Linfield manager David Healy put a protective arm around a number of his star names by axing them for Saturday’s game against Coleraine at Windsor Park.
With the Danske Bank Premiership title practically out of sight and an Irish Cup final appearance looming, Healy admitted he couldn’t take the risk of having any of his big players potentially miss out on the May 7 showcase decider against Glenavon.
If anything, Healy will now have an even bigger headache following the performance of the side that demolished Oran Kearney’s ailing Bannsiders.
Kirk Millar helped himself to a first half double, sandwiched in between a bullet header from Jimmy Callacher, who was skippering the team for the first time.
“The players who came in, certainly didn’t look out of place,” beamed Healy.
“Defensively we were good – we were sound. Clean sheets are important – they win you games.
“I made changes because Reece Glendinning, Andy Waterworth and Mark Stafford are one booking away from a suspension. Ross Gaynor was carrying a little injury, while Jamie Mugrew has played an awful lot of football this season.
“The boys that came in did a fantastic job. It means I’ll have a headache naming the squad come cup final day.
“I’ve already told them that places are up for grabs. It will really be a tough day for me, telling the people who will not be in the squad.
“As a player I’ve been involved in big games – cup finals and play-offs and I know it’s not nice. But that’s the nature of the job that I’m in.”
The victory helped Linfield claim second spot in the league table, which guarantees them European involvement next season, supplemented with a huge financial bonus.
“That was one of our goals form the outset,” added Healy.
“It’s a massive financial boost for the club. But I’ve told the players that second best will not be good enough next season. They know what is expected of them. We have three league games left – and we want to win them all, starting with a difficult match against Glentoran in midweek.
“We’ve already beaten them twice, so we’ll be going there for another three points. I know what going to the Oval means to our supporters. There will be no let-up.”
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney insisted his boys appeared to be overawed by the occasion.
“We started and finished the half badly,” he said. “Had we come in at half time only 2-0 down, we were still in the game – it still had a wee bit of an edge. But the third goal killed it.
“It was a disappointing day. Performance wise, we just weren’t at the races.”