The versatile Timmy Adamson believes Crusaders have the mental strength to go the distance in this season’s Danske Premiership title race.
Stephen Baxter’s men have put their foot on the gas in recent weeks, with a tense win over Glentoran last time out taking them four points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the table.
The signing of Barry Molloy form Derry City and Stephen O’Flynn, who was brought in from Institute, have hardened the Crues’ cause even further.
They have been in the title mix in previous years, but the Shore Road lads look equipped to go the distance this time.
Their credentials will again be scrutinised on Friday night when Ronnie McFall’s Portadown make the journey to Seaview.
“We really haven’t been right in contention before - we’ve been chasing the team or teams above us, playing catch-up most of the time,” said Adamson.
“But we are really in the thick of it this time. In saying that, there is a long, long way to go. There are four, perhaps five teams still in there, including Glentoran, who are still not out of it.
“They proved what a good side they are against last week. It’s a well used and boring cliché but we take one game at a time.”
Adamson admits his team face another massive test of character against a Portadown side that won last time out at Seaview.
“There is no problem getting motivated for games like this,” added Adamson. “It’s when you play against the so-called lower teams in the league that you need the professionalism to kick in.
“You need to have the same intensity and concentration. But you really can’t afford to take our eye off the ball against any side.”
Craig McClean returns to the Crusaders squad following suspension.
Meanwhile, Portadown defender Chris Casement has signed a new contract which will keep him at the club until 2018.