Belfast Telegraph

Linfield 1 Coleraine 0

By Mark McIntosh

Unlikely goal-scoring hero Albert Watson has revealed how under-fire Linfield players have had the pressure lifted from their shoulders with critics ready to sharpen their knives.

Two hammerings by Cliftonville followed by a Big Two derby defeat at the hands of Glentoran had the natives restless and doubters questioning if the champions were losing their bottle.

While Saturday's last-gasp victory over Oran Kearney's well-oiled Coleraine machine won't last long in the memory for many supporters, for the Blues it was only about getting a result.

A summer signing from Ballymena United, Watson rose highest at the back post to open his account for his new club by heading Jamie Mulgrew's corner past Michael Doherty.

The relief was there for all to see — on the pitch, on the bench and in the stands.

Make no mistake about it; the eyes of the Carling Premiership were on Linfield but, as history has taught us over the past six years, when the chips are down, David Jeffrey's men pull a result out of the bag.

Watson is new to the pressure cooker that is Windsor Park but he insists the players weren't feeling the heat, despite their gap at the top of the table being cut to two points and being dumped out of two cup competitions in the past month.

“When you move to Linfield from another Irish League club the difference in unbelievable,” admitted Watson, or Buzz Lightyear as he has been nicknamed by his new team-mates.

“The big things for the players in the last few weeks, though, is that David Jeffrey has not let any pressure filter down to us. He has taken everything and made sure we focused on what was important and that is trying to win football matches.

“He has totally deflected it away from us and, even in the privacy of the dressing room, there are no flying tea cups.

“Instead, we have talked in a controlled and calculated way about how we are playing and why we have not been getting results.

“We conceded 10 in two games against Cliftonville and another two against Glentoran and, as a defender, I know that is simply not good enough. We've conceded 16 goals in the league this season and I still think that is too many.

“The important thing for us was that we have never lost sight of what we needed to do which makes this win so pleasing, even if we did leave it late.

“From a personal point of view, it was great playing alongside someone like Winkie Murphy because he has helped me loads since I came to the club and his experience of these situations has been vital.

“I was delighted to score, of course, but I think we are just more relieved to get a win because our bad run had been blown out of all proportion.”

Defeat was hard to swallow for the visitors, who never once tried to shut up shop and play for a draw — and, had Ryan McIlmoyle scored with a free header, they may have gone back to the North West with three points.

“It was a header from about the same area as the goal,” explained boss Oran Kearney.

“You just try to be accurate, keep it down but he scored a header against Lisburn Distillery so it’s disappointing from that point of view.”

He added: “It’s a hard one to take.

“I am not going to say we did do enough to win the game but I don’t think they did either and a draw would’ve been fair.”

Belfast Telegraph


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