Belfast Telegraph

Dungannon sweat on goalkeeper Johnston as they target Linfield again

Fresh face: Teenage keeper Conor Byrne had to go between the sticks for the Swifts
Fresh face: Teenage keeper Conor Byrne had to go between the sticks for the Swifts
Jimmy Callacher
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Dungannon Swifts could be without goalkeeper Sam Johnston again for the second part of their double-header against Linfield this weekend.

Johnston pulled out of Tuesday night's League Cup tie, which the Blues won, after injuring his groin in the warm-up.

Instead, the Swifts had to give a debut to 16-year-old Conor Byrne.

Boss Kris Lindsay admits Johnston (23) is now doubtful for Saturday's rematch, this time in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Lindsay said: "He picked up a little injury in the warm-up, to his groin, so we'll have to see how bad it is.

"We'll have to assess it on Thursday night but at the moment it's not looking good."

Dungannon, League Cup champions in 2018, exited the competition after a 4-0 defeat to the 2019 winners.

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The damage was done in the first 15 minutes, as Linfield raced into a two-goal lead.

Lindsay added: "It wasn't the result we were looking for, but Linfield will do that to teams - they are a quality, quality outfit, and I think they showed that tonight.

"Once they scored the first two early on, they were comfortable pretty much for the rest of the match."

The Swifts were punished for mistakes at the back, losing possession in a dangerous area for Stephen Fallon's opener.

A free-kick in another threatening position led to Jimmy Callacher netting the second soon afterwards.

Joel Cooper made it 3-0 in the second half, before a stylish finish by Andy Waterworth late on.

Lindsay added: "The first one is a long-range effort and then they scored two from set-pieces, which they are extremely good at.

"You can talk about it and prepare for it, but stopping it is a completely different thing.

"But I can't fault my players' effort and endeavour.

"We showed bits of quality as well.

"We made a couple of mistakes, but that happens.

"We need to move on from it.

"It's a cup game, we obviously play Linfield again on Saturday, which isn't ideal, but we'll learn from some things tonight."

Lindsay was also pleased to see summer signing Callum Byers make his debut.

The defender, signed from Ards, picked up an injury in pre-season but came through the full 90 minutes on Tuesday night.

Linfield, meanwhile, are through to the quarter-finals and a step closer to defending the trophy they won against Ballymena last season.

It was also the perfect response to Friday night's defeat against title rivals Crusaders.

Manager David Healy was impressed with a lot of his side's performance.

"Any win at Dungannon is pleasing," he said.

"To go through in cup competitions is crucial, it's vital.

"It gives us a wee bit more momentum, it gives us an opportunity of something at the end of it.

"Credit to the players, I thought we were good, I thought some of the play we had in the game was positive.

"To score four goals was a big plus, as was another clean sheet."

Healy felt their strong start was a key factor in what was ultimately a comfortable night.

"We started well, it was important we did so," he added.

"Coming to a place like Dungannon, if you don't start well, they can get on top of you, and we know they have started the season pretty well.

"We were expecting a tough test, so to get the first goal was important, but getting the second gave us that bit more of a platform.

"Then to come out in the second half and get the third - 2-0 can be a funny score at times, you concede a goal and suddenly the momentum swings.

"We talked about it at half-time, making sure we got the third goal, and we did that."

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