David Healy believes there are still six sides capable of toasting Danske Bank Premiership glory at the end of what he expects to be an intriguing second half of the season as they travel to Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership on Tuesday.
His Linfield team sit two points behind table-topping Ballymena United courtesy of their weekend victory over Cliftonville, whom he refuses to discount from the race despite a third consecutive defeat leaving them a yawning 14 off the pace.
“The top six will be the top six we have now,” said the Blues boss.
“There’s us, Ballymena, Crusaders, Glenavon, Coleraine and Cliftonville and all those teams will be in the top half of the table and they can all still win the league, so it’s going to be an interesting battle over the next few months.
“I don’t think you can rule any of those teams out because they’re all capable of going on a big run.
“I know some are a little bit further behind than others but a little bit of form, a little bit of momentum and you can be right up there.”
The weekend’s only downside from a Linfield perspective came when substitute Michael O’Connor picked up two yellow cards within five minutes of entering proceedings from the bench.
“It was silly from Michael and a little bit of petulance,.
“The first one, he’s kicked the ball away after an offside and the second, I think he should maybe have had a free-kick for a foul on him but you can’t react like that.
“It hasn’t cost us anything on the day but it’s probably cost him a start against Ards on Tuesday.”
And Ards boss Colin Nixon is hoping his side can kick-on from their 3-0 win against Dungannon Swifts at the weekend.
“I am really proud of the boys’ efforts on Saturday but we just have to keep plugging away. We’ve done nothing - we’ve only got a win, which is why there is no celebrating or cheering in the dressing room.
“We’ve a long way to go, but at least we’ve shown we are a good side who are ready to fight.”
Ards looked in serious trouble before Saturday, slumped to the bottom of the league and on a 12-game winless run. It was Ards’ first win since October 20, but Nixon insisted results don’t tell the full story.
“I’ve been banging on week in, week out that we’ve been playing well. We were the dominant team and some of the football we played was excellent. We need to to be ready for Linfield threat.”