Penalty hero Chris Johns only has sights on Linfield title drive
Linfield goalkeeper Chris Johns preferred to shrug off the back slaps and high fives after helping nudge his team a little closer to the Danske Bank Premiership title at the Oval on Saturday.
David Healy’s boys produced a professional performance, filled with passion and desire, complemented by flashes of brilliance.
It was Johns who conjured up a fantastic save from the penalty spot 12 minutes from time to help keep the Blues six points clear at the top of the table – with Coleraine now their nearest challengers.
Referee Tim Marshall stunned Healy and his entourage in the Linfield dugout when he pointed to the spot, having adjudged Jimmy Callacher of handling a shot from Gael Bigirimana.
Johns produced the save - diving to his left to beat away Robbie McDaid’s shot.
With only four games remaining, Mick McDermott’s Glentoran now face a massive challenge if they are to end a title drought that spans back to 2009.
It could have been even better for the Blues had Andy Waterworth been a little bit more accurate with his header deep into injury-time.
Kirk Millar’s cross was pawed out by goalkeeper Rory Brown and the big striker was first to react, only to see his effort hoofed off the line by Rhys Marshall.
Johns is now so close to achieving his ambition of picking up a league winner’s medal.
“It’s a big ambition of mine to win a league title,” he said. “I’ve got the runners-up medal from last year – that’s a wee reminder to me every week.
“Hopefully, we can push on and win it.
“It was a big result for us.
“They put us under a lot of pressure, but they didn’t create that many chances.
“I thought we did really well..it was a positive result and could have nicked it at the end.
“I couldn’t really tell from where I was at, but I think Andy was leaning back and couldn’t quite generate the power on the ball.
“It’s another game chalked off and a step closer to the finish line.
“Glentoran and Coleraine play on Tuesday, so points will be dropped there.
“We must make sure we do our job against Crusaders – we’ll focus on that.”
Johns admitted he had a fair idea where McDaid would put his spot-kick.
“I know Robbie quite well,” he said. “I know what way he likes to finish, so I was happy he went that way again.
“If you don’t know the player, you do a bit of research, but if you know the player and, where he likes to place his shots, then that’s a bonus.
“My record at saving penalties is not great.
“I think I’ve saved only three in the league over the last four or five years...I was happy with that one.
“We are now six points clear with four games left, we would have taken that scenario had we been offered it at the start of the season.
“We are in a good position and, hopefully, we can close it out soon.”
Glentoran boss Mick McDermott admitted it was a game balanced on a knife edge.
“In a game like that you are going to get one or possibly two moments when a chance will present itself,” he said. “When you are awarded a spot-kick with 10 minutes to go, you’ve got to take it.
“I couldn’t complain about any of our boys.
“We now have four games remaining.
“We have a massive match against Coleraine on Tuesday night...I’m sure Coleraine are also looking forward to it.
“The season is far from over, but I know it’s now a big ask to pull in the points (to reel in Linfield).
“But it’s important to finish as high up the table as possible.
“Linfield still have to win two from their last four, anything is possible.
“Until it is mathematically impossible for us to catch them, we’ll keep going.”
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