Linfield boss David Healy says there is more to come from Michael O’Connor after the attacker’s goal gave the unbeaten Blues a crucial 1-0 Danske Bank Premiership victory over Glentoran at the Oval.
The Big Two derby triumph pushed Linfield to within one point of league leaders Glenavon and Healy surveyed the victory with a warning for defences yet to try to cope with fans’ favourite O’Connor. Now who could be blamed for having a Bet on Linfield pushing for the title all the way?
Healy says he spotted the goal-getter running out of juice as the game neared conclusion. And with more games to come and the issue of fitness being resolved, O’Connor can prove he has more in the tank and nab more goals.
“It was a big goal for us. I think Michael tired towards the end but his goal and all-round game was great. You could see at the end with his celebrations that it really meant a lot to him.
“Derby matches throughout the world can be tight and be anxious. We knew that when a chance arrived we had to take it and Michael did that. Credit to all our players, they were resilient, they were dogged and I think if we had picked the right pass in the second half we could have scored another.”
One aspect of the encounter that didn’t go down well with the Linfield manager was the rough treatment meted out to his stars. And he was quick to deliver condemnatory comments on those who he felt were responsible. The criticism would seem justified given that winger Joel Cooper was forced out of the game in the second period.
And Healy blasted:
“It was great to win but the frustrating thing for me was someone like Joel Cooper not getting the opportunity to go and express himself the way he should have done. I thought that at least two of the challenges on him were X-rated.
“I thought they were horrific tackles. I was disappointed for Joel because he had to come off early in the second half and couldn’t show all his ability as was clear with his assist for our goal. My argument is with the same official. I had Jamie Mulgrew sent off six weeks ago at Cliftonville for nothing too serious.”
And Healy said that he spoke to the officials at half-time and informed them that that he may be forced to take Cooper off unless he was given more protection, adding:
“I know if Robert Garrett or Jamie Mulgrew had done that they would have been in for an early shower. Now Joel is really struggling with his ankle.”
Meanwhile, Glentoran manager Ronnie McFall was disappointed his outfit didn’t collect at least a point from the clash. He said:
“I didn’t really think there was much in it to tell you the truth. I don’t really remember our goalkeeper having a save to make. They scored. I think it took a deflection and we had a couple of chances with headers in the second half which we should have scored.
“For their goal we gave the ball away. Willie Garrett tried to make a cross-field pass along the ground and it was intercepted and Cooper went past players, when he should have been stopped, before setting up O’Connor. It was disappointing.”