Chris Johns (GK), Trai Hume, Jimmy Callacher, Michael Newberry, Matthew Clarke, Chris Shields, Cameron Palmer (Jordan Stewart 61’), Jamie Mulgrew ©, Kirk Millar, Billy Chadwick (Matt Green 61’), Christy Manzinga (Ahmed Salam 87’)
Harry Doherty (GK). Greg Hall, Adam McCallum, Paul Finnegan, Nathan Kerr, Sam Warde (Adam Salley 72'), Sammie McLeod, Stephen Teggart, Oisin Conaty, Ruairi Croskery, Lee Bonis (C)
Linfield came from behind to edge a pulsating five-goal thriller against Portadown at Shamrock Park in the Blues’ second league match of the season this afternoon as Christy Manzinga grabbed the headlines with a stunning late winner.
It was a lively first half and Portadown – who started on the front foot having learnt from a costly slow start against Larne last week – almost went ahead in the third minute. Striker Lee Bonis turned and set Ruairi Croskery through on goal with a neat threaded pass and the former Linfield man shot across goal towards the far corner but Chris Johns was equal to it with a good low save.
Christy Manzinga also threatened for the Blues in the early stages when he made a clipped ball into the channel by Matthew Clarke, using his quick acceleration to burst into the box and after shaping up to try and curl the ball into the far corner he was denied by the foot of home goalkeeper Harry Doherty.
The early goal that the game had promised in the opening stages arrived on 11 minutes and for Portadown, courtesy of a former Linfield striker as Croskery was not to be denied this time. A deep corner delivery by Sam Warde was headed back across by Lee Bonis at the back post and Paul Finnegan turned the ball into the danger zone for Ruairi Croskery to hammer into the near post from six yards.
The Blues responded well with a good spell and went close to a leveller when Billy Chadwick – a willing runner in behind – was found by a ball into the channel by Michael Newberry. The striker teed up Kirk Millar who put in the first of numerous great deliveries, this time picking out Christy Manzinga at the back post on the half-volley but he fired over.
However, it was third time lucky for Manzinga as Linfield got their equaliser on 23 minutes. Much credit will go to Hull City loanee Billy Chadwick for his part in the goal, positioning his body well to turn and hold off a challenge from Paul Finnegan on halfway. Once he reached the edge of the box he found Christy Manzinga free to his right and the Frenchman fired the ball clinically under the goalkeeper and into the net.
Former Motherwell attacker Manzinga – playing off the left wing – always seems to find himself in the right positions and that was the case again as he went very close to putting the Blues ahead just minutes after his equaliser. Manzinga was unlucky as he attacked a brilliant Trai Hume cross powerfully, only to see his header come back off the crossbar.
Portadown surged again to mount a strong end to the first half. When Osin Conaty saw his shot blocked following a nice hooked cross by Lee Bonis, midfielder Stephen Teggart’s eyes lit up when the ball sat nicely to be hit from 20 yards and he connected well with a shot which for Portadown flashed agonisingly past the top corner by a matter of inches.
Then Matthew Tipton’s men retook the lead in the closing stages of the first half. Stephen Teggart was the architect with a great ball into the box and the rest seemed to unfold in slow motion as highly-rated hotshot Lee Bonis timed his run perfectly to run in behind the Blues backline and with space he headed beyond Chris Johns from close range to ensure Portadown led at the break.
Half Time: Portadown 2 – 1 Linfield
Whilst Linfield had chances in the first half, they knew they weren’t at their best and in the second half they went up the gears. Early in the second half they almost drew level through Billy Chadwick who was found by a precise pass by Jamie Mulgrew on the break, but the young striker’s shot flashed just over from 20 yards.
On the hour-mark, Linfield manager David Healy played his first cards and it played a big part in changing the game in the Blues’ favour, with Jordan Stewart grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and Matt Green getting off the mark. With Green through the middle, Christy Manzinga and Kirk Millar both high and wide, and Jordan Stewart high up, the Blues went hunting with what was effectively a front four.
Whilst Matt Green by his own admission isn’t yet at full sharpness, he too gets himself into good positions and he was initially denied when he got a head to Kirk Millar’s corner where he was denied by a good save by the feet of Harry Doherty. The ball fell for Michael Newberry in the box but he fired over the bar.
Trai Hume was next to go close amidst a Linfield bombardment. The ball fell kindly for the young full-back to volley inside the box and the ball was destined for the net with the goalkeeper, but Ports defender Paul Finnegan threw his body to head off the line.
Persistence paid off on 67 minutes as English striker Matt Green got off the mark in his second appearance in a Linfield shirt. Jordan Stewart led the charge for a swift counter attack as he slipped it right to Kirk Millar who squared it across goal for Matt Green whose positioning was spot on to convert from close range to make it 2-2.
Matt Green looked like being the man to put Linfield ahead on two separate occasions as the Blues pressed for a winner. When Chris Shields played a great pass to an equally good run in the box from Millar, the winger slid it across goal and the striker got a touch but not the desired one to convert as Harry Doherty grabbed it. Soon after, he was bearing down on goal when Finnegan got in for a vital last-ditch tackle.
With five minutes to go, the winning goal finally arrived for Linfield after much probing in a dominant second half. Up stepped Christy Manzinga who is certainly feeling the love from the Linfield supporters after a prolific start to the season. He picked the ball up deep on the left, shimmied past Nathan Kerr and unleashed a 25 yard drive which swerved into the top corner of the net in front of the away end who were jubilant.
It was a deserved win for the Blues in a cracking game of football which a youthful Portadown very much contributed to. Refreshingly, it was a great atmosphere with 800 Linfield away supporters making a racket behind the net in what was for most a first away game since March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.
Full Time: Portadown 2 – 3 Linfield