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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Gareth Fullerton

Chris Shields on the 'maddest minute of Irish League football' and Linfield response

Chris Shields admits he still thinks about Linfield's Europa Conference League play-off nightmare, labelling it the "maddest minute of Irish League football".

The Blues came within seconds of reaching the group stages of European competition, but after missing a gilt-edged chance of their own in extra-time injury time, Latvian opponents RFS raced up the pitch to bag a crucial goal to force penalties.

David Healy's side paid the price from the spot, with RFS earning a 4-2 shootout win to deny Linfield their place in history, and a lucrative £2.4m windfall.

Read more: Conor McMenamin in shock return as Glentoran provide injury update

Midfielder Shields - who came off injured in extra-time and didn't feature in the penalty shootout - admits the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Of course it was disappointing not reaching the group stages of the Europa Conference League. We got to within touching distance, then we had the maddest minute of Irish League football," Shields told BBC Sportsound.

"You just watch it unfold in front of your eyes, and standing there it was lie the stadium became empty. You stand there in disbelief.

"But you get over it and there's no point crying over it still. It's November.

"It does pop up in my mind the odd time as a bad memory."

Linfield's European hangover appeared to linger as David Healy's side laboured through the opening weeks of the Premiership.

They have shown some shoots of encouragement in recent games, however, but the champions are playing catch-up in the title race, sitting nine points behind leaders Larne after 15 games played.

They will look to close the gap on Tuesday when the two sides meet at Windsor Park, and Shields accepts there is plenty more football to play before the Gibson Cup is handed out.

"We just keep trying to chip away of the teams ahead of us. And there are a few ahead of us because of the bad start we had," he said.

Linfield manager David Healy after losing to RFS (INPHO/Jonathan Porter)

"We have to keep focusing on moving up positions, and there is plenty of football to be played. There has been plenty of football played for us already this season.

"You play each other four times, and come the split I think it will be an even more interesting split that last season.

"I said it here last year that the split will decide the league and I think it will be the same this season."

Shields starred in his debut season for Linfield, going on to lift the Premiership title and also be crowned NI Football Awards Player of the Year and Ulster Footballer of the Year

He added: "It couldn't have gone better.

"These are nice personal accolades. The Ulster Footballer of the Year, you just look at the names on it including Jackie Milburn.

"The players and legends who have gone before me, it was a nice thing to get.

"But the most important trophy to get my hands on was the league trophy."


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