NIALL HOPING TO CONTINUE UNBEATEN SEQUENCE
After picking up two goals and an assist from his trademark pinpoint set-pieces last Saturday, Niall Quinn is a youngster who personifies the confidence and self-assurance that is flowing through the Linfield ranks at present.
And who can blame them? They are currently 15 matches unbeaten and sit four points clear at the top of the Irish League table. However, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and the Linfield contingent still have their feet firmly on the ground.
“It’s great to get yourself on the score-sheet but as any player will tell you, the most important thing is helping the team win matches. Obviously, goals will help with that but our defensive record has been impressive this season too, so it’s important we keep improving at both ends of the pitch,” explained the Glengormley-born full-back.
“I got a little bit of luck with my first goal, as the goalkeeper made an error but the second one I just saw the gap in that side of the net and went for it and thankfully, it went in.”
The 20-year-old confirms that he takes great pride in his deliveries and focuses on them in training sessions. “I stay behind most days in training to practice those free-kicks with Michael Carvill and Billy Joe Burns, so it’s great to see them pay off and causing havoc for the other team!”
Niall explained the reason for Linfield’s upturn in fortunes over the past few months, after being bottom of the table after four rounds of fixtures.
“We’ve really kicked on from what was a bit of a slow start domestically. It was odd being bottom – even if it was only four matches in – but we always knew that once we started winning games, we’d be able to go on a strong run,” explained the full-back, who is in his second full season at the club.
“A lot of those matches have seen us play really well which has been pleasing, but there’s also games where we maybe haven’t hit our heights. Yet, we have still come away with the three points which is all important. This is a squad with a really high level of ability and a great mentality and that’s really showing through at present.”
The young left-back also confirmed that the high intensity of competition for places is a hugely beneficial factor in Linfield’s improved form this season.
“Matthew Clarke arrived here over the summer and he’s a fantastic player. He was over at Rangers and has looked great since he’s joined. Having players like him pushing you for your place makes you raise your own game and level of performance and I feel like I’ve done that. It constantly keeps me on my toes which has hopefully shown in my performances so far.”
“The players who joined us over the summer have added so much quality to our ranks. Playing in front of Johnny Tuffey gives you so much confidence as a defender because he’s such a commanding presence, while Sean Ward and Kyle McVey are forming a great partnership in the heart of defence, plus Mark Haughey and Matthew Clarke are piling the pressure on us to keep our game up.”
Whilst Linfield’s defence has provided the building blocks for their current unbeaten streak, the headlines have been grabbed by new striker Andy Waterworth, who has scored ten goals in just eleven appearances since his return from a knee injury.
“Whenever you have someone like Andy Waterworth who you can rely on to score goals that gives the whole team confidence in what you can achieve. You can see it in our other player’s too who are playing with confidence – Andy and Matthew Tipton have a great partnership up front at the minute.”
Looking ahead to this double-header of fixtures at Windsor Park, Niall is confident that the Blues can extend their good form but he emphasises the importance of treating every side with the upmost respect.
“It was disappointing not to keep a clean sheet against Ards but fortunately, we still managed to get the win but it makes us even more determined to keep out Warrenpoint and Crusaders in these games over the next couple of days.
“You simply cannot underestimate anyone in this league. We played bottom-side Ards and they really took the game to us and if you take your eye off the ball, you’ll lose the game. They came flying out of the blocks to get an early goal. Then even at 3-1, the game was far from over and they kept fighting. It’ll be exactly the same against Warrenpoint who are a really tough side to beat and on Tuesday, we'll face a Crusaders team that everyone knows are one of the best sides in the league but we’re confident that we can get the all-important victories!”