Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorer :
Andy Waterworth 84'
Larne Scorer :
Ronan Hale 29'
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Cammy Palmer, Shayne Lavery, Matthew Clarke
Larne Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher (C), Ross Larkin, Matthew Clarke, Cammy Palmer, Stephen Fallon, Kirk Millar (Christy Manzinga 75’), Navid Nasseri (Joel Cooper 64’), Jordan Stewart (Andy Waterworth 75’), Shayne Lavery
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore, Conor Pepper, Mark Stafford, Michael Newberry
Larne Team :
Conor Devlin (GK), Tomas Cosgrove, Jeff Hughes (C), Josh Robinson, Dean Jarvis, Faud Sule, Andrew Mitchell, John Herron, Lee Lynch (Luke Wade-Slater 68'), Martin Donnelly, Ronan Hale (David McDaid 68')
Larne Subs not used :
Conor Mitchell (GK), Mark Randall, Andy Scott, Conor McKendry, Dylan Mottley-Henry
Linfield battled back for a hard-fought point as Andy Waterworth came off the bench to net a late leveller for the Blues against Larne at Inver Park.
It was a game of two halves with the Blues struggling to get a foothold in the first half. Larne set the tone instantly as they threatened within the first minute with striker Ronan Hale going through, but Chris Johns made the save and Hale had the difficult task of trying to bend the follow-up around the ‘keeper, which he wasn’t able to do.
Lively Larne attacker Lee Lynch saw the ball roll kindly into his path just inside the box but his effort was deflected just wide, and he was denied again after being picked out by Tomas Cosgrove’s cutback as Cammy Palmer made an important block.
Former Linfield defender Josh Robinson almost scored against his former club when he had two opportunities to attack a cross in from Dean Jarvis following a corner, and the defender powered a header at goal with his second attempt which Chris Johns had to claw out. John Herron had a follow-up effort from just inside the box but he lashed it over the bar.
However, just a minute later, Larne made the breakthrough. Martin Donnelly drifted into the middle, dropping the shoulder to create space before playing an excellent ball through to Ronan Hale who was running in behind the Linfield backline. The pass was pinpoint and Hale hit it first time into the corner with a clinical finish.
Ross Larkin headed over a corner for Linfield but their best move of the half came when the ball was worked out right to Kirk Millar who fired in a dangerous low cross and Shayne Lavery got a touch on it at full stretch but Larne goalkeeper Conor Devlin was able to keep it out.
Half Time: Larne 1 – 0 Linfield
The second half brought a much improved Linfield performance as the Blues started to dominate the game. The Blues were unable to make the most of a series of corners but right from the off in the second half they were on top and trying to ask questions, as seen when Shayne Lavery got in behind Josh Robinson from Matthew Clarke’s pass in behind, but the ball seemed to bobble up as he slashed a shot wide.
However, for all their probing, the Blues could have been 2-0 down on 51 minutes and it would have been controversial. Cammy Palmer appeared to be shoved over but no free-kick was given, which allowed Larne to break and Ronan Hale slipped Lee Lynch in, but he fired wide. Matthew Clarke received a booking for his protests.
Martin Donnelly threatened for the Inver Reds when he put in a cross-come-shot into the corridor of uncertainty which Chris Johns had to watch all the way before pushing the ball away. They were unlucky not to score a second soon after with a smart idea to hit a free-kick quickly. Chris Johns was scrambling across goal but the ball flashed just wide. And again, Johns made another important stop when David McDaid spun in behind intelligently before hitting a shot inside the box which was tipped over.
With 15 minutes to go, David Healy introduced Christy Manzinga and Andy Waterworth, having already introduced Joel Cooper who returned from a three-game suspension. Typically, as he has done so often over the past eight seasons, Andy Waterworth came up with the goods when Linfield needed something. It was typically instinctive from the striker on the eve of his 35th birthday. Chris Johns punted a free-kick into the box, it fell for Ross Larkin and his shot was deflected and the goalscoring machine Andy Waterworth was in the right place at the right time to head the ball into the corner which ultimately earned the Blues a point.
The remaining six minutes plus three additional minutes certainly didn’t fizzle out. It was still quite open, with plenty of crosses coming into both boxes, and Chris Johns produced one of the saves of the season to secure Linfield’s point. A cross from the right was pulled back to Larne midfielder Faud Sule who hit a strike that he’d have dreamed of, it looked in all the way but Chris Johns produced heroics to tip the ball over when it seemed Larne were going to snatch victory.
It was a game of two halves but Linfield won’t be too disappointed with the result, having been well beaten at Inver Park in their previous visits. It keeps their momentum going and to take four points from Coleraine and Larne this week was a good outcome for David Healy’s men who have a free midweek ahead of Ballymena at Windsor next Saturday. By that time, the league standings should be much clearer.
Full Time: Larne 1 – 1 Linfield