Belfast Telegraph

There's no pressure on us, says Linfield boss Feeney

By David Mason

Linfield boss Warren Feeney believes his boys still face a mission impossible as the Danske Bank Premiership title race reaches a climax.

The Blues managed to cut the deficit to six points at the top of the table following the dramatic midweek action.

Feeney walked away from the Oval with a beaming smile following a hard fought 2-1 win against his team's fiercest rivals Glentoran, while Stephen Baxter's Crusaders fluffed their lines at Portadown.

But former Northern Ireland striker Feeney is a realist. He believes the ball is very much in the court of Crusaders - and the title is theirs to lose.

He also knows that nothing other than three points will be good enough when his team face Glenavon at the Ballymena Showgrounds this afternoon.

"I was delighted with the win against Glentoran," said Feeney.

"To be honest, I wasn't surprised because I sensed the boys were busting a gut to get going again after the weekend match with the Crues was called off due to the grandstand problem at Windsor.

"They were in each others' faces all week in training and they took that attitude out on to the pitch. It was a proper Linfield performance.

"Yes, I was disappointed going in 1-0 down. We dominated the first half, except for a five or 10 minute spell and we missed a few decent chances.

"But we regrouped at half-time, I had a word with the boys and I thought there was only going to be one winner in the second half."

Feeney shrugged off suggestions that he took a gamble to include Peter Thompson and Ivan Sproule, who haven't played since Christmas due to injury.

"I suppose some people will look at it as a gamble," added Feeney.

"I know guys like that get through games with an adrenaline surge.

"Perhaps they needed a bit more game time, but boys like Peter and Ivan, there was no questioning their desire. They went right to the end. Energy levels are a big part in football.

"Peter did exceptionally well. I thought he held up the ball fantastically well.

"He's a senior pro... he's experienced and he knows his role at the club.

"He has that bit of composure about him. Another 90 minutes under his belt, that will do him a world of good. Sproule has been flying in training... he was raring to go. They both played their part in a crucial win.

"I was delighted with the way we went about our business and I want to take that attitude into the rest of the season."

Feeney is demanding another performance of commitment and hunger against the league's in-form team.

"Glenavon are flying," he adds. "Credit must go to Gary Hamilton and his backroom staff. They have had exceptional results over the past week, beating Glentoran and Cliftonville, racking up nine goals along the way.

"But we must look after ourselves. In many ways, we've beaten ourselves in some games over the course of the season, punished for basic errors. That has cost us vital points.

"I'm not one to look back... I prefer to look to the future. We'll be going into the last four games aiming to win them all to see where it takes us. In terms of the title, it really still is very much in the hands of Crusaders. It sure will be a big ask for us.

"All I can do is worry about Linfield Football Club. The pressure is off us in many ways.

"We've got to concentrate on Saturday which is now a massive game."

The Lurgan Blues are brimming with confidence at the moment and are going for six Premiership wins on the spin for the first time.

Glenavon also recorded five triumphs in a row in late 1995, a run that included a 3-0 victory over Linfield. Former Northern Ireland international Kevin Braniff said: "Linfield is always a tough game.

"Our form has been pretty good against them this season.

"It's now a massive game for us to get into that third place spot. It's been a great couple of weeks, we have proved we are a good side and Tuesday showed how good we can be.

"To beat the champions Cliftonville 5-0 is just an unbelievable result for us. Linfield are always going to be pushing for top spot but hopefully we can go to Ballymena and beat them."

Meanwhile, Cliftonville winger Chris Curran has agreed a new contract with the Reds.

Glenavon's starlets overcame Linfield Rangers 1-0 to lift the Harry Cavan Youth Cup.

Conor McKendry was the match winner for the Lurgan Blues youth team at Mourneview Park.

Belfast Telegraph


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