suspensions we are a match for any team in the league.”
McAllister stressed he is looking forward to putting league issues aside ahead of the weekend Irish Cup fifth round tie against the PSNI at Newforge.
But he has a warning for his team mates, adding: “I made my Linfield debut against the PSNI in the cup and they held us to a scoreless draw at Windsor. We were tipped to rack up plenty of goals.
“I thought it was an ideal game for my first appearance, but it didn’t work out like that – it was a nightmare.
“So, we will be taking nothing for granted. We have a fair amount of experience in the side and the boys are of the mentality of treating every game on its own merits.
“The PSNI have got their act together over the past four or five weeks. They have boys like Ryan Berry, who has played in the Premiership, plus other players that could hurt you.
“I’ve obviously won the cup a few times with Linfield. I also got to the final when I was at Dungannon, so to do it with a third club would be special.
“I came to Portadown to win trophies and, I feel, we are not to far away from doing that.”
McAllister, meanwhile, edged out Glentoran midfielder Steven Gordon for the BT Sport Player of the Month award, with Warrenpoint Town’s Stephen Hughes finishing third.