Manager’s programme notes

Posted : 11th March 2022

Tonight we will face another formidable challenge, as we welcome Crusaders to Windsor Park for this live televised Premiership game.

Crusaders will arrive in good spirits and form, having defeated Coleraine in midweek and with an Irish Cup semi-final against Cliftonville to look forward to at the start of next month. Games against Crusaders are always tough and this one will be no different.

At this stage of the season, it's all about results and I've been delighted with our recent hard fought but deserved and crucial wins against Portadown (1-0), Carrick Rangers (2-1) and Ballymena United (2-0).

We find ourselves top of the league at present but only leading Cliftonville by a single point, with Glentoran a further two points behind. There are eight games remaining and every single one will be like a cup final, with virtually every team having something to play for in what is a most competitive league campaign. It's certainly shaping up to be a very tight title race that will go down to the wire but we will continue approaching each game on a one game at a time basis.

I was particularly delighted with the team performance in the midweek win at what is a notoriously difficult venue at the Ballymena Showgrounds. The players showed real resilience and character to see out a hugely important and pleasing win.

While every player showed the required will to win, two of our senior players showed all their class and experience and led by example. I thought Chris Shields and Jamie Mulgrew covered every inch of the Showgrounds pitch and alongside Stephen Fallon and Kyle McClean, the foundations were laid for a hugely pleasing win.

I want to place on record my congratulations to Jamie Mulgrew who has recently overtaken Tommy Dickson in the All-Time list of appearance makers and now with a total of 663 appearances, only the uncatchable Noel Bailie MBE (1013) has played in more Linfield games than Jamie.

Although we will welcome Kirk Millar back to the squad tonight following a one game suspension, we will be missing Christy Manzinga for several games, as a result of his midweek red card in Ballymena.

On the injury front, we have welcomed Chris Shields, Niall Quinn, Sam Roscoe and Matthew Clarke back to the squad in recent games. Several other players are hopefully nearing a return to the squad and we will look forward to welcoming Conor Pepper, Martin Donnelly, Jake Hastie and Jordan Stewart back to the squad as soon as possible. Cameron Palmer will be missing tonight and Ross Larkin will be unavailable for the rest of the season, although it was so pleasing to see him with the rest of the squad at our midweek win in Ballymena.

I want to wish our young sports analyst intern, Ben Gilmore a full and speedy recovery from the injuries he sustained in a recent car accident.

I also want to extend my sympathies to one of our directors, Paul Weir and our former player, Andrew Waterworth, both of whom have suffered the sad loss of their mothers in recent days.

As always, we will need the full and positive backing of all our supporters in what is sure to be a challenging game tonight.
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