Belfast Telegraph

Blues' form has put the league on notice: Healy

 

Closing the gap: Linfield's Shayne Lavery and Carrick's Chris Rodgers
Closing the gap: Linfield's Shayne Lavery and Carrick's Chris Rodgers
Niall Quinn celebrates with Kirk Millar

By Ian Callender

David Healy has warned the rest of the Premier League that Linfield are hitting their stride and are on the up.

The champions made it six wins out of seven in domestic competitions this season with a 3-0 victory over Carrick Rangers in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday night and with three games in hand on the four teams above them in the table, the summit is once again in sight.

"Every game is crucial," said the Blues boss. "We are looking above, but everybody that has played all their games will be looking to see where Linfield are, so it's important when we get the opportunity to go out and perform to close the gap, like we did tonight, that we do it."

The strong wind at the Loughshore Hotel Arena made it a game of two halves but in the end goals from Niall Quinn, a deflected Kirk Millar free kick and a Mark Stafford effort ensured a comfortable victory, after a difficult first 45 minutes.

"We got a goal at a big time just before the break and that give us a platform to go on in the second half," added Healy.

"As always, you think you are going to have the elements in the second half but we didn't. They seemed to turn the wind machine down a bit! But credit to the players, they stuck at it in the first half, and 20 minutes into the second half we turned the screw, scored the second and the third followed.

"But it was difficult in the first half. Carrick threw everything at us and they will be disappointed they didn't score but we also had two good chances and (Shane) Lavery and Stafford should have scored. Carrick had half chances, but we came out and improved in the second half and got the result."

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Healy was also without his captain, Jamie Mulgrew, who missed the game because of a concussion sustained in last week's League Cup game against Ballinamallard, but the manager is hopeful he will be back for Saturday's clash against Glenavon at Windsor Park.

"Jamie will be assessed on Wednesday night at training," confirmed Healy, who is expecting a tough game at the weekend against a team who are unbeaten in their last three games against the Blues and, in the title run-in last April, won 4-0 at Windsor.

"Glenavon had a positive result on Saturday against Ballymena so are going into the game in decent form, but so are we and we're looking forward to it."

After Monday night's game Healy was involved in a verbal altercation with the Premier League's marketing executive Neil Coleman when he refused to talk pitchside with Sky Sports immediately after the match.

It is normal protocol for the winning manager in live Sky games to be ready for interview after the final whistle but Healy returned to the dressing room and it was man of the match Kirk Millar who did the live post-match interview.

Coleman stressed to Healy that they were trying to promote the game and that even in Championship matches in England, the winning manager is asked to be available immediately after the game.

But the Blues boss said he had to make sure there were no issues in the dressing room to be sorted out. If Sky had been on for an extra five minutes, he said he would have been happy to do a live television interview.

Sky's live coverage of Northern Ireland Premier League game ends five minutes after the end of the match.

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