Belfast Telegraph

Linfield must go up a gear for massive month: Healy

 

By Alex Mills

David Healy believes Linfield must up the ante ahead of tomorrow's clash against Carrick Rangers at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.

Although the Blues sent out a statement of intent in recent weeks by taking the scalps of the Danske Bank Premiership's high-flying duo of Coleraine and Glenavon, they were not as impressive last Saturday when they squeezed out a one-goal victory against Rodney McAree's Dungannon Swifts.

It was Andy Waterworth's second-half strike that separated the teams at the finish and, even though Healy was thrilled with the three points, he was disappointed with the level of performance.

"We are not going to dominate games week in, week out," he said. "We have proved over the past two or three weeks that we have what it takes to see out games.

"I certainly would love to go out and win three or four every week, it would make my life a lot easier, but there is nothing easy in this league. Anything you get, you have to work for it.

"It's important we keep that momentum going by winning at Carrick. We have to keep winning because all the other teams (at the top) keep winning.

"It's a game we will relish, but I know it's a game that Carrick will relish as well. I would imagine there will be a big Linfield crowd at the game.

"We'll need to be better than we were last week against Dungannon. I know Carrick's results haven't been good of late, but in David McAlinden they have a manager that gets his team to battle. We have to be prepared to dig deep, both physically and mentally, to get three points.

"We have six games coming up this month, so it's the start of a really crucial period.

"Our season started kicking off around the end of November last season. We were good in December. You don't win league titles at this time, but it's crucial we put ourselves into a position to give it a right good go."

Indeed, only for a couple of excellent interventions from Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Roy Carroll, things could well have been different against Dungannon.

"Yes, Roy had to pull off a couple of big saves, but we have now become used to that. We expect him to make those saves," said Healy. "Perhaps we were not as fluent as we should have been. We didn't pick the right pass at times. Fair play to Dungannon, they made it difficult for us.

"We created a number of chances in the first half but didn't take them. The good thing is, we found a way to win the game. It was a priceless goal from Andy. His work rate is never in question and he'll be the first one to admit it wasn't the most polished of performances, but it was a big goal.

"I told the players after the game that when we total up our points at the end of the season, that could be a really big three points for us."

A shining light for Healy was the performance of Ryan Strain, a 61st-minute substitute for Jordan Stewart.

"We signed Ryan on a professional contract last month," added Healy. "I've big hopes for him. He gave us a bit of spark last week, he helped lift the fans.

"He's been around the first-team group for over a year now. I'm well aware that he's still at a young, delicate age, but we threw Paul Smyth in at the deep end a couple of years ago and look what happened to him. Ryan is tenacious, he's got a bit of bite and two good feet. The longer he's around the first team, the more minutes he'll get."

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