Belfast Telegraph

Linfield must beware Jeffrey's wounded Ballymena: Mulgrew


By Steven Beacom

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew has warned his team-mates that they will face a wounded and dangerous tiger when David Jeffrey brings his Ballymena United side to Windsor Park today.

While David Healy's Blues have made the perfect start to the defence of their Irish League title with three victories out of three, Ballymena have been hammered 4-1 and 6-1 at home by Crusaders and Glenavon respectively, with a draw at Carrick Rangers sandwiched in between.

After winning the League Cup and qualifying for Europe last term, Jeffrey wisely tried to quell high expectations amongst his club's supporters before the current campaign kicked off but, even allowing for that, there is no doubt he will be disappointed with results so far.

Having enjoyed numerous trophy successes under him at Linfield, Mulgrew knows better than most that Jeffrey is a winner and fully expects Ballymena's run of poor form to end sooner rather than later.

"I would say Ballymena would be disappointed with their start to the season," said the former Northern Ireland international.

"The whole club would have been expecting to begin the season well and kick on from last season.

"They had an incredible season last time. That didn't surprise me because I knew the job David Jeffrey was capable of doing there. What has surprised me is their start this season and they will be determined to put that right.

"Saturday will be a big motivational factor for them to come to us as champions and take on a team who have had a decent start to the season. They'll think there is no better place to kick start their season than Windsor Park.

"I know David Jeffrey well and there will come a period for Ballymena when results will change and they will go on a run and their start to the season will be forgotten. It's up to us to make sure that it is not on Saturday. We have to deliver a strong performance."

While Ballymena have been struggling, Linfield - who this week added Northern Ireland under 21 striker Louis Rooney to their ranks - have appeared to be in cruise control, beating Carrick and Ards 2-0 before thumping Dungannon Swifts 4-0 at Stangmore Park last Saturday.

Lesser sides may have been distracted by the constant speculation linking the influential Paul Smyth with a move to QPR, but Healy's men have netted eight times with no goals conceded.

Intriguingly though, giving an insight into the standards expected at Windsor, Mulgrew revealed that the big victory in Tyrone versus Dungannon was not greeted with universal approval in the Linfield dressing room.

Mulgrew explained: "In the first half against both Carrick and Ards I thought we played well. I was very pleased with our form in those periods. In the second half of both matches we probably didn't reach the heights and came away with 2-0 wins. We had enough chances to win those matches more than we did.

"Then we went to Dungannon Swifts and didn't play as well as we have done and won 4-0. I would say quite a few of us were disappointed. I was disappointed with my own performance to a certain degree and also that we didn't play as well as we had in our opening two games.

"But then as a team how can you be disappointed when you win 4-0? That's the standards we set at Linfield. It's up to us to continue to maintain and improve on them. If we continue to do that we will have a good chance of retaining the title," he added.

LINFIELD Ladies suffered a 4-1 defeat to Medyk Konin of Poland in their Women's Champions League Group 4 encounter at Seaview yesterday.

  • Linfield v Ballymena Utd, Danske Bank Premiership: Windsor Park, Today, 3.00 pm

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