Know-how is key to Crusaders title charge: Beverland
Howard Beverland believes Crusaders' championship-winning experience will be crucial as they close in on a third straight title triumph.
The Crues are nine points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and, as the season reaches its climax, every game takes on increasing significance, with each result becoming that bit more important.
Friday night's win at Dungannon was their sixth in a row in the league.
Beverland has been an integral part of that title charge, forming an outstanding partnership with Colin Coates at the heart of the defence.
The 26-year-old, who joined from Coleraine last summer, has been impressed with the hunger for success at Seaview and credits boss Stephen Baxter with instilling a winning mentality.
"It has been there from the start of the season," Beverland said.
"There are games where we dug out a 1-0 win when it was looking like a 0-0.
"There has always been that hunger and belief, and that comes from the manager. He is hugely driven and hungry, he believes in taking that attitude into every game and it filters through the squad."
Beverland, whose articulate reading of the game off the pitch is as impressive as his performances on it, is a relative newcomer to the success story unfolding on the Shore Road.
Others, such as Coates, Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens, have been key players in the last two title-winning campaigns.
And Beverland believes their championship know-how will be crucial as the finish line nears.
"There are a lot of good, senior players - experienced players - who have been back-to-back league champions," he added.
"That experience, come this stage of the season, is huge and you look to it.
"Players just go out there and know how to win games at difficult places like Dungannon on a Friday night.
"Sometimes it's not free-flowing football, sometimes it's getting the ball and playing it to the right positions and carving out the three points.
"We did that [at Dungannon], we got into a good 2-0 lead.
"They came back with a goal which gave them a lift, but thankfully we held out for the three points."
The win at Stangmore Park was classic Crusaders, efficient but quietly impressive.
It was all the more important, with Linfield failing to beat Portadown, meaning the Crues' lead increased to nine points.
"It was a good weekend. We heard the result of the Linfield game when we came back in, but we focus on ourselves," added Beverland.
"All we can do is our job and we did that thankfully.
"Everyone dug very deep, it was a real, strong team effort, as we knew it had to be.
"Every team wants a piece of Crusaders, every team wants to come away having taken a point or three points off us.
"Dungannon is a tough place to come, they are very good on their home ground and it's credit to Rodney McAree and the squad he has assembled.
"We are very happy with the three points."
Friday's draw at Windsor is a warning to the Crues, who head to Portadown next.
Certainly Beverland will be taking nothing for granted when bottom meets top at Shamrock Park on Saturday.
"It's a league like no other," he added.
"Everyone likes to write teams off, Portadown have been written off already, but going to Linfield and drawing is a huge point.
"So we know that we're going to have to go into that game and apply ourselves.
"Portadown have brought in new players, hungry players, players who have been out of the league for a while.
"We know we've got to be careful because they are playing at the moment with almost a sense of freedom.
"Nobody is giving them a chance of staying up and with that comes a sense of wanting to prove people wrong.
"They are picking up points, like the result at Windsor and we need to be very careful and not underestimate them."