Carrick Rangers 0-2 Linfield: Blues are playing catch-up but Ross Gaynor still eyeing title prize
After helping fire Linfield up to second spot in the Danske Bank Premiership, Ross Gaynor admitted he can see a title-winning jigsaw taking shape at the Blues.
Champions Crusaders may be five points clear at the summit but David Healy's side have played a game less and County Louth man Gaynor says the Linfield squad is packed with quality, hunger and desire.
Despite not winning the championship since 2012, no one at Windsor Park will settle for second best and after seeing off Carrick Rangers 2-0, winger Gaynor says his side are only beginning to flex their muscles.
"We aren't firing on all cylinders yet but that's just around the corner," said the former Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Cork City ace.
"You don't come to Linfield unless you want to win the title. It's the biggest club in the country and we have to win trophies. We were very unlucky not to win something last season but we have a great squad at the moment with lads playing for the Swifts who would start in other first teams. It shows the strength in depth we have here.
"I was dropped a few times and you are always looking over your shoulder which is the best way to be. No one can rest on their laurels and the club have to kick on and taste success."
Linfield should have won by a more handsome margin on Saturday but Gaynor's first-half spot-kick was saved by keeper Brian Neeson and several chances were squandered.
Gaynor made amends by netting the opener when a cross produced a welcome outcome in the 64th minute and substitute Aaron Burns made sure of the win with a 74th-minute header.
The hosts were in damage limitation mode when Stephen McCullough was dismissed on 52 minutes after picking up two quick-fire bookings.
Gaynor was relieved to banish the ghost of his penalty miss, saying: "I hit it in the corner and he guessed right, it was a good save and perhaps a good height for him. I normally have a little stutter in the run up but I don't think I'm allowed to this season with the new rules. I changed my technique a little bit and it took me 10 minutes to recover from the miss.
"I was delighted to get the first goal even if it was a cross aimed towards the back post. You are aiming for the goal so I'll claim it as a great finish. The sending off put the nail in the coffin for them and we could have had eight or nine goals by the end. Some team is going to get a hiding as we are playing some very good football."
Carrick: Neeson, McKeown, McCullough, Surgenor, Wilson, Morrow, Taggart, Rice (McNicholl, 23 mins (English, 79 mins)), Hanley, Chines (McCaul, 49 mins), McFall. Unused subs: Lavery, Knox.
Linfield: Carroll, Casement, Stafford, Clarke, Callacher, Millar, Mulgrew, Clingan, Gaynor, Waterworth (Burns, 61 mins), Smyth (Bright, 78 mins). Unused subs: Ward, Fallon, Quinn.
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)
Man of the match: Matthew Clarke
Match rating: 6/10.