Chris Johns (GK), Trai Hume, Michael Newberry, Jimmy Callacher, Matthew Clarke, Chris Shields, Jamie Mulgrew ©, Stephen Fallon (Cameron Palmer 72’), Kirk Millar, Matt Green (Jordan Stewart 69’), Christy Manzinga (Billy Chadwick 83’)
Gareth Deane (GK), Lyndon Kane, Stephen O'Donnell (C), Rodney Brown, Aaron Traynor (Adam Mullan 56'), Ronan Wilson (Cathair Friel 72'), Stephen Lowry, Josh Carson, Conor McKendry, Jamie Glackin, Matthew Shevlin (Evan Tweed 84')
The spoils were shared between Linfield and Coleraine as the teams played out an intense draw at Windsor Park this afternoon, with a late Conor McKendry strike cancelling out Christy Manzinga’s opener.
In the first half Linfield dominated the ball but couldn’t turn it into chances as Gareth Deane in the Coleraine goal was untested in the opening 45 minutes. Coleraine did have two strong spells in the first half in each of which they had a good chance.
The closest Linfield came in the first half was when Christy Manzinga was fouled right on the edge of the box after a powerful run and from the free-kick, Kirk Millar saw his low shot flash just wide of goal following a deflection off the wall.
Coleraine’s first strong spell came after ten minutes and lasted around ten minutes. Jamie Glackin was first to threaten as the ball broke for him just inside the Linfield half and he spotted Chris Johns slightly off his line, and his audacious 40 yard effort flashed just wide.
Soon after, Coleraine’s Josh Carson dug out a shot in the box and he connected well as his drive across goal needed a good hand from Chris Johns. It was a good save but the danger wasn’t over as the ball was retrieved by Conor McKendry at the back post and he turned to shoot but Trai Hume got in the way of it with a vital block.
Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew – who equalled William Murphy’s 639 Linfield appearances on the day – produced some great defensive work. Coleraine left back Aaron Traynor latched onto the ball in the box but just as he was set to shoot from close range, Mulgrew managed to get a vital tackle in.
Trai Hume fired a 20 yard strike over before Coleraine had another strong spell to end the half. The Blues were let off the hook when Christy Manzinga switched off defensively which allowed Lyndon Kane to run off him into the box before hooking in a cross from which former Linfield striker Matthew Shevlin headed just wide of the post.
In a final first half chance, full-back Aaron Traynor threatened again as he got into the box to get his head on a cross from the left by Conor McKendry, but the header flashed just wide of the post moments before the break.
Half Time: Linfield 0 – 0 Coleraine
Linfield reasserted their dominance of the ball into the second half. A lot of the Blues’ attacks early in the second half came down the right side. That was the case as Christy Manzinga burst in from the right side and connected well with a 20 yard left-footed strike which was well held by Gareth Deane.
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney made his first change ten minutes into the second half. Aaron Traynor had gone into the book in the first half for a challenge on Chris Shields and following two more fouls in quick succession in the second half, Oran took the left-back off, shifting Rodney Brown across to left back and bringing Adam Mullan on into centre half.
The deadlock was broken on 63 minutes as Linfield took the lead through a familiar source. Rewarded with a start for his impressive performance after coming in against Ballyclare in the Cup during the week, Stephen Fallon came into the team and played a major role in the goal. The midfielder turned on the edge of the box and showed good awareness and composure to pick a good pass for Christy Manzinga inside the box and the in-form striker netted his seventh goal of the season with a nice finish from close range.
Coleraine almost made an instant response to falling behind when the counter-attack opened up. Jamie Glackin broke and he had Matthew Shevlin in space to his right and once the striker got into the box he checked inside past Jimmy Callacher’s attempted block, but he was met by Chris Shields who typically read the danger brilliantly to come to Linfield’s rescue.
Linfield started to come under pressure in the final ten minutes and couldn’t seem to get back in full control. The Blues endured a tough spell of Coleraine pressure and most frustratingly, having seemingly got through it to get a final substitute on with a view to seeing the game out, the Blues were hit by a sucker punch. Substitute Cathair Friel picked up the second ball from a Linfield throw-in and he teed up the lively Conor McKendry who would equalise for Coleraine with a 20 yard rocket.
The Blues regrouped and the final five minutes were one-way traffic. Prolific Christy Manzinga was off the pitch by then as he’d emptied the tank but his replacement Billy Chadwick almost won it for the Blues. The young forward was found by a neat flick by Jordan Stewart and from just inside the box he flashed a strike agonisingly wide of the upright.
Stewart himself also threatened when the ball fell for him in the box but he was crowded out and Trai Hume also had a go with a 20 yard strike on his left foot which was saved by Gareth Deane. In a tight game Linfield won’t feel a sense of injustice at drawing but may look back and wonder if the final ball or decision making in the final third could have been a little more ruthless on the day.
Full Time: Linfield 1 – 1 Coleraine
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Matthew Clarke