Carroll (GK), Casement, Haughey, Robinson, M.Clarke, Mitchell (Fallon 72’), Garrett, Lowry, J.Stewart, Rooney (Burns 57’), Waterworth (C.Stewart 57’)
Hogg (GK), Byers, Taylor, Elebert, Ruddy, Tommons, Cherry (Hanley 80’), Frazer (McArthur 67’), McAllister, Mitchell (McLellan 75’), Keke
Linfield manager David Healy demanded a response from his players following Monday night’s disappointing defeat at the hands of Stephen Baxter’s Crusaders and his players responded by returning to winning ways to remain on the coattails of the teams above them in the Danske Bank Premiership with a 2-0 win over an in-form Ards team.
It was a changed Linfield team with Jimmy Callacher, Mark Stafford, Kirk Millar and Aaron Burns being replaced by the returning Chris Casement, Joshua Robinson, Jordan Stewart and Louis Rooney, who partnered Andrew Waterworth in attack with Jordan Stewart offering attacking support from a ‘number 10’ role.
But Colin Nixon’s side almost raced into an early lead when David McAllister intercepted Josh Robinson’s cross-field pass to find himself one-on-one with Roy Carroll, with the International goalkeeper coming out on top with a good block.
The Blues also went close early on as Waterworth’s flick from Jordan Stewart’s left-wing cross just flashed past the head of Louis Rooney who most likely would have headed past Hogg from close range.
Ards goalkeeper Aaron Hogg then did well to keep Waterworth out at the other end following Jordan Stewart’s neat through ball, before Mark Haughey drilled a shot just wide with his left foot from just inside the Ards box.
Carroll made another good save as French striker Keke found himself one-on-one after a ricochet off the unfortunate Robinson, but Carroll spread himself well to save from Keke’s toe-poke.
The deadlock was broken on 35 minutes when the ball broke to Jordan Stewart inside the box from a Matthew Clarke’s cross and he made no mistake from six yards out, hammering the ball clinically into the roof of the net past the helpless Hogg.
Ards almost responded shortly before the break as 18 year-old Jonah Mitchell, son of former Linfield player Philip Mitchell, slipped in former Linfield man Jonny Frazer and he saw his low shot saved by Carroll from the angle.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Ards
After a slow start to the second half, Linfield doubled their advantage on 54 minutes when Josh Robinson headed the ball into the bottom corner from Matthew Clarke’s corner for his third goal of the season as Linfield continued their fine record of scoring from corners for a third consecutive match.
Chris Casement almost added a third with a sweetly-struck free-kick from distance which was well saved by Aaron Hogg.
Roy Carroll was called upon to deny Ards a lifeline in the closing minutes when he palmed away a stinging drive by David McAllister, before racing out to block Michael McLellan’s follow-up from the edge of the box and the ball eventually broke at the edge of the box for Gareth Tommons to fire a driven shot narrowly past the post.
Stephen Fallon looked lively after coming on as a substitute and was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet in stoppage time after his goalward effort was blocked following a neat exchange of passes with Stephen Lowry.
David Healy will be delighted to return to winning ways following a couple of disappointing results and, although it wasn’t Linfield’s best performance of the season, getting the three points was crucial and his players did the job. Another positive he can draw is the impact of substitutes Cameron Stewart and Stephen Fallon, as well keeping a confidence boosting clean sheet.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Ards
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Jordan Stewart