Belfast Telegraph

Linfield won't give up title fight, says Mark Stafford

Linfield 2-0 Carrick Rangers

By David Mason

Linfield defender Mark Stafford insists his team are in the title chase for the long haul.

The Blues maintained their Danske Bank Premiership challenge with a routine win over relegation threatened Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Goals from Stafford and Andy Waterworth - who bagged his 23rd of the season - eased David Healy's boys over the finish line.

With Crusaders and Cliftonville both winning, nothing changed in terms of the top three but Linfield can reel in Stephen Baxter's title holders when they entertain Dungannon Swifts tomorrow night.

Stafford believes victory would be a big psychological boost.

"We have to keep focusing on our game and keep winning," said the former Ballinamallard man. "We need to be ready if the Crues and Cliftonville slip up.

"There is a long way to go... there are still a lot of points to play for. Our aim is to keep grinding out the points and try to keep pushing on and hope the sides above us slip up.

"We have now got a settled unit and there is a bit more steel to the side. We are not conceding as many goals. We've been doing the simple things right.

"We now have Dungannon on Tuesday night. Rodney McAree has got a good squad that are not afraid to fight. You never get anything too handy against them.

"We have to look at it as a chance to cut the gap. Victory would help us move into second."

Stafford got the Blues off to a flier against Carrick, finishing off a sublime cross from Kirk Millar after only five minutes.

Waterworth gobbled up the second just after the half-hour, ramming home a low cross from Ross Gaynor. But that was as good as it got. In fact, the rest of the game was a total bore.

Carrick boss Gary Haveron admitted his team were totally over-run in the first-half.

"I think Linfield took their foot off the pedal," he said. "They felt the game was done. We competed more in the second-half, which was a positive.

"I thought we were denied a stonewall penalty seconds after the break. The ball hit (Jimmy Callacher) on the arm.

"Although we were lucky not to be four or five down, it might have got us back into it."

LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning Stafford, Callacher, Waterworth, Millar, Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Reece Glendinning, Gaynor (Burns, 81 mins), Smyth (McLellan, 77 mins). Unused subs: Kee, Fallon.

Carrick: Neeson, Surgenor, Harmon, McNeill, Cherry (Kelly, 32 mins), Chines, Roy (Mackie, 69 mins), McCloskey, McKeown, Johnston (Kane, 82 mins), Taggart. Unused subs: McCaul, Wright.

Man of match: Jamie Mulgrew

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)

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