Healy expecting Linfield to step up after tough draw
There is no doubt that the first Irish Cup draw of David Healy's managerial career could have thrown up a more straightforward game.
The Linfield boss did raise a smile when his team were handed a fifth round tussle with Ballymena United, but he knows who will be happiest when the Premiership rivals go head-to-head - all the sides who have dreams of lifting the trophy next May.
Linfield are always among the favourites for every trophy and Ballymena boss Glenn Ferguson's record in knock-out competitions shows that he has guided the Sky Blues to a final in every season of his Showgrounds reign.
Not only that, they have been Irish Cup finalists and semi-finalists in the last two seasons.
All that means that when the Blues and Braidmen go into battle early next month, one of the contenders for the Cup will tumble out.
Healy said: "I'm sure some of the other clubs, especially in the Premiership, will be pleased that we have been drawn with Ballymena because Ballymena have a good cup pedigree, they've got a good manager, good players and one of us will be going out.
"We're at home and I fully expect us to turn up, play to our strengths, do a job and hopefully progress.
"The Irish Cup is important for the club, the league is important I'm sure for the top three or four teams in the league and whoever gets their hands on those trophies at the end of the season deserves them."
Ferguson, too, might have been happier if he could have made the draw again, but he isn't exactly quaking in his boots at the prospect of travelling to Windsor Park.
In fact, the five-time Cup winner as a player says that, in a way, facing Linfield is preferable to having a potential banana skin thrown in his path, like last season when they were almost on the end of a shock against H&W Welders.
And having beaten the Blues on the way to that 2014 final against Glenavon, Ferguson won't be daunted by meeting his old club.
"We've played lesser teams and it hasn't gone particularly well for us in certain games, so we know exactly what we have to do in this game," said Ferguson.
"We need to be up for it and we can't have any complacency whatsoever - which we have had against lower teams before.
"I prepare for every game in exactly the same way. Players might have different mindsets. It's no secret, when I played for Linfield players raised their game when they came to Windsor Park - there's no doubt about that - and maybe our players psychologically do the same thing, they raise their game that wee bit more simply because they are playing against Linfield, the name.
"I'm not going to say there's no fear, obviously they've got match winners in their team, but we have to be up for it. We've proved we can do it in the past and hopefully we can do it again."
The Linfield v Ballymena game is one of three all-Premiership ties in the fifth round, with Coleraine playing Ballinamallard United and Dungannon Swifts meeting Warrenpoint Town, meaning no more than nine top-flight teams will be in the last 16.
H&W Welders are also involved in one of the more interesting ties in the fifth round.
After they sent holders Glenavon spinning out of the competition in last season's sixth round, Gary Hamilton's men have been handed the chance for revenge.
Premiership leaders Crusaders, Cup winners in 2009, will expect to make the sixth round as they await the winner of the match between two Amateur League 1A teams, Abbey Villa and Rathfriland Rangers, which will be played this Saturday.
Cliftonville have something of a derby after being handed a tie with Amateur League Premier Division side Immaculata.
After (insert outcome of Bangor v Coagh United game) to set up a trip to Lurgan Celtic on January 9, there are six more outstanding fourth round matches to be completed.
Institute's derby game against Limavady-based Ballymena & Provincial League side Newtowne takes place at the Riverside Stadium tonight.
OUTSTANDING IRISH CUP FOURTH ROUND TIES: (Saturday, December 12): Abbey Villa v Rathfriland Rangers, Dergview v Sport & Leisure Swifts, Larne v Limavady United, Lisburn Distillery v Knockbreda, Portstewart v Moyola Park.