20th December 2014
Linfield Scorers :
Jimmy Callacher 3'; Aaron Burns (pen.) 50'; Sammy Morrow 56'
Portadown Scorers :
Sean Mackle 29'; Mark McAllister 32'
Linfield Team :
Glendinning, Richards, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry (90+2’ Clucas), Burns, Morrow (82’ Carvill), Mulgrew, Sproule (84’ Millar), Quinn
Linfield Subs not used :
Tuffey, Re. Glendinning
Portadown Team :
Miskelly, Ramsey, Redman, Breen, P. McMahon (77’ Conway), Mackle, Murray (66’ Twigg), McAllister, Gault, Garrett, Lyttle
Portadown Subs not used :
Brennan, Mouncey, M. McMahon
Linfield welcomed Portadown to Windsor Park on a blustery afternoon. The Blues were looking for a touch of revenge after the disappointing defeat to today’s rivals on the opening weekend of the season. With both sides at the upper echelons of the table, the game promised to be a cracker going into the busy festive period. Warren Feeney made two changes to the side that won 3-0 in last Saturday's encounter with Ballinamallard. Ivan Sproule and Jamie Richards came into the starting XI in place of Kirk Millar and Reece Glendinning respectively. Ronnie McFall gave three former Linfield men starting births for Portadown; Michael Gault, Robert Garrett and Mark McAllister.
Linfield got off to a blistering start and took the lead in the 3rd minute through Jimmy Callacher. Following a short corner, Aaron Burns swung a cross over from the right. The ball dropped to Callacher who guided the ball home with his head much to Miskelly’s protestations. Miskelly felt that Callacher was in an offside position as the ball found him, but referee Hetherington disagreed and booked the Ports’ keeper for his insubordination.
Jimmy Callacher went close again in the 13th minute as Michael Gault hauled down Aaron Burns to give Linfield a free kick from 30 yards. Callacher struck the dead ball sweetly and he was unlucky to see Miskelly get a hand to it to tip over.
Some lovely play in the middle of the park from Stephen Lowry helped to create the Blues’ next opening. Lowry cut inside two men in the middle of the park and spread the ball to Sproule. Sproule beat his man, and then whipped a shot at Miskelly’s goal, which unfortunately curled wide.
Sammy Morrow then went close for the Blues as some good pressing forced Gary Breen into a wayward back pass. Morrow raced on to the bouncing ball and beat Miskelly in the sprint. Morrow lofted the ball over Miskelly and it looked to be heading into the net only for the bounce to take it away from goal and the wrong side of the post.
Despite Linfield’s good play, Portadown equalised in the 29th minute. Peter McMahon wasn't closed down and he was allowed to shoot from 20 yards. His powerful effort could only be parried by Glendinning, but unfortunately for Linfield Sean Mackle was there to walk the ball into the net.
It was 2-1 to Portadown two minutes later. The Ports worked the ball well down the left and got a dangerous cross into the middle. Mark McAllister then rose highest to head the ball towards the far corner past Glendinning to give the Ports the lead.
Linfield responded well, and in the 32nd minute Andrew Waterworth nearly drew the Blues level. Waterworth burst through two Portadown defenders but couldn't direct his finish on target as Miskelly rushed out to put the pacey striker under pressure. McAllister then nearly made it 3-1 to the Ports; hitting the bar with a header as Ross Redman whipped in a free kick from deep on the left.
Any momentum built up by the Blues in the last few minutes of the half were interrupted by stoppages in the game. The referee’s whistle signalled the end to a half that had started so well, but ended disappointingly for Linfield.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 2 Portadown
Linfield came out determined to get on terms at the start of the second half. The Blues were hitting balls down the right hand side and towards the speedy Sproule.
In the 47th minute this tactic paid its dividend. Sproule burst onto a ball over the top and broke into the box. As Sproule prepared to cross Redman came across and took his legs from under him. Referee Hetherington had no hesitation but to award the spot kick. Burns then stepped up and his shot hit the underside of the bar. Much to the delight of the Bluemen, the linesman adjudged the bounce to be over the line and gave the goal.
Linfield regained the lead in the 56th minute. Some excellent vision from Stephen Lowry saw him play a lovely ball out to Aaron Burns. Burns faced up two defenders and drove towards goal. Burns’ shot was blocked only as far as Sproule who cut it back to the waiting Sammy Morrow. Morrow then thumped the ball confidently past Miskelly to the raptures of the Blue men.
Linfield then had a couple of great chances to extend their lead. In the 58th minute, Sammy Morrow got round the side of the Portadown defence and his cross was headed narrowly wide by Aaron Burns. Then, in the 62nd minute, a lovely ball from Sammy Morrow found the boot of Burns but the Linfield winger was unable to keep his effort down.
Linfield were much on the front foot, but with chances going begging the Ports were never out of the game. With two minutes to go, Linfield’s fears looked like they were about to come to fruition. A long throw into the box was held up by Mark McAllister. As McAllister turned he collided with Callacher’s trailing leg. McAllister didn't need any invitation to fall over and the referee awarded the penalty. Despite the Ports’ celebrations, Ross Redman’s 12 yard effort was well saved by Glendinning.
As Kirk Millar clipped the ball twice over the head of his man in injury time, the referee brought an end to proceedings and sent the Blue men and women home with plenty of festive cheer.
Full Time: Linfield 3 – 2 Portadown
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Stephen Lowry