Belfast Telegraph

Linfield must improve to earn Europa League spot, warns Stafford

 

By Graham Luney

Linfield defender Mark Stafford has admitted his side will need to find another gear if they want to claim a top three finish in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Glenavon leapfrogged the Blues at the weekend and climbed into the third place spot that will secure Europa League football if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

David Healy's side lost 2-0 to title chasing Crusaders on Saturday and it was another off colour performance from the Windsor Park men who a year ago won the championship in thrilling fashion.

Now a point behind Glenavon with two games remaining, Linfield host Coleraine on Saturday and then Cliftonville next weekend as they scramble to net a European spot.

"It's a massive few games for us to try and get above Glenavon but we will have to play a lot better than we have been," said the former Ballinamallard United ace.

"Our performance level must be a lot higher than the Crusaders match. I just think it's been small margins for us this season, we have had a few injuries and lacked consistency.

"We have lacked quality in key moments and that has cost us.

"I thought in the first half against Crusaders we were quite good, competed very well and got the ball down at times but not enough obviously.

"I didn't think there was a lot in the game though they were 1-0 up. In the second half we didn't create enough and we were pushing to get the equaliser when their key players hurt us.

"We didn't create enough. The gaffer changed the formation to give us a bit of impetus but the Crues were comfortable and we allowed space in the wide areas for crosses and I didn't compete well enough with Jordan (Owens) for the goal."

• Institute only need another three points to clinch the Bluefin Sport Championship after winning 2-1 at H&W Welders last night.

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