David Jeffrey last night hailed the courage of his players as Linfield waved farewell to another Setanta Sports Cup assault.
he Blues, inaugural winners of the Setanta Cup in 2005, knew they had to bring their shooting boots with them to Oriel Park but Michael Gault’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time proved a consolation strike against Dundalk.
In the end the Windsor Park side will rue their shocking |first-leg performance, as the five goals conceded left them with a daunting task.
It was a spirited showing from the visitors but Aidan O’Kane’s poor backpass was ruthlessly |punished by the Lilywhites and it was Ross Gaynor who thrust the dagger through Linfield hearts.
Jeffrey, though, was a lot happier after the second leg as his players restored some pride after the St Valentine’s Day massacre.
“I’m a much happier man,” said Blues boss Jeffrey. “Our defending was absolutely shambolic in the first leg and we allowed ourselves to get picked off.
“The message to the players was to restore a bit of pride and I think we did that. Dundalk’s |goalkeeper (Peter Cherrie) was man of the match and that proves the point.
“We had some great chances in the first half but then our |customary Achilles heel arrived, giving a poor backpass and we were caught out.
“But the players showed great courage. We had a lot of possession in the second half but they got men behind the ball and made it hard for us to penetrate.
“I’m pleased with the performance of my own players but their goal was a nonsense.
“When you are a cub player they tell you to put it into row Z, as Jack Charlton used to say, you can’t score from there. It was a poor mistake but to Aidan’s credit he recovered well from that.”