Mark Haughey hails David Healy's words of wisdom
Defender Mark Haughey admitted a few words of wisdom from his manager David Healy worked at treat at Windsor Park on Saturday night.
The 30-year-old lit the touch paper for another crucial Linfield victory by grabbing his first goal of the season to help Healy’s boys inch a little closer to equalling Rangers’ world record of 55 League title wins.
Now 11 points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table – and with only six games remaining – the Blues are closing in on their fourth Gibson Cup success in five years under Healy’s reign.
But it certainly wasn’t a handy three points. Although the current champions got off to the best possible start when Haughey bulleted home a peach of a cross from Kirk Millar, gutsy Ballymena United replied with a wonderful free kick from star man Shay McCartan.
It was left to Shayne Lavery to ease the tension that gripped the international arena when he headed home another wonderful delivery from Millar, who had managed to twist and turn his way past defender Ross Redman.
When the ball landed on the head of the Northern Ireland international there was always going to be one outcome and, for once, rookie goalkeeper Dylan Graham – he established himself with a number of excellent saves – could do nothing.
Haughey admitted his manager had recently reminded him that his goal account for the season was zero.
“The gaffer was looking at stats and he pointed out that I hadn’t scored, which was unusual for me,” he laughed. “I think it as a little hint that I had to do something about it.
“Between Jimmy (Callacher), Staff (Mark Staffford) and myself, we’ve always aimed at setting ourselves a target of hitting double figures. We have always come close every season, whereas Staff and I have struggled this year . . . although Jimmy has hit a few.
“Thankfully, and lucky enough I got a crucial one against Ballymena. It was a great ball in from Kirk. I’m not usually that high up the pitch from open play, but I took a chance . . . Kirk’s vision and qualify of delivery is top drawer every week.
“He’s been consistently doing that . . . I don’t know how many assists are down to him, it would certainly be twenty-plus. He’s been doing that, year in, year out.”
With the business end of the season fast approaching, Haughey insists, as in the past, his team adopts a ‘one-game-at-a-time’ approach.
He added: “This was a massive three points for us. Ballymena are a quality side. They beat us down at their place a few weeks back, we knew that Davy (Jeffrey) would have them well motivated and well set up.
“They’ve quality players like (Paul) McElroy and McCartan that can hurt you. When knew after results elsewhere this week, we had to take care of our own business.
“I would be lying to say we don’t look at other teams’ results, but it comes down to us . . . there is no point in other teams dropping points and us not capitalising.”
United boss David Jeffrey saluted his boys for their performance – even in defeat.
He said: “I thought we did tremendously well and were unlucky not go get something from the game,” he said. “We were undone by two moments of quality.
“Unfortunately, a top six place has one gone. It’s crazy when you thing we’ve beaten Coleraine, Cliftonville, Glentoran and Larne, all away from home, and we still couldn’t make it.
"Ironically, the teams we didn’t get points from were Crusaders and Glenavon and they are the sides in and round us.
“But I must say the standard (of every team) this season is ridiculous, it’s so, so difficult to get points off any side. We gave it our best, but just fell short.
“Our immediate aim will be to try and secure seventh place. We also have the Irish Cup coming down the line, but I know Matthew Tipton and his team well up for that one.
"We’ve got to refocus on that as well, so that’s where we are at.”
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