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David Healy: Early struggles helped us develop a winning mentality again at Linfield

 

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Linfield boss David Healy.

Linfield boss David Healy.

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One that got away: Portadown’s Lee Bonis fires wide in their defeat by Linfield

One that got away: Portadown’s Lee Bonis fires wide in their defeat by Linfield

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Linfield boss David Healy.

David Healy walked out of Shamrock Park on Saturday afternoon with an immense feeling of satisfaction.

His Linfield team had just beaten Portadown 2-1 to extend their winning run at the start of the season to four games - their best start since 2017. The three points allowed him to ponder the prospect of the Blues going top of the table as he travelled back to Belfast on the team coach.

Larne's 100 per cent run ending with a 0-0 draw at Glentoran later on meant Linfield opened up a two-point gap on their closest challengers.

Five years ago this month Healy made the same journey away from County Armagh wondering just what direction the Blues were heading in. Back then the Northern Ireland goalscoring great wasn't just in the early days of his time as Linfield boss, his managerial career was also in it's infancy and the team had just lost four in a row - the club's worst run in 18 years.

After being made to earn their victory, against a Portadown side who gave as good as they got for the full 90 minutes, thanks to a first-half goal from Kirk Millar and a 64th minute Andy Waterworth winner, after Lee Bonis' equaliser, Healy could reflect on the impact that nightmare run had on the success he has had since, winning three league titles as well as an Irish Cup as part of a double in 2017.

"That period helped me," Healy revealed.

"The mentality changed. The dressing room that I found myself coming into, there were players in there who weren't winners.

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"They hadn't won anything for two or three years and there was a culture change that needed to happen.

"We changed it, although probably not as quickly as I'd hoped."

Healy then had to take on the mantle of a poker player as he set about working out what to throw away and what to keep in order to have a winning hand.

Millar and Waterworth were two of those who survived the cut.

Waterworth has delivered all the way through his seven years at Windsor Park and is shows no sign of slowing down at 34-years-old.

Millar's ability has never been in doubt. Now, however, he is the Blues' main man, delivering on the promise that's always been there and when you combine those two players you are almost guaranteed goals.

There might have been a slice of luck attached to Millar's goal, with his shot taking a deflection off Chris Crane on its way into the net, but his technique to shoot with the outside of his foot and the fantastic first-time cross for Waterworth's winner were right out of the top drawer.

That strike came in a whirlwind 10-minute period when Portadown's equalised, Crane was sent-off for a second yellow card when he pulled back Niall Quinn, Bastian Hery was shown a straight red for clipping George Tipton around the head and Waterworth's hit his match-winner.

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Bastian Hery sees red

Bastian Hery sees red

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Bastian Hery sees red

 

Healy added: "The personnel were there. I think we've seven or eight still here who have overseen the five years I've been here and there were others in and around the dressing room who we couldn't shift out quickly enough.

"We changed the culture, we changed the mindset. It wasn't overnight because we had to work it and I would imagine that we will continue to have tough days along the way.

"The culture change was the big thing, get players out who hadn't won anything and now the players have been successful over the last three or four years and they have proved that they can go the hard yards when you really need them to - a hard yard like against Portadown."

PORTADOWN: Pierce, Hall, Finnegan, McNally, Crane, Kerr, Wilson, Tipton (McKeown 73 mins), C Lavery, Bonis, Murray (Salley 80 mins). Unused subs: Pengelly, McCallum, Croskery, Conaty, Healy..

LINFIELD: Johns, Pepper, Haughey, Callagher, Clarke, Millar, McClean, Mulgrew (Hery 46 mins), Quinn, Stewart (Nasseri 70 mins), Waterworth (S Lavery 80 mins). Unused subs: Walsh, Stafford, Larkin, Kearns.

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)

Man of the Match: Kirk Millar

Match Rating: 8/10

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