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Linfield starlet Paul Smyth has been a breath of fresh air

By Graham Luney

David Healy calls him "one of the most exciting prospects in the game" so it's no surprise that Linfield players have been buoyed by the explosive performances of the fresh faced Paul Smyth ahead of tonight's clash with Portadown (7.45pm).

The 18-year-old may have only made his Blues debut in September last year against Newington in the County Antrim Shield but he's already a household name, spreading fear across Irish League defences.

November was a well documented dark month for the Blues as they lost all four of their league matches but the one considerable chink of light was Smyth agreeing a professional contract, committing himself to the club until the end of the 2016-17 season.

Boss Healy has proved he's prepared to give talented young players a chance to impress and Smyth has risen to the occasion.

Even his first goal for the club was a dream scenario - scoring what proved to be the winner in the 2-1 Boxing Day victory over Glentoran at The Oval.

His sensational form earned him a contract extension last month, taking him up to May 2019.

It's tough breaking into the Linfield squad, it's even tougher keeping your place but Smyth's energy, pace and hunger has even injected fresh life into his team-mates.

He was heartbroken to be ruled out of the County Antrim Shield final through suspension but since that loss to Ballymena United, the Blues have won four on the spin and are aiming to make it five at Portadown.

With the dangerous teenager, Guy Bates, Andy Waterworth and Michael McLellan hungry for goals, Healy has a wealth of attacking options but it is Smyth's emergence that has impressed the players, including team-mate Jamie Mulgrew.

"I was delighted to hear about Paul's new deal as he has been a breath of fresh air at the club," said Mulgrew.

"He was performing well for our Swifts but there is always the question can players step up and perform for the first team and he has not let anyone down. He has performed well on a consistent basis and given the team a new lease of life.

"Paul is just one of a number of young players who are capable of bringing fresh energy and enthusiasm to the team."

Healy is full of praise for his starlet, adding: "Hopefully in the years to come he will prove to be a great asset on the pitch for the club. He's done really well since he broke into the first team squad and hopefully he can go on to score regularly and get the rewards that his all round performances to date have deserved."

Meanwhile, Ports boss Ronnie McFall is hoping to get his hands on the Irish Cup for the last time before leaving the Irish League stage but he also wants his side to produce a storming finish to a league campaign that has failed to take off.

"We need to improve our league form now," he said.

"It's very important for the players and the club that we get into the top six. If you finish sixth or seventh you get another crack at Europe, which is what we're looking for.

"I thought we definitely deserved something out of the matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville

"We haven't had a clear run all year. We haven't been able to play the same team two weeks on the trot because of injury problems.

"Philip Lowry has done well since he came into the team. One of his main attributes is that he makes those runs from deep and can score goals. His finish against Coleraine was top drawer.

"It's well documented that we didn't bring anyone in during the summer, which we needed to do.

"With Darren Murray going that didn't help, so him coming in has given us all a lift."

Belfast Telegraph


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