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Linfield’s Matthew Clarke insists Larne will be out for revenge in Shield final at Seaview


Linfield ace Matthew Clarke is expecting a tough battle

Linfield ace Matthew Clarke is expecting a tough battle

Linfield ace Matthew Clarke is expecting a tough battle

Linfield defender Matthew Clarke believes revenge will be on the agenda when his team face Larne in the County Antrim Shield Final.

The 28-year-old former Rangers player is convinced Tiernan Lynch’s team will still be smarting from their recent League defeat by the Blues at Inver Park when Chris Shields rattled home a penalty kick to help maintain the Blues’ title challenge.

“It will be two quality sides going head-to-head,” says Clarke.

“They are the current holders of the Shield and we will show them the respect they deserve. It would be fair to say both clubs go into the match in decent form, so it has the makings of a great game.

“I’m sure they’ll still be hurting from losing to us up at their place just before Christmas.

“It was a tough game. We won it with a Chris Shields penalty. It was a stonewall spot-kick — Christy Manzinga was brought down going through on goal by Kofi Balmer, who was sent off. I don’t think there can be any argument, he was the last man.

“After that, I thought we controlled the game well. They had a little spell for 15 minutes in the second half as they threw everything at it, but they didn’t really carve out too many clear-cut chances.

“Larne are a side that will always pose a threat. Tiernan has them well drilled but, over the course of the 90 minutes, I thought we deserved the three points.

“I’m sure they’ll be out to avenge that defeat.”

Although it is probably recognised as the least important of the four senior trophies, Clarke insists it’s always vital to get the first piece of silverware.

“Every trophy is worth fighting for,” he adds. “If you go back to the season 2016-17 when we won the treble, Crusaders were miles in front in the League and we played them in the Shield Final that season up at Ballymena.

“It was a Baltic night, but we won the game and I think that victory helped kick us on to finish the season strongly.

“We somehow ended up winning the League title, even though the Crues were 16 or 17 points clear at one time.

“We went unbeaten from January until the end of the season, so it’s always important to pick up the first piece of silverware.

“The game will be played in front of a bumper crowd because I know our end is sold out. I’m sure Larne will not be far behind. They are the holders of the trophy, but we’ll be out to take it off them, no doubt about that.”

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