Chris Johns (GK), Conor Pepper, Jimmy Callacher, Mark Haughey, Matthew Clarke (Navid Nasseri 75’), Niall Quinn, Kyle McClean (Stephen Fallon 75’), Jamie Mulgrew (C), Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart, Andy Waterworth
Alex Moore (GK), Ross Larkin, Mark Stafford, Daniel Kearns, Brandon Doyle
Jonny Tuffey (GK), James Singleton ©, Andrew Doyle, Daniel Larmour, Sean Ward, Jack O’Mahoney (Jordan Jenkins 81’), Sammy Clingan, Robert Garrett, Conor McCloskey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Daniel Purkis
A goal worthy of winning any game in any league from Jordan Stewart ensured Linfield got 2021 off to a bright start as David Healy’s men emerged victorious from a hard-fought encounter away to Glenavon at Mourneview Park in Lurgan this afternoon, and it’s a win which takes Linfield back to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
The Blues had to come from behind as Glenavon drew first blood on 23 minutes as Linfield conceded another set piece which has been a frustration for David Healy this season. Sammy Clingan swung it in and Conor McCloskey got across the front post for a flick on and striker Danny Purkis was following up to head the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Glenavon had threatened before that in the early stages when the Lurgan Blues were awarded a free-kick in a good area, 20 yards out and quite central after Jimmy Callacher fouled Conor McCloskey. Midfielder Sammy Clingan whistled the free-kick narrowly wide of the top corner with Chris Johns rooted to the spot. The former Linfield man went close again later in the half when he was afforded too much space on the edge of the box, as he struck a shot just wide of the far post.
Jordan Stewart was the first man to have a pop for Linfield following a neat attacking move. Matty Clarke picked out Andy Waterworth advancing down the left and he put a cross in which found Jordan Stewart, however the ball wouldn’t drop kindly for a shot and after showing nice footwork to eventually get a shot away, the angle was difficult and his audacious attempted lob went over the bar.
Soon after, The Blues were let off the hook when Danny Purkis used his pace to break in behind a high Linfield back line and luckily for Linfield, he didn’t get hold of his shot, although Jimmy Callacher did well to do enough to put the striker under pressure.
Linfield missed a glorious opportunity to draw level on the brink of half time when Niall Quinn put in a fantastic corner and Jimmy Callacher wriggled free before firing a header into the ground and saved by Jonny Tuffey. Quinn was involved in a good move a short time beforehand when he slipped the ball to the overlapping Matthew Clarke whose dangerous low cross was scrambled away by Andrew Doyle. The Blues went into the break a goal down and David Healy would have been frustrated that his team weren’t slicker in possession. Up to then, it was quite slack.
Half Time: Glenavon 1 – 0 Linfield
The first half wasn’t bad, but the second half was a cracker for the neutral. Glenavon, to their credit, engaged in a good open end-to-end game.
Linfield drew level just two minutes after the break. Niall Quinn was fouled out wide left in the Glenavon half which brought about a Linfield free-kick which was delivered at pace by Kirk Millar and, incidentally, it was Niall Quinn who met it at the front post. Whether Quinn was going for goal or just trying to help it on, only he knows, but it looped up into the far top corner. In any case, it was a good goal which gave Tuffey no chance.
Another former Linfield man in the Glenavon team spelled danger for The Blues soon after the equaliser. Sean Ward went on a mazy dribble which the blue men and women will associate him with from his Linfield days. This time he travelled the guts of 40 yards before eventually firing a low left-footed strike whistling just past the far post.
Jordan Stewart threatened twice in quick succession. Firstly, Waterworth found him inside the area but again he had a bit of work to do to make way for any kind of shot and when he did, his scooped effort was comfortable for Tuffey. Shortly after, Sean Ward could only head a diagonal ball down into Stewart’s path and from around 20 yards the attacker fired a first-time shot over.
Glenavon conducted a dangerous counter-attack through Conor McCloskey down the left and his low cross was well blocked by Chris Johns, who got up quickly to make it a double save, rushing out to block Jack O’Mahoney’s shot as the winger raced onto a loose ball. Linfield then raced up the other end and Andy Waterworth flashed a glancing header just wide of the far post from a right wing cross, in true end-to-end fashion.
The Lurgan Blues then had a further two golden chances which they ultimately lived to rue. Again Linfield failed to deal with a corner and the ball dropped kindly for Conor McCloskey who fired over from 12 yards out. Then, Robert Garrett played a great pinpoint lofted through ball over the top of the Linfield back line to send Daniel Purkis through on goal but he poked a shot wide.
That led to the telling sucker punch, or should we say Sukka punch! The Linfield attacker produced one of the best goals you’ll see all year despite it only being January 2nd. It was instinctive and sheer quality as Doyle misjudged a bouncing ball and Stewart walloped the ball first time on the volley from just outside the box on the left side as the ball flew up and over Tuffey and into the top corner.
Full Time: Glenavon 1 – 2 Linfield