Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Shayne Lavery 46', Kirk Millar 49'
Cliftonville Yellow Cards :
Linfield Team :
David Walsh (GK), Conor Pepper (Mark Haughey 90’), Jimmy Callacher, Mark Stafford, Matthew Clarke, Niall Quinn, Kyle McClean, Jamie Mulgrew (C), Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart (Bastien Hery 82’), Shayne Lavery (Andy Waterworth 76’)
Linfield Subs not used :
Ross Larkin, Daniel Kearns, Brandon Doyle, Matthew Shevlin
Cliftonville Team :
Richard Brush (GK), Conor McDermott, Seanna Foster, Garry Breen, Ryan O’Reilly (Ronan Doherty 65’), Aaron Donnelly, Chris Curran ©, Liam Bagnall, Conor McMenamin, Michael McCrudden (Thomas Maguire 58’), Joe Gormley (Ryan Curran 58’)
Cliftonville Subs not used :
Declan Dunne (GK), Daire O'Connor, Mark McKee, Odhran Casey
Whatever David Healy said at half-time worked a treat as two early second half goals from Shayne Lavery and Kirk Millar ensured Linfield returned to winning ways with victory over Cliftonville at Windsor Park this evening.
There were four changes to the team which didn’t perform in last week’s defeat in Warrenpoint. Stephen Fallon – who limped off injured last week – was not fit for selection and Kyle McClean regained his place in the starting eleven. Matthew Clarke, Conor Pepper and Mark Stafford all came in, with the latter making his first league appearance of the season and first minutes since October’s County Antrim Shield game away to Carrick Rangers. Ross Larkin, Mark Haughey and Daniel Kearns were the other outgoing players, all dropping to the bench. Meanwhile, Chris Johns missed out again after getting injured in a pre-match warm-up in Warrenpoint last week, with 18 year-old David Walsh making a second start between the sticks. A boost for David Healy was Andy Waterworth returning to the squad after injury for a place on the bench.
Cliftonville were first to go close when Conor McMenamin flicked the ball past Conor Pepper before slipping it to the Reds’ talisman Joe Gormley who rifled a well-struck shot at goal which was turned around the post by young David Walsh who came up with the answer when he was called into action for the first time. The Blues failed to deal with the resulting corner and the ball dropped for Conor McMenamin who shot past Walsh, only for the alert Conor Pepper to sweep the ball off the line.
Linfield lacked spark in the opening 45 and their only shot on target of the first half came via a free-kick. Conor Pepper had been hacked down after the driving run for which Cliftonville defender Garry Breen was booked for and Niall Quinn’s 25 yard free-kick was saved by Richard Brush. Other than that, two Jamie Mulgrew efforts from outside of the box following nice play flew just over the bar and just wide.
Jimmy Callacher also headed over from a Kyle McClean cross which came from a corner following a neat one-two between Shayne Lavery and Jordan Stewart, with the former seeing a shot blocked when he got inside the box. The Blues got creative star Kirk Millar involved more towards the end of the first half and his venomous cross was well dealt with by Richard Brush who managed to push it out.
Half Time: Linfield 0 – 0 Cliftonville
Whatever Linfield manager David Healy said at the break following a flat first half worked a treat because it sparked an immediate reaction with Linfield’s start to the second half anything but flat. A minute in, the Blues took the lead. A lofted ball was nodded down by Jimmy Callacher and Shayne Lavery hit an instinctive first-time volley sweetly into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Three minutes later Linfield added a second. Boosted in confidence from his opener, Shayne Lavery took a shot on from the guts of 30 yards out which was blocked before bouncing up at his face and spinning the loose ball into the box for the alert Kirk Millar who rounded the goalkeeper before producing a composed finish beyond two retreating defenders.
Cliftonville almost pulled one back with a rare but well-worked attack when substitute Ronan Doherty slipped it wide to wing back Seanna Foster who picked out Ryan Curran with a cross as the Reds striker nodded the ball down to Ronan Doherty who volleyed an effort at the crossbar.
It was a professional Linfield performance and a deserved win. Honourable mentions go to 18 year-old David Walsh on a clean sheet and a great punch away at a corner from amongst a sea of bodies late on, and Jordan Stewart for a great performance on and off the ball with an admirable workrate, and also to Mark Stafford who’d made his first appearance for two months, although you wouldn’t have suspected it given his assured performance.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Cliftonville
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Shayne Lavery