Chris Johns (GK), Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher (C), Ross Larkin, Matthew Clarke, Cammy Palmer, Niall Quinn, Kirk Millar, Navid Nasseri (Stephen Fallon 64’), Jordan Stewart, Shayne Lavery (Christy Manzinga 75’)
Alex Moore, Conor Pepper, Mark Stafford, Michael Newberry, Andy Waterworth
Gareth Deane (GK) (Martin Gallagher 60’), Lyndon Kane, Aaron Canning, Stephen O’Donnell ©, Aaron Traynor, Josh Carson, Aaron Jarvis (Ian Parkhill 68’), Stephen Lowry, Jamie Glackin, Eoin Bradley, Matthew Shevlin (Curtis Allen 68’)
Linfield recorded a 2-1 win over Coleraine in a top-of-the-table clash at Windsor Park in front of the Sky Sports cameras thanks to two wonderful goals from Jordan Stewart deserving of a global audience.
The Blues threatened just five minutes into the game with an opportunity gifted to them. Coleraine defender Aaron Canning gifted the ball straight to Navid Nasseri who put his foot through the ball from 12 yards, but it was straight at Gareth Deane who had to produce strong hands to hold the ball into his body.
The breakthrough came on 17 minutes when Linfield took the lead and for the third game in a row, it was Jordan Stewart who put The Blues ahead early on. Ironically, it was the very same three involved who combined when Stewart put Linfield ahead early on in Dungannon last Saturday. Matthew Clarke did well to intercept a pass from Stephen Lowry before playing a one-two with Navid Nasseri to get beyond the right full-back and the cross was excellent, picking out the feet of Stewart who showed quick dancing feet to make just enough room to squeeze a shot away which nestled into the net beyond Deane. A wonderful goal.
Within minutes after the opener it was almost 2-0. Coleraine failed to fully clear a cross and the ball fell in Navid Nasseri’s direction. The winger brought it down, shifted it onto his left foot and aimed for the far corner which he fired marginally wide of. Coleraine could have been in themselves shortly after when Stephen O’Donnell played a great ball over the top for Eoin Bradley but the striker’s touch let him down, otherwise he’d have been through on goal.
Shayne Lavery almost continued his fine run of form and will be disappointed not to have been on the scoresheet again as he touched the ball beyond Aaron Canning to burst through on goal but with Gareth Deane rushing out he slid a low left-footed shot the wrong side of the far post.
Although Linfield were the better side in the first half and should have scored more, they were majorly let off the hook ten minutes before the break. Playing out from the back, Chris Johns gifted the ball straight to Jamie Glackin who took a touch and had a large portion of the net to aim at but he fired over with his left foot, but he was fouled by Niall Quinn in the process and the Linfield man went into the book. Eoin Bradley took the free-kick right on the edge of the box, opting to go for power but he fired over at the goalkeeper’s side.
In an excellent piece of refereeing, an advantage was played which allowed Linfield to break as Shayne Lavery broke with the ball, slipping the ball at the perfect time to put Jordan Stewart through on goal but he dragged a shot wide.
However, he more than made up for it minutes later with a second goal and it was another special one, arguably even better than the first! Cammy Palmer started the attack with a brilliantly-timed tackle before Shayne Lavery did brilliantly once again, taking the ball in from the left flank, beating Lyndon Kane and squeezing a low cross in for Stewart who produced magic to make it 2-0. The wizardly attacker showed quick feet again to somehow go around Gareth Deane and slide the ball in beyond two men on the line.
Half Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Coleraine
Into the second half, Linfield picked up where they left off and were knocking on the door for a third goal. Firstly, Navid Nasseri showed good feet and after a few step-overs he made room for a shot from distanced which curled wide. The winger then put in a good cross, picking out Kirk Millar at the back post and he fired into the side netting.
It looked like Coleraine may have found a potential route back into the game for a second when Eoin Bradley turned into the box and looked favourite to get a shot away from close range before hitting the deck and subsequently he was booked for simulation.
The ever-impressive Cammy Palmer almost netted his second goal for the Club when the Linfield midfielder connected sweetly with a curling 25 yard effort which Gareth Deane produced a great save to, tipping the ball over the crossbar. Unfortunately, the former Linfield ‘keeper injured a finger in the process and had to be withdrawn and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Then, on the hour-mark, Coleraine received a boost when Linfield were reduced to ten men. Niall Quinn received a second yellow card when he caught Matthew Shevlin who was breaking. It was a genuine attempt to win the ball but Shevlin was favourite to win it and it was a foul, much to Quinn’s disappointment, and he didn’t really complain.
You could sense that Coleraine felt a lift by that and they started moving the ball quicker and more purposefully, and Linfield moved to a 4-4-1 shape with Stephen Fallon returning from injury into the middle and Jordan Stewart moving out left.
Linfield defended excellently and although Coleraine started to dominate the ball, Chris Johns was rarely troubled. He showed assured hands to hold a clean strike from distance by Josh Carson and soon after, after he punched the ball, Ian Parkhill hooked a shot over from the edge of the box.
The Bannsiders set up a nervy finish when they pulled one back on 85 minutes. Many crosses into the box had come to nothing, but not this one, as experienced striker Curtis Allen showed predatory instincts to get across the front post to meet a Jamie Glackin cross and he headed beyond Chris Johns.
There were six long, torturous minutes added on for Linfield to see out the win and much credit to the whole team colectively, Coleraine didn’t really have any further chances throughout that time despite their dominance of the ball. The Blues almost wrapped it up in the fourth minute of added time as Cammy Palmer poked the ball through for Christy Manzinga who was beyond the Coleraine back line but was onside as he was in his own half as the ball was played and he was clipped from behind by experienced Coleraine defender Aaron Canning who received a straight red for denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity. From the resulting free-kick right on the edge of the box, Manzinga drilled a strike into the wall, twice.
It was a thoroughly deserved three points from Linfield who put in one of their best performances of the season and what will please David Healy particularly is that his side showed a number of different qualities tonight, from classy football in the first hour, to digging in and grinding out the victory in the closing stages. The Blues are now 12 points ahead of Coleraine who have a game in hand.
Full Time: Linfield 2 – 1 Coleraine
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Jordan Stewart