Linfield striker Andy Waterworth believes his team have the mental strength to cope with ‘six huge cup finals’ starting with Saturday’s testing examination against Coleraine at the Ballycastle Road Showgrounds.
The Premiership title race is now down to a battle of nerves, with the Blues retaining a two point lead over reigning champions. Something must give when the teams meet at Windsor Park next week. It could be the match that finally decides the destination of the Gibson Cup.
But Waterworth doesn’t buy into that. He prefers to focus on the job in hand. He’s aware that every game now could have a banana skin effect!
“Coleraine away couldn’t be a more difficult challenge,” said Waterworth, who bagged his 23rd goal of the season in last week’s win over Dungannon Swifts.
“Even though they’ve had a few negatives results in the league, they pushed Dundalk so close in the Setanta Cup lately, winning down at their place and only losing out by a last minute goal in the return match. They have an excellent squad of players and really should be further up the table.
“It’s always a tough venue to visit, so we know we’re going to have to turn in a really big performance if we’re going to get the win we need.
“The mood and morale in the camp is great. Everybody is positive and working really hard. It’s a cliche, but every game is now a cup final . . . and we have six coming up over the next few weeks.”
Waterworth’s magnificent strike got the Blues up and running last week after battling Dungannon had threatened to gate-crash the party.
He added: “It was certainly one of my better goals - a left foot shot from outside the box. I was pleased with that strike. But more importantly, it got us on our way to the victory. That’s now six wins on the bounce, but we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball.
“We must keep the momentum going and remain focused on taking three points from every game. Sometimes you have to grind out results, just like we did at Portadown a few weeks back.
“Everyone is talking about the Cliftonville game coming up, but nothing could be further from our minds at present. We know we have six huge matches in front of us, so we’ll just focus on one game at a time and hope we can keep our noses in front.”
Meanwhile, it will be a special occasion for Blues midfielder pair Jamie Mulgrew and Philip Lowry at the Showgrounds.
The 28 year old Mulgrew will pull on the blue jersey for the 350th time. He made his debut on August 20 in a 2-0 win over Loughgall. Lowry is in line to make his 200th appearance. He joined the club in 2009.
Coleraine boss Oran Kearney will be handing out no favours to his former colleagues. He said: “We may be in the bottom six, but we are going out to pick up as many points as possible over the remaining six games.”
Recent P’ship form (latest on left): Coleraine L-W-L-W-D; Linfield W-W-W-W-W
Last 4 league meetings: Coleraine 2 Linfield 3, Linfield 1 Coleraine 0, Coleraine 1 Linfield 1, Linfield 5 Coleraine 2.
Prediction: Coleraine 2 Linfield 3