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'We'll be found out': Linfield must learn from Europa League heartache or face domestic disappointment, says Healy



Linfield boss David Healy.

Linfield boss David Healy.

Linfield boss David Healy.

Linfield manager David Healy has fired a warning to his squad that domestic disappointment awaits if they offer repeat performances of their Europa League defeat on Thursday.

The Blues dropped out of the continental competition thanks to a shock 1-0 defeat to Maltese champions Floriana at Windsor Park.

It was only the visiting side's third victory in their 30th European knock-out tie and Linfield had been odds-on favourites to progress to what would have been a home tie against Flora Tallinn next Thursday.

It was a ninth minute goal from Matias Garcia, Floriana's only shot on target all night, that deflected past Chris Johns and did the damage.

Linfield enjoyed large swathes of possession from then on but offered little by way of gilt-edged chances outside an injury-time Jimmy Callacher effort that was spectacularly saved and an earlier Steven Fallon shot was similarly stopped by the in-form Floriana goalkeeper.

It was a display that lacked the Premiership champions' usual fluency and Healy wasn't of mind to accept any lowering of standards with the start of the domestic campaign less than a month away - all being well.

"It's going to be a challenge this year," he told the club website. "Everybody has strengthened. It's going to be competitive and it's one of the things I spoke to the players about after the game.

"We need to be bang at it, because if we're not sharp, hungry enough, if our attitude isn't quite right here and there - maybe in some of the away games - we'll be found out this year.

"It's important we learn from tonight, I learn from tonight. It's never nice or what people want to hear but sometimes you learn a little bit more through adversity and disappointments.

"We'll learn, reassess, go again and be better for it going forward this year."

Earlier in the week, captain Jamie Mulgrew had admitted the Blues had their eyes on the group stage, having missed out in the play-offs only on away goals last summer.

This year, they fell two full rounds short and, while the task of securing European group stage football will become easier when the UEFA Conference League is introduced next term, it was a backwards step Healy hadn't been intending to take.

"To go out with a performance like that is disappointing," he reacted. "We felt coming into the game it was an opportunity for us to progress. We didn't start the game with the tempo that I expect and we had hoped as a group.

"It's a while since I've had a flat feeling like that. We saw this as a game to catapult us into next week but if you don't take care of the opposition that's in front of you...

"They were ok. They were streetwise. They were buying free-kick and draining the clock. After giving them the lead, we didn't do enough to get the equaliser. We huffed and puffed a little bit, changed a few things and went down to 10 men but I still thought we had a goal in us with the amount of forward players we had.

"Ultimately, we didn't do enough to put the ball in the net."

Now the task is to ensure the club gets a shot at European football again next season.

Belfast Telegraph