'It was about making a statement' - Mulgrew buoyed by Linfield response in Larne win

Shayne Lavery's double helped Linfield open up a six-point lead over Larne
Shayne Lavery's double helped Linfield open up a six-point lead over Larne

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew has said the Blues wanted to "make a statement" as the champions beat Larne to move six points clear in the Irish Premiership.

Shayne Lavery's double proved decisive as David Healy's side responded to their derby loss to Glentoran by seeing off Larne 2-1 at Windsor Park.

"We've had a lot of scrutiny and criticism recently, and right so," said Mulgrew.

"We haven't performed to the levels we've set, been a long way off it."

The 34-year-old added: "Tonight was about getting back on the horse again and making a statement and hopefully getting back on a run again."

Coming into the game under pressure following frustrating draws against Carrick Rangers and Coleraine and Tuesday's derby defeat by Glentoran, Linfield took the lead through Lavery's first-half penalty after he was fouled by Dean Jarvis.

Lavery also netted in the second half, and while Larne skipper Jeff Hughes pulled a late goal back for the visitors, Linfield held on to pull clear at the top.

Linfield were deserved winners on the night, exacting revenge on Larne after losing to Tiernan Lynch's side in the league and County Antrim Shield earlier in the season.

"Larne are obviously challengers," added Mulgrew.

"They dispatched us at their place and in the County Antrim Shield so we knew how difficult it was going to be.

"They've been in indifferent form but with the squad that they have, we know the challenge that they're going to continue to set, so it was about us getting three points and staying at the top of the league."

We have to be on our game every match - Mulgrew

While Lavery fired Linfield to a momentum-boosting win over their closest challengers, Mulgrew insists that there is plenty of work still be done, with tough games against Glentoran and Cliftonville to come over the next week.

"Playing for Linfield, it's always going to be difficult," admitted the long-serving midfielder, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this month.

"Teams always want to beat you, you're there to be shot at. With Larne, you hear certain stories about getting the extra incentives.

"Certainly they were given an extra incentive tonight, whether that was a bit of extra pressure put on them, I don't know, but we're here, we're champions and we have been for the last couple of years so we have to be on our game every match if we want to retain the title."