Belfast Telegraph

Linfield will learn from Shield defeat for title run-in, vows Healy

Glory chase: David Healy (right) hopes to pip David Jeffrey’s Ballymena United to the title
Glory chase: David Healy (right) hopes to pip David Jeffrey’s Ballymena United to the title

By Steven Beacom

Linfield's tilt at league title glory has been built from the back this season but lately that solid defensive blue line has started to creak.

Manager David Healy knows all too well that his team must return to being an immovable object to claim Danske Bank Premiership success, starting tomorrow at home to Institute.

In their last two games - a 2-0 league loss at Glenavon and a 4-2 County Antrim Shield final defeat to Crusaders - Linfield have conceded six goals.

Prior to that, in 16 matches only seven goals had been scored against them.

What will have concerned Healy most is the nature of the strikes in the matches with Glenavon and Crusaders. Northern Ireland's record goalscorer could have blamed the windy conditions for causing his side's downfall in the Shield decider but it was defensive solidity rather than Storm Gareth which was his chief concern.

Healy said: "I think conditions played a part in us being 3-1 up at half-time, so we benefited from the weather in the first 45 minutes and spoke to the players at the break to say we were going to come under pressure in the second half against the wind, and we succumbed.

"We didn't defend as we have done and lost two goals in three minutes at the end of the game which was disappointing.

"I don't want to blame the conditions for that. We just didn't defend properly and conceded soft goals. It's very unlike our back four to concede soft goals but we conceded too many in the final.

"The players will learn, as I will, and we'll move on."

While losing 4-3 to the Crues on Tuesday night was a blow, especially having been 3-1 up, Linfield know that going on to win the title would make this a superb season for the club. They have the League Cup in the bag already and are favourites to finish top, though David Jeffrey's Ballymena United are proving a tough nut to crack.

The Blues are six points ahead of the Sky Blues, who have a game in hand and will be playing seven of their last eight ties at home.

"The priority for us all season has been the league and now it is a case of concentrating on that," said Healy.

Belfast Telegraph

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