Belfast Telegraph

Linfield just can't afford to show any mercy, says Waterworth

By Alex Mills

Andy Waterworth believes complacency will not be an issue when Linfield entertain Portadown at Windsor Park tonight.

A whopping 56 points separates the teams in the Danske Bank Premiership table - which means the Blues will be red-hot favourites to keep the pressure on leaders Crusaders.

Following the humiliating defeat to Ards last week, Niall Currie's Ports are now sitting on the relegation trap door - it's going to take a miracle to stop it from opening.

Waterworth insists the Blues must be ruthless enough to pile on the agony.

"On paper it looks like a mis-match, but everyone knows that football doesn't work like that," said the striker. "Anything you get in this game, you have to work for.

"In many ways, Portadown will be coming to Windsor with no pressure. They are not expected to win, but they'll walk out determined to cause an upset. They may be at the bottom of the league, but the players will be hurting and they'll see it as an ideal opportunity to cause a shock."

Waterworth, however, insists the Blues must focus on their game, regardless of the opposition.

"The boss (David Healy) will have us well prepared," he said. "People may say it's a banana skin fixture for us, but you could say that about every game.

"We've managed to stay on the tail of Crusaders. The ball is still very much in their court in terms of the title race. We are still seven points behind and, with games rapidly running out, it's now a big ask at this stage of the season.

"We missed a big chance of pulling it back to four points at the beginning of this year when we lost at home to Coleraine - that was a sickening setback. In fact, I'm still haunted by that result.

"Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong that night. We had to play for over an hour with only 10 men after Jimmy Callacher was sent off. It's out of our control at the minute. We just have to keep on winning our games, look after our own affairs to see how things develop."

The Blues approach the game in the best possible shape, having enjoyed a routine win over Carrick Rangers last weekend just days after their County Antrim Shield success against Crusaders.

"It was great for the manager, backroom staff and supporters to put a bit of silverware on the table," added Waterworth. "We enjoyed the win, but it's now gone, we must move on.

"Our immediate priority is three points from the Portadown game. They have brought in a lot of new players of late, but we'll adopt a professional approach, just as we do for every game.

"Although we got the points at Carrick last week, we were far from impressive. It was a weird sort of game - terrible for the fans to watch. But we were professional and got the job done."

Waterworth has saluted the emergence of striker Cameron Stewart, who has bagged three goals in his last four matches - including a crucial opener in the Shield final against the Crues.

"He has been brilliant," said Waterworth. "Cameron is learning all the time and he's such a nice lad. He's got the lot - height, an injection of pace and he knows where the net is. Fair play to the boss for giving him a chance.

"He's also a big lad, so he takes the pressure off me.

"All of a sudden the competition for places up front is unbelievable. Wee Paul Smyth has just returned from a two-month injury lay-off and he was on target against Carrick last week.

"We also have Kevin Amuneke waiting on his chance.

"It means that if you are not producing the goods, there is someone ready to take your place which can only be good for the team."

Belfast Telegraph


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