Referee decisions 'hurting Linfield'
Linfield skipper Michael Gault says refereeing decisions are really hurting his side this season.
Gault has no desire to make excuses for the Blues' stuttering start to the campaign but he is baffled by decisions made by whistler Colin Burns at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Burns chose not to award Linfield a penalty when Tomas Cosgrove clattered into Aaron Burns and he also waved away spot-kick appeals when Billy Joe Burns' shot appeared to strike a hand in the box.
Gault was stunned by the referee's calls – just as he was when Burns booked Michael Carvill for diving instead of awarding a penalty when Linfield lost out to Crusaders in the Irish Cup at Seaview last season.
Burns, who had also left the pitch before Cliftonville players made it back to the dressing room past some missile-throwing Blues fans, declined to comment after the game.
Gault simply wants officials to get the big decisions in big games correct.
"It's very frustrating when such big calls go against you," said the midfielder.
"I thought it was a stonewall penalty when Aaron Burns was barged over and then the linesman gave a penalty for handball in the second half – which it was – but the referee over-ruled him.
"The assistant referee clearly saw it. We went out of the Irish Cup, too, following what I thought was a poor decision Colin made at Seaview.
"These are important calls and the reality is that these things can cost David (Jeffrey) his job or myself my career at Linfield.
"But that's not taken into consideration, these things happen and nothing else is said about it. Nothing is said, or done about it. You just have to carry on and forget about it.
"There's no proper communication with referees either. When you want to make a point they just smile and walk away."
Linfield, though, have little time to feel sorry for themselves as they face a tough trip to Seaview to face the Crues on Saturday.
David Jeffrey's men will have to go looking for their first league win of the season without the vociferous support of their fans who are boycotting the fixture.
Many Blues fans are expected to stay away from the Shore Road venue in protest at the court action launched by Crusaders over the redevelopment of Windsor Park.
Although the legal dispute between the Crues and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is now over, Linfield fans were unhappy at claims the Windsor revamp would give them an unfair financial advantage over rival clubs.
Gault has plenty of sympathy for the fans and is determined to pocket maximum points from the fixture to put a smile on their faces.
"I think the circumstances will make us more stronger and more determined to get a result," added the former Northern Ireland international.
"The fans are entitled to have their say and I have a lot of sympathy for them. They have stuck with us in the good and bad times and it would be nice to reward them with a win.
"There is a resolve to play better and get back on track after Saturday's disappointment but we know the fans need a lift, too."
Cliftonville have kicked off their title defence by playing like champions but Gault hopes the pressure will get to the Solitude men.
"Hopefully they will feel the pressure we have felt for many years," he added.
"For so long we were the big scalp for other teams but now beating Cliftonville would be a badge of honour for teams.
"But we have just suffered a minor setback and I've no doubt we have the squad to challenge for the title.
"When Andy Waterworth is back in a few weeks that will be a huge plus and it's a long season ahead for everyone.
"Our form in Europe was very good but refereeing decisions have gone against us in the first two games.
"But we also made mistakes against Cliftonville which costs us. It's just a defeat we have to take on the chin, come out and show what we are about. There's a long way to go."