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Philip Lowry backing Linfield to finish the job

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Linfield Philip Lowry celebrates scoring

Linfield Philip Lowry celebrates scoring

Brian Little

Linfield Philip Lowry celebrates scoring

Philip Lowry has backed Linfield to complete their European mission and make a blistering start to the new league campaign without their star frontman Andy Waterworth.

Waterworth, who was the scourge of Cliftonville in his last game for Glentoran in the Irish Cup final, made a stunning start to his Blues career by finding the net in the 2-0 win over IF Fuglafjordur last week.

But the striker's celebrations after his dream debut were cut short when news emerged he had a broken bone in his foot, ruling him out for up to eight weeks.

Lowry, who was also on target in that superb Europa League triumph in the Faroe Islands, admits Waterworth's injury is a huge blow but ahead of the rematch at Windsor Park tomorrow night (7.45pm), the midfielder expects it to be business as usual for David Jeffrey's side.

"On a personal level, everyone is disappointed for Andy, especially after he was looking so sharp and fit in training and he had scored the goal in his first competitive match," said Lowry.

"I spoke to him after the game and he said he thought he had taken a kick to his calf muscle, but it turns out there was more serious damage and it's really bad luck.

"Injuries are part and parcel of the game, as I know only too well, but the timing of this is very cruel.

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"But that's why Linfield have a big squad and someone's setback is another player's opportunity and the club's objectives never change.

"We have other strikers like Peter Thompson, Mark McAllister and Matthew Tipton who know where the net is and everyone is hungry to score goals.

"I was thrilled to score in the first leg – last season I missed the first six months through injury and you don't feel fit when you are out a long time.

"Hopefully this is a new start for me in which I can get a run in the team and be part of European success as well as winning trophies again.

"I'm just always happy to be involved and I'm ready to answer the call when it comes."

The 2-0 win was Linfield's first away victory in European competition since 1966 – a 4-1 victory over Valerengen in Oslo.

It was only the club's second away win on the continent and if they can see off the challenge of IF Fuglafjordur tomorrow night, next up will be a battle against Greek side Skoda Xanthi in the second qualifying round. The players may not need to get acclimatised to the hot Greek weather in the light of the heatwave that has hit Northern Ireland since the weekend.

However, football has a habit of bringing you down to earth with a thud and there will be no complacency in the Blues camp tomorrow.

"This is European football and you don't come up against poor teams," added Lowry.

"We will not be taking anything for granted. People will expect us to finish the job now, but they pose a big threat to us – they have strength and pace and will be looking for revenge. They will raise their game for the second leg.

"However, we want to win the game and make sure we progress. We have something to hold onto now after a great performance.

"It took us time to get used to their artificial pitch and style of play, but once we did that the goals followed."

While European success would be a welcome lift to the management and players there is no doubt where Linfield's priorities lie in the coming months – particularly after a trophyless campaign.

"Winning any football matches breeds confidence," added Lowry.

"The league is your bread and butter and while the aim is always to go as far as we can in Europe, everyone's focus will be on the league once it starts."

* Cliftonville were held 1-1 at Knockbreda in a pre-season friendly last night. Miguel Chines (18) and Diarmuid O'Carroll (66) were the scorers.


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