Chris McKee hails Jamie Mulgrew as Linfield return to top

Linfield new boy Chris McKee looked on with envy as his captain Jamie Mulgrew reached a new appearance milestone at Windsor Park on Saturday.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 21st February 2022, 1:00 pm

The 19-year-old may have pulled on the famous blue shirt on only eight occasions since moving on loan from Rangers last month, but for the battle-hardened Mulgrew it was the 661st time, moving him into second place in the club’s all-time appearance record, one ahead of the legendary Tommy Dickson – the Duke of Windsor!

As fate would have it, it was McKee who grabbed the headlines by hitting the only goal of the game, which took David Healy’s boys back to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table – although the dubious goals panel may have other ideas.

Although the Ports never had a shot on goal all afternoon, which made it an easy shift for Blues goalkeeper Chris Johns, the reigning champions failed miserably to put the game to bed after McKee’s first half effort.

Chris McKee celebrates as Linfield take the lead. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Matt Mackey

In the best move of the day, Chris Shields sent the impressive Jake Hastie free on the left and, when he drilled in a low cross, McKee pounced only to see his shot rebound off goalkeeper Jethren Barr and then ricochet off defender Michael Ruddy and into the net.

Although McKee was thrilled with his part in the win, he was first to doff his cap in the direction of his skipper, who was given a special presentation in the Boardroom after the game to mark his marvellous contribution to the club.

“It’s an amazing feat for Jamie,” said McKee. “I’ve known him for a long time . . . he’s been at the club for years and is a top professional.

“He’s still going strong and he deserves all the plaudits that come his way. He’s been a big influence on me, along with the other senior pros at the club . . . Jimmy (Callacher), Shieldsie (Chris Shields) and the rest. There is still a more to come from Jamie.”

McKee believes it’s only a matter of time before the Blues strike it rich in front of goal.

He added: “I’ve no doubt the goals will come. We just take every game as it comes to see where it takes us. Sometimes you have got to grind out wins – I think we done that well.

“It could be an important three points come the end of the season. We had a lot of possession and I suppose the only criticism would be we never scored more and killed off the game.

“Growing up as a Linfield supporter, there is nothing better than putting the ball in the net for this great club. I was just happy to play my part and get the winner. It’s definitely my goal . . . I’m claiming it.”

Even though the Ports slumped to their 18th loss of the League campaign, new boss Paul Doolin, a former player at the club, was far from despondent.

He said: “Our season will not be defined on results at Windsor Park or any of the top teams.

“We are trying to do something in a short space of time, it’s just like a crash course in trying to get players to understand about winning games.

“If we can compete like that against the Blues and Glentoran, which we did a few weeks back, there is no reason why we can’t compete like that for the rest of the campaign.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, even more so after Glentoran losing on Friday night.

“They started well and were particularly dominant in the opening 25 minutes, but I thought we gave as good as we got in the second half.”