14th February 2020
Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Haughey 23', Stewart 45', Callacher 72', Waterworth 78'
Ballymena United Scorer :
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Ballymena United Yellow Cards :
Lecky, McGrory, Burns, Kane, Kelly
Linfield Team :
Rohan Ferguson (GK), Chris Casement, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher (c), Niall Quinn, Stephen Fallon, Kyle McClean (Bastien Hery 80’), Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart (Matthew Clarke 76’), Joel Cooper, Andy Waterworth (Rory Currie 83’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Ethan Boyle, Mark Stafford, Daniel Kearns
Ballymena United Team :
Ross Glendinning (GK), Andy McGrory, Scot Whiteside, Andrew Burns (Cathair Friel 75'), Kofi Balmer, Ross Lavery, Tony Kane, Leroy Millar (Steven McCullough 45'), Joshua Kelly, Adam Lecky, Joseph McCready
Ballymena United Subs not used :
Jordan Williamson (GK), Jonathan Addis, James Knowles, Jude Winchester, Reece Glendinning
League leaders and reigning champions Linfield put in an impressive, dominant performance to maintain their title aspirations as they won 4-1 against Ballymena United at the Ballymena Showgrounds this evening to extend their lead at the top to six points over second place Glentoran.
It was one of Linfield’s best performances of the season to date, full of energy and determination. In the one enforced change from last week’s win over Warrenpoint, Jordan Stewart was brought in for the injured Shayne Lavery.
The Blues started brightly and threatened a few times early on, Waterworth going closest with a stooping header from a Casement cross. United then had to be denied by good alert goalkeeping by Rohan Ferguson, who sprung across goal to push away Joe McCready’s cross/shot after he’d burst past Callacher at pace into the box.
This proved to be a case of alarm bells ringing, however, as David Jeffrey’s Ballymena took the lead on 19 minutes through McCready. It was a quality goal as the striker performed an intelligent shimmy to get away from a Linfield defender before supplying an equally impressive finish, finding the top corner with the outside of his right boot.
The Sky Blues were ahead for just four minutes before David Healy’s men got back on level terms. A corner was won when Jordan Stewart sent Joel Cooper on a blistering counter attack and the resulting corner was whipped in by Kirk Millar for the towering Mark Haughey to fire a bullet header into the roof of the net.
Linfield then pressed on in search of a second and went close a number of times. They looked threatening at every set piece, with Callacher coming closest when his header was headed off the line by Andrew Burns. Jordan Stewart also threatened when he produced trickery to make room for a shot, firing a left footed shot towards the top corner which was brilliantly saved by the acrobatic Glendinning.
Up the other end, Ballymena had a few chances themselves. Joe McCready almost grabbed his second with a good effort which he curled towards the bottom corner from the edge of the box, only to be denied by Ferguson again. Tony Kane also fired a free-kick into Ferguson’s hands.
There was to be a goal in the closing stages of the half, a deserved second for Linfield. Chris Casement pinged a great pass to Joel Cooper who’d switched to the right flank. The winger beat his men and ventured into the box before opting for a low shot which was blocked by the feet of Glendinning. The ball fell kindly for Jordan Stewart who showed good anticipation to be in the right place to tap home from close range.
Half Time: Ballymena United 1 –2 Linfield
There was no danger of the Blues resting on their laurels as they were quick out of the blocks again in the second half. Kirk Millar fired a fiercely struck free-kick towards goal but it was crucially headed clear by Kofi Balmer when it looked to be travelling in. Soon after, Stephen McCullough – a half-time substitute for United – fizzed a free-kick just past the post. Whilst Linfield were well on top, the next goal would be crucial and United were still a threat.
Thankfully for Linfield, they got their reward for their play on 71 minutes. Niall Quinn whipped in another dangerous corner and Andy Waterworth got across the front post with a powerful header which was probably heading into the far corner, but Jimmy Callacher was on hand to make sure of it, grabbing Linfield’s third of the night.
Linfield were playing with a slick style and looked like they could score every time they attacked. The fourth goal arrived on 78 minutes and no surprised that it was Andy Waterworth who fired home what was the 19th time in his Linfield career that he’d bagged against the Sky Blues. Much of the credit has to go to Joel Cooper, however. The winger received the ball from Niall Quinn just inside the Ballymena half and he ran past numerous defenders before eventually seeing his shot pushed onto the bar by Glendinning and Waterworth was following up for a tap in. It was the striker’s fifth goal in his last three games.
Joe McCready had a header cleared off the line late on by Niall Quinn, whilst Joel Cooper was very unfortunate yet again not to have found the net when he had a shot deflected onto the crossbar for a second time. He, like the rest of the Blues players, was excellent.
Full Time: Ballymena United 1 – 4 Linfield