Andy Waterworth: I thrive under pressure of competition at Linfield
Linfield 2 Carrick R'gers 0
Frustrated Andy Waterworth sent out a timely reminder to Linfield manager David Healy that he still is one of the most prolific strikers in the Danske Bank Premiership after bagging his ninth goal of the season against Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Due to the electric form of Shayne Lavery, the 33-year-old has been left kicking his heels on the substitutes' bench for much of the campaign.
With the Northern Ireland international out with a slight hamstring problem, Waterworth was given the nod and, once again, the fans' favourite didn't disappoint.
In a game that never rose above mediocrity, he shot the Blues ahead two minutes before the break following a sublime move involving Kirk Millar, Joel Cooper and Niall Quinn.
Defender Mark Stafford headed the second after the interval with Millar cleverly whipping in a great cross with the outside of his boot, leaving the big man to finish at the back post.
"It's been a stop-start season for me," admitted Waterworth.
"It started so well when I broke the club's European scoring record, but I've found myself out of the team, probably through Shayne Lavery's excellent performances, rather than me playing poorly.
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"It's part and parcel of the game. I'm certainly not happy when I'm not playing, but I have to take it on the chin. That's why it's important I take the chance when it arrives.
"I did it when Shayne was away on international duty. I scored two goals in the back-to-back wins at Dungannon, I was then disappointed to be left out after that."
Waterworth has been Linfield's talisman scorer for a number of seasons, but Lavery appears to have taken over the mantle since his arrival in the summer.
"Number nine is a hard position to play because there is always a pressure to score goals," he added.
"It's especially difficult at Linfield. Shayne has been tremendous since he arrived in the summer.
"Once you step on to the pitch, you have to perform and, as a striker, you must score goals.
"There is always pressure and there always will be. I enjoy it. Ask any number nine - they relish that pressure, otherwise they wouldn't be playing in that position.
"Everyone knows when players are not playing, they are not happy. I'm no different. I've been fortunate because over the past seven years or so, I've been playing 30 or 40 games a season. But I've always known that at this club, there will be someone ready to take my shirt."
Carrick manager Niall Currie admitted he was thrilled with his team's performance - one that limited the Blues to few genuine scoring chances.
He said: "Linfield are a top team and our boys were out on their feet at the end, which is understandable. I couldn't have asked for any more from them.
"My only disappointment was we needed to take little bit more care on the ball, we moved the ball far too quickly at times for my liking.
"It can be a difficult afternoon for a lot of teams coming to Windsor Park, especially when you are one of the bottom two or three clubs."
LINFIELD: Ferguson, Stafford, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Millar, Clarke, Fallon, Hery, Mulgrew, Quinn. Unused subs: Deane, Robinson, Shevlin, Mitchell, Reynolds, Hume, Allen.
CARRICK: Hogg, Surgenor, Rodgers, Chapman, Faulkner (Hassin, 59 mins), Kelly, Nixon, Ferrin, Cherry (Anderson, 59 mins), Thompson, Keke (Smith, 70 mins). Unused subs: McAuley, Neale, Loughran, Smith, Wilson.
Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)
Man of the Match: Joel Cooper
Match Rating: 5/10