Linfield midfielder Aaron Burns insists his team won’t allow this week’s events at Windsor Park to affect them in Saturday’s Big Two showdown against cross-town rivals Glentoran.
The departure of manager Warren Feeney was a shock to everyone connected with the club. As the search for a new boss gathers momentum, team affairs are now left to Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie.
But they have a massive act to follow as Feeney had guided the Blues to the top of the Danske Premiership table, two points ahead of title holders Crusaders.
Feeney’s announcement came hot on the heels of an incredible result last Saturday when the Blues surrendered a two goal lead against Cliftonville at Solitude, but battled back with a late Burns equaliser.
“The boss told us he was leaving in Tuesday night when he said his good-byes . . . it was very emotional, but the rumous have been circulating from the weekend, so it wasn’t a real big shock to the boys,” said Burns.
“Everyone is sorry to see him leave . . . we all enjoyed working under him. He was not only a great coach, but he was a great man manager. But that’s football. It was a chance he couldn’t ignore, especially as it give him the opportunity of moving back to his family.
“Warren’s is an ambitious guy. He sees it as another step up the ladder by moving into full time management. We must now look ahead and not behind. The players will be professional enough not to let it affect them. We are sitting at the top of the table . . . and we must strive to stay there.
“Regardless of who comes in, or whether it’s Andy and Alfie, we must keep producing the type of performance we were turning in under Warren.
“It’s always a big game against Glentoran . . . those fixtures look after themselves. There is never any motivation required. It will be the same this time. But we will be determined to put on a show for our supporters to earn them the bragging rights.”
The Blues have tasted defeat only once in this campaign, but it required that late strike from Burns to earn a point at Solitude.
“It was an incredible match,” he added. “We were gutted we didn’t get three points, having led 2-0 at half-time. . . . we were coasting. We actually missed a couple of chances to kill the game. It was the best football we’ve played for some time. But we knew Cliftonville would come out with all guns firing in the second half and that’s exactly what happened.”
Ailing Glentoran, who were humbled by Ballinamallard United at the Oval last weekend, which had their fans baying for blood as the players made their way to the dressing room, may take some encouragement from Feeney’s departure.
“We are low in confidence following the defeat last week,” said manager Eddie Patterson. “But we had so many players missing it was frightening.
“That’s not an excuse because our performance was totally unacceptable. It’s well documented we are working off a small squad of players, so when you take six or seven of those out, we are always going to fell the draft.”
“We now have a platform to bounce back and hopefully, give the fans something to cheer instead of jeering. I have every sympathy for them . . . they pay their money and they are entitled to voice their opinion. But we are as frustrated as they are.”
Patterson’s plight certainly doesn’t appear to be easing as Niall Henderson, Kym Nelson, Calum Birney and Jim O’Hanlon remain in the queue for the treatment room. He also had doubts over Jay Magee, Barry Holland and Stevie Gordon, who sustained a back injury last week.
Midfielder Ciaran Caldwell is serving a six game ban, while David Howland’s future is still in the balance because of a recurring knee problem.