Jordan Stewart’s double delight as Linfield see off Coleraine
Jordan Stewart’s delicious double – two ‘Goal of the Season’ contenders – helped Linfield turn up the heat in the Danske Bank Premiership title race at Windsor Park.
The 26-year-old was simply unplayable in the top-of-the-table clash with Coleraine.
His two first-half strikes would have been worth the admission money alone, if fans had been allowed into the international arena – it was Stewart at this best.
Substitute Curtis Allen pulled one back for the Bannsiders with five minutes remaining but there was no denying the Blues a key win.
The 2-1 result leaves David Healy’s boys in a commanding position in the league table – a whopping 12 points ahead of the Bannsiders.
Linfield’s only blemish on the night was losing midfielder Niall Quinn just after the hour after picking up a second yellow card, while Coleraine were reduced to 10 men deep into injury-time when Aaron Canning was dismissed – a straight red card for a trip on Christy Manzinga.
Healy named the same team that won at Dungannon Swifts on Saturday night.
Oran Kearney’s Bannsiders were held to a scoreless draw at home to Glenavon last time out, which prompted the boss to reshape his pack - introducing Aaron Jarvis, Jamie Glackin, Matthew Shevlin and Eoin Bradley, with Evan Tweed, Ian Parkhill, Curtis Allen and James McLaughlin dropping out.
It was the Blues who asked all the early questions with Navid Nasseri testing Gareth Deane after only five minutes.
But there was no stopping Stewart hitting that brilliant opener on 17 minutes.
It was typical Stewart, twisting and turning past Canning and Stevie O’Donnell before lashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
It should really have been two, three minutes later.
This time it was Nasseri who capitalised on a poor clearance from Aaron Traynor with a great touch...before hammering his effort wide.
The Bannsiders at last got a bit of respite following that frenzied opening, with Traynor finding Jarvis romping through the middle, but his shot flashed well over the top.
Linfield missed another great chance 10 minutes before the break as Lavery waltzed past the challenge of Canning and, with only Deane to beat, he screwed his shot wide, with the unmarked Stewart appealing for a simple pass.
Incredibly, Coleraine were gifted an opportunity 60 seconds later when goalkeeper Chris Johns’ clearance went straight to Glackin, who was hauled down by Quinn just as he pulled the trigger.
Bradley blasted the 20-yard free kick high and wide.
After Coleraine had a penalty appeal turned down when Lyndon Kane’s shot came off Jimmy Callacher, the Blues broke with a vengeance with Lavery sending Stewart racing clear, but instead of returning the favour, he elected to shoot, only to see his effort fizz wide.
But Stewart struck again seconds from the interval. Lavery did brilliantly on the left, getting the better of Kane and Canning before his cutback found Stewart, whose dancing feet left Deane and O’Donnell on the ground before shooting home.
Although the second half wasn’t played at the same tempo, the theme continued after the break, with Nasseri crossing for Kirk Millar on 54 minutes, but he could only shoot into the side-netting.
Deane then pulled off a wonder save to deny Cammy Palmer’s thunderbolt – the keeper injured a hand in making the save and had to be replaced by Marty Gallagher.
But the dynamic of the game changed on 62 minutes when Quinn picked up his second yellow card of the night and was dismissed.
Coleraine reduced the deficit with five minutes left as Glackin’s precision cross was met by Allen and he bulleted home a header.
But their chances evaporated on 94 minutes when Canning departed for his foul on Manzinga.
LINFIELD: Johns, Larkins, Haughey, Callacher, Clarke, Quinn, Palmer, Millar, Nasseri (Fallon, 64), Stewart, Lavery (Manzinga, 75)
Subs (not used): Moore, Pepper, Stafford, Newberry, Waterworth
COLERAINE: Deane (Gallagher 60), Kane, O’Donnell, Canning, Traynor, Carson, Lowry, Jarvis (Allen, 70), Glackin, Shevlin (Parkhill, 70), Bradley
Subs (not used): Wilson, Tweed, Nixon, Beverland
REFEREE: Andrew Davey
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