‘Two down, six big ones to go’ proclaimed Linfield boss Warren Feeney following Saturday slender victory over Institute in Drumahoe.
The Blues earned back-to-back clean sheets to claim another vital win in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Aaron Burns’ goal was enough to seal the win, and keep Feeney’s side six points off leaders Crusaders.
“We’re now moving into the nitty-gritty part of the season and I always knew that we would face a battle up here,” Feeney said.
“The quality of the pitch was poor and that didn’t suit either side as we both like to play football, but we knew we had a job to do and while we were not at our best, getting another win is what it’s all about at this stage.”
Feeney predictably heaped praise on Burns whose 41st minute strike proved particularly timely on the day.
“It was a great time to score the goal, four or five minutes before the break, and I’m delighted for Aaron, a player who has now netted 17 goals this season, that’s a fabulous return from a midfielder,” he added.
“As I’ve said, to take another clean sheet was excellent and our defending was excellent, that’s what I wanted.”
Burns rose majestically at the back post to produce a powerful downward header following Ross Clarke’s superb corner to make the breakthrough.
And with Crusaders also winning, Feeney maintained that the Premiership title was theirs to lose.
He went on: “The pressure is on Crusaders, winning the league title remains in their hands and they’ve done fantastically well this season.
“However, we’ve got to make sure that we keep picking up points and remaining on their coat-tails coming into the split.
“Two games ago, I asked the players to try and win the final eight games – we now have six big ones to come and we want to be in their battling all the way to end of the season, that’s what this club is all about.”
Feeney felt six points was “a good gap” but with the top six to meet again before the season ends, he feels there will be quite a few twists and turns before the finish.
“I do see twists and turns all the way to the end, so it’s important that we stay focused, continue to look after ourselves and take each game as it comes,” concluded Feeney.
For Institute, it was a respectable defeat and had their taken one of the few chances that they did create Paul Kee’s men could so easily have shared the spoils.
Continuing to battle for their Premiership survival, Kee will have taken comfort from the performance as he continues to seek his first win in 19 league matches.