Belfast Telegraph

Tipton still back Linfield for title

By Graham Luney

Matthew Tipton believes this is a time for cool heads and calm nerves at Windsor Park.

The Blues host Donegal Celtic tonight looking for their first win of the league campaign after pocketing only one point out of a possible six.

It’s a stumbling start which has surprised many fans who expected the champions, who have bagged six doubles in seven years, to come flying out of the traps like Usain Bolt.

But, like Mo Farah over the longer distance, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that David Jeffrey’s men will, in the end, time their run to perfection and come home first.

The race for the Gibson Cup is a marathon, not a sprint after all, and Linfield’s formidable squad usually carries them over the line.

And with a strikeforce of Tipton, Peter Thompson (below), Mark McAllister, Daryl Fordyce and Gary Browne, it’s only a matter of time before the goals start flowing again.

Former Portadown striker Tipton is unlikely to influence proceedings tonight as he is nursing a hip injury, but the Welshman has every faith in the class of the squad coming to the surface.

Whenever a team has a bad day at the office, fans can be quick to judge and over-react.

You would have got long odds on Linfield’s season starting with two games, no goals scored and only one point, but Tipton feels the lid should be kept on frustration.

“I know the first two matches didn’t go the way we hoped but it’s an awful long season and it will achieve nothing getting frustrated by it now,” said the former Oldham Athletic and Macclesfield Town frontman.

“You see it all the time in football — Manchester United lose their first game and they are written off, it’s the end of the world. Linfield have won six doubles in seven years and I’m guessing that people are more than happy to jump on any misfortune we have.

“There is plenty of time for us to get things right and achieve our goal of winning the league. We are talking about a 38-game season and the time to look at the table is, maybe, January when we hope to be challenging.

“The determination and desire is there to show what the players are capable of and I’ve no doubt that will happen.”

The 32-year-old is amused by claims Linfield will stroll to another league title — talk he dismisses as mind games.

“This is just kidology and psychological stuff from our rivals,” he added. “Is there a player who is going to settle for being second best?

“Of course many of the teams want to win the league and believe they can do it — why bother playing the game otherwise.

“I would never have said anything like that, including when I was at Portadown because I want to win things and you give it your all to do that. You’re not making up the numbers or simply happy to challenge.

“I think people like putting pressure on us as a way of taking pressure off themselves. I don’t think they really believe we are invincible or unstoppable.

“As a player I would never accept the attitude of being happy with a runner-up place as you are doing a disservice to the club, its fans and your team-mates.”

There has always been a healthy competition for places at Windsor Park and Tipton’s arrival from Portadown has given Jeffrey more striking options.

The Welsh goal-getter believes the depth of the squad will help the players perform.

“I think the biggest competition comes from each other,” added Tipton. “The biggest challenge comes from the players who play in your position as everyone wants to play and impress.

“Everyone wants to get into that starting 11 but you have to earn your place and then keep it. That’s what drives players on, knowing someone is ready to step into your place.”

Meanwhile, Jeffrey is backing his boys to show character and step up a gear tonight.

“What we've got to do is continue to create chances and, hopefully, turn those chances into goals,” said the Blues boss.

“The players have worked very hard in training this week. They continue to apply themselves very well. I've no doubt that the game against DC will be very tough. They will come and provide more than robust competition, as they always do.

“To get anything out of this game, we're going to have to be at our very best but we're very much looking forward to the game.

“Never ever do we want to make injuries or player unavailability an excuse but we've suffered a clatter of injuries at the start of this season.”

Belfast Telegraph

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