David Healy hails injury boosts despite Linfield's defeat to St Johnstone
Linfield 2 St Johnstone 4
Linfield boss David Healy is confident of having most of his big guns back for Wednesday night's Champions League first qualifying round clash with Rosenborg at Windsor Park.
The Blues completed a hectic pre-season schedule, which included a six-day training camp in Spain, with a home defeat to St Johnstone on Saturday - hardly the result Healy and his boys wanted ahead of such an important fixture.
They did get off to the best possible start with new boy Shayne Lavery capitalising on a howler from goalkeeper Alexander Clarke, but Tommy Wright's Saints responded with strikes from Daniel Swanson, Callum Hendry and Alistair McCann.
Even though Lorcan Forde reduced the deficit, visiting skipper Jason Kerr wrapped it up four minutes from time.
But the bonus for Healy was the fact that ace predator Andy Waterworth and Daniel Kearns both returned after injury.
"Waterworth got 45 minutes, Jamie (Mulgrew) got 60 and was kicked about 10 times which is natural for him, (Mark) Stafford, (Chris) Casement, (Jimmy) Callacher and (Niall) Quinn also got around an hour," said the Linfield chief.
"That was the plus. Waterworth needed the minutes because he hadn't featured in any of our other games. Ryan McGivern and Josh Robinson are also making steady progress."
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Another big positive for Healy is that defender Mark Haughey, who didn't kick a ball at all last season, is edging back to full fitness.
"He'll be like a new signing for us," said the former Northern Ireland international.
"He had a few issues with his knees. He had minor surgery in the off-season and is well on the road to recovery. Mark has upped the ante and I would expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
"When Mark Haughey is fit and he's on his game, he is one of the best defensive players in the Irish League. I look forward to having him back."
Although it's a tall order, Healy insists his boys will approach the Rosenborg game with a positive mindset.
"It's a big game and I expect us to start at a hectic pace," he added.
"Come Wednesday night, we hope to come out of the traps at a million miles an hour.
"Rosenborg are a good side but have been struggling a little bit by their own high standards in terms of their league position. I know we must be structured and disciplined if we want to get anything out of it."
Although Healy doesn't focus too much on pre-season friendly results, he is a little bit concerned about the quality of goals his team have conceded against Dinamo Bucharest - whom they tackled in Marbella - Motherwell and now St Johnstone.
"If there is anything to take away from the games, it was the soft nature of the goals we have given away," he said.
"Especially, last week against Motherwell, they were three really soft goals.
"And St Johnstone didn't really have to open us up to score, apart from their third goal. What I'm saying is they didn't have to work that hard to create opportunities."
Even though he didn't get on the scoresheet, former Linfield midfielder Kyle McClean - who spent six months at Windsor Park on loan last season - orchestrated the Saints' win when he was introduced at half-time.
"Kyle's a good player and he showed it," added Healy.
"He was offered a one-year deal at St Johnstone, so it could be a big season for him.
"I would like to think that we have played a small part in helping to give him the platform, the confidence and the energy to go on and create a good impression for Tommy (Wright) at the club."