Chris Johns (GK), Ewan McCoubrey, Ross Larkin, Sam Roscoe, Niall Quinn (C), Joshua Archer, Martin Donnelly, Ahmed Salam, Andrew Clarke (Jordan Stewart 63’), Adam Carroll (Billy Chadwick 63’), Callum Marshall
Matthew Williamson, Michael Newberry, Stephen Fallon, Jack Montgomery, Kielan Reid
Ethan Carry (GK), Conall Young, Ruairi O’Hare, James Ferrin (Salou Jallow 81’), Jamie Glover, Kyle Calderwood, TJ Murray, Dylan O’Kane, Craig McMillan ©, Ross Arthurs (Nathan O’Neill 71’), Aaron Brown (Sam Dinu 60’)
Experienced playmaker Martin Donnelly’s first goal for Linfield helped a youthful Blues team overcome Ards at Windsor Park tonight to book a place in the quarter final of the County Antrim Shield against Dundela.
Although David Healy admits the County Antrim Shield isn’t Linfield’s number one priority, it was nonetheless a significant night for a number of people at the club. The Blues boss himself was celebrating his 300th match in charge, whilst attacking star Jordan Stewart made his 150th Linfield appearance. There were debuts for 16 year-olds Callum Marshall and Ewan McCoubrey. Marshall up top and McCoubrey at right back were both thoroughly impressive and can be very proud of their performances, as can Joshua Archer who also performed very well in holding midfield on his third Linfield appearance. Archer, McCoubrey and Marshall are three of the six members of Linfield’s recently-launched full-time Academy Scholarship scheme.
The Blues took the lead three minutes before the end of a fairly uneventful first half. Captain for the night, Niall Quinn clipped in a cross from the left on his first start since returning from injury and the ball fell kindly for Martin Donnelly who put his foot through the ball from around 12 yards out and with a huge deflection along the way he netted his first goal for the club as the ball found the far corner.
On the night of his 300th match in charge of Linfield, David Healy saw his team go close after ten minutes after a breakdown in communication between Ards defender Kyle Calderwood and goalkeeper Ethan Carry as the defender’s backward header bounced past the ‘keeper and much to his relief, the ball struck the post and went behind for a corner.
An Ards player also threatened at the right end of the pitch after 29 minutes when experienced striker Ross Arthurs teed up strike partner Aaron Brown whose first-time left-footed low strike from just inside the box had to be tipped around the post by Chris Johns, who was the only Linfield player to keep his place in the team after last Friday’s 1-1 draw against Cliftonville, with a host of players rested and rotated.
Young debutant striker Callum Marshall was denied what would have been a dream debut goal when he got on the end of Niall Quinn’s low cross into the box and after pulling the trigger his strike was stopped by a superb block by former Linfield Swifts and now Ards defender Ruairi O’Hare.
Half Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Ards
One of Linfield’s liveliest players was Andrew Clarke, the 18 year-old attacker who joined from Crusaders in the summer. Clarke played at the tip of a midfield diamond but was here, there and everywhere such was the energy he showed, and that was highlighted when he almost made it 2-0 at the start of the second half, after getting the ball from Callum Marshall to the left side of the box and when he cut inside to shoot his effort was crucially blocked again by Ruairi O’Hare.
Young midfielder Dylan O’Kane was tidy in midfield for Ards and he hit a decent effort from distance ten minutes into the second half. It may have been ambitious but his 25 yard strike wasn’t far wide of the Linfield goal.
The Blues were in control of the game throughout but wanted a second goal for added security and when they threatened it often involved young debutant Marshall. Indeed it was the striker who worked the visiting goalkeeper with a shot on the swivel but the ‘keeper was equal to it.
Marshall – who has burst onto the scene for Linfield Swifts this season – was inches away from that debut goal he dreamt of when he met a nice cross into the near post area by Martin Donnelly, but the young striker’s header flashed just wide of the post.
Ross Larkin also headed wide from a Martin Donnelly corner and, in one final chance, Ahmed Salam slipped the ball to fellow Hull City loanee Billy Chadwick in the box and the striker’s low shot was just wide of the far post and unfortunately, it just wasn’t to be for Callum Marshall who was agonisingly close to applying a converting touch.
As well as a number of strong performances from young players, David Healy was able to give gametime to a number of players who haven’t been playing regularly and so it was a good night’s work for the boss on his 300th match in charge. The Blues take on Dundela at Windsor Park in the quarter final of the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday October 19.
Full Time: Linfield 1 – 0 Ards
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Ewan McCoubrey