Belfast Telegraph

Big Two: Boxing Day derby is the one game you dare not lose as Linfield manager, says David Healy

Old enemy: Linfield striker Andy Waterworth punished his old club on Boxing Day last year
Old enemy: Linfield striker Andy Waterworth punished his old club on Boxing Day last year

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy admits the only way he'll enjoy Christmas is by pocketing three points from today's blockbuster against Glentoran at The Oval.

The Blues approach the festive showdown fixture sitting proudly at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table but were perhaps a tad fortunate to salvage a point from their weekend outing against Crusaders.

It's the first time in many years the bitter Belfast rivals go into the Boxing Day game separated by merely five points, but Healy insists the rivalry has always been fierce.

Although Santa has been and gone, Healy is hoping he has left a belated three points in the bottom of his sack.

"You can't enjoy Christmas, knowing what is coming up 24 hours later," he said.

"I remember Big David (Jeffrey) stating years ago about how his Christmas Day was totally submerged by thoughts about the result at five o'clock after the Big Two game.

"You are either going to enjoy a belated Christmas or be in the back room on your own beating yourself up.

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"I've a lovely wife and great kids, so I'll enjoy Christmas with them.

"But as the day wears on, thoughts are totally on Boxing Day - what happens if we win? What happens if we lose?

"You never want to lose any game - but you don't want to be losing a Boxing Day game in particular."

Healy insists he is not surprised by Glentoran's resurgence.

The investment from new owner Ali Pour is beginning to pay a huge dividend on and off the pitch.

"I don't think it matters about any game between Linfield and Glentoran, it is always fiercely contested," added the former Northern Ireland striker.

"I read in a newspaper two years ago it was the worst Glentoran team in history.

"But they turned us over in a European qualifier at Windsor.

"We beat them a couple of times that season but lost on Boxing Day to what apparently was a poor Glentoran team - not my opinion, but the opinion of the experts. So it shows that every game between the clubs is massive.

"There will be a big crowd and a ferocious red-hot atmosphere.

"But it's one that our players should be used to because they have featured in cup finals and big European matches.

"We will go into it to enjoy and embrace it."

Healy was delighted with the performance of defender Mark Haughey at the weekend.

He was drafted in at half-time against Crusaders for his first game for almost two years.

He added: "I made a few changes at the break because the players knew we fell short of the required standard needed to beat a team like Crusaders. I got the response I wanted.

"We conceded early on, but what really annoyed me is the fact that we talked about Declan Caddell before the game.

"He has been ghosting into the box for many years now.

"We knew he made late runs into the box. Had it been Gary Thompson who made the run, I would admit we wouldn't have really been prepared for that, because that's not his game, he's a different type of player.

"But Deccy is renowned for it. For some reason, we let him run free and get in a header, totally unmarked.

"That was a big disappointment for me.

"We made the changes at half-time.

"I thought Mark (Haughey) was incredible when he came on.

"It was his first game for a long time.

"He is not going to give us the attacking options that other people give us, but his tackling and reading of the game was first class.

"He showed he will be a big player for us over the tough run of games coming up. He has worked hard to get back.

"He attempted to return a couple of times and was knocked back a little bit, he looks good now.

"We still have to manage him carefully. When he's fit he is a big player for us."

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