Linfield are back in title groove
Matthew Tipton’s season starts now and he’s got trophies in his sights.
It’s been an almighty frustrating campaign for Tipton and Linfield but there is finally a chink of light on the horizon after a comeback Boxing Day victory over the old enemy, Glentoran.
The Blues were trailing 1-0 against a ten-man Glentoran going into the final 15 minutes at Windsor Park but their powers of recovery is what you would expect from a group of players unwilling to let go of the prize they currently own.
At the minute Linfield sometimes resemble a boxer that is just about to counted out by the referee but they keep springing off the ropes, determined to stay in the fight.
One man who has a fresh determination to impress in 2013 is Tipton.
A season which has been blighted by injuries — making a mockery of the pre-season claims Linfield would stroll to the league title after his signing from Portadown — could be finally up and running.
Blues fans haven’t seen the best of Tipton yet — but they also haven’t seen the best of Linfield this season.
A campaign which promised so much has delivered nothing yet but there is still the league title, Irish Cup and Setanta Sports Cup up for grabs.
The home clash with leaders Cliftonville on New Year’s Day is lurking large on the horizon but after sustaining ankle, knee and hip injuries, former Macclesfield player Tipton is taking it one game at a time.
After featuring against Glentoran, the 32-year-old has goals and games on his mind — the next challenge being Glenavon at Mourneview Park today.
“There’s no two ways about it, if you haven’t been playing regularly for six months it’s going to be very frustrating,” said the Welshman.
“I’m disappointed and the manager is disappointed but hopefully my injury problems are behind me and I can make a difference.
“It’s going to be a big second half of the season for me. I never really had a chance to get any momentum going in the first half but hopefully new year, new start.
“I’m feeling a lot more confident and stronger and hopefully that will come through in my performances.”
There’s always been a winning mentality at Windsor Park but now that Cliftonville are 13 points ahead of the Blues — with a game in hand — there needs to be a ‘win every game’ culture at the international venue.
“We have to do our own jobs,” added Tipton.
“We can’t worry about what other teams are doing, we have to stay focused on ourselves and make sure we are winning matches.
“What you notice in a dressing room like Linfield’s is that winning is a habit and I think the boys have got their belief back.
“I thought there was a relentless nature to our play against Glentoran.
“Someone told me it was 31 attempts on goal and 21 on target, so that’s an indication of how much we were in control of the game.”
After revelling in the experience and atmosphere of his first Big Two Boxing Day derby, Tipton is now keen to get his hands on silverware.
“While the first half of the season was a nightmare for me, there is plenty to play for now,” he added.
“I came to Linfield to play in the big matches and win trophies.
“There was a great atmosphere on Boxing Day and it was a great experience.
“No other game comes close to this one because of the supporters and the fact that they are the two biggest clubs in the country.
“The win was vital for us and now it’s all about finishing strongly.”
Blues boss Jeffrey was certainly happy to see Tipton back keeping defenders on their toes.
“I found the performance of Matthew Tipton to be very pleasing,” he told the club’s website.
“He has had a lot of encouragement and a lot of help but has endured a torrid time with injuries.
“When Peter's (Thompson) injury came upon us then it was basically the time for him to stand up and be counted.
“I thought it was a very good performance from him and I hope he can kick on from here.”