Belfast Telegraph

Boss keeps focus as Blues exact revenge on Jeffrey

Ballymena Utd 1- Linfield 4

By Stephen Alexander

David Healy watched Linfield brush Ballymena United aside - but refused to talk up his team's Danske Bank Premiership title credentials.

The Blues reversed the scoreline from their League Cup exit to David Jeffrey's men at the Showgrounds last month with a stylish 4-1 victory - but, more importantly, closed the gap between themselves and Crusaders after the champions drew at Glenavon.

But Healy insisted: "I wouldn't talk about Crusaders winning, losing or drawing - all I talk about is Linfield doing our own job. If we had won and Crusaders had also won, at least we would have done our side of the bargain - that's all I'm concerned about.

"We have to look after what we are doing and try to hopefully keep on winning games."

The Blues rarely looked like running out as anything other than winners against an off-colour Ballymena and Healy was impressed with the display of his side, particularly after the exertions of playing the vast majority of Saturday's 2-2 draw at Glenavon with only nine players.

"I said to the players the last time we came to Ballymena and I said the same thing tonight, this is a place where, if you don't turn up with your A game and fight and battle, you'll be found out," said Healy.

"We knew it was going to be a difficult place to come, especially after last time and coming off the back of a really tough game on Saturday. I made a few changes to try and freshen it up and I got the response I wanted.

"It wasn't an easy call to leave out players like Kirk Millar and Ross Gaynor who had given me the lot on Saturday - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I thought our all-round performance tonight was very good.

"I thought we were far and away the better side, even going in at 1-1 at half-time and we were justified in winning the game."

His opposite number and former Blues boss David Jeffrey said: "I thought we worked hard enough but in terms of the quality of our play, it wasn't what it has been in other games.

"Linfield didn't have to work too hard for their goals - two if not three of them were preventable and that's disappointing for us in terms of the result.

"But when I reflect on where we are at, it is another lesson for us. The reality is, it's not what we do against Linfield that is going to determine our season."

The Blues' early pressure culminated in Andy Waterworth heading in the opener over stranded United keeper Alan Blayney from Mark Haughey's cross on 21 minutes.

Blues keeper Roy Carroll - playing after his controversial red card at the weekend was overturned - had little to do bar pick Tony Kane's 35th-minute free-kick equaliser out of the net as the United set-piece specialist took his goal tally for the season to double figures.

But Linfield moved into overdrive in the second half as first Stephen Lowry's industry in midfield was rewarded as he bundled the ball into the net from Paul Smyth's low cross before defender Haughey converted substitute Gaynor's delicious left-wing cross at the back post.

Linfield even had the luxury of missing a penalty as Gaynor's spot-kick clipped the base of the post on its way past after Waterworth had been chopped down by Denver Gage.

But Blues skipper Jamie Mulgrew put the gloss on an impressive performance deep into stoppage time when he cut inside and fired a fierce drive past former Linfield ace Blayney from the edge of the penalty area.

BALLYMENA: Blayney, Ervin, Owens, Flynn, Gage (Millar, 77 mins), T Kane, E Kane, Jenkins, Faulkner, Friel, McMurray. Unused subs: McCauley, Henderson, Mackie, Loughran.

Linfield: Carroll, Haughey, Stafford, Callacher, Quinn, Ward, Lowry (Casement, 85 mins), Mulgrew, Clarke (Gaynor, 52 mins), Smyth (Millar, 81 mins), Waterworth. Unused subs: Burns, Carson.

Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn)

Man of the match: Stephen Lowry

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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