Crusaders skipper Jeff Spiers has warned his team-mates they will not be handed any presents over the Christmas period or in 2007.
Defeats to Glentoran and Limavady United have put the brakes on Crusaders' sensational league form but at the start of the season no-one connected with the Shore Road club expected them to occupy third position in the Carnegie Premier League table going into the busy holiday schedule.
As the Crues prepare to lock horns with neighbours Cliftonville at Solitude on Tuesday, Spiers is warning his comrades that life in the top flight will get tougher in the New Year.
"If someone had said to me at the beginning of the season we would be in this position come Christmas I would have laughed at them," he said. "But we have performed very well and those performances have raised expectation levels. People will expect us to maintain this form and we hope we can do that but I have a feeling life will get more difficult for us.
"Teams now know what we are capable of - they won't under-estimate us after our good performances and results.
"In fact, I feel a little disappointed to be sitting in third place as we played well against the Glens and we could have avoided dropping points. The Limavady game was certainly a day to forget - it was an absolute disaster."
Spiers, who received a special merit award from Alan Shearer at the Umbro Northern Ireland Footballer of the Year Awards at the Culloden Hotel, is a veteran of Boxing Day scraps.
The centre-back has competed in the Big Two, mid-Ulster and north Belfast version of the Christmas showdown.
There's never been a season of goodwill on the football pitch and Spiers is anticipating another uncompromising affair at Solitude.
"Cliftonville are a very good football side - they showed how good they are when they beat us in the semi-final of the CIS Cup," he added. "They are a very workmanlike side and the north Belfast derbies have always been very tight affairs. Solitude is a tough place to go to."