Captain Jamie Mulgrew and fellow midfielder Stephen Lowry have admitted their side coming up against Scottish opposition can only be a good thing for the Northern Irish side.
The Blues, who faced Celtic in this summer’s Champions League qualifiers, have now faced three Scottish sides in the Irn-Bru Cup over the pas 12 or so months and only positives can be taken from the experience.
“It was certainly a new experience and there was an air of excitement,” explains Mulgrew. “It was something new and something different compared to the competitions we normally play in. It was against full-time opposition so it was a good test for us as a team. For us to have the opportunity to play a big club like Dundee United and go there to test ourselves against a good team, it was an occasion we had to embrace.”
“I missed the Queen of the South game through injury,” explains Stephen Lowry. “I didn’t play in the competition at all last year which was disappointing as I think we were all looking forward to playing against Scottish or Welsh sides as, despite us playing in Europe every season, we had never came up against a club from either of those country so it was good to test ourselves against them and compare to see where we were at.”
Before they were drawn against the Tangerines, Linfield had to battle past Scottish Lowland League part-timers, Spartans.
“To be fair, we made a few changes on the day and I don’t think we played to our best; we hadn’t got into our stride yet and Spartans to be fair did quite well but overall the standard of the game wasn’t high. I felt it was like an Irish league game; it was a bit physical and they done well, I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we knew Dundee United would be a much higher calibre of opposition,” continues Lowry, who scored the winner in the cup-tie at Ainslie Park to seal Linfield’s passage to Round 3.
Mulgrew added: “We had the game last season; we have also faced teams like Celtic and Hearts this summer too so we had worked on things tactically, such as our shape, heading in to these games and it was then down to us to put it into practise. Spartans showed us that there are no pushovers nowadays and when we come up against bigger and better sides, that is what we need to do and I think that was shown on Saturday.”
“Where we were then, compared to where we are now, I would say we are a much better team and squad,” concludes the Northern Irish capped midfielder. “The success we had last year, plus the experiences we have gained this year, I would certainly say we are a far stronger side than the one which faced Queen of the South.”