Cahal McGinty said Dungannon Swifts’ focus has turned to climbing the table after a third straight Premiership win.
The centre-back scored the opening goal in a convincing 3-1 victory over relegation rivals Portadown.
After struggling in the first half of the campaign, the Swifts are now nine points clear of the bottom two after a superb January that has also brought wins at Warrenpoint and Larne, and at Knockbreda in the Irish Cup.
And with games against Glenavon and Carrick to come this week, McGinty wants to build on the momentum.
“This was a must-win for us and sets us up well for a big week — we’re starting to push away from Portadown and looking at the teams above us,” he said.
“It is a massive three points for us. It means we can look forward, rather than behind us.
“Our confidence is growing and we are just looking forward to the next game every week now.”
McGinty’s opener came after eight minutes.
Ryan Mayse swung over the corner with goalkeeper Jethren Barr saving well from Luke McKendry, then Joe McCready, before McGinty headed in.
The Swifts seized control in the second half, with Darragh McBrien adding to his growing reputation with a superb second.
Some neat footwork saw him beat two players on the left before playing a one-two with Oisin Smyth, running into the box to meet the return ball and sweeping home.
Dungannon made it 3-0 in the 86th minute as two subs combined. After the Ports lost possession cheaply, James Convie played the ball first time into the path of Ben Gallagher, whose low shot squeezed past the goalkeeper’s reach.
On a grim afternoon for the away side, the only bright spot came deep into stoppage time when Oisin Conaty scored with a curling effort.
McGinty added: “It was disappointing to concede at the end from a defender’s point of view, but otherwise we dominated the whole game.”
Portadown have won just one of their last 16 in the League and this defeat leaves them in real trouble.
Boss Matthew Tipton said: “We were very disappointing all over the pitch. I don’t think anybody can hold their hands up and say that they performed — not only to their maximum, but anywhere near their ability.
“I thought we looked like we were short of confidence, short of belief and short of ideas.
“There were occasions we had the ball and we just panicked — and it looked like that from minute one.”
DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Dunne 7, McGee 7, McKendry 7, C McGinty 8, Glynn 7, Devlin 7 (Coyle, 87 mins, 5), Smyth 7, Campbell 7 (Walsh, 87 mins, 5), McBrien 8 (Knowles, 64 mins, 6), Mayse 7 (Convie, 83 mins, 5), McCready 7 (Gallagher, 83 mins, 5).
Unused subs: Nelson, Glenny.
PORTADOWN: Barr 6, Hall 5, Finnegan 5, Beverland 5, Jordan 5 (Lavery, 58 mins, 6), J Doherty 5, Ruddy 5, Smith 5 (Lusty, 58 mins, 6), Dupree 6 (Conaty, 58 mins, 6), Teggart 6, Salley 5.
Unused subs: H Doherty, McCallum, McKeown, Tipton.
Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey) 6