Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's terrific trio can become Irish League's answer to Messi-Suarez-Neymar

By Steven Beacom

Linfield's three-man attack of Jordan Stewart, Paul Smyth and Kirk Millar dazzled against Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Missing the injured Andy Waterworth, who scored hat-tricks to win the league title and Irish Cup in the final two weekends of last season, Blues boss David Healy decided to begin the 2017/2018 domestic campaign with new signing Stewart, Smyth and Millar in a flexible front line.

Switching positions frequently with clever movement, the talented trio caused Davy McAlinden's visitors all sorts of problems with their speed and skill, especially in the first half when the game was won thanks to goals from Niall Quinn and Millar, who finished off well constructed moves.

Post-match Millar laughed when it was suggested that they could become an Irish League version of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, but he admitted he could see why the question would arise.

Obviously the Linfield players, in every sense, aren't in the same league as the MSN and they aren't about to be sold for £200m like Neymar was to Paris St German from Barcelona, but in their own little part of the footballing world Irish League defences might end up dread playing against them as was the case with the South American triumvirate across Europe.

Smiling, Millar said: "They have obviously got a lot more going for them than us."

In more serious tone on Linfield's MSS he continued: "But I can see where you are coming from because we all bring different things to the team. It is good for us to have three different outlets rather than just have two up front."

The ex-Oldham ace, honest enough to say he wasn't at his best at the end of last season, added: "We have clicked in training and we clicked against Carrick. It works well for us playing the three up front. With Andy out we have to mix it up and I thought the three of us did well.

"It was a good game for us to get on the ball. The three of us were switching from left to right which was good because Carrick didn't really know how to deal with it. Carrick worked hard and sat in but we didn't give them a chance to get out with the pressure we put on them so credit to us for that.

"Pace is important with the other two lads especially Paul Smyth and I'm more there to try and get on the ball and make things happen as is Jordan Stewart. Jordan has been great for the team since he signed."

It's a point well made. Stewart excelled on Saturday. His weak second half penalty may have been saved by impressive Carrick goalkeeper Harry Doherty, but he tortured Rangers for most of the afternoon.

Tough taskmaster that he is though Healy stated that he wanted the former Glentoran ace to get shots away quicker as the season progresses knowing there are goals in Stewart's locker.

Linfield should have scored more that two with Healy and Millar stressing they will need to be more clinical tomorrow night at Ards in their next outing.

Carrick Rangers host Ballymena United on the same evening.

"Just about everyone has tipped us to be relegated but we believe we can prevent that from happening," said Carrick boss McAlinden (below).

"Home games are going to be vital for us and we can enter the Ballymena game in positive mood because I thought we showed good character and togetherness at Windsor after conceding an early goal."

On dominant Linfield, McAlinden commented: "I don't think there is a team that can match them this season. They have come a long way under David.

"Put it like this whoever finishes above Linfield win the league."

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