Linfield and Glenavon focused on Irish Cup final

Glenavons Mark Sykes with Linfields Stephen Fallon
Glenavons Mark Sykes with Linfields Stephen Fallon

IT was Glenavon Reserves v Linfield Reserves as next week’s Irish Cup finalists kept one eye on next Saturday’s showpiece decider.

In the end it was the young Linfield outfit, playing in orange, who won - but Glenavon fans won’t mind as long as their own orange outfit see off the Blues at Windsor Park next week.

Ruairi Croskery’s header was the only difference between the two sides as both managers gave youth a chance. In fact both bosses named 11 changes to their sides, with Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton playing himself at centre half!

And, for the 70 odd minutes he was on the pitch, Glenavon kept a clean sheet!

Mark Stafford could have put the visitors in front but his hearer, from Niall Quinn’s corner, flew wide of the mark.

Declan O’Brien will be wondering how he failed to stay on his feet for Glenavon’s first chance. Mark Sykes played a great pass forward to the striker, but just as he was taking aim he lost his balance and the ball missed the target.

Just before the break Mark McLellan headed over, while a cheeky backheel by Ruairi Croskery missed the target.

Just after the restart McLellan chanced his arm from 20 yards after taking a touch but his effort was wide of James McGrath’s goal.

However, Glenavon’s young charges were to be left heartbroken on 82 minutes when the unmarked Croskery headed home from an Eamonn Scanell corner.

Linfield boss, David Healy, said: “I’m pleased that we came out of the game without any injuries or suspensions, obviously with the cup final next week.

“We gave a few younger boys debuts and I’m pleased that we won the game.

“I said to the boys at half time to try and find a way to win the game. We kept a clean sheet and scored a goal from a set play.

“It’s not been a successful season for us yet. As manager of Linfield you need to be challenging for every trophy. We’ve got a chance next week to put that right and hopefully it should be a good game and hopefully we will come away with some silverwear.”

He added, “I think there will be a few changes for both teams next week. It’s been a difficult place for Linfield to come this season. I’m pleased with the result but I don’t think it will give us any psychological advantage.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, was looking to the future with his young line-up.

He said: “I thought the young lads today were very good. The desire they showed was very good and the passages of play were a joy to watch.

“I’m just gutted that they didn’t get a result because they probably deserved one. I didn’t think we deserved to get beaten, that’s for sure.

“We finished the game with two fourth years, two fifth years and two in lower sixth. Alex McIlmail is a fourth year and [former Northern Ireland international] Stephen Robinson’s son, Harry, came on and he’s a fourth year as well.

“There’s two fifth years as well in Bobby Burns and Daniel McKeown so it’s great for the club that we’ve got some young players coming through.

“None of them let themselves down and that was the name of the game.”

He added, “Normally when I see them play they’re playing in front of 20 people. Today was a different situation and they all passed with flying colours.”