Dungannon 0-1 Linfield: David Healy relieved as Linfield maintain swift progress
Dungannon 0-1 Linfield
Linfield boss David Healy admitted his team "had to find a way" to beat Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park on Saturday.
For long periods the Blues were contained and frustrated by a well-organised Swifts, under the direction of new boss Rodney McAree.
In the end a defensive mistake and a composed finish by Ivan Sproule early in the second half proved decisive.
Given it was McAree's first league game in charge, Healy fully expected a tough challenge.
"I knew what coming down here would be like," said the Linfield chief. "I have known Rodney McAree for a long time, I knew it would be difficult and Dungannon didn't disappoint.
"To be fair our lads stood up to everything that was thrown at them and ground out a big result.
"I said to my forward players at half-time we need to start anticipating a mistake because that or a set-play was going to decide the game. Credit to Sproule, he took the advice on board and delivered a match-winning goal."
"We could have played better today but sometimes circumstances mean you can't get it down and play attacking football the way everybody wants you to.
"But I'm anything but disappointed. We are coming away with three points.
"At half-time I said to the boys find a way to win a football match. And they did.
"People looking at the table may have expected us to come down here and steamroller Dungannon. I knew that was never going to be the case and fair play to my boys.
"Teams raise their level when they play Linfield and sometimes it takes a certain character and mentality to win a football match."
For long periods the visitors struggled with Guy Bates and Andy Waterworth well marshalled by the home defence.
In the first half Waterworth fizzed inches wide, while Bates headed over with the goal at his mercy after defender Mark Haughey had crashed a header against the crossbar.
Haughey's centre-back partner Jimmy Callacher also had a header cleared off the line.
In response, Paul McElroy's curling 25-yarder was clawed away by Ross Glendinning before Dougie Wilson fired over from distance.
Linfield upped the ante at the beginning of the second half and, eight minutes in, a defensive mix -up allowed Sproule to nip in, round Andy Coleman and steer the ball into an open net.
McAree admitted the error had been costly but was, nonetheless, buoyed by his side's performance.
"Of course we are disappointed, you don't want to lose any game," said the new supremo. "We performed quite well and restricted Linfield as best we could. We set out a game plan and it seemed to go well for us.
"They had limited opportunities and had we cut out the mistake we would have got a point.
"But we had many positives today and got a response from players right across the pitch.
"It's all about hard work, desire and commitment and if we show what we did against Linfield against everyone else we'll be alright."
DUNGANNON: Coleman, Wilson, Armstrong, McCaffrey, Montgomery, Glackin, Teggart (Douglas, 77 mins), Burns, Burke, (Hazley, 84 mins), Mitchell; McElroy. Unused subs: McCullough; Fitzpatrick; Addis
LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Haughey, Gallacher, Reece Glendinning, Quinn, Lowry, Mulgrew, Sproule (Millar, 70 mins), Burns, Bates (Salley, 84 mins), Waterworth. Unused subs: Deane; Hegarty; Ward.
Man of the match: Jimmy Callacher
Match rating: 6/10
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)