Cosgrove's treble yell
Marauding full-back calls for Reds to push on towards third consecutive Crown title
Tomas Cosgrove wants Cliftonville to pile up the points in the coming weeks as they chase a third successive Gibson Cup triumph.
The full-back produced a man-of-the-match performance as the Reds stayed top of the table with victory over Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park - their fifth straight Premiership triumph and seventh in all competitions.
After a difficult start to the season, Cosgrove says confidence is now high at Solitude and the 21-year-old is aiming to capitalise on their winning form to leave Cliftonville in the best possible shape approaching the turn of the year.
"Our approach is just to try and win every game, beat everyone in front of us and hopefully open up a bit of a gap before Christmas," he said.
"We're in great form and our confidence is high.
"Part of it is down to getting a settled eleven, but the whole squad is working hard and we're starting to get the early-season rustiness out of our system."
Cosgrove created the first and scored the third as the Reds stretched their unbeaten run against the Swifts to 24 games.
Just six minutes had elapsed when he dashed past two players before slipping the ball to Joe Gormley, who scored with a near-post finish.
However, Dungannon were back on level terms soon afterwards as a mix-up in the visitors' back line allowed a cross from Fra Brennan to eventually reach Matt Hazley, whose first-time effort curled into the net via the inside of the post.
In an entertaining first half, Cliftonville retook the lead from the penalty spot.
Martin Donnelly drew a foul from Cameron Grieve and Gormley converted to take his tally for the season to 11 goals.
Dungannon are the league's lowest scorers and paid for a series of missed chances.
Stefan Lavery pulled one effort wide from close range late in the first half, before striking the crossbar 90 seconds after the restart.
Those wasted opportunities were punished when Cosgrove wrapped up the points.
Picking the ball up more than 40 yards from goal, he weaved his way through the Dungannon defence. After his neat footwork sent Dermot McCaffrey and then Abby Sanusi dizzy, he capped a terrific individual move with a neat finish.
"It just opened up for me," Cosgrove explained.
"Martin Donnelly drew two players away, I was going to give it to Joe Gormley but I over-ran it, so I just decided to hit it.
"It's my first of the season. I'm not a regular scorer so I'll remember this one."
Cosgrove admitted his side had to earn the three points.
"It's never an easy game and Dungannon always make it hard for us," he added. "It was a valuable three points."
The one black mark for the Reds was the loss of captain Ryan Catney.
Already booked in the first half, the midfielder was shown a second yellow for a late challenge on Grieve 19 minutes from time.
Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin feels his players must become more ruthless.
"We started well, got an early goal but allowed Dungannon back into it," he said.
"I thought we improved in the second half and a smashing goal from Tomas gave us that bit of breathing space."
With Cliftonville playing on Friday night, they can move five points clear at the top if they beat Warrenpoint Town at Solitude and, with a League Cup quarter-final against Portadown on the horizon next Tuesday, Breslin admits his squad will be stretched.
"We go again on Friday and have three games in the space of a week," he added.
"The matches are coming thick and fast, we've a couple of suspensions already for next weekend so we'll have to look at changes.
"I'll be mixing things around over the next few weeks as people come back and get fit again."
Although they gave the Reds a decent game at times, Dungannon were let down by careless defending and poor finishing.
They remain in trouble at the bottom, just a point off the foot of the Danske Bank Premiership, and centre-half David Armstrong described their defending as "schoolboy".
"To concede the three goals like we did, we aren't going to win football matches," he said.
"The goals came far too easily. We can't allow someone to run 50 yards up the pitch.
"It just can't happen - it's schoolboy stuff and we have to rectify it and put it right."