IRISH LEAGUE: Linfield return to top of table after win at Warrenpoint

Linfield Aaron Burns scores the opening goal against  Warrenpoint
Linfield Aaron Burns scores the opening goal against Warrenpoint


David Healy’s managerial career got off to the best possible start as his side moved to the top of the league with a win over bottom side Warrenpoint Town in his first match in charge.

Two goals from Aaron Burns either side of a poacher’s goal from Guy Bates saw the Blues ease to victory in the end despite being put under plenty of pressure by the plucky home side.

Warrenpoint began the brighter of the two sides and had four chances on goal before Linfield opened the scoring just before the half hour.

The opening opportunity for the home side arrived on 12 minutes when John Boyle took a quick free kick to Stephen Moan down the right. He whipped the ball in and after Stephen Hughes had been unable to get a connection on it, Daniel Hughes did but could only direct his effort wide.

They went closer six minutes later when the ball fell to Liam Bagnall just outside the area but he dragged his first time shot wide of the left hand spot.

Barry Gray’s men went even closer on 20 minutes only to be denied by some astute goalkeeping from Ross Glendinning. Daniel Hughes broke clear midway inside the Linfield half before slipping the ball left to his strike partner Stephen Murray. However, Glendinning raced quickly from his line to smother Murray’s effort before the danger was eventually cleared.

It almost looked as if would be a matter of time before Warrenpoint would break the deadlock before half-time and it needed a goal-line clearance to keep things scoreless.

Mark Hughes whipped the ball in from the left and after Mark Stafford opted to let it go, Daniel Hughes seized the opportunity to latch onto it. Glendinning forced the forward wide but Hughes managed to pull the ball back to the onrushing Moan to shoot. However, despite beating Glendinning, the midfielder’s shot lacked power and Stafford was able to get back to clear from his goal-line.

After all those chances and their domination of possession, Warrenpoint then proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot with some statuesque defending that allowed the away side to go in front.

Guy Bates drove the ball in low from the right where Adam Salley was unlucky not to get a touch on it. However, when Kirk Millar fired a similar ball in from the same position, the hosts defence and goalkeeper stood and watched but Aaron Burns didn’t and he was on hand to slot into the empty net at the back post despite the best efforts of Darren King.

Burns nearly doubled Linfield’s advantage six minutes before the break when he got on the end of a Millar corner but the midfielder could only head into the ground and over the bar when well placed.

After Murray had shot straight at Glendinning and Haughey had headed straight at Shanahan, the game died down somewhat but Warrenpoint were given a lifeline with 16 minutes to go when they were awarded a penalty.

A slick move down the left saw Murray play the ball inside to sub Conor McDonald and as he burst into the penalty area, Sean Ward barged him to the ground and Referee Mervyn Smyth had no option but to point to the spot. However, Daniel Hughes drove his penalty off the top of the crossbar and over.

Linfield then made Warrenpoint pay just four minutes later as Guy Bates capitalised on another defensive error to put the game to bed. Dermot McVeigh attempted to head back to Shanahan but Bates was alert and nipped in to poke the ball past the keeper and into the net.

The icing was put on the cake for David Healy and his side when Burns converted a penalty five minutes from time after Jordan Dane had been sent off for taking down Bates in the box.

Warrenpoint Town: Shanahan, King, M Hughes (Kierans 67), Murray, Moan (McDonald 70), McVeigh, S Hughes, D Hughes, Dane, Bagnall, Boyle

Subs not used: Clarke, Smith, Donnelly

Linfield: Glendinning, Stafford, Haughey, Bates, Millar (Sproule 83), Burns, Ward, Clarke, Kee (Lowry 68), Mulgrew (Callacher 87), Salley

Subs not used: Deane, Quinn

Referee: Mervyn Smyth (Dundonald)