IRISH LEAGUE: Linfield boss David Healy hails makeshift goalkeeper Mark Haughey

Mark Haughey impressed between the posts on Saturday
Mark Haughey impressed between the posts on Saturday

Linfield manager David Healy saluted makeshift goalkeeper Mark Haughey after this Windsor Park thriller.

The big Newry defender was forced go pull on the goalkeeper’s jersey early in the second half when Ross Glendinning was red carded after flattening Declan O’Brien.

When Haughey fastened up the gloves, his first job was to face a Kevin Braniff penalty kick. But he was up to the task, pulling off a sensational save.

It was only one of a spot kick riddled 90 minutes. Aaron Burns shot the Blues ahead eight minutes before the break, sending Jonny Tuffey the wrong way after Conor Dillon handled a Reece Glendinning shot.

Andy McGrory showed Braniff how it should be done 10 minutes from time when Belfast whistler Crangle controversially awarded yet another penalty, which was tough on Reece Glendinning, who deemed guilty of handling a Joel Cooper effort.

The pendulum certainly swung in Glenavon’s favour following Ross Glendinning’s dismissal, but apart from McGrory’s excellent spot-kick, Haughey looked unbeatable.

Healy insisted not naming a back-up goalkeeper among the substitutes was was a tactical gamble.

“Not naming a goalkeeper on the bench allows me other options,” said the former Northern Ireland striker.

“It’s been like that for a couple of months now. Will I change my mind? Probably not.

“I spoke to the big man (Haughey) a while back about going into goals if needed. He made me aware he’s a former GAA player, with good co-ordination in terms of handling a ball. I had no problem with him taking over from Ross.”

Healy knew what was coming when Crangle deliberated following Glendinning’s error, but admitted Glenavon’s second penalty was “harsh”.

He added: “I knew a red card was coming out– the referee thought long and hard about it. It was always going to be a battle once we went down to 10 man, so I have to be please with the character of the team.

“Their second penalty was a really harsh decision. If you are going to award a penalty kick for an incident like that, well, referees are going to award nine or 10 in every game.

“I spoke to him (Crangle) after the game. He explained his version of the incident. He said to me that Reece moved his hand towards the ball. I’m not so sure about that.

“We’ve got to take it on trust that referees get it right. They have a difficult job. From where I was, it was very harsh.”

Healy described it as a point gained, even though the Blues failed to cut Crusaders’ lead at the top of the table.

He added: “We had chances to win it right at the finish. Andy (Waterworth) put a header over the crossbar and then he just couldn’t get a finish to Matty Clarke’s cross.

“But we were under the cosh for quite a bit. A draw was the least we deserved. We showed big hearts and that pleased me.

“We were probably relieved to come away with a point under the circumstances.”

Glenavon chief Gary Hamilton was in no doubt his team deserved all three points.

He said: “I’m devastated for the fans that we didn’t win the game because we brought a great support to Windsor. I am proud of the reaction I got from the boys after having a go at them at half time.

“We weren’t ourselves in the first-half; we didn’t have the same energy as we usually play with, we weren’t closing the ball down the way we normally do and we weren’t creating chances.

“It was pretty dire on our behalf and we were lucky Linfield weren’t firing on all cylinders either. We had a good chat with them and told them where they were going wrong and thankfully they reacted.

“Anyone who was there will see that we dominated the game and the possession.”