Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's Mark Haughey in it for the long haul

Mark insists Blues' belief is high as they aim to extend Euro trip

By Graham Luney

The man who travelled on his own to Slovakia to fight for the Linfield cause is confident the Blues can go the extra mile tonight and prolong their Europa League adventure.

Work commitments prevented Mark Haughey from travelling with the squad last week but Linfield arranged for the centre-back to fly out of Dublin on match day and be part of a spirited away performance which now gives them a fighting chance of overcoming Spartak Trnava at Windsor Park tonight (7.45pm).

Warren Feeney's side lost the opening leg 2-1 but David Kee's sublime free-kick ensured they returned home with belief.

The winners progress to a third qualifying round clash against Lokomotiv Zagreb from Croatia or Greek side PAOK and Haughey hopes he will have to request more time off work.

"The club had a charter flight going out on the Wednesday morning but I couldn't join the boys as I had work commitments," explained the former Glenavon ace.

"I haven't started long with Citibank in Belfast and I was unable to get the Wednesday off but I was free on Thursday and the club kindly arranged for me to travel to Slovakia via Dublin on the Thursday.

"I arrived in time to get focused on the game and have the pre-match meal. We travelled home after the game, arrived back in Belfast at about 4am and I was in work again on Friday!

"I wasn't fazed about travelling out there on my own, in fact I found it quite exciting and I'm just grateful to the club for helping me to arrange it.

"Without the club organising the flights and transport I wouldn't have been able to help the boys so it was well worth it in the end and who knows, if we get through this round I might need more time off work!"

Midfielder Stephen Lowry misses out through suspension but defender Sean Ward returns and Haughey is still confident the underdogs can bite at Windsor.

"They will certainly not be underestimating us because they will think differently about us now. We have earned their respect," added Haughey, who was included in the football writers' Team of the Season.

"We know what they are capable of but the pressure is off us as we aren't the favourites. Their manager (Juraj Jarabek) is under pressure and their form isn't great so they could be lacking confidence.

"They are still a full-time side with one or two international players but we have prepared well all week and will have our own gameplan.

"You need a bit of luck to progress in Europe and maybe over the years Irish League sides have lacked that but things are changing and we have more belief."

Former Glenavon hero Guy Bates and Andy Waterworth have struck up a good understanding in attack and the early indications are that Linfield have more punch up front - just what they needed as they lacked a ruthless streak last season.

Haughey added: "Guy Bates has come in and he's been excellent for us.

"Guy and Andy have struck up a fantastic partnership and when those boys are on form goalscoring is not a problem.

"David Kee scored a goal in the first leg and if he did that in the Premier League in England they would still be talking about it. Mark Stafford has been unlucky with injury and I know that feeling as it took me about five months to make my Linfield debut but his time will come.

"We are relishing the underdog tag and we showed last week with our performance out there that we can cause them problems. It was important that we kept the tie alive and we have a fighting chance. At our own ground we are capable of winning the tie."

Belfast Telegraph


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