Linfield out to ease pain of defeat in Shield final
Peter Thompson has insisted there will be no County Antrim Shield hangover at Linfield.
The Blues return to action against Cliftonville at Solitude tonight (7.45pm) with the pain inflicted in the Shield decider by Glentoran still fresh in their minds.
While Northern Ireland is still shivering from the big freeze, there have been clear the air talks at Windsor Park where Blues players found their fierce opponents too hot to handle.
It’s one thing to lose a final, but when your greatest rivals dish out the punishment, the pain is considerably deeper.
But the beauty of football is that the game doesn’t usually allow you to dwell on setbacks for long and Linfield have to get down to business again.
Players have examined their own shortcomings and while it is always important to learn from mistakes that are made, it would be wrong to let nightmares haunt you for too long.
As Thompson admitted: “There’s no point crying over spilt milk”.
The damage has been done and now the repair job begins, starting with a tough assignment against Eddie Patterson’s side. “We let ourselves down in the Shield final,” said the Northern Ireland international.
“It was not a Linfield performance and individually and collectively we have looked at where it went wrong for us. The challenge is now to make sure that it doesn’t happen again and we have to look ahead to the league and Irish Cup campaigns.
“We want to win every trophy and it’s doubly disappointing when you get to a final and not perform but Glentoran had a gameplan which worked for them.
“However, we are in a decent position in the title race and we need to keep that lead intact and improve on it if we can.
“We’ve dusted ourselves down but if we dwell too long on the Shield setback we wouldn’t get going again.
“People talk about Linfield having a great squad and making us favourites to win the league, but that’s just talk and opinion.
“We have to prove we are the best and that we deserve to win the league.
“We are a tight unit and it’s important that we stick together and respond in the way the fans would expect us to.”
Blues boss David Jeffrey will not be the only disgruntled manager this evening as his counterpart, Eddie Patterson, was unhappy with his side’s Co-operative Insurance Cup exit last weekend, also to Glentoran. Patterson hinted at a January clear-out after his men underperformed in the 2-0 defeat
Thommo added: “What’s very important for us now is to return to winning ways.
“It’s a very tough game for us as Cliftonville are a great side but we want to go back on a winning run and the Christmas period is always a crucial time for clubs.
“You want to be going into the second half of the season in good form and not give your opponents any encouragement.
“The priority for us is to get back to playing the way we know we can. You cannot play fantastic football in every game but you always go out to perform as best you can.
“That Glentoran defeat will not shake our self-belief.”
In-form Robert Garrett and Michael Gault are available again
after suspension to bolster the Blues midfield. Both men were badly missed in the Shield showdown when the Glens were able to win the key battles. However, Cliftonville will have their own key midfield dynamo — George McMullan — available after serving a two-match ban.