23rd December 2017
Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Stephen Fallon 26', Andy Waterworth 55'.
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Waterworth, Garrett, Rooney
Cliftonville Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Carroll (GK), Haughey, Stafford, Robinson, M.Clarke, Fallon (Millar 78’), Garrett (Lowry 58’), Mulgrew ©, Quinn, C.Stewart (Rooney 73’), Waterworth
Linfield Subs not used :
Cliftonville Team :
Neeson (GK), McGovern (Winchester 65’), Ives, Breen, Harney, Cosgrove, Curran ©, Bagnall, Gormley (D Hughes 61’), J.Donnelly, R.Donnelly.
Cliftonville Subs not used :
Dunne, Lavery, A.Donnelly
Linfield recorded a crucial victory over an in-form Cliftonville at Windsor Park this afternoon thanks to goals from Stephen Fallon and Andy Waterworth to kick-off the festive period on a high as they kept themselves in the race for the title.
David Healy made several changes to his Linfield team. Cameron Stewart, Joshua Robinson, Stephen Fallon and Robert Garrett were all given starting berths, whilst captain Jamie Mulgrew made a timely return from injury to lead the team. Andy Waterworth made his 200th appearance for the Club.
Cliftonville almost made a dream start at Windsor Park as Levi Ives threaded a pass through to Jay Donnelly who saw his low shot superbly saved by the dependable Roy Carroll in the second minute.
Linfield threatened for the first time on 25 minutes. Cliftonville goalkeeper Brian Neeson came to collect Niall Quinn’s corner, only to be beaten to it by Cameron Stewart whose flick drifted just wide.
The Blues took the lead just a minute later. The ball made its way to Andy Waterworth in the box. He tried to get a shot away but it wasn’t forthcoming. However, the ball deflected out to Stephen Fallon off the knee of Reds defender Garry Breen and Fallon unleashed a vicious drive into the top corner from around 12 yards – a second goal in as many games for the 20 year-old.
There was little to write home about in the remainder of the half as Fallon’s strike sent the Blues into the break in front. The back four of Linfield had limited Gormley and Rory Donnelly to very little, defending well with Garrett and Fallon particularly impressive in midfield.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Cliftonville
The Reds had an ambitious penalty shout on 52 minutes when Roy Carroll flattened Rory Donnelly on his way to push away Cosgrove’s deep cross, in what seemed more like great goalkeeping rather than a foul.
The Blues doubled their advantage on 55 minutes with a stunning counter-attack. Roy Carroll gathered a Cliftonville free-kick before bowling the ball out to Quinn. Quinn checked inside and found Mulgrew – Mulgrew split the Cliftonville defence with a neat through ball to send Waterworth in the clear and the striker made no mistake, firing the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0 as he marked his 200th Linfield appearance with a goal.
Roy Carroll displayed his class once again to deny Cliftonville a way back into the game on 71 minutes. Substitutes Jude Winchester and Daniel Hughes combined before the latter had a well-struck drive from distance palmed away by the big shot-stopper.
After Crusaders and leaders Coleraine recorded wins last night, the pressure was on Linfield today and they certainly responded. Each to a man they won their battles when it mattered most. The busy festive period continues on Tuesday with the traditional Boxing Day derby as the Blues travel to East Belfast to take on Glentoran. Until then, a very Merry Christmas to our faithful fans from near and far.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Cliftonville
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Stephen Fallon