Linfield must raise the bar if we are to achieve our dream of a European group stage, warns manager David Healey.

Linfield manager David Healy warned his players that they should find other equipment if they were to achieve further success in Europe.

The Blues suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Swiss champions Zurich in the first leg of the third round of the Europa League qualifiers, leaving them with an uphill battle in the second leg in Switzerland the following Thursday.

If they lose this match, the four-time league winners in a row, who have today’s Charity Shield vs Crusaders at Windsor Park (3pm) next on their schedule, will play the winner of the European Conference League match between RFS (Latvia) and Hibernians (Malta) in the group stage shootout.

Linfield, who played in their first competitive game since an 8-0 defeat to Norway’s Bodø/Glimt in the Champions League qualifiers, are aiming to be the first team from Northern Ireland to reach the group stage of a European competition.

A glamorous rendezvous with Scottish Premier League club Hearts now seems unlikely, but the Blues have insurance against this play-off that looks more winning.

But Healy felt that his side had failed to justify itself to Zurich and had allowed its cunning adversaries to seize control.

“It is very good that we are disappointed with this outcome,” said Healy, who celebrated his 43rd birthday yesterday.

“This result could have been expected a few years ago, but I was disappointed and made it clear to the players that if we want to reach the next level that everyone is talking about, we need to be better and play better than what we showed.

“The lineup change helped us and to the credit of the players they got in shape but we had so many corners and we never thought we were going to score, which is not like us. We’ve always been proud of someone taking on a standard game.”


David Healy thinks his Linfield side should step up their game in Europe

Tosin Ayegun put the visitors eight minutes ahead before Italian striker Wilfried Gnonto doubled the lead in the 64th minute.

“In terms of the game, we were fine, we had more possession than we thought, but the key moments of the game went against us,” Healy said.

“Small mistakes hurt us and cost us both goals. We didn’t use the chances we had and I’m disappointed because I felt we had the opportunity. Zurich is a champion, it’s a good team with good players, but we lost at key moments, so we didn’t achieve a result.

“In a positive way, it shows how far we still have to go and we want to do better when we play with these teams. We will lick our wounds and move forward.

“It’s a good side, but the teams are hard to compare, they have a very experienced manager (Franco Foda) who is new to this job and it’s never easy to come in and create a new foundation.

“They haven’t hit the ground running yet in terms of league points, but they have quality players with good experience. They probably tinted the game with their experience and know-how, which is disappointing.”

Healy also praised Linfield’s professional approach to European travel arrangements. The Blues use charter flights which reportedly cost the club around £100,000.

“I don’t check how much travel costs us, but the club is very professional about what we need to do. Actually the hardest game was in Wales,” he added.

“But when you have someone with the experience and knowledge of Pat Fenlon organizing it, he knows what he wants and the club went above and beyond to take us to Spain for training camp and now for away games.

“We haven’t been to too many airports. The club was great and professionalism matters.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to leave Zurich next Thursday after the game, so we will have to stay and this leads to the first game of the season. Nothing can be done about it, and we will solve this problem in the game with Portadown.”

The Crusaders arrived at Windsor Park this afternoon for the return of the Charity Shield in partnership with the White Ribbon NI. The game, revived after a five-year hiatus, is the prelude to yet another competitive internal campaign.

Although he will have one eye on the Zurich reunion, Healy said: “We will have a good team. The Swifts are playing in the Steel & Sons Cup on Saturday, so the players will be itching to prove to themselves, me and the coaching staff that they deserve a starting role on the team. We haven’t forgotten about anyone. All players need to be focused and ready.”

Meanwhile, high-ranking Linfield teenager Josh Briggs is the latest talent from Northern Ireland to cement his cross-channel transition by joining Premier League side West Ham.

Portadown have confirmed the arrival of striker Jordan Jenkins from Glentoran on loan for the season.

Larne announced the free transfer of midfielder Max Hutchison.

The 21-year-old Englishman had spells with Motherwell and most recently Waterford in the League of Ireland before he was put on trial with the Invermen.

And Tiernan Lynch’s side are close to signing Irish Under-21 defender Sean Grehan, who will be loaned to Crystal Palace.