Blues have experience to break records

By Colin Millar

There was no fixture for Linfield in the past seven days, due to Coleraine participating in the League Cup final – the Blues’ trip up north took place last night (Tuesday).

A six-point gap currently separates the Blues from their nearest challengers Cliftonville in the league table, although the North Belfast side have played one game more (as we go to press). Linfield have collected an impressive 61 points from their 26 games, mainly due to impressive home form, gaining 34 points from the 39 available.

This makes comfortable reading for Linfield fans, but the next four league matches could well decide the destination of the Irish League. Linfield face tough away trips to Coleraine, Cliftonville and Portadown, whilst also playing recent League Cup winners Crusaders.

If the Blues were to navigate through this period of fixtures unfazed, they will have one hand on the trophy.

The disappointing aspect of the season to date has been the performances in the cup competitions – the County Antrim Shield and the League Cup.

Cliftonville humbled David Jeffrey’s side 6-2 in the semi-final of the Shield, while a resolute Glenavon side pulled off an upset at Windsor, dumping the Blues out of the League Cup on penalties after a dull 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.

Disappointing as these performances and results were, they will be long forgotten if the Blues maintain their stranglehold over both the league and the most prestigious knock-out competition – the Irish Cup.

Winning five ‘league and cup’ doubles in the past six seasons, David Jeffrey’s side have all the experience and know-how to continue breaking records and holding their dominance in the local game.

Already crushing intermediate side Ballyclare Comrades 7-1 in the Cup, Linfield will now face Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park in two weeks’ time in the last 16.

With big names such as Portadown and Glentoran already out, the draw has been left wide open and many other clubs will be eyeing up a big cup final day out and the chance to register some major silverware.

The Setanta Cup is another trophy that is up for grabs this season, but the all-Ireland competition has yet to kick off. Linfield, along with Crusaders and two League of Ireland clubs, have received byes into the second round – the Blues gaining this honour due to qualifying through winning their league.

The Irish League champions have not triumphed in the competition since its inaugural year in 2005, when they famously defeated Shelbourne 2-0 in Dublin. This is too long for the Linfield faithful and many among them harbour hopes of going all the way again this time round.

 

Mixed

Linfield’s four summer signings have had mixed seasons so far. Albert Watson has proved to be a rugged, yet reliable, centre-half, performing consistently well throughout the season. Rory Patterson never quite caused the avalanche of goals that some may have dreamed of.

His short loan spell at the Blues ended last week as he joined Derry City, and leaves with the best wishes of everyone at the club.

However, Daryl Fordyce has notched only two goals since he arrived from cross-town rivals Glentoran – one of them was on his debut against BATE Borisov back in July.

Fellow attacker Gary Browne has struggled with injuries since his summer switch from Distillery, but in his brief cameo appearances he has shown signs of promise and could well play a major part in the club’s fortunes.

Aaron Burns has been the stand-out performer this season – the teenage midfielder has attracted the attention of many cross-channel clubs who may make a move.

Michael Carvill and Mark McAllister both endeared themselves to the Linfield crowd with admirable performances in the absence of the injured Peter Thompson.

Linfield have been consistent but unspectacular so far, but remain in the hunt for the three major trophies.

 

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