21st December 2019
Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorer :
Joel Cooper 85
Crusaders Scorer :
Declan Caddell 8
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Crusaders Yellow Cards :
Forsythe, Heatley, Lowry, BJ Burns
Linfield Team :
Rohan Ferguson (GK), Chris Casement (Mark Haughey 45’), Josh Robinson, Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Stephen Fallon, Jamie Muilgrew ©, Jordan Stewart (Bastien Hery 71’), Joel Cooper, Shayne Lavery, Andy Waterworth (Daniel Kearns 45’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Ryan McGivern, Andrew Mitchell, Matthew Shevlin
Crusaders Team :
Gerard Doherty (GK), Jordan Forsythe, Chris Hegarty, Billy Joe Burns, Jarlath O’Rourke, Declan Caddell ©, Philip Lowry, Gary Thompson, Ross Clarke, Jamie McGonigle (David Cushley 90’), Paul Heatley (Reece McGinley 75’)
Crusaders Subs not used :
Sean O'Neill, Kyle Owens, Michael Ruddy,Jordan Owens, Paul McElroy
Joel Cooper’s late equaliser against Crusaders this afternoon to maintain their two point lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
It was Crusaders who raced into an early lead at Windsor Park. Ross Clarke passed the ball inward to Philip Lowry who hooked in a pinpoint cross for Declan Caddell who’d made a perfectly-timed run to peel away the back post before heading into the far corner from six yards.
Stephen Baxter’s men really should have doubled their lead on 21 minutes. A rare defensive mistake from Josh Robinson to misjudge a header which allowed Jamie McGonigle through on goal. The Crusaders striker ran into the box and looked certain to score, only to be denied by a superb double save from Rohan Ferguson.
Ferguson bailed Linfield out again a few minutes later, and if it wasn’t for him, the Blues could have been dead and buried early on. This time Jamie McGonigle raced away down the left and he had Ross Clarke free in the middle on a two-on-one scenario, however, Ferguson showed great anticipation to make another vital interception.
The Blues had a half chance when Joel Cooper picked up possession on the edge of the Crusaders box, but he dragged his low shot wide. The first shot on goal came on 35 minutes when Cooper cut in on his right foot before his low shot was fumbled by Gerard Doherty before the Hatchetmen scrambled the ball away.
Cooper came even closer a few minutes later when the ball dropped kindly after Lavery challenged for Clarke’s corner, however, Cooper saw his strike from ten yards cannon back off the crossbar.
Half Time: Linfield 0 – 1 Crusaders
David Healy made two changes at half time and changed the shape. Mark Haughey made his first appearance since May 2018, replacing Chris Casement who’d been playing as a wing back in a 3-5-2. Haughey slotted in at right back in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Daniel Kearns also making an injury return after three and a half months out, in place of Andy Waterworth who sustained a first half injury.
The Blues looked instantly better for it, and almost drew level five minutes into the half. Mark Haughey switched the ball out left to Cooper who left Forsythe for dead with an emphatic burst of pace before seeing a powerful low strike denied by the feet of Doherty.
Stephen Fallon rattled the woodwork for Linfield a second time on the hour-mark with a superb strike, driving in on his left foot before leaving the crossbar shaking with a wicked strike from the edge of the box.
Linfield dominated the second half and searched for an equaliser. That search looked like it might be complete on 83 minutes, but they had to wait a little bit longer. Billy Joe Burns handled in the area when Matthew Clarke floated in a deep corner. Referee Raymond Crangle pointed to the spot and Bastien Hery took responsibility, however, Gerard Doherty guessed correctly, getting down to his right to push the penalty away.
And just as all seemed lost, up stepped Joel Cooper with a moment of sheer brilliance. Just moments after he was holding his hamstring, he received the ball 25 yards out, took a touch before delivering a stunning piledriver past the helpless Doherty which swerved at will – a strike of pure quality.
Linfield and Crusaders both pressed for a winner which didn’t come, and perhaps on reflection both teams will look back on missed opportunities. A major plus will be the return of Mark Haughey who looked like he had never been away.
Full Time: Linfield 1 – 1 Crusaders
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Mark Haughey