Belfast Telegraph

Goal hero Aaron Burns sure Linfield will be hot stuff in title race

By Graham Luney

Aaron Burns says Linfield believe their title challenge is only just kicking off and he admits they must keep the momentum going after the stunning 2-1 victory at Seaview on Saturday.

David Healy's side knew they would have been virtually out of the title race had they lost as a 10 points gap would have left them needing a minor miracle.

But they produced a defensive and attacking masterclass to end Crusaders' long unbeaten league run in north Belfast which stretched back to the opening day of last season.

With the gap at the top now only four points, Linfield go into tonight's home clash against Coleraine with renewed belief and confidence.

Morale is high in the camp and even without the suspended Jamie Mulgrew - who was sent off after the ugly melee on Saturday ­- the Blues should have too much firepower for the Bannsiders.

"We have to back it up," admitted Burns.

"That's exactly what we spoke about after Saturday's game.

"There's no point taking three points at Seaview and dropping points on Tuesday night.

"When you play for Linfield, it doesn't matter who you're playing, when you step onto the pitch, you have to give 100 per cent.

"Whatever team the gaffer puts out against Coleraine, the boys will be ready and we'll be targeting another win.

"It was a super win against Crusaders and I think we deserved it overall. Maybe the last 20 minutes when we were down to 10 men, we were under the cosh a bit, but we expected that.

"The long balls continued as they had in the first half and the boys were excellent at the back and we held out."

Burns, who opened the scoring at Seaview with a sensational solo effort, believes the win on the Shore Road sends out a powerful statement. "Their home record has been very good," he added. "Everyone knows how good they are and they don't concede too many goals at home, so to score twice and hold out for a 2-1 win is a big achievement.

"We feel our title challenge is under way now, but we also know it's just a start.

"Coleraine are a good side. It's going to be a tough game, but we'll look at how we set up and prepare. David (Healy) will select a team and we'll go from there."

The 24-year-old, who linked up effectively with Andy Waterworth, will always look back fondly at his strike which helped blow the title race wide open again.

"I don't think I've scored a better goal ever," he said. "Mine are usually tap-ins at the back post. It was a nice goal to score given the whole meaning of it.

"To put us ahead against Crusaders in a game like that means it will live long in the memory.

"I managed to get it over the defender's head and it fell nicely for me.

"I was just happy to see it end up in the back of the net.

"It's all to play for now. A one game turnaround and the gap could be one point.

"We know how close it will be, but we're ready for a title fight.

"There's a long way to go, but we want to do everything to try and get the cup back."

Coleraine, who returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at home to Carrick Rangers on Saturday, go to Windsor Park lifted by the news that striker Eoin Bradley has returned to the club from Glenavon.

Tonight's fixtures (7.45pm): Ards v Crusaders, Ballymena United v Glenavon, Cliftonville v Carrick Rangers, Dungannon Swifts v Ballinamallard United, Linfield v Coleraine, Portadown v Glentoran

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