Bolger, A. Donnelly
Chris Johns (GK), Daniel Finlayson, Jimmy Callacher, Ben Hall, Matthew Clarke, Chris Shields, Jamie Mulgrew ©, Kirk Millar, Joel Cooper (Kyle McClean 72’), Eetu Vertainen (Chris McKee 72’), Kyle Lafferty
David Walsh (GK), Michael Newberry, Cammy Palmer, Andrew Clarke, Ethan Devine
Rohan Ferguson (GK), Tomas Cosgrove, Shaun Want, Cian Bolger, Aaron Donnelly, Micheal Glynn (Graham Kelly 84'), Fuad Sule, Joe Thomson (Shea Gordon 84'), Leroy Millar, Andrew Ryan, Paul O’Neill (Thomas Maguire 84')
Although Linfield could have done with maximum points tonight, the Blues were held to a cagey goalless draw away to League leaders Larne at Inver Park.
With Larne seven points clear at the top of the Irish League, Linfield were hoping to pick up a win which would have cut the deficit to four points. In the end, though, the Blues have their ‘keeper Chris Johns to thank for their point as he pulled off a stunning save at the death.
Larne were the team who looked more likely to score as they passed up a few good opportunities. Whilst Linfield battled with desire, they didn’t click in the final third and chances were few and far between.
David Healy’s men’s best chance came midway through the first half when Kirk Millar delivered a cross to the front post where Eetu Vertainen’s glancing header draw a good save from Rohan Ferguson who tipped the effort away from the corner.
A few minutes later, Millar controlled a diagonal ball before putting in a brilliant left-footed cross across the six yard box which was begging for one of the Linfield centre forwards to attack, but both were on their heels and may look back with regret.
Larne’s best chance of the first half came within the opening minute-and-a-half when Micheal Glynn whipped in a cross and striker Paul O’Neill got a goalward touch which drew a good stop from Chris Johns at point-blank range.
Half Time: Larne 0 – 0 Linfield
The second half saw Larne miss three or four great opportunities, while Linfield didn’t create anything meaningful. The Blues did have a number of set-pieces in good areas which they’ll feel they could have done more with, although Larne must equally be credited for how they defended them.
Chris Johns kept the Inver Reds at bay on 57 minutes when Larne’s Andrew Ryan was afforded time and space to hit a strike from 25 yards and he curled an effort towards Johns’ right corner, however he reacted brilliantly to pounce to his right and making a reflex save.
Tiernan Lynch’s men then missed a great opportunity on the hour-mark, following a nice move as Paul O’Neill touched the ball into the path of Micheal Glynn who burst away down the left before pulling the ball back to Andrew Ryan in the middle, however the striker uncharacteristically fired wide as he failed to wrap his foot around the ball.
The striker went close another three minutes later when he clipped the ball up towards the far post and it came back off the top of the crossbar. If he meant it, it was a touch of genius, although surely it was a cross-come-shot as he had teammates waiting in the middle. The ball then came out to Joe Thomson and he volleyed just wide from the edge of the box.
The best chance of the night then fell for Thomson who should have put Larne ahead 20 minutes from time. Ben Hall uncharacteristically misjudged a ball forward which allowed Ryan in behind him and the forward reached the box, took stock and then pulled the ball back to midfielder Thomson who fired over from a great position.
Larne then very nearly scored a last-gasp winner in the third of three additional minutes following a corner when the ball came out to substitute Thomas Maguire whose 20-yard strike took a wicked deflection which almost looped over Chris Johns who did brilliantly well to back-paddle and with great reflexes tip the ball over the crossbar. Quite possibly the save of the season.
This draw sees Linfield remain seven points off leaders Larne with seven matches remaining. The Blues are level on points with Cliftonville who have a game in hand. The reigning champions are up against it, but must park their League attention to focus on this Sunday’s upcoming Bet McLean Cup final against Coleraine at Windsor Park.
Full Time: Larne 0 – 0 Linfield