Belfast Telegraph

Andy Waterworth hails Healy for helping him through barren spell

By Stuart McKinley

Andy Waterworth always knew that he would come through his early-season goal drought. That's because he was taking advice from someone who knows all about scoring goals.

And the Linfield striker believes that the mental strength he showed throughout his barren spell is evident throughout the squad - even though their psychological toughness has been questioned.

It wasn't until a game against Ballinamallard United in mid-October that Waterworth scored his first league goal of the season - the 10th league game of the campaign.

The 30-year-old is now on a run of eight goals in his last 11 games and even when he didn't score in the 5-0 win against Portadown last Saturday Waterworth made key contributions to two of the goals.

Blues boss David Healy scored a record 36 goals for Northern Ireland, but like any striker he experience barren spells.

And while Waterworth was struggling to find the net the manager was constantly offering encouragement - despite axing his main striker at one stage.

"I always kept the faith and knew that it would turn around for me," said Waterworth.

"Every striker goes through a barren patch.

"I stuck with it, took a bit of stick and I'm pleased now. I am enjoying my football and it's good to be back.

"David spoke to me a few times and even on a couple of occasions when I started games he said that he didn't think I deserved to be starting, but he stuck with me because he knew that I would come good.

"We went to Coleraine and he probably could have left me out, but I scored that day and I've been on a good run since then.

A series of four 1-0 wins in their last five games has helped Crusaders open a seven-point gap on the Blues at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership as they chase a third straight title.

Linfield's ability to win the big games was questioned again a fortnight ago when they lost 2-1 to Cliftonville, but Waterworth believes there are no mental hurdles for the Blues and that it's experience and know-how that needs to be better.

"I kept believing, kept working hard and stayed mentally strong," said Waterworth.

"Even when I went home on a Saturday night, years ago I might have got down on myself and with experience I don't make everyone else's life a misery.

"We need to keep in with the . They are mentally very strong and they keep winning 1-0, which is the sign of a very good team.

"We seem to either win 5-0 or lose 2-1, but it's going to be a long season. I think at times it's game intelligence rather than mental strength. At times you need to take a foul or buy a foul, but at times we've been too nice. We need to be a bit cuter and show our experience more.

"I don't think there is a problem with mental strength - you just have to look at how we fought back against Glenavon. I think that highlighted how mentally strong we can be, coming from 2-0 down, having two men sent off, getting battered and not giving up."

Meanwhile, first team coach Trevor Williamson and club captain Keith O'Hara will be in charge of Portadown when they face Ballymena United this afternoon as the club's move for Ards manager Niall Currie stalls.

The Ports board held talks with Currie on Thursday night after making him their top target to success Pat McGibbon.

Currie has 18 months remaining on his contract with Ards and the club is seeking compensation before agreeing to let him leave. However, It is understood the clubs haven't yet agreed on a financial settlement, leaving Currie in limbo after Ards put John Bailie in charge of the team for last night's Premiership meeting with Ballinamallard United.

Last night's results: Ards 3 Ballinamallard United 3; Coleraine 0 v Cliftonville 1; Glenavon 0 Dungannon Swifts 1. Today's fixtures Ballymena United v Portadown,  Crusaders v Glentoran, Linfield v Carrick Rangers.

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