Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Linfield youngster Aaron Burns marks milestone with goal at Ballymena United

Up and at them: Linfield's Aaron Burns challenges Ballymena United defender Tony Kane in the air

Ballymena United 1 Linfield 4: It would have been easy to miss Aaron Burns as he walked quietly out of the away dressing room on Saturday tea-time, buried deep inside his hooded top and chomping contentedly on a sandwich.

It belies the impression of many that young footballers these days are full of their own self-importance, cocky, wrapped up in themselves and not giving a jot for the team just as long as they're in it.

They seem to breed them differently at Linfield.

Burns was more than happy to lay down his holdall, delay his sandwich munching and reflect on a superb display to mark his 100th appearance for the club – not bad for a 21-year-old.

On this display, there's no saying how many appearances he could chalk up for a club he first joined as a 10-year-old and returned to this summer following a brief spell with twin brother Andrew at Portadown.

He helped himself to a goal to add icing to the cake, albeit with a huge deflection off a defender, as David Jeffrey's men maintained their lead at the top of the table.

His strike was the last of a rip-roaring encounter against Ballymena United, who could at least boast the goal of the day in David Cushley's stunning volley.

That halved the lead given to the visitors by Matthew Tipton and Andrew Waterworth's first-half goals and, once they had repelled the Sky Blues spirited fight-back, a close range Billy Joe Burns header, following namesake Aaron's aided effort, settled matters.

"I'll be claming it anyway. It took a deflection but I'll be claiming it as my goal," said an elated Aaron Burns.

"It's always good to score, especially on my 100th appearance, so it was a nice wee bonus. There are guys in the changing room who have played 200, 300, even 500, so I've still a long way to go.

"I never really thought about making 100 appearances. When you come in you take it one game at a time, but thankfully the boss had the confidence to put me in and thankfully I've done well.

"I definitely should have scored more than one, I could have had a hat-trick, but it wasn't to be but we'll take a 4-1 win."

Burns is back after an understandable dip in form, such is the roller coaster highs and lows of the young player but, like Linfield, he is now on an upward turn.

"Davy has had us in working on things and we're now a hard team to beat," he added.

"You can sense it in training. It's high tempo, there's 20 or 24 boys out there wanting a place in the starting XI and that's pushing everyone else on. Competition breeds success so hopefully we can push on and get some trophies before the end of the season.

"It's nice to get to 100 but hopefully I can push on and get a few more. I've won three Irish Leagues and an Irish Cup but I'm very blessed and have never taken it for granted.

"There are boys who've gone through their entire career without winning the league and I've won three at 21, but Davy keeps us all very humble so hopefully we can push on and win another one this season."

As for United, it was a day of woes, a suspected broken jaw for Dwayne Nelson and head injuries for Johnny Taylor and Mark McCullagh, not what the doctor ordered ahead of Wednesday's Co Antrim Shield semi-final against Crusaders.

It was also typical of Glenn Ferguson's current luck that Tipton, a man he had thought was on his way to the Showgrounds, increased the pain with the opening goal.

"He made his call and he wanted to stay there and win things and that may well come to fruition for him," Ferguson said. "He would have been decent for us, he's experienced, leads the line well and can hold up the play which is exactly what we need. But we'll have to make do with what we've got at the minute and see if anything else comes up, but that means getting players that other clubs don't want.

"I was there long enough to know Linfield are Linfield. A crisis at Linfield is not winning games, a crisis at every club is when you start to lose, so after the first four games, they've two points and are sitting bottom of the league, if you're a realist you know they're not going to stay there.

"But the quality they have there ... Jim Ervin on the bench, James Knowles, Mark McAllister. Clubs are crying out for strikers and they've McAllister on the bench and Peter Thompson is injured. They've McMenamin on the bench, Philip Lowry, Rodney Browne didn't even make the squad. My whole budget would have been taken up by that bench today!

"That's Linfield. Linfield pay the bigger wages and players want to play there because they know they're going to win trophies at some stage."

BALLYMENA UTD: Nelson, Kane, McCullagh, Taylor, McBride (Stewart, 75 mins), Cushley, Thompson, Jenkins, Teggart (Robinson, 68 mins), Liggett (Dolan, 68 mins), McClellan. Unused subs: Surgenor, Munster.

Linfield: Tuffey, Reece Glendenning, Quinn, Gault, Ward, BJ Burns, A Burns, Mulgrew, Waterworth (McAllister, 86 mins), Tipton (McMenamin, 87 mins), Carvill. Unused subs: Ervin, Knowles, Lowry.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

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