Larne ‘took their foot off the gas’ against Linfield says Randall as Newry bring forward deadline for manager search

Larne's Mark Randall and Linfield's Kirk Millar during Saturday's Sports Direct Premiership game at Inver Park in Larne. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

EXPERIENCED midfielder Mark Randall believes Larne paid the price to ‘taking their foot off the gas’ in their top two clash with Linfield at Inver Park.

The Invermen led the eagerly anticipated enounter 1-0 after just eight minutes thanks to a Lee Bonis goal, but this was cancelled out by Matthew Fitzpatrick’s header midway through the first half.

That was the way the game finished as Linfield kicked off 2024 with one point lead at the top and a game in hand, which takes place away to Crusaders on Tuesday night.

Randall (34) felt Larne could have recorded their third league win in a row over the league leaders.

He said: “It was a tough game, I felt we deserved more out of the game overall. I thought we created some good chances, particularly in the second half.

“We started off really well in the first 15-20 minutes. We were really comfortable and then we took our foot off the gas and they started to get more possession and got more crosses into the box.

“That’s where their goal came from which is disappointing.

“Credit to all the boys though, because were struggling players wise which some knocks and players missing through suspension.

“I think that says everything about the squad and what they give to the club. We had players who should have really played but they did to make sure we got through it.

“It was a massive game, so everyone wanted to be out there and you want to play on days like that.”

Former Arsenal man Randall also knew the importance of making sure Linfield didn’t claim victory in the final game of the year.

If they had, Larne could potentially have found themselves seven points behind by the time they next played a league fixture.

“You want to win the game obviously but it was important that we didn’t lose it either,” he added.

“When the game starts to creep into the last few minutes you’re conscious that you don’t want to lose the game and see them start to creep away from us in the title race.

“There’s still a long way to go in this season. No-one has won anything and we just have to make sure we do everything we can to win every game.”

Larne will kick-off the New Year with an Irish Cup trip to H&W Welders in what is a repeat of last year’s quarter-final tie.

Lee Bonis scored after eight minutes against Linfield but Matthew Fitzpatrick equalised for the Blues just before half-time Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

With a County Antrim Shield final against Glentoran to look forward to later on in the month and currently in the thick of the title race, Randall is excited at the thought of what is at stake over the coming weeks and months.

“We have a mentality where we want to win everything that we enter,” he added.

“Unfortunately we’re out of the League Cup, but we have the Shield final, we have the league to play and the Irish Cup coming up now.

“We are hungry to do as well as we can in whatever competition we play.

“Hopefully the experience we had last season in the title race and coming out on top will stand us in good stead.

“You’ve go to do the business at this point of the season to give yourself a chance of being there when the finals are played and the league is decided.”

Dungannon's hat-trick hero Ben Gallagher with the match ball after his first-half treble in the home side's 5-0 win over Newry City on Saturday Stangmore Park, Dungannon Picture: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press (David Maginnis/David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press)

DUNGANNON Swifts deepened Newry City’s woe at the foot of the Irish League table, and boosted their own survival hopes in the process, with a 5-0 thrashing of the south Down men at Stangmore Park on Saturday.

City are without a manager after Gary Boyle stepped down due to their 4-0 St Stephen’s Day loss to Glenavon, and things weren’t to improve on their trip to Tyrone.

Ben Gallagher netted a first-half hat-trick for the home side, with Leo Alves and Kealan Dillion chipping in with goals of their own.

The result leaves Newry nine points adrift of Dungannon and the last guaranteed safe spot in the table. The club announced on Thursday that they would be inviting applications for the vacant manager’s position until Thursday January 4.

However, they club have since brought that deadline forward to 5pm on New Year’s Day, given the high level of interest in the job.

Stuck in between Dungannon and Newry, in the promotion/relegation play-off spot, are Ballymena United, and they boosted their own survival hopes on Saturday with a 1-0 win on the road at Glenavon.

Fraser Taylor’s excellent solo effort, taking the ball from his own half before finishing from the edge of the box, was enough to give United the points, making it the first time this season they have registered back-to-back wins.

Crusaders recovered from their St Stephen’s Day derby defeat to Cliftonville with a 2-0 win over Carrick Rangers at Seaview. Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens were on target for the Crues against Rangers, who had Kurtis Forsythe dismissed in the 60th minute on a second yellow.

Loughgall moved to within a point of Coleraine in mid-table courtesy of a 3-1 over Oran Kearney’s men at Ballycastle Road. Benji Magee opened the scoring for the visitors before Davy McDaid responded to put Coleraine back on level terms.

However, a Nathaniel Ferris brace secured the win for Loughgall and consigned the hosts to their fourth defeat on the trot.

At the top to the table, Cliftonville were unable to take advantage of the Larne v Linfield stalemate as their game at the Oval against Glentoran was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.