Healy backs fans as Blues take Big Two derby spoils
Glentoran 0 Linfield 1
Ace predator Andy Waterworth settled this quite forgettable Big Two derby by plundering a second half winner at the Oval.
It was the 30-year-old's 19th goal of the season and one that kept alive Linfield's slim hopes of pinching the Danske Premiership title from under the noses of champions Crusaders, who slipped up at Portadown.
It's just a pity that there was only a sparse scattering of Linfield fans who bothered to turn up to witness yet another win at the home of their team's great rivals. Indeed, the Blues now haven't lost in East Belfast since Boxing Day 2011.
The usual big travelling fan base was affected badly due to a boycott called by the Linfield Supporters' Trust in a response to a complaint from a Glentoran source made to the PSNI about the playing of 'The Billy Boys' tune over the PA system when the teams met at Windsor Park on Boxing Day. It meant that less than half of the normal Linfield support travelled across town.
But even in their absence, David Healy's boys got the job done, which thrilled the boss.
"You are never going to get it easy in a derby game," said the former Northern Ireland striker. "We did what we had to do to get three points. To a man, I thought the players were brilliant in terms of the effort they put in.
"I love coming to the Oval with the backing of four or five thousand fans, but a lot of them decided to stay at home on this occasion - I understand where they are coming from. I spoke with the chairman about it. Am I going to say it was the right call? Well that's not up to me to judge.
"I ask my players, staff and everyone to stick together, so I feel it was justified that some of the fans decided not to come to the game. I have no issues with it because the supporters back me and the players through thick and thin throughout the season.
"So, it's their decision at the end of the day - it was their call. I'll back them either way."
Healy raised a few eyebrows before kick-off by naming 18-year-old rookie goalkeeper Alex Moore in the side. Regular shot stopper Roy Carroll and his back-up Gareth Deane were struggling with injury.
Healy added: "I told Alex at 12.30 that he was playing. He's a Linfield supporter who has come through the ranks. His beaming face said it all. I'm delighted for him. I told him that I had confidence in his ability, he was grinning from ear to ear..
"He's training three nights a week with Roy and Gareth, so he's learning all the time. I had no fears in throwing him in for his debut at the Oval for a derby game."
And, on goal hero Waterworth, Healy added: "I was pleased for Andy. He also scored the winner at the Oval in the Irish Cup. He has the habit of scoring big goals on the big stage. And, that was another big one for him."
The result put the lid on any hopes of Glentoran pushing into the top six in the league table. Manager Gary Haveron insists it is crucial they nudged into seventh spot to have any hope of being part of the European play-off.
"Seventh is still available and while that's still there, we have to go for it," he claimed. "I knew how big this job was when I took over. The expectations at this club are massive.
"We have a lot of players out of contract in the summer and some will be leaving, and that obviously gives us money to play with. We have to identify the guys from this group that we want to take forward next year, but we also need a good clear-out."
GLENTORAN: Morris, McAuley, Ferrin, Addis, Redman, Harmon (O'Flynn, 87 mins), McAlorum, Kane (Novo, 65 mins), Lavery, Gordon (Black, 69 mins), Smith. Unused subs: Nelson, Foley.
LINFIELD: Moore, Glendinning, Stafford, Callacher, Clake, Smyth (Gaynor, 80 mins), Lowry (Ward, 69 mins), Mulgrew, Quinn, Stewart (Burns, 78 mins), Waterworth. Unused subs: Casement, Carson.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)
Man of the match: Alex Moore
Match rating: 5/10