Better decision making is key for Tommy Breslin
Tommy Breslin believes minor moments have conspired to deliver a dismal December which has seen his Cliftonville side pocket just three points from four Danske Bank Premiership outings.
Friday's north Belfast derby defeat to Crusaders saw the champions slip further behind Linfield at the summit and, though he believes his players have the quality and character to turn their form round, Breslin admits they cannot afford many more slip-ups in their bid to land a third consecutive Gibson Cup crown.
"We've had a few defeats recently but we've been well in the games and it comes down to little margins where our decision-making in the final third is counting against us, with seemingly every mistake we make at the other end being punished," he explains.
"Be it picking the wrong pass, taking an extra touch in the build-up or not quite getting shots away in time - it's minor things like that which are having a big impact in our matches of late."
Ahead of the Blues' table-topping showdown with Crusaders on New Year's Day, the Reds have an early opportunity to make up some ground when they travel to face Ballinamallard United tomorrow night - but Breslin knows claiming victory at Ferney Park is much easier said than done.
"It's a long journey, a freezing cold night under the floodlights and anything can happen," he adds.
"We know we need to start putting wins on the board to get ourselves back into the mix and we don't want a situation where every game becomes a must-win because that adds more and more pressure, which can cause players to do alien things.
"It's bound to be a tough match because Ballinamallard will always have a go at you, so we'll need to be well organised, well disciplined and ready for what they'll throw at us and, at the same time, more clinical when we come to creating our own chances.
"There are now seven points between us and the top but there are 45 points left to play for so there's no panic or throwing the towel in. Teams go through little blips and all the sides challenging for the title have had their difficult patches, we just need to work through ours."
Crues boss Stephen Baxter, meanwhile, admits impending arrivals Stephen O'Flynn and Barry Molloy will not necessarily walk straight into the team following a recent upturn in fortunes on the Shore Road.
"We have put together a decent little run over the last few weeks and are in good form," he says.
"It won't be long before we can call upon our new players and, all of a sudden, I find myself looking at the team and having to assess who's going to go in where.
"That's what you want, though. Competition for places is a very healthy thing and I'm very pleased with how the current squad have reacted to the news that some fresh faces will be coming in.
"It's going to be a real battle between four teams to win this league and all we're looking to do is make sure we keep heading in the right direction."