Bullish David Healy believes his team can still muscle in on the title stakes in spite of Saturday’s defeat by Cliftonville at Windsor Park.
A last gasp goal from Ross Lavery condemned the Blues to their first home league defeat since November 14, 2015 - but significantly, it meant that Healy’s boys are now an alarming seven points adrift of champions Crusaders.
Daniel Hughes shot the Reds into the lead early in the second half, but Andy Waterworth appeared to have rescued his team team by plundering an equaliser 11 minutes from time.
However, Lavery sent the Red Army home happy with that winner in the in the final seconds.
In spite of the result, a defiant Healy stressed he is in the title race for the long haul, stating: “I still firmly believe that we are contenders - Cliftonville are also contenders.
“Sometimes people think that Linfield are the biggest club; they have the biggest squad; the biggest budget, but I look at some of the other squads in the league and they are much bigger.
“Yes, Crusaders are favourites (to win the title) because they have been there and done it.
“When you are winning titles, it proves you have got the best squad. They have a strong mind-set . . . they know how to get over the line.
“People say it’s more difficult to retain the title, I believe it’s more difficult to regain it especially you haven’t won it for four or five years.
“Make no mistake about it, the longer this club goes without winning things. The harder it’s going to be. But we’ll go again . . . I just wish our next game (against Portadown) was in midweek because I’d be looking for a quick reaction.”
“I still feel privileged to be managing this club - I’m loving every minute of it.
“It’s an obsession with me to try and be successful. I’ll be pushing for the next year and a half to hopefully win some silverware.”
Healy insisted his boys never reached the heights of recent performances which heralded seven points from a possible nine, adding: “I’m frustrated and disappointed. We didn’t start the game at the right tempo. Their two goals were avoidable . . . down to poor defending.
“There wasn’t too much in the game. But winning teams find a way to win - we failed to do that today. We are still trying to find a way to crack that.
“Today was a good example. There wasn’t a lot in the game, but we should have found a way (to win it) because I thought we were good enough and capable enough - but we didn’t. The players just didn’t do enough.
“We’ve had a few little pats in the back over the past few weeks, so to lose this game was a sore one to take.”
If there was a cloud of despondency hovering over the Linfield dressing room, it was a different scenario in a jubilant Reds’ camp with manager Gerard Lyttle signing his boys’ praises.
“Hopefully, this will be a huge confidence booster for the rest of the campaign, beamed Lyttle. “There is a long way to go in this title race, but we are still in there.
“On our day, we are as good as any team in the league. We came here to win the game - we had a game plan that we stuck to.
“We did our homework on Linfield and we executed our game plan superbly well.
“The boys worked their socks off for the entire game. When you come to Windsor you try to silence the crowd - and we did that. It’s a massive three points for us.
“A lot of questions has been asked of us, but I think we answered those questions with the performance - we showed we have the mentality to win at places like this.
“Our character - our organisational skills were top drawer. We played a team that was bang in form. I think we are now the only team to beat them twice this year.”