Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin says his players deserve more credit than they have received so far for staying in the thick of a dramatic title race.
The Reds twice led leaders Linfield on Tuesday night, only to be caught by Ethan Devine scoring a late equalizer for the Blues at Solitude.
A frustrating high point perhaps, but with 14 games to go, the North Belfast men are just five points off the top and hot on the heels of champions David Healy and Glentoran.
McLaughlin and his players, who weren’t considered title contenders in August, still have a lot to target before the campaign ends commercially.
“We were playing against the champions and I thought our performance was great throughout – the boys were superb,” he said.
“It was a good test to see where we are. It was a marker because it tells you how close or far you are to them.
“I think everyone saw that we weren’t far from being a very good team and the boys deserve all the credit in the world.
“I’ll wait to see if they get it. They don’t get it too often so we’ll see if they get it in the coming days and we’ll see how the match reports and social media go.
After losing back-to-back to the Crusaders and Glentoran, the latter live on Sky last Monday night, the Reds have shown real character to bounce back and stay in the title equation.
Tuesday night’s thrilling 2-2 draw with Linfield, who are a point clear of Glentoran at the top, followed a 1-0 win at Larne on Friday night.
“The schedule was packed and we played three top teams, but we did more than one game for them,” McLaughlin said.
“To come away with zero points against the Glens was really disappointing, but we maintained those levels of performance on Friday night at Larne.
“We were delighted to come away from Inver Park with three points and a clean sheet and the performance levels from the players have been fantastic.
“We maybe got tired a bit late against Linfield but we were very good for the long stretches and I can’t give the boys enough credit.
“We could have won the game but to be fair to Linfield they have a never say attitude and I was actually worried we would get a punch in the end so we’ll take a point and move on. thing.”
Next up for Cliftonville is a trip to Ballymena United, who suffered a 3-0 midweek loss to Carrick Rangers on Friday night.