Chris Johns (GK), Michael Newberry (Niall Quinn 71’), Sam Roscoe, Jimmy Callacher ©, Matthew Clarke, Stephen Fallon, Chris Shields (Ross Larkin 84’), Jordan Stewart (Jordan Stewart 71’), Kirk Millar (Ahmed Salam 78’), Christy Manzinga, Matt Green (Billy Chadwick 78’)
Conor Mitchell (GK), Steven Ball, Dermot McVeigh, Daniel Byrne, Kealan Dillon, Jonathan Leddy, Francis McCaffrey (C), Luke Gallagher, Luke Wade Slater, Thomas Maguire. Gregory Moorhouse
Three goals in a strong first half display ensured Linfield recorded victory on the road this afternoon as goals from Chris Shields, Kirk Millar and Christy Manzinga maintained the Blues’ unbeaten run with victory over Warrenpoint Town at Milltown.
A late change to the line-up with Jordan Stewart coming in for Cameron Palmer who pulled out after the warm-up didn’t affect Linfield who started brightly. Jordan Stewart threatened within a minute when he got into a pocket of space on the left and although his cross was very well defended by Dermot McVeigh, that set the tone for a commanding team performance.
A few efforts during Warrenpoint’s best spell which lasted a couple of minutes saw Jonathan Leddy drill a 25 yard strike a few yards wide of the post and a corner delivery soon after was headed not far wide of the post by Luke Gallagher, although Linfield’s Kirk Millar appeared to have it covered and soon the Blues would go up the gears.
The Blues took the lead after 15 minutes from the penalty spot. Christy Manzinga typically activated his power and pace attributes after picking up possession on the left as he beat three men on his way into the box where he went down under a challenge from Dermot McVeigh which led to a penalty that Warrenpoint felt aggrieved by. Chris Shields stepped up to take responsibility and he made a good job of it as he dispatched, firing the ball low and left as Conor Mitchell dived the other way. It was the former Dundalk captain’s second goal for Linfield and his first in the league, having previously scored in the Champions League against Zalgiris Vilnius.
Having initially missed an opportunity to make it two on 21 minutes when he drilled over from just inside the box, Kirk Millar made no mistake seven minutes later to double Linfield’s advantage. Warrenpoint winger Luke Wade-Slater was naive in making a risky pass across the edge of his own box and Millar was alert to it and on his toes to nip in before slotting in a clinical and composed finish low into the bottom right corner for his first goal of the season.
Similar to last week, all the goals came in quick succession. The Blues went 3-0 ahead on 32 minutes through a familiar source. Stephen Fallon intelligently backheeled the ball to Christy Manzinga just inside the box and the French striker did the rest, creating enough room to get a shot away and what a clean strike it was as the ball rocketed past former Linfield ‘keeper Conor Mitchell.
Linfield looked like adding a fourth before the break as Matthew Clarke burst down the left and squeezed in a cross which was helped on by Matt Green – his effort was blocked and Michael Newberry arrived at the back post and his shot was somehow also blocked off the line, with handball appeals waved away. Green threatened again in the closing stages of the half when he met Kirk Millar’s wicked cross but just couldn’t quite get enough purchase on it to divert it goalwards.
Half Time: Warrenpoint Town 0 – 3 Linfield
The second half was a dull affair in terms of chances. Although Linfield didn’t lower their work ethic, they were in cruise control to see out the game and didn’t register a shot on goal in the half.
Warrenpoint came out fighting in the second half and Sam Roscoe on his third consecutive start for Linfield made a great diving headed clearance to cut out a dangerous left wing cross by Kealan Dillon.
Dillon was Warrenpoint’s most lively player and played a good pass down the left to the overlapping Steven Ball who got into the box, but he fired a shot into the side netting.
The closest Linfield went in the second half was when Kirk Millar whipped in a free-kick and Michael Newberry met it with a header which he flicked goalwards and was unlucky to see it flash just wide of the far post.
Warrenpoint’s Luke Gallagher hit a sweet half-volley from 25 yards which whistled just over Chris Johns’ crossbar on an afternoon when the Linfield goalkeeper had pretty much nothing to do. Stephen Fallon’s low cross in stoppage time was turned around the post by a defender when Ahmed Salam was threatening to tap it in for Linfield.
The job was done in the first half. The second half was not spectacular but was professional and David Healy was able to ring the changes as the game went on to keep players sharp and fit.
Full Time: Warrenpoint Town 0 – 3 Linfield