IRISH LEAGUE: Linfield claim vital win over Cliftonville at Solitude

Cliftonville's Caoimhin Bonner with Linfield's Paul Smyth

Cliftonville's Caoimhin Bonner with Linfield's Paul Smyth

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CLIFTONVILLE 0 LINFIELD 2

Linfield maintained their title drive with a 2-0 victory against Cliftonville..

Goals in either half from Jimmy Callacher and Paul Smyth sealed a crucial win for David Healy’s side at Solitude.

It keeps the Blues five points behind Crusaders – having played a game more – as the Danske Bank Premiership approaches the split.

Callacher bagged his third goal of the season with a close-range finish in the 37th minute.

Smyth doubled the lead in the 67th minute to seal the win for Linfield – their second in the space of two weeks at Solitude following a 3-0 Irish Cup success on March 5.

Callacher’s goal was a rare bright spark in a tame opening half – it arrived in the 37th minute courtesy of a close-range finish from the defender.

Ross Gaynor whipped in a free-kick which Mark Haughey got a head to, the effort was stopped on the line by Peter Burke but Callacher was on hand to poke the ball home.

Cliftonville enjoyed plenty of possession but it was Linfield who dominated the chances.

In the 19th minute Sean Ward had a volley cleared off the line by Caoimhin Bonner, while Haughey missed an open net with a header after Burke failed to deal with Gaynor’s free-kick.

Paul Smyth had a low drive saved by Burke in the 36th minute before Callacher struck less than 60 seconds later.

Gaynor tested Burke with a volley from an acute angle in the 40th minute, with Cliftonville’s only chance of note coming from the boot of Jude Winchester who could only find the side netting midway through the half.

Cliftonville sought a quick riposte in the second half and Chris Curran had a low drive blocked by Callacher in the 50th minute.

Linfield responded and almost doubled their lead one minute later when Smyth’s vicious shot from the right cannoned off the inside of the post.

Smyth fluffed his lines again in the 55th minute when he somehow missed the target after being teed up by Reece Glendinning.

At the other end Curran bundled a shot inches past the post after Linfield failed to deal with James Knowles’ free-kick.

It was 2-0 in the 67th minute when Smyth was afforded too much room.

The diminutive striker was allowed to surge down the middle before firing a low strike past Burke from 25 yards, the Reds keeper getting a hand to the shot but unable to keep it out.

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Ives, Bonner, Knowles, Curran (George 72), M. Donnelly (Hughes 85), Murray, Brennan, Smyth, Catney, Winchester (J. Donnelly 46).

Subs not used: Flynn, Garrett.

LINFIELD: Ro. Glendinning, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Burns (Millar 66), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew, Re. Glendinning, Gaynor, Smyth.

Subs not used: Lowry, McLellan, Kee. Quinn.

Referee: Rob Harvey (Dublin)