Joshua Robinson targets more goals as Linfield soar clear at the top
Linfield 1-0 Ballymena United
Josh Robinson has vowed to improve his goal ratio at Linfield.
The 26-year-old pocketed only his third of the season against Ballymena United at Windsor Park on Saturday, but it was a strike that nudged David Healy's boys a little closer to the Danske Bank Premiership title.
Rampant Linfield are now a whopping nine points clear of the chasing pack and the Gibson Cup will be residing at the international arena sooner rather than later.
Following a first half littered with ugly tackles, misplaced passes and a distinct lack of quality, Healy's half-time team talk certainly worked a treat.
Within eight minutes of the restart, Robinson whacked a piledriver against the crossbar from 30 yards, before he surged forward to meet a Kyle McClean corner kick and this time his header ballooned the net.
Although United huffed and puffed in a bid to repair the damage, Linfield, with Robinson, Jimmy Callacher and Ryan McGivern totally majestic at the back. They never flinched.
The game's controversial moment arrived seconds before the final whistle when United striker Adam Lecky's volley was charged down by the impressive Callacher. Although there were strong appeals for a penalty, referee Tim Marshall wasn't interested.
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"It was a massive three points," said Robinson. "We knew if we lost, they would have cut the gap to three points, but to go nine points clear is fantastic.
"We are not going to shout from the rooftops about it. We know we have another tough game against Newry City coming up on Tuesday night."
The former Crusaders and York City man believes he has more goals in the locker and was devastated when his 30-yard blockbuster cannoned back off the woodwork. He added: "I like getting forward. When players back off, it invites me on. So, when I went so far, I thought, why not? Thankfully, it didn't go 50 yards over the crossbar.
"That shot will probably be talked about more than the goal. But that gave me the boost I needed to get forward again and get the goal.
"It was a great delivery in from Kyle. We work hard on our set-pieces. It's usually Jimmy (Callacher) gets in there for those balls. I've been getting a bit of stick about my lack of goals. I know I need to be more of a threat in the opposition's box.
"Thankfully, I timed that one right and it went in.
Although the Blues are now surging towards the title, Robinson stresses no one will becoming carried away at Windsor Park.
He added: "I've been in a situation with Crusaders a few seasons back, we were nine points ahead with nine games to go. But we still managed to blow it.
"We don't want that to happen to us. Yes, there is pressure on when you are at the top, but we need to remained focussed."
United chief David Jeffrey insists his team were denied a 'stonewall' penalty kick right at the end. He believes that Lecky's shot came off the hand of Callacher.
"I have responsibility and accountability in terms of my players, who yet again performed to a very high standard and a very high level," he said. "I thought we were the better side.
"Unfortunately, there are some things in which I have no control - that's the performance of the referee. We were denied a stonewall penalty.
"I waited until well after the final whistle to confront the referee. I didn't do it in the tunnel, I didn't do it after the final whistle. I preferred to let things settle down.
"I spoke at length with Tim and he told me he'd have a look at the incident. My own players were very clear about it and, without naming names, two Linfield players said it was a clear penalty. How does that come about?
"The inconsistency level between referees is dreadful. Is it a case of it's only wee Ballymena, a provincial town - it doesn't really matter about them, give them a pat on the head and send them home? Those days have changed."
LINFIELD: Deane, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Kearns (O'Connor, 67 mins), McClean, Mulgrew, McGivern, Cervenka (Stewart, 67 mins), Quinn, Casement. Unused subs: Mitchell, Stafford, Millar, Forde, Clarke.
BALLYMENA UTD: Ross Glendinning, Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough (McGinty, 85 mins), McGrory (Faulker, 76 mins), Winchester (McMurray, 70 mins), Ervin, Lecky, Millar. Unused subs: Williamson, Quigley, Shevlin, Watson.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)
Man of the match: Josh Robinson
Match rating: 7/10