Blues forget their league woes to book place in Shield decider

Linfield's Niall Quinn celebrates scoring against Carrick Rangers during Tuesday nigh'ts Toals County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park.
Linfield's Niall Quinn celebrates scoring against Carrick Rangers during Tuesday nigh'ts Toals County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park.

Linfield brushed off their Premiership woes to progress to the final of the Toals County Antrim Shield last night.

Second half goals from Niall Quinn and Mark Stafford saw the Blues break down the resistance of Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park.

Quinn coolly slotted home the opener in the 56th minute, with Stafford heading home the second 15 minutes from time.

The two goals came after Andy Waterworth had a 28th-minute penalty saved by Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson.

The victory keeps Linfield on course for a first trophy success since March 2014 when they lifted the Shield courtesy of a penalty shootout win over Crusaders.

They will meet Ballymena United in this season’s final on January 12, the side who defeated the Blues on penalties in the 2012 decider.

Waterworth’s penalty miss was the main talking point of a disjointed opening half.

It came in the 28th minute after Carrick keeper Neeson upended Paul Smyth inside the box.

Neeson redeemed himself with a superb save down low to his left to palm Waterworth’s spot-kick around the post.

Linfield dominated the half without turning their possession into any tangible reward.

Smyth hit the side netting with a shot from an acute angle in the 11th minute after Neeson allowed Mark Stafford’s long ball to skip past him on the greasy surface.

Waterworth then went on a meandering run which saw the striker cut in from the left before firing a low shot wide.

Smyth then latched on to an innocuous through ball but could only guide his shot into the side netting.

Despite the dominance it was Carrick who almost forged ahead at the end of the half.

Miguel Chines skipped past Jimmy Callacher on the left before crossing for Adam Dick, but Stafford managed to scramble back and deflect Dick’s shot past the post.

And from the resulting corner Kyle Cherry’s cross was met by Chines’ glancing header that was almost deflected past Ross Glendinning in the Linfield goal.

Carrick threatened again four minutes after the break when Cherry blazed over from Chines’ low cross.

Dick then fired wide from close range following another teasing cross from Joe McNeill.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 56th minute with Quinn claiming his first goal of the season.

Smyth was the catalyst, finding space on the left before laying a pass into Quinn’s path and the winger coolly slotted his shot past Neeson.

It was 2-0 in the 75th minute when defender Stafford was afforded the freedom of Windsor to head home Quinn’s corner.

Waterworth was denied by Neeson in the 80th minute after being sent clear on goal.

LINFIELD: Ro. Glendinning, Stafford, Callacher, Waterworth, Millar (Frazer 88), Ward, Clarke, Mulgrew (Burns 88), Re. Glendinning, Quinn, Smyth.

Subs not used: Deane, Haughey, Bates.

CARRICK: Neeson, Traynor (Browne 78), Kelly, Harmon, McNeill, Cherry, Chines, Roy, McCloskey, Doyle (Kane 72), Dick (Surgenor 60).

Subs not used: Johnston, Taggart.

Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor).