Belfast Telegraph

'It is difficult': Linfield's injury woes forcing squad reshuffle ahead of League Cup semi against Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine, BetMcLean League Cup Semi-Final, Windsor Park, Tonight, 7.45pm

Linfield manager David Healy
Linfield manager David Healy
Bit of previous: Oran Kearney after leading Coleraine to victory at Windsor Park

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy believes Coleraine will travel to Windsor Park for tonight's BetMcLean League Cup semi-final with a point to prove following their shock defeat at the weekend.

Oran Kearney's boys may have been sitting pretty at the top of the league table, but they came crashing down to earth with a bang after being beaten by basement strugglers Institute at the Brandywell.

In contrast, Healy's men boosted their title hopes with a last-gasp victory over Larne - they are now only two points adrift of leaders Crusaders but, crucially, have played two fewer games.

The Blues achieved the three points without inspirational skipper Jamie Mulgrew, who limped off after only half an hour, while defender Jimmy Callacher didn't even make the starting line-up because of injury.

It means Healy will again be forced to reshuffle his deck for this Cup shoot-out with the Bannsiders.

"It is difficult because we have lost two of our leaders, especially down the spine of the team," said the former Northern Ireland striker.

"Perhaps you can get away with a couple of wide players missing, but when you take out two of your main men it becomes difficult.

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"Jamie has been struggling over the past few weeks. We have also been without Niall Quinn for the last lot of games, and we miss his versatility and his ability.

"Mark Haughey is still out, while Jordan Stewart is just back and got a few minutes on Saturday. Daniel Kearns and Gareth Deane are also missing, so we have a number of players still unavailable.

"We will need to refresh and regroup for the semi-final, that's for sure."

The Blues, of course, are League Cup holders, but Healy is under no illusions that the Bannsiders will be looking to get the weekend result out of their system.

"It will be a tough game. I take no notice of their result at Institute. They have beaten us here (at Windsor) and they have beaten us up at their place," he insisted.

"In my eyes, they are probably still the form team. We will have our hands full against them. If we play the way we played against Larne, we won't win against Coleraine.

"They have a knack of finding weaknesses and punishing mistakes that we make.

"We've had a tough run in this competition, I don't think anyone can accuse us of being lucky Linfield.

"I can go back to the first round. We were 3-2 down with three minutes to go away at Ballinamallard United. We drew the game (3-3) before beating them 5-4 in extra-time.

"It was tough against one of the top teams in the Championship.

"We had to miss the original date for the fixture because of our European commitments and we went down there on a Tuesday night and scraped through.

"We then beat Dungannon Swifts away from home and then Cliftonville - again one of the form teams in the country.

"The League Cup is a competition I really like. We are the holders, so we want to hold on to the trophy."

Healy insists his boys will be motivated by the fact that they are flourishing in the title race - and will thrive on the prospect of appearing in another final.

He added: "The final is always a high-profile occasion and it is something to look forward to, so that's a big incentive.

"There is a great determination in the squad, especially when my players are written off when we lose a game.

"Even though we've lost four games, we are only two points off the top with two games in hand.

"There have been a few questions asked of us. Has this Linfield team got the stomach for it (retaining the title)?

"Even though we were poor against Larne, we still had the stomach for it.

"We showed that wee bit of character, we showed what we are made of and we'll need more of the same attitude against Coleraine."

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