IRISH LEAGUE: Linfield boss David Healy expects tough test at Windsor

Ballymena's David Jeffrey and Linfield's David Healy
Ballymena's David Jeffrey and Linfield's David Healy

Linfield boss David Healy insists the character of his team will again be tested when Ballymena United make the trip to Windsor Park on Saturday.

The Blues are hanging on to the tails of Danske Premiership table toppers Crusaders, but are still seven points adrift.

It means there is no margin for error against David Jeffrey’s side, who have already enjoyed a thumping League Cup win over Healy’s title chasers.

But the Blues returned in the compliment with an impressive league success before then grabbed a sensational 94th minute winner - from the head of Mark Stafford - the last time the teams met at the international arena.

“Big David (Jeffrey) will be bringing a team that are in a good run of form,” said Healy. “They are already in the League Cup final, so they have that to look forward to. They’ll come to try and express themselves as all teams do at Windsor Park.

“It’s a nice big wide open pitch and they’ll attempt to do what they have against a lot of teams this season and score a lot of goals.

“But the bottom line is, we are still in this title race - we’ve got to look after ourselves.

“Apart from a little blip here and there, everyone is focused on winning the title.

“That was the goal from the outset. We are still in there battling. We’ve a Shield final coming up; we’re in the sixth round of the Irish Cup and are still in title contention.

“I never let up on the players . . . I continually want more from them. I demand more in training and on match days. And, if they keep giving me more, hopefully along the line, we will get a little bit of joy out of it.”

Healy was thrilled with the ‘character’ his team displayed to take three points from their visit to Mourneview Park last weekend.

“The players showed great character,” he added. “It’s all about the players learning about themselves in terms of how much more they’ve got to give . . . how much more they need to give. When things are not going to plan, sometimes things can crumble, but that didn’t happen when Glenavon equalised. I warned the boys at half-time that somewhere along the line, Glenavon would get an opportunity - and they did courtesy of a harsh penalty award to let them back into the match.

“That’s always a danger when you don’t convert chances. They are a good side and have plenty of options going forward. Fair play to our lads, they stuck at it. It was a big three points.”

Ballymena will be looking for their first win at Windsor Park since 2004.

It’s a challenge that manager David Jeffrey rates a ‘big ask’ as he will be without suspended trio Cathair Friel, Leroy Millar and Fra McCafffrey. And, Jeffrey will also be without keeper Ross Glendinning, who is currently on loan form the Blues. New striker, Joe McKinney, however, will be included.

“It’s always a big ask at Windsor. We almost grabbed a draw last time, but were beaten by a late, late winner. I’ll be asking the boys for 90 minutes of passion and commitment.”