Manager’s programme notes

Posted : 19th February 2022

Today we will face a tough challenge from a Portadown team that will aim to bounce back from their derby disappointment against Glenavon last week, to aid their efforts to move away from the relegation trap door.

They showed in their recent 1-1 draw at home to Glentoran and indeed, in their scoreless draw against us in November, that they will scrap for every point to try and preserve their top flight status.

They will be well organised by their new manager Paul Doolan and will provide a major threat to us in today's vital and difficult game.

We were delighted with a hard fought 2-1 win against Larne in our previous home game but unfortunately, we weren't able to secure a positive result a few days later in the top of the table derby game at the Oval. The 1-0 reverse at the Oval has seen us lose top spot in the league table to Glentoran but we will be doing all in our power over the coming weeks to claw back the three point deficit, as well as preserve and improve upon the one point advantage over third place Cliftonville.

The game at the Oval was a hard-fought affair where I felt we deserved a draw but there are fine margins between winning and losing and Glentoran were clinical in taking advantage of a ricochet that fell favourably their way, whereas the ball didn't bounce as kindly for us when we created an equalising opportunity in injury time.

I have been delighted to add Finnish forward Eetu Vertainen to the squad on loan from St Johnstone until the end of the season. Eetu made his debut as a sub at the Oval last week and along with several other recent signings, Kieron Evans, Chris McKee, and Ethan Devine, got valuable game time in the midweek win for Linfield Swifts against Glentoran seconds.

Congratulations to Jamie Mulgrew who last week equalled Tommy Dickson's appearance record of 660 Linfield games and with his 661st game today, will move into second place behind the legendary Noel Bailie MBE in the club’s list of leading all time appearance makers. Jamie has been a wonderful player, captain and role model during his many years at this club and in spite of all the accolades he has earned and received, he remains as focused and hungry as ever on bringing further success to this club.

In recent weeks we have welcomed Conor Pepper back from long term injury and Kyle McClean and Chris Shields have returned from shorter term injury. Ahmed Salam returned to action with the Swifts in midweek and we are hopeful that we will have Jordan Stewart, Josh Archer and Martin Donnelly available for selection within the squad, if not today, certainly in the near future.

It is unlikely that Cameron Palmer will be unavailable for selection today and while it's been pleasing to welcome Ross Larkin back to the ground in recent times for some light training, he will be unavailable for the rest of the season.

Today is the first of 11 cup finals we will face in our remaining league programme and we will need the full and united backing and positive encouragement from all of our loyal supporters in what's looking like it will be a fiercely contested title race that will go right down to the wire.
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