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Linfield will bring strongest squad to see off Portadown and land semi-final spot: Healy

 

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy admits there will be no room for complacency when his team face Portadown tonight under the floodlights in a BetMcLean League Cup quarter-final showdown at Shamrock Park.

Even though the Blues were dumped off the top of the Premiership League table following their 2-1 defeat at Ballymena United at the weekend, they'll still be hot favourites to swipe away the challenge of Matty Tipton's Championship side.

The Ports, trailing high-flying Larne by a staggering 19 points in their division, had a morale boosting win over Dundela in midweek, but their hopes of gaining a promotion play-off place drifted further away on Saturday when they lost at home to Carrick Rangers.

Healy, ever the professional, will be taking nothing for granted on what he describes as a 'banana skin' tie.

"It will be a tough game," said the former Northern Ireland striker. "I watched Portadown last week and they were impressive against Dundela.

"I would imagine the pitch will be quite heavy down there at Shamrock Park, which can be a big leveller.

"They have a blend of experience and youth with the likes of Kevin Braniff, Johnny Flynn, Sean Mackle and former Glentoran boy Chris Lavery. And they have a good goalkeeper in young Declan Dunne.

"They also have Adam Salley up front, he was with us a couple of years back. He scored two against Dundela and they showed great character to come back on two occasions.

"So there is enough experience about the place. I know we are not just going to turn up and roll over them, that's for sure.

"On paper, everyone will be expecting us to win, but having seen Portadown, I know we'll be in for a tough game. I know it's a Premiership versus Championship scenario, but sometimes it doesn't work out like that.

"We'll have to have the players well prepared to make sure there is no potential upset."

Healy insists he'll have his strongest squad on show, even though there is a league pot-boiler looming against Crusaders at Windsor Park on Saturday.

"We'll go with our strongest squad, although if players are carrying any niggling injuries they won't play," he added. "But will be going with what we feel is our strongest team to win as there is a semi-final at stake.

"It's a demanding period for players, but it's the same for every team. Most of the players have jobs, so the festive programme is a big commitment.

"We have eight or nine games left before the end of the month, so we must utilise the squad."

Even though the Blues were replaced by Ballymena United at the top of the league on Saturday, Healy believes the title race is destined to go right to the wire.

"It's important we regroup for the game with Portadown after Saturday's result," he added. "We were disappointed to lose the game, but we can take some positives from it.

"There will be setbacks, which we've seen. I think it will be an open race right to the end. I don't there is much between much between six or seven clubs.

"Any club in the league, as we've seen, can cause problems for teams challenging at the top. And, in terms of the top three or four, I don't think there is much between them."

One bonus for Healy was the appearance of Lorcan Forde against the Sky Blues - his first outing after joining the Blues from Warrenpoint Town in the summer.

"Lorcan has been out for longer than we expected due to injury," he added.

"He had 45 minutes with the Swifts and another 60 minutes in another game.

"We brought him on against Ballymena to give us more legs and energy.

"So hopefully he can stay fit to stay in the team to get the minutes and game time he needs."

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