Jamie Mulgrew believes Linfield will have to work harder this season to smash opponents.
Such is the firepower at manager David Jeffrey’s disposal this season that rivals are tempted to park the bus in front of goal and frustrate the champions.
Other teams cannot be blamed for adopting a cautious approach as Linfield will not be beaten if they are afforded too much room to inflict damage.
Crusaders packed their midfield at Windsor Park last week and managed to record a surprise 2-1 victory.
Linfield were back in business at the weekend, with two-goal William Murphy inspiring them to an impressive 4-2 win at Portadown. Perhaps it is a result which can catapult the champions into a sensational winning run.
The fans will certainly be dreaming of that scenario after a stuttering start to the season by the boys in blue.
However, Mulgrew and co. know the reality is that Linfield aren’t going to be offered any gentle workouts by opponents after pocketing six doubles in seven campaigns. With strikers of the calibre of Matthew Tipton, Peter Thompson, Mark McAllister, Michael Carvill and Gary Browne hunting for goals, sides are going to pull the shutters down.
And there’s no point in Linfield complaining about those negatives tactics — they simply have to be smart and work out ways to smash down those defensive walls.
“Teams are being more defensive against us and they are working hard to close us down and stop us scoring,” said Mulgrew.
“That makes it tough for us but we simply have to rethink the way we are playing and come up with tactics that are going to counteract that.
“If teams are going to shut up shop then there’s not a lot we can do about that but we can change our game and be patient as we try and open up their defence.
“While we haven’t started the season the way we hoped to, we always believed in our ability.
“We never lost belief in ourselves. I felt we didn’t get the results we deserved in some matches but it just makes you more determined to put things right.”
Linfield will need to keep their foot on the accelerator at Windsor Park today as Cliftonville — who caused them a few headaches last season — are the visitors.
Although Jeffrey’s men did conquer the Reds twice at Windsor and once at Solitude they did suffer two nightmare outings in north Belfast, losing 6-2 in the County Antrim Shield and 4-2 in the league.
In those two clashes, Rory Donnelly helped himself to five goals but the Linfield defence won’t encounter him this time after his heroics booked him a ticket to Premier League side Swansea City.
“It was a great move for Rory and it is always great to see young Irish League players get a move like that,” added Mulgrew.
“But with or without him, Cliftonville are a very strong side and they pose a big threat to us. There are no easy games for us in this league, it’s as competitive as I can remember.”