Big blow: David Healy reveals extent of Daniel Kearns injury
Linfield 1 Warrenpoint 1
Linfield could be without Daniel Kearns until the new year, manager David Healy has revealed.
The former Glenavon winger was brought off 51 minutes into Linfield's victory over Dungannon Swifts on October 29 and, speaking after Saturday's draw with Warrenpoint Town, Healy discussed Kearns' route back to action.
"Daniel took a heavy challenge last weekend," he added. "He's going to be out for possibly eight weeks. It's a big blow for us. It's an ankle injury.
"It's disappointing for him and the club. It could be the New Year before we see him again."
Kearns has scored two Danske Bank Premiership goals in his first 13 league games for the club and will now miss a significant portion of their title challenge, including the vital Christmas period that sees the Blues face Glenavon, Glentoran and Cliftonville.
The Blues are locked in a battle with the Irishman's former club at the top of the table, Glenavon ahead on goals scored but having played a game less.
Linfield missed the chance to overtake their rivals on Saturday, forced to net a last gasp equaliser against the Point - a goal that Healy admits could be crucial come the end of the campaign.
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Stephen McDonnell's battlers were only seconds away from achieving an historic first-ever win against the Blues. Clinging manfully to a first half Simon Kelly spot kick - awarded after Matty Clarke flattened the impressive Alan O'Sullivan inside the box - Warrenpoint appeared to have weathered the storm, having repelled everything that Healy's team could throw at them.
With referee Tim Marshall about to blow for full time - the game was in the 96th-minute - Kirk Millar whipped in one of his trademark deliveries from the right and Andy Waterworth dived to head home.
The big striker sustained a bad facial injury in the process, one that required hospital treatment.
As soon as the ball hit the net, the referee duly obliged with that final blast of his whistle - and the Blues were off the hook.
"You always fear the goal wouldn't come," admitted Healy. "Especially, when we were putting so many balls into the box and not getting any benefit.
"The boys began snatching at chances. Windsor Park can be a tough enough place to play, more so when you are chasing the game. But the lads kept going. We'll know in May how big a point it was for us.
"Andy scored with probably the most difficult of chances he had all day. That's the most frustrating thing because there were other easy chances that we didn't capitalise on.
"He showed a lot of bravery, putting his head in there and he took a bad blow to the face and was taken to hospital.
"On another day we could have won four or five, based on the chances we created. Their goalkeeper made some good saves - but that's his job."
Healy admitted his team lost a bit of their composure as the game wore on. He added: "We became a bit ragged at times when we were chasing the game in the second half.
"The longer it went on, the more edgy people become. Tension leads into a little bit of eagerness to hurry things and get the ball forward too early. I think that was the case in the second half.
"Credit to the players. I thought they deserved to get something out of the game. I really couldn't fault them . . . I thought some of our play was good. But people will look at the result and not the performance."
Although Warrenpoint Town boss Stephen McDonnell was gutted his team were pipped right at the finish, he was thrilled with their performance.
"We had a game plan and it worked a treat," he said. "Obviously, there were a few hairy moments, but you get that in every game. We had a few chances in the second half to put it to bed.
"You can have all the best ideas on how to play the game in a beautiful way, but if you not organised or not courageous and not willing to defend long balls, then you'll suffer. That's the DNA of the Irish League.
"People had us written off even before a ball was kicked - we were supposed to get beaten four or five nil, especially as they (Linfield) beat so easily earlier in the season at our place.
"Since that game, we've had a dramatic turnaround. We treat all our opponents with respect but try to come up with ideas to get a result in every game."