Irish Premiership: Linfield's Waterworth not surprised by Ballymena form

Andrew Waterworth (right) has netted eight goals in his last five matches
Andrew Waterworth (right) has netted eight goals in his last five matches

Linfield striker Andrew Waterworth says he is not surprised by Ballymena United's impressive form which sees them lie second in the league table.

Six straight Premiership wins have left United two points behind Linfield ahead of Saturday's match between the sides.

"They'll very much fancy themselves against us," said Waterworth.

"They certainly haven't taken me by surprise. David Jeffrey sets very high standards and he'll make the players believe in themselves."

"David is a great communicator and they'll go into every match thinking that they can win. It'll be a tough game but it's one we are relishing and looking forward to. It should make for a great top-of-the-table clash," added the Blues' frontman.

'Ambitious' Ballymena on winning streak

The Sky Blues have won 12 and drawn one of their last 13 in all competitions and in addition to occupying lofty heights near the league summit they have also reached the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield and League Cup.

Their last defeat was a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Linfield at Windsor Park on 29 September.

"Ballymena have signed really well and in David and Bryan (McLaughlin) they have two fantastic leaders.

"They have ambitious board members, ambitious coaches and ambitious players," argued the former Glentoran striker.

Cathair Friel of Ballymena United
Cathair Friel gave Ballymena the lead in a 2-1 defeat by Linfield at Windsor Park in September

Prolific period

Waterworth has responded to losing his starting place in the Linfield front-line earlier in the campaign by scoring eight goals in his club's last five games, including a hat-trick in last week's 4-2 win over Cliftonville.

"I'm delighted to be back in the team and on the goal trail. You always want to be playing but I've been out of the team a few times this season and probably deservedly so.

"I'm not one for 'huffing' so you always look at yourself and think how I can get back in the team. Now it's up to me to keep my place.

"You're always pleased as a striker when you're scoring goals but they can quickly dry up."

Under-par campaign 'a learning experience'

Several teams are in the mix to contest this season's title race and the traditionally busy Christmas and New Year period may give a pointer as to who the genuine challengers for the Gibson Cup will be this time round.

"If you come out of the Christmas period there or thereabouts near the top of the league then you have a good chance of contending for the title.

"We have quite a youthful squad at Linfield now, full of energy and full of desire. There's a determination to do ourselves and the club proud. We have a lot of strength in depth and a nice balance to the squad.

"We're dynamic and can play different formations so I believe this team has the makings of meeting the standards demanded at a big club like Linfield.

Waterworth scored a last-gasp equaliser in Linfield's 1-1 draw with Warrenpoint on 3 November
Waterworth scored a last-gasp equaliser in Linfield's 1-1 draw with Warrenpoint on 3 November

"We weren't on it for a few games recently, against the likes of Ards and Warrenpoint Town, but hopefully we are over that poor spell and maintain high standards for the rest of the season. If we're not at our best then it's important we find a way."

Linfield finished in a distant fourth place in the standings last season, 24 points behind champions Crusaders, without a trophy, and missing out on qualification for European football.

"The only way we will put last season behind us is by being successful this year. We learnt quite a lot about ourselves last year and a lot about the league.

"We are hoping our failures last season will act as a springboard for us to learn how to succeed this time. We're enjoying it, remaining totally focussed and are looking forward to the challenges."

Meanwhile, Linfield announced on Thursday that Niall Quinn has signed a three-year contract extension with the club.

Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 1 December - 15:00 GMT
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound and text commentary on BBC Sport NI website
ArdsvWarrenpoint Town
Ballymena UtdvLinfield
CliftonvillevDungannon Swifts
GlenavonvInstitute
GlentoranvCrusaders

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