IRISH LEAGUE: Waterworth plays down Linfield title talk

Linfield's Andrew Waterworth netted the winner at Mourneview Park last weekend.
Linfield's Andrew Waterworth netted the winner at Mourneview Park last weekend.

Andy Waterworth was coy about whether his winner on Saturday has necessarily kept Linfield in the title race, but it certainly has kept them within touching distance.

Seven points remains the gap between the Blues and Crusaders after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Glenavon, but Linfield are picking up those types of scrappy wins that teams need to gather up if they are to become champions.

Waterworth’s goal came after Aaron Burns had given the visitors the lead and Andy McGrory equalised from the penalty spot.

The turning point came after Ciaran Martyn had been sent off for the hosts, and Waterworth said that he had little doubt that his team would find a second goal.

He said, “It was a good result, Glenavon are a good side and that pitch is like quicksand at the minute like every ground.

“It was a tough game but I felt confident we would get a goal, and that’s no disrespect to Glenavon. I think big Kris (Lindsay) helped me there with the sliding tackle.

“It keeps us on the coat tails of Crusaders. With us, every game at this stage of the season is like a cup final. There’s pressure as we can’t afford to lose and if we do it really is ‘good night’.

“I think we have momentum and that Coleraine was a one-off, a slip up. We are playing well, there’s a good team spirit. Earlier on in the season we were beating teams convincingly whereas now we are picking up 1-0s and 2-1s and replicating what the Crues are doing.

“We just have to keep on the Crues’ coat tails and maybe add on a few players in the transfer window so that in the run-in we aren’t nursing tired bodies.”

Linfield piled on the pressure in a first half devoid of chances, and on 32 minutes that finally paid off. Waterworth fed Aaron Burns, who raced onto the ball inside the box and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Glenavon’s Jonathan Tuffey.

As the second half progressed Glenavon began to get on top of their opponents and pulled level on 63 minutes. McGrory scored from the penalty spot after Mark Stafford had handled, putting it down the middle and sending Roy Carroll the wrong way.

Just as they were gaining momentum, the hosts were reduced to 10 men on 67 minutes. Martyn received his second yellow card for a late challenge on Gaynor; he had been booked in the first half for an ill timed challenge on Matthew Clarke.

And Linfield punished the Lurgan Blues on 76 minutes. Waterworth put David Healy’s men back in front. A Sean Ward shot took a deflection and fell kindly for the striker, who finished with aplomb.

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton said the sending off was the turning point in the game.

He said, “In the second half I thought we had done really well and got a deserved equaliser based on how we were playing at the time.

“For me personally the sending off has ruined the game. I thought it was very harsh because nobody in the ground has seen it and I would love to see it again. To be fair I thought the referee has had a really good game, and I’m being serious on that one.

“I didn’t see where it come from. You can usually tell by people’s reactions but there weren’t any from anyone, plus the flag was up for offside. When that ball is hit, before he makes a tackle, it’s an offside decision so therefore, for me, it shouldn’t have ended up a free kick. I’m not sure what the rules are on that one.

“Even with 10 men I thought we played well and we weren’t ashamed of our performance, that’s for sure.”