Glentoran 0 Linfield 1
Linfield returned to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a 1-0 win over Glentoran on Friday night.
Matt Tipton’s second half penalty sealed a vital victory for the Blues at the Oval.
Tipton sent Elliott Morris the wrong way in the 51st minute after Jordan Stewart had brought down Sean Ward inside the box.
The win sees Linfield go two points clear of champions Cliftonville with nine games remaining this season.
The midfield battle dominated a first half played in testing conditions.
Linfield midfielder Jamie Mulgrew escaped any punishment when he appeared to elbow Aaron Boyd in the chest in an off-the-ball incident in the 12th minute.
Referee Mervyn Smyth spoke to both players but refrained from reaching for his pocket.
Andy Waterworth showcased his electric pace in the 31st minute, ghosting past Calum Birney on the left before cutting inside the firing a low drive into the side netting.
The Blues went close again in the 36th minute, with Billy Joe Burns picking out Sproule at the back post with a deep cross, but the winger’s downward header was palmed away by the alert Morris.
Jay Magee came to Glentoran’s rescue less than a minute later to deny Sproule.
The Blues winger was sent clear on goal by Philip Lowry, and when his shot was saved by Morris, the ball rebounded goalwards off Birney before Magee’s last-ditch clearance on the line.
Lowry then grazed the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the box as the Blues started to dominate.
Despite the pressure it was the Glens who almost forged ahead in the 45th minute, but Jonny Tuffey denied Curtis Allen not once but twice after the striker had been sent through on goal.
It took Linfield six minutes of the second half to get their breakthrough.
It came after Stewart nudged into Ward inside the box - referee Mervyn Smyth pointing to the spot.
And up stepped Tipton to send Morris the wrong way for his 11th goal of the season.
At the other end Glentoran were claiming a penalty when Boyd tumbled inside the box, but referee Smyth was unmoved.
Morris denied Waterworth in the 74th minute, blocking the striker’s angled shot with his feet.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Gordon, Hill, Birney, Magee, McAlorum, Nelson (McGuigan 87), Stewart, O’Hanlon (McCaffrey 75), Allen, Boyd (Miskimmin 80)
Subs not used: Henderson, Addis
LINFIELD: Tuffey, BJ Burns, Haughey, Ward, Quinn, Mulgrew, Lowry, Gault, Sproule, Tipton (McAllister 70), Waterworth
Subs not used: Carvill, Reece Glendinning, Ross Clarke, Deane
Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Dundonald)