Belfast Telegraph

Linfield have quality to cope without star Waterworth, says Haughey

 

By Graham Luney

Mark Haughey believes Linfield will still make a flying start to the season - even without their injured goalscoring hero Andy Waterworth. The striker sustained a serious knee injury in the second leg of the Champions League clash with Celtic, ruling him out of the early battles as the Blues set about defending their league crown.

It's a cruel twist of fate for the former Glentoran ace who finished last season on fire, netting back-to-back hat-tricks to secure league title glory and Tennent's Irish Cup success for David Healy's side.

Linfield swept aside Coleraine 3-0 in a one-sided Cup decider in May and both sides will raise the curtain on the 2017-2018 season when they tussle in the Action Mental Health Charity Shield at The Oval on Saturday (3pm).

But Haughey and his team-mates know the hard work begins in their Premiership opener at home to Carrick Rangers next Saturday and they will need to find the winning formula without goal machine Waterworth.

"There's no doubt Andy would be a big miss for any side," said the defender. "His goalscoring record speaks for itself and he had started this season the way he had finished the last one, looking really good. I thought his work rate against Celtic in the two matches was outstanding and you get that honesty and endeavour from Andy, before the goals come.

"But as a squad we have to prepare ourselves for injuries and however long he is out we will keep the show on the road. There are strikers at the club and players such as Cameron Stewart, Aaron Burns and Paul Smyth who know where the net is and the manager has different options.

"Each one of those boys can score a bagful of goals and we have shown that there are goals throughout the team with many of us scoring from set-pieces. We work on that aspect of our game and it's great to have that goal threat from all over the pitch."

The champions are always a huge scalp for any side but the former Glenavon ace from Newry accepts that's a way of life at Windsor Park.

"Nothing really changes at Linfield in the sense that we were always a big scalp and teams raise their game against us," said the 26-year-old. "As league title holders we are there to be shot at again but the team's used to dealing with that, that is nothing new.

"We won't be arrogant in any way or settling for what we have achieved because that is not what this club is about. It's important the confidence and momentum we finished the season with in May is maintained when we start again."

Meanwhile, Linfield's inspirational skipper Jamie Mulgrew and his family were awarded a Mayoral Reception at Bangor Town Hall on Wednesday night.

The midfielder from Bangor lifted the league title, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield last season and also scooped several Player of the Year prizes.

Also, Danny Wallace has been released by the Blues.

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