Linfield manager David Healy says he won’t be taking Championship side Ballyclare Comrades lightly in the Fifth Round of the Tennent’s Irish Cup at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Healy is likely to rest a few players following a hectic Christmas schedule, but the Blues boss is braced for a tough challenge.
“We need to be careful, as we have played a lot of games in recent weeks and we also have Ballymena United on Tuesday night in the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield,” he said.
“So we will make changes, but at the same time I will ensure we play a very strong team because we cannot afford to underestimate Ballyclare Comrades.
“They are going well in the Championship and they’re a club who have defeated Linfield in the recent past, so we won’t be taking them lightly.
“We have watched them and done our preparation on them, so we will be giving them the respect they deserve.
“We will be prepared and ready to go.”
While the likes of Crusaders, Cliftonville and Glentoran have already signed new players, Healy says he will only sign players if they add something different to his first-team squad.
He said: “If on the first day of February I have the same squad I have today, I’ll not be complaining too much.
“I see other clubs making signings and their fans get very excited about it, but for me, there’s no point unless you know the new player is going to improve your squad.
“I’m more than happy with what I have in the changing room. We worked hard in the summer to get the right players to Windsor Park and we’re reaping the benefits of that now.
“My players have my full backing. I believe the guys we have here are already good enough, so I will only sign a new player if I believe he can make a genuine difference.”
Ballyclare Comrades manager Stephen Hughes says his players won’t need any incentive to give their best against Linfield tomorrow.
“I don’t think that any pre-match talk by me or Jamesy Kirk will be necessary on this occasion,” stated Hughes. “The players have not stopped talking about having landed the plum draw against Linfield, who have won the trophy more times than any other club.
“For many of our players this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to play at Windsor Park, and being an Irish Cup tie it sure to attract a big crowd.
“The boys were excited recently when we played in front of well over a thousand people at Inver Park on Boxing Day, and they are looking forward to experiencing the well known Windsor Roar at first hand.
“After a promising start to the season our form has been erratic during the past couple of months, due mainly to injuries and suspensions, but except for a couple of players we should be at full strength.
“Unfortunately striker Joe Tully got involved in an off the ball incident on Saturday against PSNI, and received a second yellow card that carries an automatic suspension of one match, so no Windsor Park for him,” he added.
“He is bitterly disappointed, but he is a teenager and has learned a lesson about discipline on the pitch, while midfielder Eoin Kane has declared himself unavailable, but on the positive side we have Dean Youle and Paddy Flood back.
“Pitting themselves against stars of the Premiership who are household names will be a massive incentive for our lads, so here’s hoping that they do themselves justice and have something special to tell their grandchildren.
This is a classic David v Goliath encounter, with a mediocre second division side up against potential Premiership champions, but cups always produce shock results and irrespective of the outcome Ballyclare players and fans will embrace the international venue venture.
p Ballymena United go to Dundela for their fifth round tie.