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Jeffrey's Blues in need of a little more imagination

By Malcolm Brodie

Published 01/10/2007

Linfield manager David Jeffrey has told his players they must learn to break down solid defences likely to be encountered throughout the season.

After Saturday's 3-0 Irish Premier League victory over Limavady United at Windsor Park, Jeffrey called for greater imagination in approach as he realises that as champions, week in and week out, they will come up against systems where up to eight players get behind the ball.

Jeffrey operated a 4-3-3 system in the first-half, but switched to the familiar 4-2-4 - or 4-4-2 if you prefer - in the second, which worked more efficiently.

Yet, this was a match they should have had wrapped up by half-time with three strikers on parade. They missed many chances and that would be folly against top drawer, more potent opposition than struggling Limavady provided.

Since the start of the season, Jeffrey has wrung the changes thanks to possessing a large core of players with superb versatility - the envy of other managers.

And come December, he will find himself with an embarrassment of riches in midfield, for long-term casualties Connor Downey and Oran Kearney, both recovering from cruciate ligament surgery, should be available - Downey in mid or late December and Kearney in January.

Damien Curran, since his transfer from Newry City, has added a little bit of spice to the midfield area, while Jamie Mulgrew has also made a major contribution. He hobbled off on Saturday with a leg injury, but it is expected he should be fit for next weeks home clash with Portadown.

Ex-Northern Ireland striker Glenn Ferguson headed two goals - the first in the 12th minute from Curran's corner and the second in the 63rd, which also originated from a set piece - this time substitute Aidan O'Kane's free kick.

And O'Kane got the third in the 69th minute, a classic goal from just inside the box which could possibly win one of the awards this season.

Linfield finished the last 15 minutes with 10 men, Mulgrew collecting his injury after all the substitutes had been used.

Ferguson's two goals brought his total to 490 in competitive football and if he continues in such prolific form, he could hit the 500 mark before Christmas, surpassed only by Jimmy Jones (Belfast Celtic and Glenavon) 646 and Joe Bambrick (Linfield) 561.

Ferguson's contract expires at the end of the season, but he hopes to negotiate another which will give him more than ten years service and possibly a testimonial. He joined the Blues in 1998 for £55,000 from Glenavon - a huge amount for an Irish League club in those days, but what a bargain it has proved.

Linfield have made a satisfactory start to the defence of their third consecutive title, but the challenge will be fierce, especially from arch-rivals Glentoran - undefeated so far - and Cliftonville, whose performances have been most impressive - a totally rejuvenated, well organised and disciplined club.

Belfast Telegraph

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