Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Callacher, Waterworth, Millar (85’ Frazer), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew (85’ Burns), Reece Glendinning, Quinn, Smyth
Neeson, Traynor, Kelly, Harmon, McNeill, Cherry, Chines, Roy, McCloskey, Doyle (70’ Kane), Dick (59’ Surgenor)
Linfield welcomed Carrick Rangers to Windsor Park this evening for the re-arranged County Antrim Shield semi final. David Healy would have been looking for a reaction following Saturday’s disappointing draw against Ballinamallard. Sean Ward and Niall Quinn were given starting berths, and the Blues started with a rejigged attack; with Smyth and Waterworth upfront.
Carrick had the first shot in anger after 5 minutes when Conor McCloskey fired a half volley wide from 20 yards. Linfield then got a chance from nowhere as Paul Smyth chased a seemingly lost cause to nick the ball away from Neeson. Unfortunately, the tight angle proved too taut for Smyth to place the ball into the net and Neeson’s blushes were spared. In the 15th minute, the lively looking Andrew Waterworth cut across two defenders and shot wide from 20 yards.
Migel Chines nearly took advantage of a Linfield mistake as he pulled the ball down out of the air, unchallenged, and fired a curling effort wide of Glendinning’s goal.
In the 28th minute, the Blues were awarded a penalty. Paul Smyth demonstrated the same determination as earlier in the game as he chased a pass down and nicked the ball in front of the on rushing Neeson. The Carrick stopper had over committed, and brought down Smyth. Referee Davey had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick. Unfortunately, Neeson atoned for his transgression as he dived athletically to keep Waterworth’s penalty out. Linfield came close again in the 34th minute as a low corner bamboozled the Carrick back four but Neeson reacted well to keep out Sean Ward’s shot. A minute later, the excellent Paul Smyth danced his way into the Carrick box, only to see his shot nestle in the side netting.
Carrick nearly snatched a fortunate goal on the stroke of half time, as a corner ball ping ponged about the Linfield area but was kept out by Glendinning’s cat like reflexes.
Half Time: Linfield 0-0 Carrick
Carrick really should have taken the lead on two separate occasions within the opening 5 minutes of the second half. Firstly Cherry, and then Dick, missed good opportunities as ball were all too easily played across the Linfield 6-yard box. Both opportunities were created by the trickery of Chines on the left with the Carrick number nine proving to be a thorn in Linfield’s side.
Despite Carrick’s bright start, Linfield took the lead on 54 minutes. Paul Smyth got the better of Carrick defenders down the left and cleverly pulled the ball back to Niall Quinn, who made no mistake with a low side foot into the corner.
Star of the show, Smyth nearly added a second in the 61st minute, but Neeson clutched his chip out of the air. Then in the 68th minute, Smyth nearly curled in directly from a corner on the left only for Neeson’s fingertips.
Going into the final 20 minutes Linfield looked the more threatening and the Blues extended their advantage in the 74th minute. Mark Stafford couldn't believe his luck as he rose unchallenged from a corner on the right, and he duly planted his header past Neeson for his first goal for the club.
The Blues should have added to their second goal, with Waterworth shooting into the sprawling body of Neeson in the 78th minute. Waterworth was at the centre of things again in the 85th minute as Daniel Kelly cut out his cross. Linfield rather finished the game with a swagger and progress to the CAS final against Ballymena on 12th January 2016.
Sponsors man of the match - Paul Smyth
Full Time: Linfield 2 - 0 Carrick