Linfield manager David Jeffrey refuses to give up title race
Linfield 1 Portadown 1: David Jeffrey admitted his Linfield players were "gutted" after dropping points against Portadown – but warned against writing his team out of the title race just yet.
Saturday's stalemate saw the Blues slip a further two points behind Cliftonville at the top of the table and, with just two fixtures remaining, the Reds' superior goal difference means there's virtually no further margin for error and Linfield must defeat both Glentoran and Glenavon this week if Jeffrey is to end his tenure as a champion.
Ahead through Michael Carvill's close-range finish early in the second-half, the Blues were pegged back by Darren Murray's header and, try as they might, they were unable to fashion the late winner they so desperately craved.
"We were gutted coming in afterwards," said Jeffrey.
"In the first 15 minutes, we could have been one or two goals ahead but unfortunately it didn't happen. Then a bit of edginess came into our game and, to be fair, Portadown were probably the better side for the rest of the first half.
"Having not got the early advantage, it was important that we started the second-half brightly and we did that. It was a great piece of work by Aaron Burns, and Michael Carvill finished tremendously well.
"We pressed for the second goal but Portadown have a lot to play for and didn't give up.
"They responded very well and got the goal through Darren Murray, who did very well to follow the ball up. We went for broke after that and had chances but we just couldn't take them.
"If I look at it objectively, then a draw was probably a fair result. Of course we are disappointed but this title race is far from over. Cliftonville are in the box seat and they have gone on a fabulous run. They have two tough away games to come and that will be a challenge for them.
"We have got to make sure that we take care of business against Glentoran and Glenavon."
Jeffrey will now be hoping the Ports can do his side a favour by getting the better of Cliftonville at Shamrock Park tomorrow – which is exactly what boss Ronnie McFall is intending.
"The players gave everything, they were outstanding and Linfield really struggled to handle Darren Murray (pictured)," he explained.
"We are still in contention for third position and a European place.
"We've got to try and pick up maximum points in our last two games and see where we end up.
"Cliftonville haven't beaten us this year and we need the three points on Tuesday. If we show the same commitment and attitude as we did today then there is no reason why we can't get a result.
Linfield: Tuffey, BJ Burns (R Clarke, 76 mins), Haughey, Callacher, Ward, A Burns, Gault, Garrett (Thompson, 80 mins), Lowry, Waterworth, Carvill (Tipton, 88 mins). Unused subs: McVey, McAllister
Portadown: Miskelly, Casement, Friars, Breen, O'Hara, McMahon, Mouncey (McStay, 68 mins), Ramsey, Mackle, Twigg, Murray. Unused subs: Brennan, Redman, Barton, Soares
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Belfast)
* THE first 1,000 Linfield fans inside Windsor Park for tomorrow's derby clash with Glentoran will be issued with a special commemorative medal to mark their attendance at the final Premiership fixture in front of the south stand, which will be demolished over the summer.