Blues have one hand on the title

By Colin Millar

This time a year ago Linfield were level with Crusaders, albeit with a game in hand, and faced a difficult run in where they had to play every team in the top half at least once, with a potentially league-deciding match at Seaview.

This time around, the champions go into their last six games 12 points clear of both Portadown and Cliftonville, with only seven points required to clinch a third league title on the trot and a sixth in seven years.

The Blues have one hand very firmly on the title and no matter what David Jeffrey and his team suggest about no trophies being won until mathematically certain, the ribbons on the Gibson Cup will remain the same colours.

It was Carrick Rangers’ shock 3-1 victory over Portadown on Friday night that gave the Blues a chance to extend their lead at the top.

Going into the St Patrick’s Day encounter at Windsor Park, Linfield were unbeaten in eight games and had already put ten goals past Donegal Celtic in their two previous league encounters.

The omens were ominous for the visitors but the first half was a close run thing, with only a fine Michael Carvill free-kick on 24 minutes separating the sides.

David Jeffrey’s side were a different animal after the interval and within six minutes of the restart they doubled their lead, William Murphy poking home after a goalmouth scramble.

Linfield squandered chance after chance but the victory was never in doubt as the West Belfast side showed little ambition.

With Tuesday night’s (tonight) crucial trip to the Brandywell in mind, the Blues made changes and it was Gary Browne’s introduction with 15 minutes to go that put the icing on the cake for the home side.

The former Lisburn Distillery player hasn’t started a game this season due to injuries and his hunger to impress was clear for all 2,000 spectators.

Only 60 seconds later he doubled his tally with a fine volley after a superb surging run and pinpoint cross from man of the match Jamie Mulgrew.

It was another giant stride towards Linfield’s 51st title.

Linfield are scheduled to play Ballymena United in the semi-final of the Irish Cup on Saturday 31 March. The game will take place at The Oval and is subject to Newry City’s appeal over Ballymena’s place in the Cup after the eligibility row over the Braidmen’s striker Alan Davidson in the quarter-final.

 

League match

Linfield’s next league match is this coming Saturday away to Lisburn Distillery.

They will then have a run-in which will include home games against Portadown, Cliftonville, Coleraine and Glentoran along with an away tie at Crusaders.

 

Friendly

The Blues have also announced that a friendly match at Windsor Park against Rangers will take place either in late April or early May.

The game is to help raise funds for the cash strapped Glasgow club, and there are also whispers that a match between the two clubs will also take place at Ibrox.

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