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Now Linfield can go on and win the title: Andy Waterworth

Graham Luney

Andy Waterworth feels Linfield can now go charging to Gibson Cup glory after "getting the monkey off our backs".

The Blues were under significant pressure to win the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday night and nerves were jangling when the final against Crusaders at the Ballymena Showgrounds went to a penalty shoot-out.

After a tense and scoreless decider, David Jeffrey's side produced late heroics to catapult their manager level with Roy Coyle on 31 trophies.

Jeffrey will overtake former Blues chief Coyle if he can mastermind his 10th league title success and Linfield fans are hoping the Shield triumph can help drive them over the line ahead of defending champions Cliftonville.

With only eight league games remaining – Linfield visit Portadown on Saturday while the Reds host Ballinamallard United – the margin for error is slim, just as it was in Tuesday's penalty shootout.

Waterworth drilled home the first spot-kick and his team-mates Aaron Burns, Michael Carvill and Billy Joe Burns did their jobs while keeper Jonny Tuffey foiled Crusaders duo Nathan Hanley and Eamonn McAllister.

Former Glentoran hero Waterworth, who has now celebrated two Shield victories, hopes a league winner's medal with the Blues is just around the corner.

"There is no better feeling in the game than winning the league title and Linfield is a club that is associated with that success," said Waterworth.

"Success breeds success and now that the monkey is off our back and the club is back winning trophies again this team will have the hunger and desire to keep doing that.

"The more you win in football the more you want to have that feeling again and as players we have to be greedy for success.

"But we have a very difficult game against Portadown this weekend and that's a mammoth test. The title race is going right to the wire and it's all about the results. We played well against Ballymena United in the Irish Cup and against Cliftonville at Solitude but lost those matches so maybe we need to be more mature in our performances to get the results we need."

Jeffrey will vacate the Linfield hotseat at the end of the season but Waterworth does not believe that decision has made the players hungrier for success.

"I don't think our desire to win the league could be any greater, certainly not mine," he added.

"We are top of the league and have given ourselves a chance to win the league. It's about seizing that chance now.

"On a personal level, David (Jeffrey) brought me to the club and I am indebted to him for that, he's a great manager but I wouldn't say I want to win the league any more just because he is stepping down."

Blues number one Tuffey enjoyed some personal redemption, becoming the hero after committing some uncharacteristic errors earlier in the campaign.

"I was delighted for Jonny," added the former Hamilton Accies ace.

"Goalkeepers' mistakes are highlighted but we all make them. Very little fazes Jonny and he was big and strong in the shootout.

"I was really focused on scoring mine after missing one against Glentoran!"

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