Title-chasing Linfield are no soft touch any longer, warns Aaron Burns
Linfield 3-0 Glentoran
Linfield's Aaron Burns believes his team can push Crusaders all the way in the title race.
They sent out another warning with a 3-0 demolition of Big Two rivals Glentoran at Windsor Park. Even though the Crues are still in pole position to retain the Gibson Cup, their lead has been cut to five points.
Ross Gaynor bagged a brace, either side of a Burns strike - which was the Blues' 100th goal of the season - to send Alan Kernaghan's team back across town licking their wounds.
The Glens were simply awful. Their task was made even more daunting when defender Calum Birney was dismissed eight minutes from time.
But it was a different story for the majority of the 4,000 crowd - and Burns reckons there is more to come.
"There is a bit of steel about us these days," said the 24-year-old. "Even in training you can see it. We've been criticised in the past for being too soft.
"Since David (Healy) has come in, that's one thing he has hammered into us - we're no soft touch any more. Perhaps last season, we would have only drawn that game (against the Glens). Our fitness levels have increased massively.
"We are steam-rolling teams over the last 10 minutes. It is great to close the gap a little bit on Crusaders. It's still in their hands at the minute, but we can push them all the way."
Oddly, the day didn't start so well for Burns, who was only named among the substitutes.
"There is a lot of quality in the squad," he added. "You maybe sulk for five or 10 minutes, but you've got to get on with it.
"You've got to get the professional head on and encourage the boys. You also have to be ready when called upon.
"Thankfully, it worked out for me. I've scored 18 this season. My goal was the club's 100 of the season, which I'm proud about."
Burns added he couldn't believe his luck when Glens' goalkeeper Elliott Morris' botched clearance fell to him.
He said: "Elliott is a fantastic goalkeeper. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from him."
Glentoran boss Kernaghan agreed it was another poor day at the office.
"We are so inconsistent it does my head in," he moaned. "There were some home truths in the dressing room afterwards. We are already planning for next year - there may be a few surprises.
"Every single one of the players are now playing for their future - contract or no contract."
LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Waterworth (Lowry, 88 mins), McLellan (Bates, 67 mins), Millar (Burns, 77 mins), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Reece Glendinning, Gaynor. Unused subs: Kee, Fallon
Glentoran: Morris, Holland, Kane, Magee, Birney, Rice, Addis (Morrow, 70 mins), Caldwell (Smith, 73 mins), Lavery (Scullion, 63 mins), Allen, McCaffrey. Unused subs: Gibson, Hogg
Man of the match: Ross Gaynor
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)