Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorers :
Joel Cooper 10', 86', Eetu Vertainen 22', 58', 75', Chris McKee 88'
Portadown Scorer :
Patrick McNally 44'
Portadown Yellow Cards :
Christopher Rodgers, Alberto Balde
Linfield Team :
Chris Johns (GK), Daniel Finlayson, Michael Newberry, Sam Roscoe, Matthew Clarke, Kirk Millar (Max Haygarth 75'), Cammy Palmer (Conor Pepper 8’), Jamie Mulgrew © (Niall Quinn 84’), Joel Cooper, Eetu Vertainen (Andrew Clarke 75'), Robbie McDaid (Chris McKee 84')
Linfield Subs not used :
Ben Hall, Ethan Devine
Portadown Team :
Jethren Barr (GK), Barney McKeown, Patrick McNally, Christopher Rodgers, Lee Chapman, Alberto Balde, Luke Wilson, Mark Russell, Eoghan McCawl, Paul McElroy, Cathair Friel
For the second time in a fortnight, Linfield recorded an emphatic 6-1 win in Mid Ulster. This time it was basement side Portadown who were put to the sword as the Blues bounced back from their midweek defeat to Crusaders at Seaview.
It was also the second time in three matches - and the second successive Saturday - that Finnish forward Eetu Vertainen claimed the matchball following a hat-trick. He didn’t take it home, however, as he generously gifted the matchball to a young supporter.
Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for Linfield, however, as Cammy Palmer only lasted eight minutes after being unable to shake off an injury knock to the lower back area. With Chris Shields serving a one-match suspension, Kyle McClean serving the last match of his three-match suspension and Stephen Fallon out injured, it paved the way for Conor Pepper to step into the position he once played in his younger days in Scotland.
The Blues took the lead a few minutes later, though. It was started and finished by Joel Cooper whose desire to close down the Portadown left-back was rewarded as he blocked a pass and after winning the ball he slipped the ball to Eetu Vertainen down the right channel. Cooper then darted into the box and a pinpoint square ball from Vertainen set up the wing to slot in from a central position.
Portadown responded well and were unfortunate not to be back on level terms a short while later when winger Eoghan McCawl cut in from the left and fired a sweet, low 20-yard strike off the far post. Ports striker Cathair Friel stuck out an instinctive leg on the rebound as the ball popped up off the post, but it came at him quickly and he wasn’t able to keep the effort below the crossbar.
Linfield then doubled their lead on 22 minutes through a move down the right wing when Kirk Millar squeezed in a low cross which was helped on by Joel Cooper to Matthew Clarke who had his back to goal and he had the awareness to lay off the ball to Eetu Vertainen who coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
The match became stop-start midway through the half with several injury knocks before Portadown pulled a goal back on the brink of half-time. Alberto Balde produced an excellent free-kick delivery from the right and Ports captain Patrick McNally powered home an unstoppable header to restore hope for Niall Currie’s men.
Half Time: Portadown 1 – 2 Linfield
The Blues restored their two-goal advantage thirteen minutes into the second half, with Eetu Vertainen netting his second. Much of the credit must go to Kirk Millar, however. The winger got the ball on the left and turned his man inside out before delivering an excellent low cross to the near post area with the outside of his right foot, and it was then a fairly simple finish for the forward who only needed a touch at close range.
The St. Johnstone loanee then completed his hat-trick on 75 minutes to round off an excellent Linfield counter-attack. Robbie McDaid rose well to chest down an aerial ball on the half-way line, laying the ball to Jamie Mulgrew who then slipped it left to Kirk Millar. Mulgrew then darted through the middle and Millar used this run as a decoy to slip in Vertainen to his left, and the forward slotted the ball low inside the left post for his 17th goal of the season.
Then, on 86 minutes, a brilliant pass from substitute Andrew Clarke found Joel Cooper pacing towards the edge of Portadown’s box before he was brought down by Rodgers. There was no stopping the 20-yard free-kick, however, as Matthew Clarke teed off the ball for Cooper whose low strike flashed beyond the ‘keeper for his second of the match.
Substitute forward Chris McKee rounded off the scoring a minute later. Joel Cooper was again involved as he retrieved the ball on the right before his cross – with the help of a deflection – found McKee unmarked at the back post and his strike was adjudged to have crossed the line despite the best efforts of the goalkeeper.
Linfield’s attention now turns to next Saturday’s trip to Inver Park to take on Larne in a crunch Irish Cup clash. For the first time since mid-December, the Blues have no midweek fixture.
Full Time: Portadown 1 – 6 Linfield
LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Eetu Vertainen