Belfast Telegraph

It's make or break time for Linfield

Series of tough upcoming games may well define Linfield's season

By Scott Young

Linfield's fixture schedule looks to be very testing - away to Coleraine and home to Glenavon in the league, Cliftonville away in the Irish Cup, then home to Glentoran and away to Cliftonville in the league!

That Irish Cup clash with the Reds at Solitude on March 5 appears to be do or die for the Blues' season.

You are tempted to say it's the last chance saloon for David Healy and his men in terms of winning silverware.

The decision for the penalty in the Ports game over the weekend - when Mark Stafford was deemed to have tripped Marcio Soares - was a shocking one and it changed the game.

If the Blues could have won at Portadown we would be looking at a different situation and more pressure would be on Crusaders.

Now if the Crues win their game in hand, they will be 10 points ahead of Linfield.

There is no doubt the loss at Portadown was a huge dent to Linfield's title aspirations. It just about knocks their title bid on the head but I still feel David deserves praise for the way he was got the Blues playing.

They are committed to the cause, scoring goals and giving 100 per cent. The fans can see the effort and work-rate but decisions went against them.

I have never been one to slam David as I always believed he should be given time to build his own team and since their horrendous run in November they enjoyed a purple patch.

They lost the County Antrim Shield final but getting there is no consolation.

David expressed his anger at the officials, calling for some accountability and he's right. The problem with the refs is there is no transparency and when an error is made you don't know how they are going to learn from it. We don't have enough officials and that's the heart of the issue.

But Linfield will regroup, lick their wounds and be up for the coming battles.

Cliftonville are a good side but the Blues should show no fear despite the importance of the Irish Cup game. The Reds are on a high after winning the League Cup for the fourth year in a row - that's an unbelievable achievement. The back-to-back title wins under Tommy Breslin were extraordinary but the League Cup is also a difficult trophy to win.

Gerard Lyttle and his players deserve all the praise coming their way after making history and it's a special moment for Gerard, who endured a sticky spell earlier in the season.

The Reds will not give up on their title assault and nothing surprises you in football but I've always believed Crusaders would win the league again and I've no reason to change my mind.

What impresses me with the Crues is that they have been able to dig out results despite not playing at their best. They have that experience and mental toughness which makes them difficult to beat and on their home ground they can be ruthless.

Stephen Baxter won't admit it but if they can beat Cliftonville on Saturday, they'll be on the home straight. It's a match that Cliftonville must win but three points for the Crues would give them even more confidence and momentum. Win and the fat lady could be reaching for the microphone!

Belfast Telegraph


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