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Linfield up for fight to keep their cup

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey is looking forward to seeing his old pal Ronnie McFall tonight, but the pleasantries won’t last long.

Ahead of his side’s arrival at Shamrock Park for the first leg of their Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final tie, the Linfield boss has a simple message for anyone prepared to listen: “This is our trophy and we will not give it up lightly.”

And you don’t have to cast your mind back too far to see evidence of that commitment.

The Blues were supposedly dead and buried when they went to Stangmore Park after trailing Dungannon Swifts 3-0 in the first leg of their third round tussle.

But you write off Linfield at your peril and a 4-1 victory in Tyrone underlined the hunger and desire which still flows through the club’s ranks.

Linfield have had a Jekyll and Hyde season to date so it’s difficult to predict what Blues team will turn up in mid-Ulster this evening, but Jeffrey is not a man who tolerates complacency.

“I’m looking forward to seeing big Ronnie again,” said Jeffrey.

“They seemed to have got used to the league they are in , they did tremendously well against Cliftonville in the last round and they won’t be lacking motivation.

“The only thing that is concerning me now is the injury situation as Noel Bailie came off with a calf injury against Crusaders and we still have six other lads out.

“It’ll be a tough game, but the players are looking forward to it.

“This is the type of game Portadown are used to playing in and their players are used to playing in.

“With respect to the other teams in the Championship, they will raise their game against us, but we will not give our trophy up lightly and we proved that down at Dungannon.

“We showed great battling qualities and fighting spirit when we had to. That shows what this trophy means to everyone at the club.”

Linfield go into the game with renewed confidence after the vital 3-2 win at Crusaders in the Premiership on Saturday.

The three points sees them sit five points behind Glentoran at the top of the table, with a game in hand.

“We are delighted with the big win at Crusaders but the fact remains that we have conceded too many goals and we are having to work too hard to win games,” said Jeffrey.

“We are having to work harder than we ever have done before but that’s credit to other teams.”

The Windsor Park men missed the driving runs from the middle of Jamie Mulgrew while he was out injured, but the 22-year-old was up to his sublime tricks yet again at Seaview on Saturday.

He rarely wastes possession and Linfield look so much more dangerous in attack when he is sprinting forward and spraying passes out wide like the one which enabled Glenn Ferguson to hit his stunner against Crusaders — Linfield’s 50th goal of the season.

“When you analyse the first goal at Seaview you will see Jamie’s driving run from the centre of the park and that’s what he brings to the team, superb energy and invention,” added Jeffrey.

“For the second goal Jamie was involved as well with a great run down the right and ball into the box for Michael Carvill to produce a superb, controlled finish.

“At no stage did we feel comfortable or able to relax against the Crues and that is the way it will be for all the teams in this league. You have to earn all the points that come your way.”

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