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Linfield must get back to their best to take down Crusaders again: Healy

 

By Steven Beacom

Linfield manager David Healy wants his team to deliver the same type of high energy, high quality performance against Crusaders at Windsor Park tomorrow that they produced at Seaview earlier in the season.

In August, the Blues won 2-0 away to the champions with goals from Joel Cooper and Jamie Mulgrew ending the Shore Road club's 20 home league game unbeaten record.

Not surprisingly, four months on both Linfield and Crusaders are challenging for the title, with Healy's men in second, two points behind leaders Ballymena United, and Stephen Baxter's team five points further adrift.

Between them, the Blues and Crues have won the last four Danske Bank Premiership crowns and, like in recent years, the latest encounter between two of the Irish League's big hitters promises to be a cracker.

On Tuesday, Linfield edged to a 2-1 victory at Portadown in the League Cup quarter-finals courtesy of an injury time winner from Jordan Stewart. Healy wants a big improvement when the Crues come to Windsor.

"We were too sloppy in possession against Portadown. We were a bit hurried and a bit rushed at times, especially late on, and it is important that when you do come under a bit of pressure that you withstand it and remain calm," Healy said.

"We didn't do that, which was disappointing, but the most important thing about cup football is getting through and we were fortunate enough to get a late winner.

"We had a tough game against Ballymena United but the majority of the players who played then played against Portadown, which was a sign of how important the game was to us. We had the option of playing one or two others but getting into the semi-final was massive for us.

"We'll put the performance in the bin and we'll move on to the Crusaders game, which is a big one. What we didn't need was extra time, so the late goal really helped us at Portadown.

"We will regroup now for Saturday and we will certainly need to be better."

Asked about the previous league meeting when the Blues came out on top, Healy said: "We will need that level of performance that we put in at Seaview going forward.

"Crusaders had a sticky patch earlier in the season, but they are back now and we all know the levels of performance that they can produce if they are allowed to do so."

After being rested for the visit to Portadown, in-form striker Andy Waterworth will return to the fold.

"What we did last season was play Andy virtually every minute and every game and he ended up blowing out," explained Healy.

"Andy is a big player for us. He is always a big plus when he is in and around the team and he gives you different options.

"He is in good form at the moment scoring goals and he will give us another option this weekend against Crusaders."

Another key figure will be goalkeeper Roy Carroll who made his 100th appearance for Linfield in midweek.

Healy said: "Roy has been a big player for the club. By his own admission this season has been a bit tough because he's getting older, but what he gives us is experience as well as his ability to make saves and he organises.

"He has been a huge signing for the club and I know he'll be pleased to have made it to 100 games for Linfield."

• LINFIELD have informed Ballymena United of their intention to approach Johnny McMurray over a move for the transfer-listed striker.

Linfield vs Crusaders

Danske Bank Premiership

Windsor Park, Tomorrow, 3.00pm

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