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Europe would be just reward for us, says Kevin Braniff

Linfield 0-2 Glenavon

By Ian Callender

Kevin Braniff has said Glenavon deserve to finish third and play in Europe next season after they recorded a sixth successive win for the first time in the Danske Bank Premiership.

The Lurgan Blues striker is doing more than most to achieve that aim and Linfield had no answer to him at the Ballymena Showgrounds as the Blues' title challenge finally petered out with barely a whimper.

Two shots on target was the sum total of the 'home' team's effort - and that was two less than Braniff managed himself on Saturday as he masterminded another superb performance by the team who now have that coveted third place in their own hands.

"It's been a joy to be around this team and that's the way we have been playing for the last month or so," said the former Portadown skipper. "And it's a massive boost to get into that third spot. Now, we just want to stay there.

"Our aim was to get into the top six and once we did that we set another target and that was to get into that third spot and get into Europe.

"It will be a massive achievement for all the lads. To be fair, the way we've been playing we deserve it. We've beaten all the top teams apart from Portadown who we've got next week.

"We owe Portadown one and, for personal reasons, I want to get one over them and I'm already looking forward to next week and hopefully we can get the three points."

Braniff, superbly set up by Eoin Bradley, and Ciaran Martyn scored the goals, one in each half, which gave Glenavon their third win over the Blues this season - for the first time in 18 seasons - and they have now scored 12 times since James McGrath last conceded a goal, more than six hours ago.

The goalkeeper - the first Glenavon No 1 to keep four consecutive clean sheets for 14 years - had virtually nothing to do on Saturday against a Linfield side which produced a performance in stark contrast to everything that manager Warren Feeney epitomised as a player.

Thirty minutes after the end of the game he emerged from the dressing room to say: "I've just told them I don't want players who are going to shy away from things because I never did that myself and there were a lot who I was very disappointed with and I told them that I'll not be accepting it.

"It was nowhere near good enough for this club. We couldn't pass, couldn't close down and at times didn't look as if we knew what we were doing. It was very disappointing," added Feeney, who has seen a 10 point advantage over Glenavon at the split closed to just four.

Maybe Braniff should start dreaming of second place.

The way they have been playing - they have won more points than Crusaders in 2015 - it will be well deserved.

Linfield: Tuffey, Belezika, Haughey, Ward, M Clarke, Sproule, Mulgrew, Lowry, Burns, Thompson, Waterworth. Substitutions: R Clarke (Thompson, 52 mins), Millar (Sproule, 61 mins), Callacher (Lowry, 68 mins).

Glenavon: McGrath, Marshall, Kelly, Lindsay, Singleton, McGrory, Martyn, Kilmartin, Patton, Braniff, Bradley. Substitutions: Elebert (Lindsay, 46 mins), Neill (Patton, 75 mins), Hamilton (Bradley, 81 mins).

Man of the match: Kevin Braniff

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)

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