Belfast Telegraph

It's hard, but Linfield need to get back on track: Healy

No excuses: David Healy looking to back on the winning trail during a hectic schedule
No excuses: David Healy looking to back on the winning trail during a hectic schedule

By Graham Luney

Two points out of a possible nine is not what Linfield wanted from their festive programme, even though the challenges were daunting.

But a new day and new year offers an opportunity to extinguish some of the festive blues and get their title challenge back on track with victory over Institute at Windsor Park.

Although David Healy's side have stumbled over Christmas, with draws against Crusaders and Coleraine either side of a Boxing Day defeat by Glentoran, the champions remain within striking distance of the top, three points behind leaders Cliftonville with a game in hand.

But there's no question the Blues need to improve in 2020 and Healy will look at strengthening his squad this month.

More is needed from the attacking players, and unless Linfield can find that killer touch, the title crown will slip from their grasp.

Although it's been a demanding schedule for his men, Healy is not in the business of making excuses.

"It is mental," he said. "It is hard going but it is what it is. We get the schedule in June and you know the schedule.

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"Everybody wants Christmas and New Year games and we just have to get on with it.

"We lost on Boxing Day and Saturday was a good opportunity for us to get back to winning ways.

"The good thing is that even though the schedule is tight and the games are coming thick and fast, Wednesday against Institute gives us another opportunity to hopefully get three points."

The Blues were unable to close out the win at Coleraine after an outstanding 25-yard strike from Stephen Fallon had fired them in front.

An Aaron Canning equaliser in the 54th minute, coupled with full-back Ryan McGivern's dismissal, made it another uncomfortable afternoon for the visitors.

But Healy wasn't too disheartened at the finish, knowing it could be a precious point.

"I wouldn't say happy, more content (with a point) because again Coleraine threw everything at it in the second half," he added.

"Coleraine make it really difficult for teams, especially at home, and they made it difficult for us in the second half.

"I thought overall a draw was probably a fair result."

While McGivern was then sent off after receiving a second yellow card for a challenge on Bannsiders winger Jamie Glackin, Healy felt Coleraine midfielder Stephen Lowry could also have seen red.

"Ryan McGivern's is a red card because he picked up a second yellow card, and I have absolutely no qualms about that," added Healy.

"It is 10 yards inside our defensive half and Shayne Lavery's is probably a yard inside our half but it was a blatant foul.

"I have a huge amount of respect for Stephen (Lowry) and I was very disappointed when he left the football club.

"I have a huge amount of time for him but I think he was lucky even with the first challenge on Mulgrew. I have seen them given but I know Stephen is not that type of player.

"The frustrating thing for me and the inconsistency is that Stephen Lowry should have been sent off today.

"You don't want people sent off but it would have given us a better opportunity of seeing the game out."

Healy will likely make further changes to his team today as he looks to hit the ground running in 2020.

"Oran (Kearney) started with the exact same team which defeated Ballymena on Boxing Day whereas we made changes, and full credit to the lads that played," he added. "On both teams.

"Just 48 hours after Boxing Day the teams in the Irish League had to regroup and refocus and get themselves back out on the pitch.

"Credit to all the teams and our players because it was difficult, but we dug in and got a well-earned point."

Linfield vs Institute

Danske Bank Premiership

Windsor Park, Today, 3pm

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