Windsor win shows Glenavon mean business in title chase, warns Mitchell
Linfield 2 Glenavon 3
Striker Andrew Mitchell believes the only way is up for high-flying Glenavon.
The Lurgan Blues maintained their push at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table by claiming three points against ailing Linfield at Windsor Park.
Although they trail leaders Crusaders by 12 points, Gary Hamilton's boys have played two games less, so they could still have a big say in the race for the Gibson Cup.
Their victory, however, drilled another nail into any lingering hopes of Linfield making a successful title defence. The reality is, the score line really did flatter David Healy's off-colour team.
Glenavon were certainly a little wasteful in front of goal, while Roy Carroll prevented total embarrassment by producing a couple of wonderful saves - even though he was at fault for the visitors' opener.
After Kurtis Byrne blasted home an early strike, Glenavon went to war. Goals from Simon Kelly, Mitchell and Marc Griffin guaranteed the three points which keeps them on the tails of the top two.
Although Andy Waterworth nicked a consolation with practically the last kick, the Blues, lacking confidence and totally out of sorts, were a well beaten side at the finish.
"I had never won at Windsor Park before, so is was nice to break that duck," beamed Mitchell. "More importantly, it was great to pick up three points which our performance certainly merited.
"It puts six points between ourselves and Linfield. We don't worry about what's behind us, we are looking to catch teams.
"I think we made a big statement with this performance. Teams tend to crumble when they concede an early goal at this venue, but we showed the character we have in this team by levelling a couple of minutes later.
"It demonstrates we mean business in this campaign. We know we have the team to take this club forward."
It was Mitchell's 13th goal of the season and an early birthday present as he turns 24 on Thursday. He reckons there are more to come.
"I haven't scored as many goals as I would have liked so far," he added. "My performances have maybe dipped a little bit. But I never doubt myself. I know I have the ability to score goals.
"Gary (Hamilton) said to me at half time, 'Mitch, you are going to score today'. It's great that he has that faith in me. I scored 26 goals last season. I know there are a lot more in me.
"I hope this is the springboard to get me going again. Hopefully, I can now score another 10 or 15 between now and the end of the season. I'm living the dream playing for Glenavon - a club I supported as a boy. To score at the national stadium for them is fantastic. It's something I'll never forget. We had a big support with us at Windsor.
"That's another one ticked off the list. I don't honestly remember the build up . . . I just saw the ball dropping for me and I hooked it over the line. I don't care how they go in as long as they count."
Mitchell also heaped praise on his new strike partner, Stephen Murray, who was recently snapped up from Warrenpoint Town.
He added: "Stephen has been great from the day and hour he has come in. He was a real handful. He's strong and runs the channels well. It's a partnership I'm relishing.
"Stephen ran Linfield ragged. He may be 29, but he's got lightning pace. He's an important signing - and he also knows where the net is. He'll be a big asset for us."
Linfield boss David Healy pulled no punches following his team's latest horror show
"Titles are won and lost by the fewest goals you conceded - we conceded the fewest of all the teams last season," moaned Healy.
"We'll certainly not win it this year, the way we are conceding goals. Glenavon were better than us and they were sharper than us. There are a lot of questions to be asked of our performances.
"There were very few positives we could take from the match, we were just not good enough. When we lose a game it's always a crisis.
"The players earn an honest living at this club . . . they get well paid, they get well looked after. I go out of my way to make them better, so we need a bit back off them. We need to be better.
"And, I mean from the top right down. I'm the manager, so it's starts with me."
LINFIELD: Carroll, Robinson, Haughey, Lowry, Millar, Byrne (Stewart, 69 mins), Clarke, Garrett (Fallon, 69 mins), Campion, Strain (Waterworth, 54 mins). Unused subs: Mitchell, Quinn.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Burns (McGrory, 89 mins), Kelly, Marshall, Mitchell (Griffin, 78 mins), Sykes, Marron, Clingan, Murray (Cooper, 86 mins), Singleton. Unused subs: Foley, Lindsay.
Man of the match: Stephen Murray
Match rating: 7/10
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)