Linfield boss David Healy admitted that the recent run of big games for his side almost took their toll in Tuesday night’s clash away to Newry City, but backed the depth of his squad as the Blues moved six points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Early strikes in each half by Michael O’Connor – in for the suspended Andrew Waterworth – saw Healy’s men to all three points at a bitterly cold Newry Showgrounds, but Newry has a huge opportunity to draw level early in the second period when Dale Montgomery’s spot-kick was saved by Gareth Deane, in for the injured Roy Carroll.
“In the first 15 minutes we started really brightly. We got a really good goal and then I think the number of games started to catch up.
“We had a big game on Saturday, we’ve had big games away to Ballymena, away to Cliftonville, .
“We’ve played the Glens, so we probably felt our legs a little bit, not even in the second half, probably the first half. It was hard,” said Healy.
“It’s important that we got the three points tonight, it does stretch our lead a bit, but trophies aren’t handed out at the end of January.
“There’s another three long months, a lot of games to be played, a lot of points to be gained and dropped. The players will be prepared for a good run-in.
“Gareth got a huge pat on the back in the dressing room.
“In a specialist position, you’re not always going to play, but it’s important that he was switched on and he was very professional in everything he had to do tonight.
“ It was a big moment in the game because you got to one each and then the pressure’s on.
“But it stayed 1-0 and then we got the second goal not too long after, which was another big moment in the second half,” said Healy, who lost half-time sub Andrew Mitchell to a nasty leg injury in the second period.
“We have good players on the bench. We have the likes of Andrew Mitchell, who came on and then unfortunately had to go off, Mark Stafford, Matty Clarke, all guys who have played huge amounts of games for me since I’ve been at the club.
“It’s important that, if you have the likes of your Carrolls or your Waterworths suspended or injured, that you have players to come in. I thought Kyle McClean tonight when he came on looked excellent in keeping the ball for us.
“There’s a lot of positives for us tonight. We dug out a very crucial three points.
“It’s the old cliché that we’ll look after ourselves and look after the next game. And the next game is a big game,” said the former Northern Ireland international, who admitted the recent run of big games has taken it’s toll on his side.”
As for Newry manager Darren Mullen, while his side are on a dismal run of recent form and hover just above bottom side Ards in the table, he felt there was enough to take into Saturday’s huge local derby at home to Warrenpoint Town.
“They started really well and they were hard to handle in the first 10 minutes. Their pace and movement was difficult for us.
“Once they got their goal, I thought our reaction was brilliant and the players were excellent. Other teams maybe would have crumbled, but we got back at them and the goal seemed to wake us up,” admitted Mullen.
“We had a good chance straight after their goal, then Karl [Moody] comes and has a chance where he hits the post and Dale misses the penalty. One of those goes in and the impetus is with us and you never know what could have happened.”