Belfast Telegraph

Why Ballinamallard struggles can prove a good omen for Linfield, explains Healy

 

Linfield manager David Healy
Linfield manager David Healy
Timely intervention: Daniel Reynolds hit a late equaliser

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy is hoping the omens are good following his team's nail-biting BetMcLean League Cup win over gutsy Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park on Tuesday night.

The holders came within two minutes of a shock second-round exit - they were staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat to Harry McConkey's battling Championship side.

That was until substitute Daniel Reynolds conjured up a face-saving equaliser to send a dramatic see-saw tie into extra-time, where the Blues finally got the job done.

Linfield recovered from an early Ryan Campbell goal to lead at half-time through strikes from Shayne Lavery and Ryan McGivern.

But McConkey's boys retaliated in the second half with Campbell and Callum Moorehead shooting them to within touching distance of a sensational result - only for Reynolds to spoil the party.

Unfortunate United defender Ben McCann then fired into his own net in extra-time before Andy Waterworth earned the Blues a bit of breathing space. But there was still time for Sean McEvoy to reduce the deficit in the closing seconds.

"We scraped through last year against Portadown and went on to win the League Cup, so hopefully this result is a good omen," said Healy.

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"There were a lot of disappointed players in the dressing room afterwards, but I keep telling them games are never going to be easy.

"Sometimes you must ride your luck, especially in cup runs. Sometimes you have to find a way to win, and the players did that at Ferney Park."

Healy saluted the predatory instincts of Reynolds, whose last-gasp goal spared his team's blushes.

"Daniel has that knack," he added. "He was unfortunate with a few other efforts in extra-time.

"I even thought when we got the equaliser we could have nicked another one to save ourselves from going into the extra 30 minutes.

"But it was chaos at times. Even at the end of extra-time, when we thought we'd finally seen the game through, we conceded another goal in the dying seconds.

"Cup football is all about putting yourself into the next round and we achieved that, but I was disappointed with the overall performance - we can play a lot better.

"Credit to Ballinamallard United. They made it difficult for us. They played with a solid back five which took us a bit of time to adjust to before we could start breaking them down.

"I certainly have no complaints with my players' attitude and effort, they went right to the final whistle. We ended up reverting to a two-three-five formation.

"We were a goal down with only a couple of minutes left, so we were left with little option but to try to salvage the game. We introduced (Matthew) Shevlin and Reynolds.

"Then, thankfully, Daniel popped up with an important equaliser which basically kept us in the Cup tie. I'm relieved, pleased and delighted we are through to the next round, where we will face another difficult tie at Dungannon Swifts."

Before that, Healy's boys must negotiate a trip to the Loughshore Hotel Arena to face Carrick Rangers on Monday night.

"It's another tough venue - we never get it easy there," he added. "It's a tight arena and a bobbly pitch.

"We will improve, but we don't want to leave it to the stage that we nearly got caught out as we did against Ballinamallard United. We'll put the footage of that game in the bin to focus on our next challenge.

"Carrick have good players and I know Niall Currie will have them set up well."

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