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Defining moment or just another win? Only time will tell...

Linfield earned another pivotal win on Saturday

Linfield earned another pivotal win on Saturday

  • by Gareth Fullerton
 

It’s on days like January 18 that titles can be won and lost – just don’t expect David Jeffrey to subscribe to such kidology.

On Saturday Linfield gritted their title teeth to come from behind and claim a 2-1 victory over Ballymena United.

The Blues tip-toed around a potential banana skin at the Showgrounds – and with it tick-off another hard-earned win.

It was a case of ‘job done’ for Jeffrey, with the sweet satisfaction of victory being massaged by results elsewhere in the Premiership.

At Solitude, Cliftonville’s defence of the Gibson Cup slackened with a 1-0 defeat to Portadown, while Crusaders’ title aspirations were shunted by a 1-1 draw away to Warrenpoint Town.

It meant that by 4.50pm on Saturday evening, Linfield had extended their lead to four points at the top of the Premiership – and they can boast a game in hand over their chief rivals.

The title surge has seen the Blues’ odds of reclaiming the Gibson Cup slashed to 1/3 favourites.

There are 12 games remaining for most teams this season, and there will be plenty more twists and turns to come.

But with a potential seven-point advantage over the chasing pack – if they can beat Glenavon in that game in hand – only a fool would write off the Linfield returning to the top step come April.

As for champions Cliftonville, a massive week awaits Tommy Breslin’s men.

Smarting from Saturday’s defeat to Portadown, the Reds return to action on Tuesday night in a crunch Irish Cup fifth round replay against Coleraine on the Ballycastle Road.

It is another acid test for Breslin’s side, against a Bannsiders outfit who are showing signs of revival following a four-game unbeaten run.

After Tuesday’s Irish Cup commitments, Cliftonville will then turn their attention to Saturday’s Wasp Solutions League Cup final.

In a repeat of last year’s decider, the Reds will meet derby rivals Crusaders – this time at Solitude – in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

If Breslin’s players can clear these next two significant hurdles, it could instil the belief they can overhaul Linfield in the title race.

Defeat in one – or both – could derail their season completely.

 

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