Carroll (GK), Haughey (Ward 69’), Stafford, Callacher, M.Clarke, Millar (Smyth 80’), Lowry, Mulgrew (C), Quinn (Gaynor 90’), Stewart, Waterworth
Neeson (GK) (McVey 31’), McCullough, Kelly, Quigley (McConnelll 76’), Kelly, Surgenor, O’Connor (Murray 62’), Noble, M.Clarke, McAllister, O’Brien
Linfield visited Taylors Avenue hoping to build on their midweek CAS success to push on for the league. A bright start was almost rewarded when Cameron Stewart nodded Kirk Millar’s cross into the path of Waterworth but his low effort was blocked by Surgenor inside the box.
Jimmy Callacher almost added to his impressive goalscoring record away from home this season when he unleashed a powerful volley after Lowry’s free-kick was only half cleared but Carrick ‘keeper Neeson palmed it away superbly.
Linfield went close again on 22 minutes when Jamie Mulgrew turned 3 Carrick midfielders with a piece of brilliant skill before spreading the ball to Waterworth whose low cross was cleverly flicked goalwards by Stewart but Neeson got down to make a stunning save before denying Niall Quinn’s follow-up effort.
An injury on the half-hour to Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson, who was having a stormer in goal, meant he had to leave the action and Kyle McVey came on with defender Mark Surgenor pulling on the gloves.
Healy’s men took the lead just moments from half-time when Linfield charged upfield on the counter-attack and when Mulgrew crossed for Quinn at the back post but his volley was handled by Quigley and referee Keith Kennedy pointed to the spot. After scoring a penalty in the midweek CAS final, Lowry stepped up to make it two in two, dispatching into the corner past stand-in ‘keeper Surgenor.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Carrick Rangers
An even start to the second half, it took 59 minutes before the first real effort of the half when Kirk Millar’s fiercely-struck free-kick was well pushed over the bar by Surgenor.
Linfield continued to search for the second goal and on 64 minutes Niall Quinn swivelled and fired just over after Cameron Stewart’s flick-on.
Stafford was next to go close when Stewart met Quinn’s corner with a headed that found Stafford at the back post, however his backheel from close range was cleared off the line by Martin Murray.
Quinn went agonisingly close again on 74 when Mulgrew slipped him in and Quinn, cutting in from the right, created space to shoot but his effort curled inches wide of the corner.
Linfield’s left side continued to prove a useful outlet as Matthew Clarke picked out the onrushing Stephen Lowry whose volley was so close a large section of supporters thought it was in.
With all Linfield’s pressing, they were almost hit with a late sucker punch when Noble drove forward and unleashed a ferocious drive that was heading for the postage stamp, only for a stunning save from Roy Carroll.
Somehow, the Blues were denied again when Quinn struck the woodwork, Waterworth’s effort was blocked by McCullough and Stewart couldn’t fire home the rebound.
Finally, the second goal arrived in the 90th minute. Niall Quinn whipped in a free-kick for Stafford whose header was saved, Matthew Clarke’s follow-up rattled the post before Paul Smyth put the game beyond doubt, firing low into the corner.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Carrick Rangers
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Jamie Mulgrew