CLIFTONVILLE boss Jim Magilton has backed his players to maintain their performance levels as they return to the scene of their last set-back at the weekend.

The Reds make the trip to Stangmore Park to take on Dungannon Swifts (3pm kick-off) looking to make it four wins on the spin since defeat to Rodney McAree’s side in the League Cup at the beginning of the month.

Magilton feels his side will need to be at the top of their game to take all three points and wants to build on their recent momentum.

“The weekend win leaves us exactly that [five points behind Linfield],” he reflected.

“Performance levels have been fantastic. They’ve dipped very few times this year and when we have, they’ve come back and bounced back and that’s been good.

“We’re going to have to play very well again at the weekend. We didn’t play as well, Dungannon played very well in the League Cup and beat us.

“They’ve good memories of that, we’ve not so good memories. We’ve got to go there and present ourselves and try and continue that good run.”

Magilton believes that if their performance level continue to grow, that will turn lead to a positive atmosphere within the dressing room.

“We have to keep winning,” he insists.

“More importantly, it is our level of performance that we have to continue to grow and create that sort of atmosphere within our dressing room. Again, from day one that has been the key message. That hasn’t changed, we’ve been very consistent in what we’ve said to them and it’s about their individual and then the team performance.

“If you control your own performance and go out there with that focus. If they can do that collectively then you’re going to be in business. I thought today we won the game against a really good team.”

On their second derby win of the season, the Reds boss was adamant that nothing changed in terms of their preparations and due diligence and was impressed with his side’s intensity.

“We try to exploit weaknesses every week,” Magilton acknowledged.

“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes obviously with looking at things.

“It’s very evident their [Crusaders] strengths and very evident they have a lot of really good players. We look for potential weaknesses in their side.

“I just thought our intensity in our play was great, with and without the ball. I thought we reacted quickly when we didn’t have the ball and I thought we looked really dangerous when we did have it. It’s very simple as that.”

Magilton revealed that marksman Ben Wilson was left on the bench after struggling with flu in the build-up and had a hunch Joe Gormley would produce the goods in his absence.

“Ben had the flu all week and only trained for a limited time on Thursday night – in a kind of way our mind was made up with that,” revealed Magilton. 

“I had a hunch about Joe. He always saves one or two really good moments for these types of games. I just really thought he would make an impact and he did. I thought that Ronan Hale made massive impact too. He’s had two assists.

“At the start of the season we didn’t have the luxury of bringing people off the bench. That’s not being disrespectful to those who were on the bench. To have Sam [Ashford] and Ben sitting there ready and champing at the bit is huge for us.

“The moments to take them and put them in the game was the right moments we felt because they have pace, they play on shoulders, and they are dangerous and those two have worked their socks off.”

Stephen Mallon continued to show his fine form since returning from his long-term layoff in September, starting his third game in succession and Magilton revealed how it was the first time that the winger had played three successive games in four years.

“Believe it or not it, it is the first time he has played three games in a row in four years,” Magilton outlined.

“To come through that takes unbelievable resilience and character. He deserves all the plaudits. He was great in the first half, and we’re delighted with him, and it is a great result for us.

“We just felt that one v one is his strength and if I am being hyper-critical, he can probably do better in the quality of his cross and maybe his choice of cross.

“I’m taking nothing away from him. Our back five were outstanding and our goalkeeper was outstanding when he had to be. Defensively, we’ve been really good this year and that is the basis from which we work.”