Matthew Clarke wants Linfield to build from the back in Bosnia tie

Linfield’s Matthew Clarke has called for defensive strength as the Blues face Banja Luka bolstered by a 4-0 first-leg lead to stand one clean sheet away from the Europa Conference League third qualifying round.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 8:00 am

A night to remember last week in Windsor Park featured goals from Matthew Newberry, Christy Manzinga, Jamie Mulgrew and Jimmy Callacher as Linfield proved commanding against the champions of Bosnia.

Now David Healy’s men must face Banja Luka on home turf and Clarke has highlighted the importance of a solid defensive foundation.

“Every year I’ve been here and been successful we’ve built it on a drive to keep clean sheets and not let opposition score cheap goals,” said Clarke on the official Linfield website. “It was something I felt in the previous tie we gave away soft goals.

Linfield’s Matthew Clarke on European duty last week at Windsor Park. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

“Thankfully, we shut shop last Thursday - it’s something we strive as a back four to do...and the four goals we scored as well were quality.”

Clarke described the win as “unbelievable”.

“A team like ourselves coming from Northern Ireland to beat anyone in Europe 4-0 is a dream result,” he said. “But the performance from 1-11 was unbelievable, fully deserved from minute one to the end.

“If we keep the same level of performance out here there’s no reason why we cant go through.

“It will be a different game with the heat and in front of their crowd, they might be expecting something like 9,000 or 10,000.

“It will be a different test but something we will face head-on and look forward to definitely.

“It’s a new experience for some of the lads who have recently joined us or the younger lads.

“For me as a young 20 or 21 year old coming home from Scotland, coming straight into European football was a big help and good help to bond.”

Reports from Bosnia yesterday declared that Banja Luka manager Marko Maksimovic had resigned, along with his assistant, with members of the coaching staff expected to take charge of the tie.