Linfield Scorers :
Sproule 24, Carvill 31, Waterworth 90
Crusaders Scorer :
Linfield Red Card :
78' Ivan Sproule
Linfield Team :
Tuffey, Haughey, Callacher, Ward, Waterworth, Lowry, Carvill, Burns, Matthew Clarke, Ross Clarke, Sproule
Linfield Subs not used :
Ross Glendinning, Thompson, Millar, Morrow, Quinn
Crusaders Team :
O’Neill, BJ Burns, Coates, Magowan (45’ O’Flynn), Robinson, Caddell (63’ Clarke), Adamson, Heatley, O’Carroll, Owens, McClean
Crusaders Subs not used :
Hanley, McKibbin, Leeman
Linfield gave new champions Crusaders something to think about for next season following a 3-1 win at the Oval.
Usually the Oval is a rather hostile place, but tonight Linfield were adopting the East Belfast arena for their final “home” fixture of the season. The Blues were playing the Crues in what was a match in which Linfield would be looking to sow the seeds of doubt for next season. Warren Feeney made two changes with Sean Ward and Ross Clarke coming in for Glenn Belezika and Chris Hegarty.
Crusaders came close to opening up proceedings in the 3rd minute. The ball sat up nicely for Diarmuid O’Carroll to hit one from 25 yards. The ball flew past Jonny Tuffey, hitting the underside of the bar and fortunately bouncing out. Two minutes later, it was Paul Heatley’s turn to rattle Tuffey’s perpendicular. Heatley picked the ball up from just outside the ‘D’ and curled a lovely shot that had Tuffey beat, but not the cross bar. Declan Caddell then lobbed one just over Tuffey’s goal in the 8th minute as the Crues looked to rubber stamp their champions title.
Linfield’s first real attack in the 24th minute gave the Blues the lead. Ross Clarke played a deep cross to the right post. Ivan Sproule managed to direct the ball towards goal but Sean O’Neill managed to parry it away. O’Neill’s clearance was well followed up by Sproule who was there to sweep it home and give the Blues the lead.
Linfield made it 2-0 in the 31st minute. A long ball up the middle was headed on by Andy Waterworth. Michael Carvill brought the ball down beautifully, turned and hit his shot back across O’Neill who could do nothing to stop the ball nestling in his bottom right corner.
Crusaders came close to pulling one back as Jimmy Callacher gave a way a free kick in a good position. Billly Joe Burns stepped up to get one over his old team, but he ended up curling his effort over the bar. In the 42nd minute Andy Waterworth flicked Stephen Lowry through, but Sean O’Neill stood up well to block Lowry’s drive. A good first half from the Blues after Tuffey’s woodwork had been rattled twice in the opening ten minutes.
Half Time: Linfield 2 – 0 Crusaders
Crusaders almost immediately pulled one back in the 47th minute. Substitute Stephen O’Flynn feathered through a perfectly weighted ball to Paul Heatley on the right hand side of the Linfield area. Heatley kept his cool, knocked the ball past Tuffey, and slid it into the net.
Linfield nearly restored their 2 goal lead in the 54th minute as Aaron Burns couldn't direct his volley on goal following a looping corner from the left. Crusdaers then had a big shout for a penalty in the 58th minute as O’Flynn went tumbling under a challenge from Jonny Tuffey. The referee showed no interest in O’Flynn’s theatrics.
Ross Clarke then headed narrowly wide from an Ivan Sproule cross in the 66th minute. Then in the 70th minute Stephen Lowry managed to find some space on the right to whisk a shot across goal.
In the 79th minute Linfield were reduced to ten men as Ivan Sproule was mysteriously given his marching orders following an off the ball incident with Craig McClean.
Going into the final 5 minutes, the ten men of Linfield were put under massive pressure by the red and black stripes. Paul Heatley had a great opportunity to set up an equaliser in the 87th minute but Sean Ward sprinted back to clear the ball off the toes of O’Flynn. In injury time however, Andrew Waterworth well and truly pooped the Crusaders party as he nipped the ball away from Coates. Waterworth sprinted from the halfway line and coolly clipped it over O’Neill to make it 3-1 to the Blues.
Man of the Match: Michael Carvill
Full Time: Linfield 3 – 1 Crusaders