Dungannon Swifts keen to build on flying start, says Patton
Mark Patton admits Dungannon's start to the season has surprised even the players.
The Swifts sit second, behind Crusaders only on goal difference, ahead of an unlikely top-of-the-table clash at Seaview today.
It has been quite a start from Kris Lindsay's side, who were tipped to struggle.
At 30, Patton is one of the older members of a young but talented team defying expectations.
And he believes the benefits of a tough pre-season are paying off.
"I suppose our start has surpassed expectations, but we are confident," he said.
"We've had a really good pre-season and it is showing.
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"Our fitness levels are high - especially last weekend against Glenavon (a 2-1 win) when down to 10 men - and we are working for each other in every game.
"We've got a good mix of young players with lots of energy and a few older boys.
"I don't like to admit it, but I'm getting to that age myself.
"We are working well together, Kris has got us going, and we are grinding out results.
"We all know our jobs, we all know our responsibilities."
After drawing against Ballymena United on the opening day, Dungannon have beaten Institute, Glentoran and Glenavon.
It is such a contrast to last season when they failed to win any of their first seven in the league, leaving them struggling at the bottom.
Today, they face early pacesetters Crusaders at Seaview - a ground they have not won at since May 2010.
But Patton believes it is vital they build on their flying start.
He added: "Our start has been really good and we want to keep the momentum going.
"As long as we keep putting in performances like we have been doing so far, then we are definitely a match for anyone."
Dungannon, meanwhile, have added two new players to their squad.
Ross Redman (29) joins after he was placed on the transfer list at Glentoran.
The defender had spent the last three seasons at The Oval, and previously played for Portadown.
Also joining is Sean Noble (23) after spells with Ballinamallard United and most recently Ards.
Noble missed most of last season after he suffered a bad injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in the second game, which ruled him out for close to a year.
Crusaders' sluggish start to last season has not been repeated, with 10 from 12 points hinting at a strong early run. Boss Stephen Baxter says he's a huge admirer of the Stangmore Park men and is not shocked by their fast start.
"Dungannon have been a surprise package for some, but not for me because I know how capable their players are," said the Crues boss.
"Young Oisin Smyth is a fabulous talent and they have players who have been around the club for a while, including Seanan Clucas who is a real leader for them.
"They are strong at the back and they have an exceptional manager.
"None of this frightens them but hopefully they aren't so lucky against us."