Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Joel Cooper 54', Shayne Lavery 66'
Crusaders Scorer :
Ross Clarke 16'
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Jimmy Callacher, Shayne Lavery, Mark Haughey
Crusaders Yellow Cards :
Robbie Weir, Jarlath O'Rourke (x2)
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Mark Haughey, Mark Stafford, Jimmy Callacher, Niall Quinn, Jamie Mulgrew © (Matthew Clarke 78’), Cammy Palmer, Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart (Andy Waterworth 76’), Joel Cooper (Navid Nasseri 80’), Shayne Lavery
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore (GK), Conor Pepper, Ryan McGivern, Ross Larkin
Crusaders Team :
Jonny Tuffey (GK), Robbie Weir (David Cushley 60’), Aidan Wilson, Rodney Brown, Jarlath O’Rourke, Declan Caddell ©, Philip Lowry, Jordan Forsythe, Paul Heatley, Ross Clarke (Jamie McGonigle 74’), Adam Lecky (Jordan Owens 70’)
Crusaders Subs not used :
Sean O'Neill (GK), Daniel Larmour, Michael Ruddy, Reece McGinley
Linfield picked up a deserved 2-1 victory over Crusaders at Seaview this evening as goals from Joel Cooper and Shayne Lavery completed a second half turnaround for a fifth consecutive league victory.
After a dull opening 15 minutes Crusaders took the lead with a superb goal. Ross Clarke was picked out on the right flank by Adam Lecky and the winger cut inside before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner with his left foot from about 20 yards out.
It was very nearly 2-0 on 33 minutes with Ross Clarke involved again as he whipped in a great cross and Jordan Forsythe arrived into the box from midfield before heading inches past Chris Johns’ far post.
Linfield’s best moves in the first half involved Joel Cooper and he came closest to an equaliser. Jordan Stewart played a neat one-two with Shayne Lavery before passing to Jamie Mulgrew who slipped the ball left to Cooper who struck a sweet drive just over the bar. Cooper threatened again shortly after, showing great feet to drive into the box before his shot was blocked for a corner.
Kirk Millar also threatened with a free-kick after Shayne Lavery was bundled over by Rodney Brown. Millar whipped a free-kick past the far post and Jimmy Callacher wasn’t far off the end of it. Shortly after, Jimmy Callacher did get a stooping header to help on a corner from Millar but the ball flashed across the box.
Half Time: Crusaders 1 – 0 Linfield
The Blues drew level nine minutes into the second half and it was no surprise that it came from Joel Cooper. The winger got the ball to feet from Niall Quinn before driving into the box, then briefly standing still, before shifting the ball to the left, using his sharpness to get a shot away despite pressure from Crues defenders Aidan Wilson and Robbie Weir, and Cooper’s strike was clinical, arrowed into the far corner.
Whatever David Healy said to his players at the break seemed to work a treat as they took the lead on 66 minutes. Kirk Millar was brought down by Jarlath O’Rourke out right and Niall Quinn’s whipped free-kick was headed behind for a corner. From that corner, Kirk Millar whipped the ball in and Crusaders failed to deal with it as Shayne Lavery latched onto a loose ball to blast the ball into the roof of the net for his 19th goal of the season.
A few minutes later Linfield almost added a third and as has often been the case this season and particularly in recent weeks, it was through a slick counter-attack. Niall Quinn found Shayne Lavery who turned on the half-way line, carrying the ball towards the edge of the box before slipping it right. Jordan Stewart intelligently disguised to that Kirk Millar would receive it and he cut inside before shaping up to curl a left-footed shot which was importantly blocked behind for a corner.
The Blues had a few good opportunities to seal it in the closing ten minutes. Firstly, Shayne Lavery broke and with Andy Waterworth in the middle it looked like he was going to cross it. Certainly, Crusaders goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey probably thought the same. However, Tuffey was very nearly caught out as Lavery took on a strong strike from an improbable angle which the goalkeeper did well to claw away.
The in-form striker was denied by Tuffey again in the closing stages. Matthew Clarke saw an opportunity to break up the pitch and he took it, before squaring the ball to Shayne Lavery who poked the ball goalwards, only to be denied by the Crusaders goalkeeper who’d narrowed the angle.
Normally at Seaview you get the kitchen sink thrown at you but Linfield were able to see out the game with relative ease, dealing with every aerial ball played up to Crusaders’ target man Jordan Owens who wasn’t able to make any impact after coming on. The only half scare was when Jamie McGonigle got running at the Linfield backline before firing a left-footed shot not far wide of the far post from distance. A scuffle broke out in stoppage time when Jarlath O’Rourke petulantly threw the ball at Shayne Lavery’s face but Mark Stafford sorted it and Linfield took home the three points which is all that matters.
The Blues thoroughly deserved the victory, with a particularly strong second half showing. The only disappointment was that influential captain Jamie Mulgrew went off inured and with him and Cammy Palmer the only available central midfielders at the club at the moment, it would not be ideal if he was to be out injured.
Full Time: Crusaders 1 – 2 Linfield