David Healy targets 'quick fix' for Linfield after defeat to Coleraine
Linfield v Cliftonville, BetMcLean League Cup Quarter-Final, Windsor Park, Tonight, 7.45pm
Linfield manager David Healy believes success in the BetMcLean League Cup last season proved inspirational in the title battle and is looking for more of the same this term.
Healy is well aware that his side will have to improve dramatically from Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Coleraine when they entertain Cliftonville tonight in the quarter-finals of the knockout competition they won in the previous campaign.
Back then an Andy Waterworth goal was enough to see off Ballymena United in the League Cup decider. A few months later, they were crowned champions.
"The League Cup was beneficial to us last season. It gave us a platform and a final to look forward to, and the players took that on into the final games of the league season," said Healy.
"We'll look forward to the game against Cliftonville, though we will need to improve individually and collectively after a disappointing display at Coleraine."
Had the Blues won at the Showgrounds they would have jumped above the Bannsiders in the table. Instead, Oran Kearney's men emerged triumphant, maintained their unbeaten record and moved five points clear of Healy's side, albeit having played two matches more.
Cliftonville are four points ahead of Linfield and will arrive at Windsor Park tonight in confident mood. Paddy McLaughlin's Reds have won six matches on the bounce in all competitions, one of which was a penalty shoot-out success over Linfield in the County Antrim Shield.
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"They are in good form and are second in the league, so it should be a tough game for us," added Healy who, like opposite number McLaughlin, is expected to make changes from his weekend line-up.
"Our performance was short on where it needed to be against Coleraine. We were second to the ball and got mixed up trying to play their type of game, which didn't help us. I don't think Coleraine outplayed us but they did edge us in creating chances.
"We also conceded a poor goal and we will need to make sure that when it comes to these tight games going forward that we are up for it.
"Obviously the league is the most important, and to lose ground on the leaders is disappointing, but the good thing in football is that a quick turnaround in matches offers you a chance of a quick fix."
Telling words from Healy, not a man to accept second best.
While the Linfield manager will demand a big response from his players this evening, he will also keep an eye on developments at Hibernian, where striker Michael O'Connor is reported to be on trial.
O'Connor scored some important goals in Linfield's title-winning team last season before being loaned out to Waterford. Now, he could be set for a move to the Scottish Premiership.
McLaughlin says his side will go to Linfield with "momentum". It will be interesting to see his team selection. A fortnight ago, Joe Gormley was on the bench. On the back of the striker netting a hat-trick at home to Dungannon Swifts at the weekend in a 5-0 win and reaching the 200 goal mark for the club in the process, it would be tough to leave him out this time.
Elsewhere in the last-eight, league leaders Coleraine are going to be odds-on favourites to overcome Championship side Dundela at Wilgar Park, while fellow tier two outfit Newry City, on the back of winning at Glenavon, host an Institute team who have improved under boss Sean Connor and earned a shock draw in Larne at the weekend.