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Linfield boss Healy targets title bid after champions Crusaders sent packing in County Antrim Shield

By Graham Luney

David Healy says he hopes his side's County Antrim Shield triumph over Crusaders gives his men the belief and confidence to reel in the Shore Road side in the title race.

The champions hold a seven point lead but the Blues are buoyed by this 3-1 final success at the Ballymena Showgrounds and they will fight to the finish in the race for the championship.

"I hope we can claw back the gap to Crusaders," said Healy who last night won his first trophy as Linfield supremo.

"We go to Carrick who are scrapping for survival and with players who want to get in the League Cup final squad.

"We have to stand up and it can't be one step forward with us thinking we've cracked it and then suffer another setback.

"The players have proved they are better than that."

Linfield had a dream start, going 2-0 ahead by the 12th minute with former Crues player Cameron Stewart and Mark Stafford inflicting the damage.

Crusaders were sluggish from the first whistle and their hesitant defending was ruthlessly punished.

In the 31st minute Paul Heatley was shown a straight red card for aiming an elbow at Stafford but then Jordan Owens pulled a goal back with a superb header.

But the Blues finished the job in the 79th minute courtesy of Stephen Lowry's spot-kick.

Linfield have reached three finals under Healy but this is their first glory moment after losing a Shield final to Ballymena United and Irish Cup to Glenavon.

"People write the stories and headlines and hand out the praise or criticism," added Healy.

"I'm very self critical. The first words Andy Waterworth said to me before I spoke to the players were 'yes I know we can be better'.

"They know it and if I didn't think they could be better I wouldn't give them such a hard time.

"Hopefully that winning feeling gives them that extra special feeling to win things. Our fans want to win trophies and perhaps a few of our players didn't know how to celebrate as it's been so long."

Healy also praised former Crues player Stewart who headed in the opener.

"I didn't realise Cameron was a centre forward," he added.

"I apologised to him after the Steel and Sons semi-final. I didn't realise he was a centre forward, I played him out of position but I knew what he was capable of.

"He has earned a professional contract, he's a threat, young and keen and he will get better," he said.

"I will help him and guide him. Cameron takes the ball well and I've had good chats with (Linfield Swifts manager) Alan Dornan on how to get the best out of him."

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