Belfast Telegraph

David Healy happy to give Linfield's rising stars their big chance against Cliftonville

Co Antrim Shield quarter-final

David Healy
David Healy
Shooting star: Daniel Reynolds scores against East Belfast in the last round of the Co Antrim Shield and could figure against Cliftonville tonight
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

David Healy will hand some of Linfield's young talent a chance to shine in tonight's Co Antrim Shield clash with Cliftonville.

The Blues are in the middle of a hectic schedule - this will be their 10th game in just 38 days.

And with another four matches still to come this month, Healy admits he has to manage his squad carefully.

"The team will change on Tuesday, that's for sure," he said. "We've had a long run of games and it's important that when it comes to Tuesday, we freshen things up.

"We are fortunate because we have good players, and the players are in a good place - their fitness levels are as good as they have been.

"We've got a big squad, so there is no point in me complaining about playing Saturday then Tuesday."

This will be the fifth week in a row that Linfield have had two matches in a week.

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Tonight they host Cliftonville in the Shield, with a place in the semi-finals awaiting the winners.

Linfield, who beat East Belfast FC in the last round, lost the final to Crusaders last season, which has given them even more motivation this time around.

Healy said: "It's a game against Cliftonville and it's crucially important that we go and put ourselves in the next round."

He is set to turn to some of his younger players for tonight's game.

Five were involved in the squad that travelled to Dungannon in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday, with three coming on as subs.

Healy believes being part of the panel will help their progress.

He added: "We had a lot of younger players on the bench (on Saturday) which was pleasing - Charlie Allen, Daniel Reynolds, Matthew Shevlin, Ross Larkin and Trai Hume.

"It gives them an opportunity to be in and around things.

"Unfortunately I can only use the three subs, but the more they are in and around it, seeing the likes of Jamie Mulgrew, Jimmy Callacher and Andy Waterworth, the more they are going to learn and improve."

While a busy fixture list is testing Linfield's squad, the imminent return of some important players will help.

Midfielder Bastien Hery, who missed Saturday's 4-1 league win at Stangmore Park with a nose injury, could be back tonight.

Chris Casement is also nearing a comeback, while others are making steady progress.

Healy added: "Jordan (Stewart) is not far away, Bastien got a nose injury during the week against Dungannon and he maybe could be fit for during the week.

"Daniel Kearns is nearly fit, Mark Haughey is making very good progress and Josh Robinson is making progress.

"When you look at what we're missing - Chris Casement missed Saturday, Niall Quinn does what he does and just slotted in - we have six or seven decent players missing.

"If we are in and around where we should be, need to be and want to be, these lads coming back will only boost and increase the levels and hopefully the performance levels of the squad.

"People will then realise that if they have an off week or an off couple of weeks, someone will come in and take their spot."

Elsewhere, it is an all-Championship affair as Ards entertain Harland and Wolff Welders at the Bangor Fuels Arena.

Ards will be smarting after a 5-1 thumping by Newry City while the Welders' up and down season reached a new high with the defeat of Portadown.

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