Belfast Telegraph

Healy determined to go six points clear as Linfield face Newry City

Newry City v Linfield, Danske Bank Premiership, The Showgrounds, Newry, Tonight, 7.45pm

By Graham Luney and Alex Mills

Linfield manager David Healy wants his side's title challenge to stay in fifth gear as they prepare for a tricky assignment at Newry City tonight.

The Blues know that victory will move them six points clear of second-placed Ballymena United and nine ahead of champions Crusaders, who they conquered 1-0 at Seaview on Saturday.

That performance and result was a big statement from the Blues, who are now unbeaten in 11 matches.

Jordan Stewart's early goal dented the Crues' title hopes and kept the Linfield momentum rumbling on.

Healy's side now boast six consecutive clean sheets in the league and they have an invincible look to them, but the Northern Ireland legend is wary of his men taking their eye off the ball.

Second-from-bottom Newry are still sweating on Premiership survival and they will fight for every point between now and the end of the season.

"The results give the players huge belief and momentum," admitted Healy. "The Newry game is massive and there is an opportunity for us to put some distance between ourselves and other teams.

"It will be a tough game, I watched the Newry v Crusaders game and it's a tough place to go. They are fighting for their lives but we will look forward to it.

"The pleasing thing for me is that we look at one game at a time. We will meet each challenge as they come as Jordan Stewart hinted in an interview the previous week. We will certainly find it difficult against Newry.

"When you don't concede goals you might only need one opportunity and we didn't open Crusaders up that much but the one chance we got Jordan was cute and smart enough to have the vision to put the ball in the back of the net."

Stewart, Linfield's match winner on Saturday, also expects a rough ride in Newry.

"Newry are fighting for their lives and you know when you go down there what you will get," said Stewart, who has netted seven goals in as many league outings.

"We need to produce the same performance we did against Crusaders on Saturday.

"I couldn't ask for more with respect to my form. I was out of the team at the start of the season and now I'm scoring goals and the team is winning games.

"That's all I want and hopefully we will be smiling at the end of the season.

"Joel (Cooper) has been phenomenal going forward and Daniel (Kearns) is a brilliant player. Kirk (Millar) is a nine out of 10 every week and Joel's pace is scary, he gives defenders headaches and Andy (Waterworth) tucks away the ball for fun.

"We have a strong bench and they keep all the players on their toes."

Newry boss Darren Mullen meanwhile has warned Irish League fans to not write off his side this evening.

On paper, it's a mismatch with a whopping 40 points separating the teams in the table.

Mullen, however, insists his boys will give it a go against the Belfast side.

"It's probably the fixture we didn't need at this moment in time, Linfield had a great win at Seaview and are currently on a great unbeaten run," he said.

"Most people will see it as a banker win for Linfield, but we have nothing to lose. We'll set ourselves up in the right manner and give it a go. We'll give them a game, which we've done before.

"The players must now stand up and be counted. The table doesn't lie - we are in a relegation battle.

"We need to start winning games. We don't want to settle for a play-off place at the end of the season, we want to get out of this position we are in.

"It's now got to the stage that we need results and to do whatever it takes."

Newry's woes continued when they were beaten by Glentoran at the weekend, a late own goal from Darren King depriving City of a welcome point.

Mullen added: "I thought we had a chance of getting something, but it didn't happen and we have only ourselves to blame.

"There is only so much you can blame on poor luck. Maybe you make your own luck, but not a lot has gone our way. We are hoping at some point it will change for us.

"It's now out of the frying pan and into the fire - a nice handy one to be getting on with, but the way this league is, it throws up surprise results.

"Ards have beaten Linfield at their place and Warrenpoint Town took a point off them at Windsor Park, so hopefully we can play our part in taking points off them.

"We'll go out to win the game. I believe it's not beyond us to get a result. The minute we start thinking it's Linfield and it's one we can't win, then that becomes a problem - a mental issue."

Belfast Telegraph

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