Larne striker Andy Ryan ‘focused and calm’ ahead of crucial Linfield clash

Champions can clinch back-to-back titles with victory at Windsor Park

Sports Direct Premiership - Match Day 24
Larne v Linfield
Andy Ryan of Larne tackled by Michael Newberry of Linfield during this Afternoon's game at Inver Park, Larne. 
Photo - Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press
Larne's Andy Ryan says that they respect Linfield but must be confident in their won ability heading into Monday night's crucial Sports Direct Premiership clash at Windsor Park (Andrew McCarroll/Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press)

Windsor Park is the venue tonight for a Titanic clash of two rivals locked in a dogfight for the Sports Direct Premiership.

With just two games remaining, reigning champions Larne will win a second successive league title if they beat Linfield in south Belfast (7.45pm).

After a dramatic turn of events last Tuesday night, Tiernan Lynch’s side have a three-point advantage over the Blues, with a significantly better goal difference as well.

David Healy’s team looked set to move into the box seat as Linfield were beating Coleraine 2-1 approaching 90 minutes at Windsor.

The Blues had overturned a 1-0 deficit after Jamie McGonigle opened for the Bannsiders, scoring through Matthew Fitzpatrick and Chris Shields.

At exactly the same time, Larne were being held 1-1 at The Oval after Andy Ryan opened for the visitors, only to see Cian Bolger score a looping own goal after the break.

Linfield would have gone a point ahead of Larne had both games ended then, but there would be a sting in the tail of both matches.

Jonny Russell turned the ball into his own net in added time to hand Larne victory while at Windsor Matthew Shevlin nicked an equaliser, also in added time, to turn the tables at the top.

Linfield’s Ethan McGee after his side drew with Coleraine in the Sports Direct Premiership on Tuesday night
Linfield’s Ethan McGee after his side drew with Coleraine in the Sports Direct Premiership on Tuesday night (INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton)

Professionalism, togetherness and total focus are the attributes Larne have shown this season to bring them to the brink, says Scottish striker Ryan as he looks ahead to tonight’s showdown.

“We were focused only on our game and what we had to do on Tuesday night”, said the Drumchapel man.

“We didn’t really know what was going on in the other games until after our game was over, and that is the way it has been for us all season.

“We just focus on what we have to do and keep the noise out.

“Any noise being made is coming from outside the club, inside the club we are calm and focused.

“The professionalism at the club is through the roof, it’s the first thing I noticed when I signed for Larne last year (January).

“Everything is about standards at the club, high standards, aiming for high standards, attaining high standards, maintaining high standards.

“And another strength we have is our togetherness, even though competition for places is fierce.

“I missed out on a couple of weeks in October with a hamstring injury, Paul O’Neill came in and did well and I had to work hard to get my place back, and that’s great.

“We get on great, myself, Paul, Lee (Bonis), everyone in the squad gets on with each other, it’s a fantastic group of players.

“The gaffer does his homework onplayers, he wants the right player on the pitch and the right personoff the pitch and I think another strength we have is the depth of our squad.

“That’s what it’s there for, tocover for players who are out injured, or maybe a bit out of form,and everyone pulls together for the common goal.

“We are in a good position and agood place going into tonight’s game, but we have won nothing yet andthere is no complacency in our squad at all.

“Linfield are a very good team, they must and will be respected, but we have to be confident in our own ability and keep believing in what we are trying to do.”