Linfield boss David Jeffrey insists that topping the Danske Bank Premiership “means absolutely nothing” at this stage of the season.
The Blues boss was speaking after his side extended their lead at the summit with a crucial win at the Braid.
The Windsor Park supremo watched his side come from behind to beat 10-man Ballymena in horrendous conditions at the Warden Street Showgrounds – then returned to the sanctuary of the dressing room to find that title rivals Cliftonville and Crusaders had both squandered points.
“I hear people saying ‘Linfield are in the box seat’ and ‘it’s Linfield and Cliftonville for the league’,” said Jeffrey.
“We have got ourselves into a position where this time last year we were nowhere.
“Everybody is working tremendously hard but there’s a long, long way to go.
“Cliftonville are an outstanding side, with outstanding ability; Crusaders equally so; don’t rule out Glentoran and Portadown - anybody in this league can beat anybody on any given day.
“What we have done is get ourselves into a good position – that is all we’ve done.
“We’ve done absolutely nothing else and if anyone starts saying were in the box seat or it’s ours to lose, they can maybe answer me the question of when was the last time the Gibson Cup was given out in January.”
Ballymena had taken the lead in the last minute of the first half when Ally Teggart fired home a rare right-footed shot from just inside the area after Blues keeper Jonny Tuffey had blocked Allan Jenkins’ shot into his path.
But n one of the clearest turning points you’ll ever see, the dismissal of United’s Tony Kane for a second caution early in the second half handed the initiative to the visitors.
Philip Lowry headed the Blues level before Jamie Mulgrew hit the winner six minutes later with a thunderbolt from just outside the area, after Michael Gault’s free kick had cannoned off the defensive wall.
“At half time I said there were three or four of the boys who needed to up their game and told them ‘ here’s what we’re not doing correctly’,” Jeffrey added.
“I thought right from the off we really wanted to respond and get back in the game.”
United boss Glenn Ferguson felt the reaction of the Linfield dugout to Kane’s challenge on Niall Quinn which led to his dismissal had influenced referee Raymond Crangle’s decision to reach for the red card.
“Referees are there to make decisions – they don’t need help from managers or people on the bench.
“We got the break with the goal just before the half and it gives you a bit of a lift.
“But 10 minutes into the second half and you have a gameplan and your team set up with a formation to deal with what they are throwing at you, then things go into disarray.
“We just have to dust ourselves down and prepare for the cup replay on Tuesday night.”