Linfield manager David Jeffrey wants consistency of performance from his squad in the critical remaining weeks of the season as they bid for a league and cup double.
It has been a somewhat erratic era for the Blues who, in the first half of Saturday’s Irish Cup quarter-final against Lisburn Distillery, played as if they were still suffering from the after effects of that 2-0 Premiership defeat by Glentoran, another team that has blown hot and cold.
Then, after the break, Blues midfielder Robert Garrett’s dynamic play and overall dominance switched the entire emphasis with Linfield transformed into potential champions.
Garrett, whose style is reminiscent of 1962 seven trophy hero Isaac Andrews, imposed his authority, generated a vibrancy and created a standard which the Blues must maintain to the tape.
The launch pad was that 49th minute Glenn Ferguson goal, a flick over the line from Damien Curran’s cross, and with his second goal — this time a header after Garrett had lobbed into the box — he ensured that April 4 semi-final place against Cliftonville at a venue yet to be selected. What a remarkable player is Ferguson.
“Phenomenal” was how Jeffrey — he of the long black coat — described him. Spike’s 40th birthday is in July yet he revealed the energy of a much younger man and, of course, has not lost any of his supreme predatory skills.
His contract expires in May but already he has signalled to the management that he should be retained. Ageism isn’t a factor — just performance and the ability, all things considered, to continue at the highest level.
And for Jeffrey, who brings colour and charisma to the local scene, there was another encouraging sign — the clinical 80th minute goal which substitute Paul McAreavey scored — a boost after an agonising season with injuries.
The bottom line is this: Linfield must start firing on all cylinders in every match.
They possess the quality players, the reserve strength in depth, the ability to replace like with like, to attain that league and cup double goal.
Glentoran are currently a point ahead in the Premiership with a match in hand.
Now they have been eliminated from the Irish Cup they can focus on the championship which could be a major plus factor.
Distillery boss Paul Kirk said:“ I thought as I walked off at half-time that those misses would come back to haunt us. They certainly did with a vengeance.”
Meanwhile, Linfield striker Mark McAllister, who had a mix-up with his lift to Belfast, was omitted from the Blues starting line-up. “I’ll deal with that on Tuesday,” said Jeffrey.