Payback time for Linfield's Mark Haughey
Mark Haughey is on a personal mission to repay the faith shown in him by the Linfield family. A bright new dawn opened up for the Newry man when he put pen to paper in a two-year contract at the end of April last year but his Windsor Park fairytale rapidly became an injury nightmare.
Hamstring injuries consigned him to the treatment room with a long awaited debut not arriving until a 3-0 home win against Ballinamallard United on December 14.
After helping his side secure crucial wins over Portadown and Glentoran in the same month, Haughey is back in the groove, demonstrating the qualities that captured the attention of Blues boss David Jeffrey.
In the 2-1 victory over Glentoran at The Oval he played as if he had been a seasoned campaigner in the visitors' rearguard.
Alongside Glens old boy Sean Ward in the heart of the defence, the 22-year-old was only denied a clean sheet by David Scullion's late consolation.
Linfield's number five, who had a trial with League One side AFC Bournemouth last January, has suffered more than enough injury in his early career.
While wearing Glenavon colours, he missed most of the 2011/12 season after breaking a leg in a league game against Coleraine.
The move to Linfield offered him a fresh opportunity to fulfil his potential on the domestic stage but injury setbacks left him cursing his luck.
But after some excellent medical work his Linfield career is up and running and Haughey is keen to repay the faith shown in him by the club.
"It's important that I get a run in the first team and I feel fully fit and raring to go," he said.
"The new year can be a fresh start for me and I can go into it feeling a lot more positive and optimistic about my time at the club.
"Everyone has been very supportive. I've got 100% backing from the medical team, players and management.
"I could not thank them enough for their support and the way they have kept faith in me.
"I want to repay that faith and perform to the standard that the club and supporters expect from me.
"I want to play as many matches as I can and show the fans what I am capable of.
"I'm just delighted to be playing because I was out injured for five to six months and it was one of the most frustrating injuries to have.
"I snapped my leg two years ago and you know you will be out for seven months but with this hamstring injury I always seemed to be close to coming back but then it would be damaged again.
"I would play reserve team football and then take a step back again. But the Boxing Day match was my first full 90 minutes after the previous two I was substituted.
"When you are back playing and winning matches that restores your confidence and belief. It will take me some time to perhaps show my best form but for now I am happy to be involved again."
The centre-back will face his old club Glenavon at Windsor Park this afternoon and he will have a spring in his step after shining in the Boxing Day win over Glentoran.
"I loved every single minute of it," added Haughey.
"I always heard people talking about the fixture but I had never played in it or watched it before.
"It was an unbelievable experience to play in front of such a huge crowd and both sets of fans were magnificent.
"I was a little nervous before the game but once the first whistle sounds you have a job to do.
"The only disappointing thing is a failure to finish with a clean sheet.
"It's always drilled into us by the manager that we will always win a game if we can keep a clean sheet as we have the strikers who can score goals so it was disappointing to concede at the end but the main objective was the three points."
Kicking off the new year six points clear at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership, Haughey is entitled to believe that a season which started in frustrating fashion could end on a much sweeter note.
He added: "It's a great position to be in, six points clear but we will be looking to enhance that lead, open up a bigger gap.
"No-one is getting carried away. We are just past the halfway point in the league and all we can do is look after ourselves and we won't be getting overconfident."
Linfield legend William Murphy will be back at Windsor wrestling for the Lurgan Blues.
Haughey added on the club website: "A few people have passed comment to me about Winkie Murphy and me having swapped sides.
"I didn't know him that well but I've spoken to him on a few occasions.
"He was a legend here obviously but he's a total professional and he'll be coming here to get three points for Glenavon, just as I'll be doing all in my power to try and get three points for us."
The Blues have skipper Michael Gault back available after his suspension.