Linfield manager David Healy has revealed that Champions League hero Ethan Devine almost missed his big night against The New Saints at Windsor Park.
Substitute Devine scored the decisive extra-time goal in the first qualifying round tie, giving the Blues a 2-0 victory on Wednesday and 2-1 aggregate success to send them through to an intriguing clash with Norwegian outfit Bodo/Glimt — and this after being touch and go to be involved in the first place.
Back in January, Healy was criticised by some Linfield supporters and many from other clubs for signing Devine from Championship side Knockbreda but, as he did last term in the title run-in, the 21-year-old came up trumps on his European debut, connecting with a cross from Chris McKee, who had done superbly to chase down a Jordan Stewart pass on the left.
“Credit to Chris, it could have been easy for him to give that one up but he kept going and Ethan was there to do what he does. Again, not bad for a young kid from Knockbreda,” said Healy with a wry smile.
“Ethan was nearly ruled out of the game on Tuesday having played against Knockbreda last Saturday when he probably shouldn’t have done.
“He injured his foot Friday-week ago and he was a little bit naïve where he still wanted to play against Knockbreda. To be honest, he was rubbish and I told him that and he told me the reasons why.
“We spoke about it and then talked to (physio) Terry Hayes on Wednesday about putting him on the bench just in case and, lo and behold, he didn’t only score the winner he got through 30 minutes of hard work in extra-time.
“It was a great finish and it is something we have worked hard on with Ethan and the rest of the centre-forwards.
“We do a lot of front-post runs and if the front post man doesn’t score, the second post man scores a tap-in.
“Ethan was in the proper position and we got what was a hugely important goal.”