Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Three reasons for Linfield hope as Blues finally bounce back

By Gareth Hanna

Linfield are back to winning ways - and today more than most, that's the bottom line for Blues supporters.

So what's the take-away from the 2-0 success over Ards - here's Gareth Hanna's brief assessment:

1. Functional rather than fantastic - but that will do (for now)

Linfield needed the three points today - that was it. Of course, plenty of flowing football would have done no harm but when you're coming off the back of three straight league defeats - unheard of at Windsor Park - a win's a win's a win.

Once they went two goals ahead, Linfield did try a few fancy tricks and flicks, which were nice to watch, but it was the grit and fight that earned the goals and the win. After the last three league results, this is a massive step in the right direction. Win at all costs, and take it from here. The fancy football towards the end was a reminder of how entertaining Linfield can be. Returning to winning with such style is a few steps away yet.

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Linfield’s Jordan Stewart celebrates the opening goal against Ards. Photo Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker Press

2. Two words: Roy Carroll

When you have an international goalkeeper playing in the Danske Bank Premiership, he's probably going to stand out. Such is the case with Roy at Linfield - not least on Saturday afternoon. He had to be, in truth, as he was stitched up by his back line. That came most obviously in just the second minute when a Joshua Robinson square ball played in Dee-Dee McAllister who could and maybe should have given Ards the lead, but for a crucial stop. Guillaume Keke was also foiled in a one-on-one situation soon after and at 2-0 ahead, the big man was out quickly for a third time, on this occasion making a stunning double-save to protect his clean sheet.

Nobody has really been in any doubt but, at 40, he proved it once more. Michael O'Neill, if anything happens to Michael McGovern, Roy's ready for a World Cup. Superb.

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Roy Carroll underlined his quality once more at Windsor Park. Photo: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

3. When Stewart shines, goals aren't far

Jordan Stewart put in a man of the match performance and was the spark that helped to ignite this victory. When the ball's at his feet, the crowd knew something could happen. He's the type of player fans pay to see. A silky ball player (and he has fight too), Jordan's magic. On form, he's up there with the very best this league has to offer. He deserved his goal - it's not the best he'll ever score - but should Linfield go on and win the league, that moment could be looked back on as a watershed. Three defeats in a row and could have been one behind before they scored. Jordan knocks that home and Linfield didn't look back.

Six goals for the season now for Stewart, let's look forward in excitement to seeing what else the 22 year-old can produce.

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Linfield’s Jordan Stewart scores during today's game at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photo Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker Press

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