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Linfield must heed wake-up call or face another defeat to rivals Glentoran, warns captain Jamie Mulgrew


Jamie Mulgrew

Jamie Mulgrew

�INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

David Healy

David Healy


Jamie Mulgrew

Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew believes there will be no hiding place in tomorrow's Big Two showdown with Glentoran at The Oval.

David Healy's boys approach their final five games of an intriguing Danske Bank Premiership campaign with a seven-point lead over their cross-town rivals.

It could have been even better had the Blues not slipped up against Glenavon at Mourneview Park last weekend - a result that handed Glentoran and Coleraine a late lifeline in the title race.

Victory for Glentoran tomorrow would really throw a spanner into Linfield's charge at the top of the table, but Mulgrew insists last week's setback was probably the wake-up call his boys needed.

"It's a massive game for both clubs and it's what Glentoran fans have wanted for a long, long time - a team challenging for the league title," said the experienced 35-year-old midfielder.

"Their progress has been well documented over the last year and a half. They have spent a lot of money on players and have recruited well. They won the Irish Cup last season and they will want to build on that.

"I know there were questions asked of us after last week's showing at Mourneview Park but the title race is a marathon, not a sprint. At the start of the season, if we had been offered the chance to be seven points clear going into the split, we would have bitten off your arm.

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"We were disappointed with our showing against Glenavon. To be honest, it wasn't a Linfield performance. Too many of the guys had an off day.

"It's always the same at Linfield, one bad result and suddenly it's a crisis. But that's the standard the club has set over the years. Everyone knows they have a responsibility and have to deal with the expectation that comes with pulling on the shirt."

Mulgrew reckons the league in general is now as strong as he can remember after moving to the Blues in 2005.

"It's so competitive, and clubs must be congratulated because there are no easy games," added Mulgrew. "Every team is capable of beating the other.

"And I think every club has done a fantastic job to negotiate such a hectic schedule, playing two or three games a week over such a long period of time.

"Even with such a busy programme, the standards didn't drop. It makes our achievement of being seven points clear at this stage even more of an achievement. But we also know we must lift our game and our performance following last weekend's display - not only for this weekend, but for the remainder of the league campaign.

"We are determined to retain the title, but if we continue to produce what we did last Saturday, it will not cut it. It was perhaps the little wake-up call that we needed. We know we need to do better, we know we need to be right on the money."

Mulgrew featured in his first game in six weeks against Annagh United in the opening-round Irish Cup tie in midweek, and he's hoping he did enough to persuade Healy to include him at The Oval.

"It was good to get back to action, I didn't think I would be out for so long," he added. "I came through the game with no problems. Although our performance wasn't great, it was good to get through. We got the job done -we are in the next round."

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