The Brandywell outfit finished 11th in the Championship last term and only avoided a play-off against Premier Intermediate League outfit Ballymacash Rangers due to Warrenpoint Town’s demotion, but they’ve completely turned their fortunes around under Kevin Deery with ‘Stute competing for Premiership promotion.

That bid has been furthered strengthened by the January arrivals of Mikhail Kennedy, who has scored six times in nine appearances, and former Northern Ireland international Daniel Lafferty with Deery’s men only losing one of their last 12 matches across competitions – a 4-2 defeat to current league leaders Dundela.

The Blues will take on second-tier opposition two weekends in a row with their trip to Institute followed up by a BetMcLean Cup showdown against Portadown, but boss Healy, who has guided Linfield to two Irish Cup crowns, isn’t taking success for granted.

"I watched Institute last weekend...I took the long road up after the Coleraine game and watched them against Dundela,” he said. "They were very good and should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up before the game got to 1-1 and somehow Dundela found a little bit of steel in the second-half and came back to win the game.

"I seen enough in the 60/70 minutes to realise that, and somebody I know and someone people speak very highly of as a coach in Kevin Deery...he has his team well-coached and well-prepared.

"They have a lot of youthful, young, exuberant players. The Brandywell is a nice pitch and it's going to be important for us to use our fitness levels, experience and legs we have in our team when we go into the game.

"Similar to Portadown, especially away from home, we take nothing for granted.

"I've seen Institute three or four times this year and you always get a feel for what a team are about and they are a really good football side. On the day they will cause us problems if we aren't at our very best."

Healy was involved in the Northern Ireland squad when Lafferty made his international debut during a 6-0 friendly defeat to the Netherlands in June 2012 and scored a 96th minute equaliser in the full-back’s maiden competitive outing for Michael O’Neill’s side against Azerbaijan a matter of months later.

He’s also familiar with the threat that attacking ace Kennedy, who has been appointed club captain, possesses.

"Daniel has played at the highest level and you could see the experience he has against Dundela,” he added. "Something he probably worked with alongside the manager, he found himself in the deeper Trent Alexander-Arnold holding midfield role while others basically bombed forward.

"I'd imagine he gives you that understanding of that role and has the experience of doing it having played at Derry City where he did something similar.

"Mikhail is a player I've known since he was 16 or 17. He got the opportunity to go to Charlton, it didn't quite work out and he came back.

"For whatever reason it didn't quite work out at Crusaders but everyone finds a level and a home and Mikhail seems to have settled since he came in January. He's a threat in the attacking third."

2024-03-03T04:07:49Z dg43tfdfdgfd