Belfast Telegraph

We must turn up pressure after Glentoran win says Linfield's Niall Quinn

Glentoran 1 - Linfield 2

By David Mason

Niall Quinn believes Linfield are back on track after getting the better of derby foes Glentoran at The Oval on Boxing Day.

Goals from Quinn and 18-year-old sensation Paul Smyth presented Blues boss David Healy with a belated Christmas present in the shape of three Danske Bank Premiership points in his first Big Two confrontation.

Although Jonathan Smith pulled one back for Alan Kernaghan's side, it was the former Northern Ireland striker who was punching the air with delight at the finish in front of the sell-out visiting support.

Linfield are still a whopping nine points adrift of table topping Crusaders, but this display of passion, guts and commitment - with no shortage of skill - suggests there are better days ahead.

The result also sets up an intriguing New Year's Day showdown with Stephen Baxter's north Belfast outfit.

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"It was a fantastic win," beamed Quinn. "Boxing Day games are always special. There was a big crowd and a great atmosphere. To beat your biggest rivals is a great feeling.

"We played the occasion, Boxing Day games are always played at a high tempo. You are always going to have people in your face. We backed each other to the hilt. We played with a high degree of energy. I don't think anyone could say we didn't deserve the win."

Referee Arnold Hunter has to be commended for letting the game take place. He deliberated long and hard after heavy overnight rain left the pitch in a dreadful state.

A team of volunteers, including Glens chairman Stephen Henderson and many of his Board members, worked from early morning right through to 4pm - an hour after the scheduled kick-off time - to make sure the clash went ahead.

Quinn got the party started by shooting the Blues in front on 41 minutes - but the goal will give Glentoran goalkeeper Aaron Hogg a few sleepless nights.

The defender's audacious 35-yard free-kick somehow slipped from Hogg's grasp and over the line, much to the delight of the visiting fans.

Smyth doubled his team's advantage on 61 minutes. He jigged his way into the box and, when most people were expecting a cross, cleverly worked the ball on to his left boot before letting fly with a deflected effort.

Glentoran replied within 60 seconds. Curtis Allen's shot was pawed out by Ross Glendinning, but Smith was on hand at the back post to convert.

Quinn added: "I obviously fancied the free-kick. I got it on target, but it was unfortunate for big Hogg in goals. It came at the right time. We had enough chances to score four or five.

"Andy (Waterworth) had a few that he normally sticks away. It just didn't go for him. But getting the three points was most important. We must build on this result, we are five games unbeaten. It was the worst November I've ever experienced in terms of results.

"We were all very low after losing so many games. But we are now starting to string a few performances together. We've had some good results of late, so we have to use that to drive us on in the New Year.

"It's now a massive game on New Year's Day. We really need to cut the gap between ourselves and the Crues."

Quinn also saluted the contribution of new kid on the block Smyth, adding: "He has taken everything in his stride. He's young, he's fearless and he's formed a good partnership up front with Andy. He got his reward with our second goal.

"We were just disappointed to concede straight away, but we managed to see the game out."

Glentoran manager Kernaghan, who was also experiencing his first Big Two clash, insisted Hogg's howler was "unfortunate".

"Aaron is obviously upset at his part in Linfield's first goal, but in his defence he pulled off a number of great saves at important times," he said.

"These things happen. He now has to react in the right way and bounce back. It's now history, it's gone. We now have to look forward.

"I thought we started well and had the momentum.

"When we got into decent areas, we never threatened their goalkeeper enough, we were a bit shot shy.

"And when we did get into decent positions, we opted to pass rather than have a shot at goal. We'll learn from it."

GLENTORAN: Hogg, Kane, McCullough, Holland, Magee, Addis, Allen, Smith, McCaffrey, Gordon, Henderson (McMenamin, 76 mins). Unused subs: Morris, Caffolla, Caldwell, Hamill.

Linfield: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Millar, Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Quinn (Frazer, 90 mins), Smyth (Bates, 82 mins). Unused subs: Hegarty, Reece Glendinning, Deane.

Man of match: Paul Smyth

Match Rating: 8/10

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

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