Belfast Telegraph

Healy's treble yell for Big Two cup clash

By Graham Luney

Linfield manager David Healy will hammer home THREE good reasons for his team to stand up and be counted in today's Tennent's Irish Cup showdown with bitter rivals Glentoran at the Oval (3.00pm).

The former Northern Ireland favourite is still haunted by last season's final defeat by Glenavon, when his boys simply didn't count on the big stage. He was let down once again in last month's big Boxing Day clash against Gary Haveron's Glens, who were unlucky not to take all three points.

But possibly the biggest blow to Healy since he moved into the Blues hot-seat was the midweek horror showing against Coleraine - just days after cutting the gap to four points on Crusaders at the top of the league.

"This is a Big Two match, which will make my team talk easy," he said.

Healy added: "The display against Coleraine was one of our worst of the season, especially after the win at Crusaders only four days earlier.

"I've spoken with the lads, as group and individually. I just can't put my finger on what went wrong. We started poorly and basically got worse. That's football.

"But there is no point in beating ourselves up by dwelling on it. There is only one way to get it out of the system.

"The cup tie is a game we will relish. We've trained hard all week, so hopefully our fans come out and give us their backing as they have been doing, which means so much to the players."

One thing Healy insists will not be in short supply against the old foe will be motivation.

The Blues will attempt to come off the ropes following a midweek league defeat at home to Coleraine - a knockout blow that leaves them trailing champions Crusaders by seven points, with only 14 games remaining.

It was ironic that only four days earlier, Healy's troops produced one of their best displays of the campaign to pocket three points at Seaview.

But all that good work was undone with that horror showing against the Bannsiders in front of their frustrated home fans.

"The boys will not require any lifting for a Big Two match," said Healy, who had to look on from the stand on Tuesday after being dismissed against the Crues. "We'll go to the Oval with something to prove... it's a game we will relish.

"Glentoran came to our place a few weeks back and got at draw, so this will be another tight one."

The Northern Ireland record goal scorer admitted he was bitterly disappointed with his team's offering in midweek.

"I just can't put my finger on it," he sighed. "We go from a great performance against Crusaders. In my mind we were certainly the better team on the day, to a disjointed, shoddy display against Coleraine.

"Hopefully, we can put it behind us and get it out of the system. There is still a long way to go in the league campaign."

Healy admitted the dismissal of Jimmy Callacher after only 34 minutes certainly had an affect on the outcome.

"I'm not one for making excuses, but it gave us a mountain to climb having to play for such a long time with a man down," he added. "However, there is no question that we were flat.

"We started the game poorly. There was no spark about us. Coleraine are a big, tough, physical side, so it was always going to be difficult with only 10 men."

Callacher will sit out Saturday's game, due to that red card, but Healy is boosted by the return of skipper Jamie Mulgrew, who missed the Coleraine debacle after picking up a red card in the previous game.

"We've been hit by injury and suspensions, but I suppose every team is in the same boat," added Healy. "There is no doubt we've missed the spark that Paul Smyth gives us. He's been out five weeks with a foot injury.

"Jamie (Mulgrew) comes back into the squad, while we are hoping to have Ross Gaynor available."

Healy is still hoping to add to his squad over the January transfer window, but admits: "It's not a good time to do business," he added. "Yes, we are actively searching and the board have been very supportive, but it has to be the right type of player.

"Our focus is on this cup tie. We are possibly four games away from the final. Yes, we were down after the Coleraine game, but this is a Big Two match - motivation will not be required."

Belfast Telegraph


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