Blues boss concedes title is out of reach

Linfield manager Warren Feeney goes through the full range of emotions as his side lost out to Glenavon at Mourneview Park
Linfield manager Warren Feeney goes through the full range of emotions as his side lost out to Glenavon at Mourneview Park

Linfield manager Warren Feeney has conceded the title to Crusaders.

Saturday’s defeat to Glenavon puts a nine point gap between the two teams at the top of the Premiership, making this weekend’s game between he two teams a ‘must win’ for the Blues.

Glenavon's Eoin Bradley celebrates opening the scoring against Linfield

Glenavon's Eoin Bradley celebrates opening the scoring against Linfield

He told the assembled press after the game at Mourneview Park that his side had simply run out of games.

“It’s our second defeat from October in the league,” said Feeney. “I know it’s not mathematically over yet but I’ll say congratulations to Crusaders because at the end of the day they’ve been a successful team over the course of the season.

“They took a bit of stick last week but they have bounced back. Now we have to dust ourselves off and finish the season as high as we can.

“It’s a big ask with five games to go. We’ll look back over the season at what we’ve thrown away, but they’ve shown consistency, they’re good at what they do and it’s more or less wrapped up for them.”

While all the talk post-game will be about Linfield’s title hopes, take nothing away from Glenavon who matched the Blues pound-for-pound on Saturday. Every time Linfield had a chance, Glenavon raced up the pitch and made one of their own.

Aaron Burns will feel he should have done better on 15 minutes when his tame effort was gathered up by James McGrath. Ultimately this led to Glenavon taking the lead, the goalkeeper punting the ball upfield. It fell kindly for Eoin Bradley, who took advantage of a Niall Quinn mistake to lob Jonathan Tuffey and give the Lurgan men the lead.

And they could have had a second when Tuffey missed a cross by James Singleton, with Kevin Braniff finishing at the back post. However, Dungannon whistle blower Raymond Hetherington decided that Tuffey had been fouled by Bradley as he jumped for the ball.

Linfield then had claims for a penalty turned down after Andrew Waterworth was challenged inside the box by Kris Lindsay.

Linfield pushed for an equaliser as the second half got underway and McGrath had to be alert to pushed away and then gather up a shot by Waterworth, one which the striker hit as he was turning his marker inside the box.

Sammy Morrow then saw a chance cleared off the line by Kris Lindsay, before Matthew Clarke curled a free kick from the edge of the box onto the crossbar with McGrath back-pedalling.

Ross Clarke was sent off for the Blues after a second booking following a tackle on Rhys Marshall, completing a bad day at the office for the visitors.

“If Burnsy scores that chance in the first couple of minutes we would have ran out comfortable winners,” said Feeney.

“I thought it was a bad goal for us to concede. I don’t want to take it away from Bradley because it was a good finish but I thought he had two arms wrapped around Quinn’s shoulders and we should have dealt with it better.

“We had enough chances to win the game - I think the penalty call was a massive call. I asked Raymond [Hetherington] why he didn’t give it and he said it was minimal contact. The word which stood out for me there was ‘contact’.

“We played so well in the second half - I think it was summed up when their goalkeeper was named man of the match. “

For the victors, First Team Coach Nigel Law believes Glenavon can now make a serious challenge for a European place. Only three points separates the Lurgan men, who are sixth, from fourth in the table.

“We want to target the top four, we think it’s realistic. Portadown and Glentoran have a very different focus with the Irish Cup final on their mind so maybe we can capitalise on that,” he said.