Belfast Telegraph

Linfield cranking up title heat

By Graham Luney

Michael Carvill has warned Linfield's Premiership rivals that they aren't going to take their foot off the gas this season.

David Jeffrey's side are sitting pretty at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and on Tuesday night booked their spot in the final of the County Antrim Shield.

Ards will travel to Windsor Park tomorrow knowing a battle awaits them.

The basement side will have to weather a storm against the table toppers who are brimming with confidence after seeing off Cliftonville this week and going 10 games unbeaten in the league.

But the Linfield dressing room is still haunted by the memories of a trophyless campaign last season.

The Blues won nothing while Cliftonville romped to title glory and Glentoran danced around Windsor Park with the Irish Cup.

Jeffrey's men may be four points clear of second placed Crusaders and Glenavon but Carvill knows the wheels could swiftly come off the Blues bandwagon.

"We are winning matches and the team is in good shape but no-one is forgetting about what happened last season – it is always in our mind," said Carvill, who netted against Cliftonville on Tuesday night.

"It's all about last year and how tough it was for us and that's why we have to take it one game at a time and give it our all.

"The fact that we won nothing last year still haunts us but the manager keeps us in the right frame of mind and the hunger and fight in the team is there.

"It doesn't really matter what we are achieving at the moment, what matters is that we can win trophies at the business end of the season.

"This season we are playing with confidence again and there is a fiercer competition for places."

Carvill is keeping his feet on the ground after the win over the Reds as he knows Tommy Breslin's charges will come out fighting.

He added: "It would be wrong to read too much into the win over Cliftonville because their priority is to win their title again and that's why they didn't field their strongest team against us.

"They changed things around to keep things fresh but it was still an important result for us.

"We know how strong a team they are and they can regroup and come back.

"They will be chomping at the bit to end their bad run and show what a good side they are."

Linfield look a more menacing attacking force this season with new boy Andy Waterworth (pictured) on fire and Matthew Tipton discovering a new lease of life.

Carvill is thrilled to see his best pal Waterworth enjoy life at Windsor.

"Andy does give our attacking game a new dimension and you just have to look at the talent we have on the bench – guys like Mark McAllister and Philip Lowry are fighting to get on the team," added the former Charlton ace.

"We know things are going to be very tight but there's a long way to go and Crusaders have already taken points off us.

"All our focus is on the Ards game – that is the most important."

Linfield's 4-1 win over the Reds on Tuesday night was marred by sectarian chanting in the stands.

Idiots in the home and away section at Windsor took the spotlight away from Cliftonville striker Chris Scannell who made his long awaited return from injury and the exploits of the players, particularly Linfield's sizzling display.

Carvill said: "I was focused on the game and switched off from the crowd so I didn't hear that.

"I didn't even hear anything over the tannoy system.

"The disappointing thing is it takes away from the performance of the players and what is happening on the pitch."

Linfield captain Michael Gault was also focused on the leading role he had to perform on the pitch but he echoes the view of all right minded football fans that sectarianism has no place in football.

"These incidents just end up taking something away from the team and the performance," said Gault.

"The Irish League is a fantastic product and the overwhelmingly majority of supporters simply want to get behind their team. That's the way it should be."

Gault is back in the groove for the Blues after enjoying a good pre-season and he's enjoying the midfield scraps.

He knows what it's like to try and defend a championship so he's not surprised that Cliftonville have hit a few bumps on the road.

"It's a different ball game for Tommy's side this season," he added. "Teams will raise their games against the better sides and you don't get better than the champions.

"They are still a very good side, they are just going through a bad spell and we know all about that.

"But we are where we want to be at the moment. However, it's just November and it's a long season. We have to keep delivering."

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