Linfield striker Andy Waterworth believes the Danske Premiership title race could go right to the wire this season.
David Healy’s boys blasted their way back into contention after picking up a crucial three points on Saturday’s top of the table showdown against current champions at Seaview.
It was a game that had it all: goals, bookings, two sendings off and loads of controversy.
Aaron Burns shot the visitors into the lead 10 minutes before the break before Waterworth capitalised on a horrible mix-up between Michael Gault and Sean O’Neill.
But the game exploded in the second half when Healy and skipper Jamie Mulgrew were both dismissed following an ugly brawl that involved very player on the pitch.
It all flared up after Healy illegally ‘entered the field of play’ after Blues midfielder Stephen Lowry was down with a facial injury.
Although the victory meant that Crusaders lead at the top is now down to four points, Waterworth insists his team will not become carried away.
“Crusaders are still favourites but for us, this is a great three points,” said the big striker. “Cutting gap to four points was massive for us.
“I’m sure there’ll be a few twists and turns. Even if it had have gone to 10 points, we are only halfway through the season and I believe this will go right down to the wire.
“From our perspective though, we had to win this one. It’s been a while since we won at Seaview and it gives us a lot of momentum.
“I wouldn’t even say it was a massive statement, it was just a very good three points,” he added.
“Crusaders are a very difficult team to beat, especially on their own patch. It’s good for us for confidence and team morale. We were able to grind it out, even when things went against us. I don’t want to get carried away, though. We beat Crusaders on New Year’s Day last year and things didn’t go to plan after that.”
Even when the Blues were reduced to 10 men, Waterworth was still confident of getting all three points.
He added: “If we had 11 men on I do think it would have been easier, and I don’t mean to sound disrespectful.
“I felt it was comfortable at times and I really thought we were going to score more goals. But when you get a man sent off you can do nothing else but sit back against a really good side.
“At 11 v 11 I thought we would score more and I had a chance I really should have scored. It could have been easier but that was taken out of our hands with the red card.
“I asked the referee how he was able to pick out one player. He said they can only take action on what they see but every player was involved. At the start it all off, there should have been a free-kick to u. Stephen Lowry is cut. It might have been an accident but it is still a free-kick. Having the player sent off at that stage killed us but the defenders were magnificent.
“Niall Quinn, Matthew Clarke, Mark Stafford and Jimmy Callacher were superb and Stephen Lowry was brilliant. They were throwing their bodies on the line but that’s what was needed.”
With Coleraine due to visit Windsor Park tomorrow night, Waterworth admits it’s vital the Blues back up this victory with another three points.
“Tuesday is massive for us. The question is can we follow up this win with three points against Coleraine.
“There is pressure to win every game at Linfield but as much as we enjoyed winning on Saturday, our focus turns straight to Tuesday night.
“It will be a different sort of atmosphere and we will need a different mentality. I think we have been the best side in most games we’ve played this season but hopefully we can cut out the small mistakes which has cost us in some games."