Glenn Ferguson believes his Ballymena United players will face the toughest test of their table-topping credentials this weekend.
Saturday’s 2-1 win at Coleraine kept United level on points with pacesetters Portadown and Glenavon, with the Shamrock Park side shading top spot on goal difference.
It also sets up a titanic showdown this Saturday as the Sky Blues host champions Cliftonville at the Warden Street Showgrounds (3pm).
“The next league game will probably be the toughest game we’ve faced this season,” Ferguson told Times Sport
“Cliftonville have been on an up-and-down run of form and they will want to put that right. They might be struggling to win at home but their away record is impressive.
“We will work as hard as we can to get a team on the pitch that can pick up points.
“We will go in with our gameplan but it will be very difficult.
Cliftonville are a good side - you don’t end up as league champions if you’re not - but we’ll try to counteract that and work on their weaknesses and hopefully get a result out of the game.
Ferguson has dismissed speculation about Ballymena’s credentials for staying at the top end of the table after Saturday’s win ensured they recorded their best start to a league campaign for more than 30 years.
“I’m not worried one bit about what people are saying,
“We are trying to look after ourselves on the inside and do what we have been doing - simply taking each game as it comes and trying to pick up points,” added Ferguson.
Ballymena will be without midfielder Mark Surgenor, who is automatically suspended following his red card in the midweek County Antrim Shield win over Donegal Celtic.