Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin says Michael McCrudden got his just rewards for being a model professional after the striker hit a hat-trick in yesterday's thumping win over Warrenpoint Town at Milltown.
McCrudden came into the starting line-up in place of the injured Paul O'Neill and grabbed the opportunity with both hands by claiming a treble that saw a sumptuous strike for the eighth-minute opener followed up by close-range finishes either side of half-time.
Man-in-form Ryan Curran hit his 12th goal of the season - his fourth in three games against the Point - with a penalty before the quarter-hour mark, while the livewire Daire O'Connor rounded off the win with a precision lob for the fifth.
McLaughlin was full of praise for the attitude of McCrudden, a man he also bossed during his time as manager of Institute.
"Michael has been key to a lot of good that we've done," he explained.
"Sometimes when players don't play and they feel they should be playing, they sulk. It's a natural reaction to sulk and you can almost be a man down in matches or in training because they huff. I've seen it happen in other clubs but not in this team.
"Michael is the first man to congratulate goalscorers, he's the first man to encourage the team and he's the first man to fight their corner when things aren't going their way on the pitch.
"He's a brilliant man to have in the changing room, so for him to come into the team when he was called upon and to back it up with a hat-trick and a man-of-the-match performance, I'm delighted for him.
"He's earned it and, if we get him firing on all cylinders from now until the end of the season like he did today, what a player we've got on our hands at a key stage."
The diminutive forward curled in a fine opener early on before Ryan Curran converted from the spot after namesake Chris was tripped by Danny Wallace.
And it was 3-0 at the break with McCrudden finishing off some excellent work from O'Connor deep into first-half stoppage time.
Despite Warrenpoint showing a little bit more about them early in the second half, the Reds added their fourth shortly after the hour when McCrudden (below) directed Rory Hale's low cross past Andy Coleman before O'Connor lobbed the Town keeper from the edge of the box on 69 minutes to complete the rout.
"We'll enjoy today, enjoy the win and enjoy the three points, but we move on very quickly and Tuesday night won't be long coming round," added McLaughlin, whose side host Dungannon Swifts in midweek before the north Belfast derby at Seaview on Saturday.
His opposite number Barry Gray readily admitted his side weren't at the races from the outset of this match.
"We were nowhere near it," said the former Reds boss.
"We were beaten by a far better Cliftonville side than what we were, so we deserved to get beaten, we deserved the scoreline and we were probably fortunate enough it wasn't more."
WARRENPOINT: Coleman 6, Deasy 6, Ball 5 (Cowan, 46 mins, 5), Wallace 6, Byrne 6, Gallagher 5, Hutchinson 6, McCaffrey 6 (O'Sullivan, 58 mins, 5), Swan 6 (Dillon, 46 mins, 6), Carroll 5, Doyle 5. Unused subs: Sava, McVeigh, Mullen, Evans .
Cliftonville: McCarey 7, Lowe 6, Donnelly 7, O'Reilly 7, Harney 7 (G Breen, 64 mins, 6), Bagnall 7 (Coffey, 64 mins, 6), C Curran 7, Hale 9, O'Connor 8, R Curran 8, McCrudden 9 (Casey, 67 mins, 6). Unused subs: D Breen, Doherty, O'Brien, Teggart, McGuinness.
Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare) 6