Ben Hall programme article

Posted : 1st March 2023

‘Look at Linfield’ this week catches up with central defender, Ben Hall who has recently returned to action. In last week’s 2-0 win over Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park, the Omagh native made his first start since August 25 – a night best forgotten for Ben and Linfield, as he sustained an injury during a European play-off second leg tie against RFS Riga that would lead to sheer heartache. Now though, he’s just delighted to be back.

“I came on as a substitute at Larne a couple of weeks prior, but it’s different when you start a game and get a full 90 minutes under you. It’s a case of building match sharpness now, as I tired towards the end of last week’s match. I’d forgotten how big the Windsor Park pitch was! It is great to be back involved and to be a part of it again.

“My last start before injury had been against RFS, so it’s been a long time coming and it has been tough mentally. I had setbacks during the rehab which was difficult – I never expected to be out for so long, but all the rehab and hard work to get back is worthwhile, now that I am back playing. Thankfully, we have brilliant medical staff at the Club. Terry Hayes and Paul Butler did everything they possibly could to help me, and at times they sent me to whoever I needed to see.

“I had the issue since pre-season and I was playing through it, whilst taking tablets and such things. By the time the RFS game came along, I was probably only training once a week alongside playing, trying to get through it at that stage, but during the RFS match came a point where it just became too much. During the European campaign, I had a fair idea at the time that it would get worse the more I played, but at the time you’re just chasing group stage European football. That didn’t quite work out in the end, but sadly, that’s part of football.”

Remarkably, the Blues have played 50 competitive matches in all competitions this season and, given that former Brighton, Motherwell and Falkirk defender Hall was injured early in the season, that’s led to him sitting the stands for almost 40 matches. A frustrated spectator, the 26 year-old wants to try and help the Blues improve their results against their title rivals, now that he’s back involved.

“There was that bit of a hangover after we were knocked out of Europe. It was difficult watching on because you just want to be able to help the team, and then when the team is doing well, you just want to be a part of it. It’s not nice when you’re watching regardless, but I hope that’s my bad luck over me for another while.

“All we can do is to win our next game and take it one game at a time. There’s still nine league games to go and a lot can happen in nine games. We’ve usually been the team leading the pack at this stage of the season, but now that we’re chasing, we need to make sure we are doing our job. We haven’t beaten the teams in around us enough and that’s what has ‘killed’ us so far. Performance-wise, we’ll need more days like the recent home win over Cliftonville, rather than the defeat to Glentoran which wasn’t nice. We also have a League Cup Final to look forward to, so we’ve got to believe we can make this a successful season, but we know we need results.

Although results are what matter most, we still want good performances, too. Whilst we were glad to get back to winning ways last week, we wanted a performance to go with it, but the first half wasn't good enough and I'm sure it was hard to watch, although we had words at half-time and the second half was much better.”

As the games tick down, the margin for error gets smaller and, realistically, Coleraine’s eight-point gap from League leaders Larne (ahead of their midweek game in hand in Ballymena) means that the Bannsiders will see today’s trip to Windsor as a ‘must-win’ match. The Blues should have a similar mentality, too, which will surely lead to some goals, unlike the two previous meetings between the teams this season. Former Northern Ireland U21 International Ben Hall says Linfield need to be more clinical this time around.

“Coleraine had been on a great run and were probably the League’s most in-form team until they were beaten at Seaview last week. We know what they’re about; they’ll be hard to beat. We’ve had two goalless draws against them this season, although in the more recent meeting at Windsor, we felt we had enough chances to be turning a point into three points, so it’s important that we are clinical when chances arise this time.”

Ben will have fond memories of his last Windsor Park game against Coleraine when his goal in the last game of last season set Linfield on the road to securing the Premiership title for the 56th time in the club’s history.

Linfield supporters were delighted to see Ben back in action and will wish him well for the remainder of the season, as the Blues ‘sink their teeth’ into the first of ten hugely important matches in the final stretch of a long and challenging campaign.
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