ARDS 0 LINFIELD 2
A Jimmy Callacher double gave David Healy’s Linfield a two-goal victory over managerless Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena.
His two first-half strikes lit-up and otherwise unremarkable match, that saw Ards hold their own against Healy’s in-form Linfield.
There was no shortage of intrigue off the field for Ards fans. Pre-match, the club announced over the tannoy that 12 people had applied to the vacant manager’s position and that the board hope to announce a new gaffer this week.
Meanwhile, former Glentoran captain Colin Nixon watched on from the stands. It’s understood that Nixon has applied to replace Niall Currie.
On the pitch, caretaker manager John Bailie took charge of Ards for the second time, but it was an impressive Linfield who left with the three points.
They set out their intentions in the opening minutes, dominating possession and creating chances. The first chance of note arrived in the fifth minute when Ross Gaynor burst through the Ards defence, but the Irishman hit an early shot well over the crossbar.
While Linfield were the dominate force it took a set-piece for the Blues to unlock a stubborn Ards defence.
A 17th minute Niall Quinn corner-kick picked out Jimmy Callacher at the back post, who rose above the Ards defence to bar a header towards goal. Deputy goalkeeper Liam McAuley got both hands to the ball but he was only able to push the ball into the net.
The Red & Blues responded well, creating a number of chances of their own.
In the 23rd minute Joe McKinney won possession high up the field, bursting through the Linfield defence before sending a goalkeeper shot towards goal, but the 15-yard effort didn’t turn enough, disappearing past the far post.
On the half hour mark a Craig McMillen corner-kick caused confusion in the Linfield box, but Ards were unable to turn the ball towards goal.
As the half progress, Linfield rediscovered their zeal. Andy Waterworth smashed a 34th minute effort over the bar from just outside the area.
Jimmy Callagher thought he had scored his second goal of the day in the 43rd minute. He powered home a Kirk Millar corner with an impressive header, but the goal was ruled out as referee Steven Taylor believed the former Glentoran player pushed a defender.
Callacher didn’t have to wait long for his second goal of the day. He found the net in the 44th minute from another set-piece.
Millar’s curling free-kick found Mark Haughey at the back post, who headed the ball across goal. Callacher was on hand to volley the ball into the net from just outside the six-yard box.
At the start of the second half, Ards had a half chance when Linfield failed to clear a free-kick. Centre-back Johnny Taylor drove a low volley towards goal but Gareth Deane, who was deputising for the injured Roy Carroll, held into the effort.
A minute later, McKinney could have scored for Ards, but he failed to get onto the end of an Emmet Friars knock-down, but the alert Deane was quickly off his line to smother the ball.
Ards winger Craig McMillen lost his cool midway through the half that forced manager John Bailie to haul him before he received a second booking. McMillen and the Linfield support exchanged a few cross words as he heading for the changing room.
While Ards defended well, Andy Waterworth occassionally gave them some problems. In the 65th minute he fired the ball over the ball when looked certain to score.
Kirk Millar had a chance two minutes later when Ards struggled with another set-piece, but his goalbound effort was blocked by a defender.
Ards pushed hard to find a way back into the game, but they couldn’t pick Linfield apart with good chances thin on the ground.
While Ards didn’t suffer the hiding many predicted, the Blues were well worth their win, with Jimmy Callacher taking the plaudits.
ARDS: McAuley; Hall, Taylor, Friars, Ruddy; McAllister, McCullough (82 McComb), Cherry (69 Tommons), McMillen (63 Tommons); McKinney; Arthurs Subs Not Used: McMullan, Liggett
LINFIELD: Deane; Haughey, Stafford (HT Casement), Callacher, Quinn; Ward, Lowry, Mulgrew; Millar (77 Clarke), Waterworth, Gaynor (89 Carson)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Burns
Ref: Steven Taylor