Northern Ireland’s greatest marksman David Healy knows better than most about scoring goals. Since turning to management he has also been adept at improving his strikers. The prolific Shayne Lavery and Andy Waterworth will be the first to tell you how he enhanced their attacking edge at Linfield.
But with both moving on after last season’s double winning campaign – Lavery to Blackpool and Waterworth to Glenavon – there is concern amongst Linfield followers that the goals may dry up as the Blues chase for more honours.
With Lavery and Waterworth out of the picture, Christy Manzinga started Linfield’s Champions League games earlier this month against Zalgiris Vilnius and while he scored in the away leg in a 5-2 aggregate defeat the jury is still out on the ex-Motherwell man.
Billy Chadwick is a new arrival from Hull City in a double loan deal alongside winger Ahmed Salam but is unproven and as Blues chairman Roy McGivern revealed in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph the deal for Malta striker Kyrian Nwoko may not happen due to work permit issues.
It’s not exactly an ideal scenario for a club with such a rich pedigree up front which leaves Healy looking to his wide players and midfielders to fill any goalscoring void until his strikers are firing on all cylinders.
Ahead of tonight’s Europa Conference League second qualifying round home leg versus Bosnia team Borac Banja Luka, the Blues boss said: “I don’t want to be burdening individual attacking players that they need to do this and do that. That will come hopefully with a bit more preparation and games.
“The two lads from Hull are not match sharp or match fit. It will take them a little bit of time to gel in and around the squad.
“You can bring four, five or six players in for pre-season and maybe two hit the ground running and you have to wait for three or four others to settle in in their own time. There will be no pressure put on any of the players.
“We understand we have lost goals out of the team from last year but the emphasis now is on wide players at the club. I think Kirk Millar should score more goals and for our midfielders Stephen Fallon, Cameron Palmer, Jamie Mulgrew and Chris Shields it is important they step up and instead of scoring two or three in a season maybe get us six, seven or eight.
“Then all of a sudden the goals you may feel you are missing are being added to by other people who should be contributing a little more.”
Healy believes this evening’s opponents, Borac, are a dangerous side but is more concerned with his own team, believing if they perform like they can, the tie will be up for grabs in Bosnia next week.
“It is a tough tie but it is a tie we should embrace,” he says.
“They are probably more of a British style team and pretty aggressive with and without the ball. We will prepare the players the way we want to play and give it a right good shot.
“I want us to be ruthless and clinical and have spoken to the players about improving our decision-making in both boxes.
“We need to know when to commit to a tackle, when to clear our lines and in the attacking third when to play the right pass and right weight of pass and finish when a chance arises.
“It will be a tough game but if we do our jobs it is one that should hold no fear for us. We need to get as much out of the game as we can because it will certainly be tough in Bosnia the week after.
“In the two games we have played so far this season we conceded a second goal bang on 45 minutes. There has to be a limitation on the damage you can do in the first half.
“If you are coming in 2-0 down in both matches you are going to be up against it. It is important we cut out the small errors that cost us in both games in the Champions League. Also, it would be nice to take the lead in the game and give ourselves something to really fight for.”
Linfield prepared for the game by playing Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City last weekend. When he was here the former Northern Ireland boss offered high praise to Healy for the job he is doing at Windsor Park.
“It is always good to catch up with Michael. He keeps up to date with everything that goes on in our league and he asks about the younger players in the league,” said Healy.
“He is a brilliant manager and I have a lot of time for him. Hearing what he said about me was very nice.
“He has always been there for me and he was the one who pushed me forward into some of the youth roles to get experience in coaching and management.”