Missed chances were 'embarrassing' says Linfield boss despite Stewart hat-trick
Linfield 4 Ballinamallard United 0
Jordan Stewart admits he is playing with a smile on his face again.
The 22-year-old gobbled up a sensational hat-trick in Linfield's one-side win against Ballinamallard United at Windsor Park and reckons there are more to come.
David Healy's side's 27-game unbeaten run may have come to an end at Seaview in midweek, but they wasted no time in getting back in the groove.
Gavin Dykes' basement side felt the full force of the backlash, with Stewart the outstanding performer. He tormented and teased a ragged United defence all afternoon and, even though he left with the match ball, it could have been even more.
Stewart, Aaron Burns, Stephen Lowry and new boy Louis Rooney all missed a number of glorious opportunities - it really could have been double figures at the finish.
It was left to Mark Haughey to finish the job late on. His towering back post header arrowed past Richard Brush, who was the only Ballinamallard player to emerge with any degree of credit.
"I suffered a few bad injuries over the last few seasons in England, so I'm just happy to be playing again," said Stewart.
"I thought it was a great performance from the lads. We suffered defeat in midweek, so it was good to bounce back after that. I'm always happy to get on the score sheet, but to get a hat-trick is unbelievable.
"Burnsie (Aaron Burns) put me in for the first, I just focused on hitting the target. Chris Casement crossed for the second, again I took it first time.
"And it was Burnsie's flick that put me through for the third. That's four for the season, so hopefully there are more to come, although I don't really set targets.
"The only target I have is to enjoy myself this season. I was disappointed to be left out on Tuesday, but that's the way the gaffer is. If you are not producing, you get left out."
But in spite of his goal antics, Stewart admitted that his boss, David Healy, still wasn't happy at the finish.
He added: "He was delighted with the hat-trick, but after the game he was talking about the chances I missed rather than the ones I scored. He always demands more from everyone. If we had won 10-0, he would have wanted more."
Stewart was handed an out-and-out striking role and his performance suggested he could form a lethal partnership with Andy Waterworth when he returns from injury. "I don't mind where I play, but I really like playing through the middle," he added.
"Hopefully, I repaid the boss with three goals. I'm under no illusions. I haven't been performing to the best of my ability since coming to the club. It's going to take a bit of time to get where I want to be."
Healy demanded a response following the midweek setback and he got it, but he still hounded his boys for the amount of chances they failed to convert.
"If I'd been a striker out there, I would have been hugely disappointed that I didn't get my name on the score sheet... and that's not taking anything away Ballinamallard or showing a lack or respect," he said. "I had a pop at the players at the finish which I though was warranted.
"I felt with the amount of chances we had, some of our forward players should have done better. We dominated from minute one to 90. The score doesn't flatter us.
"We really should have had the game over by half time. It was embarrassing the amount of chances we squandered."
United still have yet to win a game this season and, on the evidence of this performance, that run could go on for some time. However, manager Gavin Dykes is confident of leading his boys out of the relegation mire.
"We are not in Linfield's league in terms of class - we know that. So, this was a free one for us. Yes, we are at the bottom of the table, but we are only three or four points off the teams above us," he said.
"We've let in six against Glenavon; five against Crusaders and four here at Windsor Park. It has to hurt the players. If it doesn't they shouldn't be here.
"We have a good squad. I've plenty of confidence in them. At the moment, individual mistakes are killing us. We have got to be strong and keep at it."
Linfield: Carroll, Robinson, Haughey, Lowry, J Stewart (Millar, 71 mins), Burns (Strain, 75 mins), Casement, Rooney (Adams, 65 mins), Mulgrew, Garrett, Quinn.Unused subs: Stafford, Mitchell.
Ballinamallard: Brush, McConnell, McLaughlin, Clarke, Curran (Armstrong, 77 mins), Leddy, McIlwaine, Burns (Taheny, 71 mins), Brennan (McGinty, 74 mins), Smyth, Canning. Unused subs: McCann, Brownlee.
Ref: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).