Linfield land big blow with Boxing Day victory

Mark McAllister is challenged by Jay Magee

Mark McAllister is challenged by Jay Magee

  • by Gareth Fullerton

Linfield were indulging in more Christmas cheer as they extended their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership on Thursday.

A 2-1 victory over Glentoran – coupled with their title rivals dropping precious points – was the perfect Boxing Day for the Blues.

As the New Year approaches, David Jeffrey’s side sit six points clear at the top of the table.

It is a healthy position to be in after 22 games, and one the Blues will be looking to cement in the weeks ahead.

Goals from Andy Waterworth and Aaron Burns – from the penalty spot – earned this win on Mersey Street.

David Scullion forced home a last-minute reply for the Glens, who also had Mark Clarke sent off in injury time following a clash with Jamie Mulgrew.

The win keeps Linfield in pole position ahead of the January transfer window, one that could see plenty of activity on both sides of the ‘Big Two’ divide.

For Jeffrey, it was a case of ‘job done’ for his side in east Belfast.

“I thought the first half was pretty even, and a typical Big Two game,” he said.

“The tackles were flying and it was high tempo. But I didn’t think we were playing to our full potential.

“We came out firing in the second half and controlled most of it. We made the two goals, and I don’t think anyone could say we didn’t deserve the win and three points.

“Our primary focus was on getting the win and getting the three points – and we have managed that.

“It has been a pleasing afternoon.”

Reflecting on his side’s lead going into the New Year, Jeffrey added: “I wouldn’t have imagined being six points clear at January.

“This is a brand new group of players, and it is the fifth new side we have brought together. Eleven players left the club during the summer, and it was a rebuilding process.

“It has taken time to gel, and we are a work in progress.

“A major thing for the players was learning life at Linfield. Linfield is always a scalp, and everyone raises their game against us.

“The players have learnt that quickly, and they have now experienced the expectation and demands at Linfield.

“We are not getting carried away, but progress has been pleasing.”

All of the main talking points arrived in the second half of yesterday’s game.

Former Oval favourite Waterworth broke the deadlock in the 49th minute, scoring from an acute angle after Elliott Morris had saved the striker’s initial effort.

It was 2-0 seven minutes later when Jason Hill tripped Mark McAllister inside his own box.

Up stepped Burns to rifle home the spot-kick.

The Glens threatened a grandstand finish when substitute Scullion struck in the 90th minute – the winger pouncing to score from five yards after Jordan Stewart’s free-kick had rebounded off the post.

The Glens were reduced to 10 men in injury time, with referee Raymond Crangle producing a straight red card to Clarke for an alleged head-butt against Mulgrew.

Glens boss Eddie Patterson admitted his side were undone by a lacklustre 15-minute period at the start of the season half.

“It was a very disappointing day,” he said.

“We didn’t come out in the first 15 minutes of the second half and Linfield steamrollered us.

“We didn’t respond to that until we were two goals down. But even at that Linfield could have scored one or two more.

“We have learnt a valuable lesson here today, in that you have to play for 93 or 94 minutes.

“We performed well during the first half, but the first 15 minutes of the second half killed us.”




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