Linfield manager David Healy will aim to mark a personal milestone tonight with victory over Ards in the ToalsBet.com County Antrim Shield but has admitted the competition is not a priority for the club.
Healy will take charge of the Blues for the 300th time this evening having been appointed in 2015.
In that time Northern Ireland’s greatest ever goalscorer has been a huge success at Windsor Park leading the team to four league titles in five full seasons, two Irish Cups, one League Cup and one County Antrim Shield, the first trophy he lifted as boss in 2017.
For the record in his 299 matches to date, the statistics show Healy has won 190, drew 43 and lost 66 with 636 goals scored and 281 conceded. The win ratio amounts to a highly impressive 64%.
He wants another victory tonight at home to an Ards side who sit top of the Championship table and will fancy their chances of an upset given that Healy will make wholesale changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home to Cliftonville in the Premiership on Friday night, ending a run of three tough league games in seven days with trips to Glenavon and Glentoran prior to the Reds playing in the national stadium.
Healy said: “I’ve seen Ards play quite a bit this season. They are strong and top of the Championship and we look forward to playing them. We will probably have 11 changes from the Cliftonville match on the back of the three tough games that we’ve had.
“There will be opportunities for players who haven’t had the minutes they hoped for or wanted. Some of the younger players will also get game time.
“Any competition we enter we want to win the game and the more you win games the more you progress. Is it our priority and the club’s priority? I won’t tell you any lies — 100 percent no. Do we want to win it? 100 percent yes. That’s the demands at Linfield and the club’s history. We will try our best.”
Healy wasn’t too dismayed that the Blues didn’t beat Cliftonville on Friday knowing his side could have lost it in a frantic finish. He makes the point though that every other title contender would have been hoping for a decisive late goal from the top of the table Reds.
“I guarantee one million percent that people would have been praying for a Cliftonville winner. I would imagine the majority of the other teams and players and coaches would have been baying for a Cliftonville win,” said Healy.
Intriguingly Linfield’s Premiership fixture at home to in form Carrick Rangers remains on even though the Blues will have first team regulars Trai Hume and Cameron Palmer on international duty with the Northern Ireland Under-21 side, who have daunting away games in Russia and Spain over the next week.
Like other Irish League sides with international representation Linfield could have had the match called off until a later date but Healy said: “As it stands the game will be on.”