New boss David Healy thrilled as Linfield dig out tough victory
Warrenpoint 0-3 Linfield
David Healy's first game in charge of Linfield couldn't have gone more to plan as his side scored three times, kept a clean sheet and moved two points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table following their victory over Warrenpoint Town.
Despite having to make do without the injured Andrew Waterworth up front, Healy's men took a comfortable victory in the end with an Aaron Burns double either side of an opportunist strike from Guy Bates but they didn't have it all their own way against a hard working home side at Milltown.
Healy admitted he couldn't wait to get settled into the role and get his first game out of the way in his new job.
"I just wanted to get it done," he said.
"I knew the cameras would be here. I didn't want the players coming in thinking it would be a bit of a circus but the Linfield fans gave me a fantastic welcome, which I had hoped for and I got. Sometimes you just take the result. They had chances and they're a good side. They have lively attacking players and they're competitive and they work hard.
"We had to dig in and I had asked the players before the game for a mental toughness because I had looked at previous performances where we had conceded late goals or being 2-0 up at Solitude and them coming back to three each.
"I asked for big characters and mental toughness. Forget all the other stuff - I got that.
"I'm honest enough to admit that we were fortunate but that's why my goalkeeper gets paid for what he does and that's why he's at my club, to save those shots, and he did that. The defence was excellent in the second half. I thought Warrenpoint were competitive and when they pushed two, three or four men forward, it's difficult knowing who to pick up.
"In the first half we got the goal and settled down a little bit and full credit to my players. We dug in and they gave everything that I had asked of them.
"In the back of my mind, I knew we were a bit fortunate to be going in 1-0 in front but that happens in football. It's happened in a million games I played in and I'm sure Linfield have been down there before where you get hit. But credit to the players. There's enough experience in my dressing room for those players to realise where they want to go. I'm hopefully going to try and guide them to where we want to go as a group."
Despite Warrenpoint being on top and going close through Daniel Hughes, Liam Bagnall, Stephen Murray and Stephen Moan, some hesitant defending allowed Burns to nip and slot home Kirk Millar's cross on 29 minutes.
Hughes had a glorious chance to level with just over 15 minutes to go when Sean Ward bundled over Conor McDonald in the box but his penalty hit the bar and when Bates poked home after a weak back-header from Dermot McVeigh on 78 minutes to make it 2-0, it was game over.
The icing was put on the cake when Jordan Dane was red carded late on after fouling Bates in the box and Burns converted from the spot.
"We weren't well on top or dominating the game and they could have scored and scored again. It's a stupid cliche, but goals change games. The lad missed and we were still in front in the game and credit to my players coming back and scoring another couple of goals," said Healy.
Town boss Barry Gray moaned: "We're disappointed because we've thrown it away again. We've carried two players for 90 minutes and we had an opportunity to turn the game and get something from it and we didn't take it.
"The first goal was a shambles. It should have been dealt with and dealt with by a number of personnel.
"The second goal is avoidable and that's the politest way to say it and again it could have been dealt with by a bit of goalkeeping. The easy target is to blame the defensive end of it but, if you score a goal, it changes everything.
"In our scenario, you can't just keep relying on the defensive element of the team to stay strong all the time. Mistakes happen and they can happen all the time. But when they happen when you need something out of a game when it's level terms, it just puts more pressure on the defence.
"The best way to be defensive is for the strikers and attacking players to put the ball in the net. We haven't been doing that and we haven't looked like doing that at all. Today we had opportunities that we didn't take again."