Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's flying start worthy of greater plaudits: Millar

 

By Alex Mills

Kirk Millar believes Linfield deserve more credit for their strong start to the season.

The winger has been in magical form for the Blues but he isn't alone as David Healy's side have hit the ground running.

After last season's trophyless campaign, the pressure was on at Windsor Park but while champions Crusaders stumbled as they came out of the starting blocks, Linfield have made a flying start.

Top of the Danske Bank Premiership and two points ahead of Glenavon, who have played one fewer game, the Blues are unbeaten and have conceded only three goals in 11 league battles.

Going by the old cliché of defences winning championships, Healy's boys have silenced the doubters.

Given the match winners they have in their ranks like Michael O'Connor and Joel Cooper, if the Blues' rearguard can stay solid and resolute, the 52-time league champions will take some stopping.

Former Oldham ace Millar, a boyhood Linfield fan who started his playing career at the club, is confident his side can keep the good times rolling.

"Last season we got in a rut and couldn't get out of it," admitted the 26-year old. "Everything felt like it was going against us and there was no way out.

"We lost to teams we shouldn't have and the fans and manager didn't get the performances they deserved, especially after winning the three trophies in the previous season.

"This year someone has flicked the switch and we have become the team we should have been last season.

"We are playing out of our skin, possibly not getting the recognition we deserve because our defensive record is brilliant. People thought we had a tough start and we would fold but we showed fight and bite."

Linfield put their unbeaten record on the line again today when they travel to Ards.

It's an assignment Colin Nixon's men could do without as they find themselves scrapping at the opposite end of the table.

But credit must go to Northern Ireland legend Healy for leading the Windsor Park fightback this season.

"He's been brilliant," admitted Belfast man Millar of his manager. "When he first came in it was something you had to get used to.

"We would have normally asked him for a photograph on the street!

"Now he's helping the players out one on one to improve our game.

"You want to listen to a man who has been there and done it.

"He's been excellent with me and I couldn't say a bad word about him.

"As a kid I did watch him and Roy Carroll and it's great to have guys with that experience in the dressing room.

"They are always trying to help you and push you in the right direction.

"Roy has given me a few verbal hammerings, but it's tough love and he does it for all the right reasons. You have to listen to Roy, you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him!"

Ards boss Nixon has had an unfortunate run of injuries to contend with but he stresses the importance of moving away from a relegation fight.

"We are down near the bottom of the table and we have to climb away from that," said the Glentoran legend.

Nixon will perhaps instruct his players to keep a close eye on Jimmy Callacher after the Linfield centre-back bagged a hat-trick against Newry City.

But the north Down men can take heart from their performance at Windsor Park earlier in the campaign when they frustrated the hosts in a scoreless draw.

Ards vs Linfield

Danske Bank Premiership:

Bangor Fuels Arena, Today, 3pm

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