Linfield Scorers :
Shayne Lavery 40', 49', 89'
Loughgall Scorer :
Jamie Rea 63'
Linfield Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Conor Pepper, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher, Niall Quinn, Cammy Palmer (Stephen Fallon 57’), Jamie Mulgrew ©, Kirk Millar, Jordan Stewart (Andy Waterworth 81’), Navid Nasseri (Joel Cooper 74’), Shayne Lavery
Linfield Subs not used :
Alex Moore, Matthew Clarke, Michael Newberry, Christy Manzinga
Loughgall Team :
Berraat Turker (GK), Conor Kerr, Ben Murdock, Jordan Lyttle, John Scott, Steven Ferguson, Pablo Andrade, Scott McCullough, Jamie Rea (Matthew Holloway), Dale Malone (Ben Neil), Nedas Maciulaitis
Loughgall Subs not used :
Ross Hunter, Luke Cartwright, Jonny Ewart, Scott McCann, Tom Hegan
Tonight Linfield booked their place in the semi-finals of the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup with a 3-1 win over Loughgall at Lakeview Park courtesy of Shayne Lavery’s fifth hat-trick for the club and his third hat-trick of the 2020-21 season.
The Blues’ quality ultimately shone through but just like with Annagh United a few weeks ago, Loughgall deserve enormous credit for their performance given that they too have had no competitive football for 14 months prior to their 1-0 win over Warrenpoint Town in the last round. On the night they gave Linfield a really good battle.
And they also gave the Blues a scare within 40 seconds which didn’t harm their confidence. A wicked swerving cross-come-shot from the left was touched onto the crossbar by Chris Johns who had to watch it all the way.
Linfield had a few decent opportunities midway through the first half, mainly through trusty set-piece deliveries from usual suspects Quinn and Millar. Lavery was first to threaten when he headed Quinn’s cross just wide and soon after he teed up Navid Nasseri whose shot flashed a few inches above the crossbar from around 15 yards out.
Jimmy Callacher also met Niall Quinn deliveries twice but on both occasions his headers were quite central and former Warrenpoint goalkeeper Berraat Turker made the saves for Loughgall. He was forced into a good save when Jordan Stewart connected well with a nice curling effort which had to be tipped around the post.
Loughgall had two big opportunities in the first half. The first fell for former Coleraine target man Nedas Maciulaitis as he raced in behind Callacher. Mark Haughey covered across in a way which forced the striker to shoot from a certain angle but he had time and space and tried to curl the ball into the far corner – an effort which the assured Chris Johns was equal to.
On 27 minutes Conor Pepper seized the initiative upon receiving the ball, seeming to deceive the Loughgall players whilst applying his strong power and pace attributes to run beyond the backline, but just as he seemed to be going through on goal, he appeared to be pulled down by a full-back just inside the box. No foul was given and Lavery latched onto the loose ball, firing over a left-footed volley. Pepper picked up an upper-body injury in the process.
Loughgall’s second big chance of the half fell to former Carrick Rangers attacker Dale Malone. A long ball was played into the left channel and it was played on into the box where the outstretched Cammy Palmer couldn’t reach it despite his best efforts. Malone was then clean through but from ten yards out with the goal at his mercy he struck the base of the post with a shot.
Dean Smith’s men were made to rue those missed chances as Linfield went 1-0 up five minutes before the break. The Blues got Jordan Stewart on the ball on the edge of the box and Shayne Lavery ran over his right shoulder for the midfielder to slip him in and upon sight of goal the striker fired a crisp low strike into the far corner.
Similarly, Stewart threaded another pass through to Lavery just before the break but by the time Lavery reached it Berraat Turker to his credit was out swiftly to narrow the angle and block the shot.
Half Time: Loughgall 0 – 1 Linfield
The Blues then double their lead four minutes after the break. Good pressure from Jordan Stewart forced a Loughgall defender into a loose backpass and as we often see, Shayne Lavery was away like lightening to leave everyone else in his wake. Then it was a question of composure as he went 1v1 with the ‘keeper who was beaten with a low shot into the bottom left corner.
The striker almost initially sealed his hat-trick on 58 minutes when Navid Nasseri put in a great cross from the left and Lavery got across his man to meet it with a sidefooted effort from close range which struck the crossbar.
At 2-0 Linfield would have been happy if the game was to fizzle out but that wasn’t going to be the case as Loughgall possessed mighty fight in them. The championship side then restored some hope by pulling a goal back on 63 minutes. Ben Murdock’s free-kick was headed into the box and Nedas Maciulaitis stretched to poke it goalwards only to be denied by a great save by Chris Johns low to his right. However, there was nothing he could do as Loughgall winger Jamie Rea was on hand to tuck home the rebound from close range.
Loughgall continued to battle but as they had to search for a leveller late on it opened up for Linfield on the counter. Substitute Joel Cooper slipped it to Stephen Fallon inside the box and he tried to square it to Lavery but the alert Turker nipped in to intercept.
Then the win was secured on 89 minutes with Lavery and Linfield getting their third. Niall Quinn won a strong header which found Lavery who was one-on-one with a defender. He advanced before picking out the far corner with a classy shot into the far corner, scoring Linfield’s 100th goal of the season and his 27th.
The Blues advance to the semi-final where they’ll meet Ballymena United at Mourneview Park in Lurgan next Tuesday evening at 8pm with the game to be broadcast live on BBC television. First and foremost, attention turns to Larne in the league this Saturday at Windsor as the Blues aim to clinch the league title.
Full Time: Loughgall 1 – 3 Linfield