LINFIELD 1 COLERAINE 0
LINFIELD managed to carve out their first win under David Healy, thanks to Jimmy Callacher’s 47th-minute strike, and a resistance of pressure from Coleraine.
The win, not only essential for restoring faith in their rookie coach, will also serve as a vital boost of confidence for the whole squad.
Nerves left Linfield looking exposed to start with, leaving Coleraine’s Ruairi Harkin and Neil McCafferty to be creative in dangerous areas, despite the rough conditions.
The Blues were playing into the wind in the first half and fought hard to cope effectively with Coleraine’s attack. Having gone into the game following four straight defeats, their worst record for 18 years, they had everything to prove against one of the most convincing Coleraine sides Oran Kearney has ever put out.
Their first chance came through Ian Parkhill’s double effort inside 15 minutes, who was first blocked in the goalmouth by team-mate James McLaughlin, before the ‘keeper stopped the rebound.
Andy Waterworth responded but had his shot blocked by Howard Beverland, while Aaron Burns headed David Kee’s curling free-kick wide.
Coleraine got things moving every time down the left, in the first half. Rodney Brown and Darren McCauley linked well and had no bother escaping their markers. Moreover, Linfield let them slip.
Parkhill’s great feet helped slip past two blue shirts before crossing to Harkin who hit over on 37 minutes.
Mark Stafford was in a great position to convert Kee’s corner on 43 minutes but was headed over.
Determined to improve their chances, Linfield won a string of corners immediately after the restart, which gave way to a breakthrough.
Kee’s delivery was eventually powered past Michael Doherty by Callacher, two minutes into the second half.
Thing quietened down at both ends thereafter; Guy Bates should have done better on 55 minutes but striking over, but Coleraine didn’t show much of a reaction to going a goal down.
McCauley was gifted a chance at the back post on 74 minutes, after Stafford let Harkin slip to race down the flank, but McCauley was too late to meet the cross.
Chances became harder for Linfield to muster in the gales, Kee’s free-kick looked dangerous and Jamie Mulgrew blasted over.
Lyndon Kane had a superb game, restricting Linfield’s efforts in front of goal, including cleverly dispossessing Bates, then backheeling off him and out for a goal kick.
Ross Glendinning stopped everything from unravelling in stoppage time by leaping with a wonder-save to deny McCauley.
LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Reece Glendinning, Stafford, Callacher, Clarke, Smyth (Quinn, 81), Mulgrew, Kee, Burns, Waterworth, Bates.
Subs not used: Deane, Haughey, Millar, Ward.
COLERAINE: Doherty, Kane, Douglas, Beverland, Falconer, McCauley, McCafferty, Harkin, Parkhill (McGonigle, 59), Brown (Lyons, 59), McLaughlin (Morrow, 83).
Subs not used: Higgins, Watt.
REFEREE: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)