Jimmy Callacher brace at Ards sends Linfield top of Irish League

Linfield's Jimmy Callacher scores the opening goal against Ards
Linfield's Jimmy Callacher scores the opening goal against Ards

ARDS 0 LINFIELD 2

A Jimmy Callacher brace in Bangor sent Linfield to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership on New Year’s Day.

Defender Callacher scored two second-half headers as the Blues defeated Ards 2-0, in a hard fought encounter played in front of a large holiday crowd at the Bangor Fuels Arena.

Colin Nixon’s Ards have a history of making life difficult for David Healy and his Linfield team, and things were no different on Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, it was Ards who had the first big chance of the game. In the third minute, Jonah Mitchell found himself in a yard of space. The young midfielder drilled a low shot at goal, forcing Roy Carroll into a smart save, down to his left.

When Ards defeated Linfield in Bangor in October, striker Mark Kelly was the star of the show scoring two fine goals. He tried his luck again in the seventh minute, working his way through the Linfield defence, before hitting the side-netting from an acute angle.

As the half wore on Linfield improved, dominating possession, but the found Ards’ stubborn defence difficult to unlock.

Kym Nelson worked Roy Carroll in the 18th minute. Nelson’s powerful 20-yard free-kick was pushed away by the strong arms of Carroll.

Late in the half, Linfield turned the screw. Craig McClean was forced to make a goal-saving intervention in the 40th minute, while Niall Quinn fired over from just inside the area in stoppage time.

While Ards held their own in the first half, Linfield upped their efforts in the second half.

Andrew Waterworth really should have scored in the 56th minute when he raced away from the Ards defence, but he was unable to score against his former club, screwing his one-one-one shot wide of Johnston’s goal.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 59th minute. Niall Quinn whipped over one of his trademark corner-kicks, picking out Jimmy Callacher who powered a header beyond the reach of Johnston.

Linfield doubled their advantage with a copycat goal in the 75th minute. Again, Quinn supplied the perfect corner-kick delivery for Callacher, who headed into the unguarded net. Ards goalkeeper Johnston came for the corner, but he was unable to get his hands on the ball.

Callacher’s double essentially killed the game as a contest, with Linfield eventually easing to a victory that saw them return to the top of the league.

Ards remain rooted to the foot of the table, two points shy of relegation rivals Newry City.

Ards: S. Johnston; Kerr, McAleenan, Byers, McClean; E. McAllister, Nelson, Cherry (60 D. McAllister), J. Kelly, Mitchell (70 McLellan); M. Kelly (77 Boyd)

Unused Subs: Davidson, M. Johnston, Brown, McKenna, Boyd, McLellan, D. McAllister

Linfied: Carroll; Casement, Robinson, Callacher, Quinn; Millar, Fallon, Mulgrew, Cooper (78 Clarke); Stewart (78 Kearns), Waterworth

Unused Subs: Deane, Stafford, Garrett, Mitchell, Reynolds

Ref: Evan Boyce