Andrew Mitchell thrilled to see Crusaders roar back for Dungannon Swifts win
Crusaders 2 - Dungannon 0
Midfielder Andrew Mitchell believes Crusaders bared their 'title teeth' by digging out a 2-0 win against battling Dungannon Swifts.
Stephen Baxter's boys didn't have the look of Danske Bank Premiership champions and contenders until Paul Heatley took control. Following the shattering defeat at Carrick, nerves were frayed among the home fans at the Shore Road. The boys on the pitch also looked on edge.
But Heatley's deadly quick-fire double had the punters laughing again as he renewed the Crues' five-point advantage at the top.
"It was a massive three points," beamed Mitchell, who was handed a starting slot after Declan Caddell came down with flu. "It was crucial we responded after the Carrick defeat.
"We put in a really professional job, keeping the back door closed and taking the chances at the other end. Yes, we had to be patient, but it paid off.
"I don't think there was any frustration in our game. If anything, we were perhaps trying too hard to get a goal.
"The gaffer told us at half-time, 'if it doesn't happen we'll go again, but an opening will present itself some time'.
"Our back four were immense. I think they had two shots over the 90 minutes. We are always going to create chances.
"There were questions asked of us (after midweek). The only way we can answer them is by putting in good performances and winning games."
Heatley capitalised on an error by Chris Hegarty before blasting in the opener on 69 minutes. His second was sensational, a beauty curled home from 25 yards.
"His goals were fantastic," added Mitchell. "He has dug us out a few times. It's nice to have a bit of a cushion (in the table), but we take one game at a time.
"We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, just as we couldn't afford to become too low after Carrick. We were glad this match came soon after that result. It gave us the chance to bounce back quickly.
"That's the pressure you've got to cope with being at the top. We face another big game on Tuesday at Ballinamallard."
Swifts boss Rodney McAree admitted two flashes of brilliance took the game away.
"We rode our luck a little bit," he said. "Crusaders put us under a lot of pressure. They created a lot of opportunities, but none of them were clear cut. We were encouraged coming in at half-time with the game scoreless.
"Up until their goal, I thought that we were under no pressure and we probably had the best chance of the game when (Alan) Teggart went through.
"I was really frustrated at the way we conceded the first in terms of having control of the ball, it came from a half clearance. It was sickening because we had defended well up to that.
"And, for the second, I thought we should have been awarded a free-kick before the ball arrived at Heatley. Andrew Burns made a run through the middle and he seemed to be impeded.
"The referee blew up for niggles all day, but he ignored that one. There is no taking away from the finish, it was a great strike."
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates, McClean, Mitchell, Forsythe (O'Carroll, 71 mins), Snoddy, Carvill, Owens, Heatley. Unused subs: Stewart, Holden, Clarke, McKibbin.
Dungannon: Coleman, Hegarty, Armstrong, Wilson, Glackin, Hazley (Liggett, 71 mins), Harpur, Teggart, Burns, Burke, McCaffrey. Unused subs: Addis, Fitzpatrick, Montgomery, O'Rourke.
Man of match: Paul Heatley
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)