Linfield preparing for final as normal says David Healy

David Healy says Linfield will continue their preparations for Friday's night Irish Cup final despite Crusaders seeking legal advice following their defeat in the semi-final.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 10:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 10:36 am

The Crues have appointed counsel to look into the manner of their penalty shootout loss to Larne after goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey was dismissed for coming off his line.

The Blues comprehensively dispatched Ballymena United 3-0 in the second semi-final to set up a meeting with the Inver Park outfit, and Healy says their focus is on the game.

"We'll prepare for Friday as if the game is going to go ahead," he told BBC Sport.

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Shayne Lavery celebrates his second goal

On Crusaders controversial defeat Healy added: "I don't think any semi-final deserves to be fought out in that sort of manner.

"I spoke to [Crusaders manager] Stephen [Baxter] as he was leaving and he was disappointed and disheartened. A man like Stephen has not only been an icon as a player at the clubs he has played for, but he has been a super manager for Crusaders. I don't think any semi-final deserves to be fought out in that sort of manner"

Dadly Shayne Lavery bagged a delicious double to help punch Linfield’s ticket to the final.

Healy’s boys turned in a performance of pace and power, garnished with glimpses of brilliant finishing by Lavery, to end Ballymena United's hopes of appearing in their second successive final.

It was midfielder Stephen Fallon who got the party started at Mourneview Park before Lavery took centre stage.

The Blues may have been disappointed at the weekend, failing to get over the line in the race for the League title, but there was certainly no hangover from their defeat by Larne – the double is now a distinct possibility for Healy and his troops.

Linfield will meet Larne in the showcase game of the season on Friday night at the same venue.

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey made two changes to the team that won at Dungannon Swifts at the weekend, handing starting slots to Conor Keeley and Sean Graham in place of the injured Kofi Balmer and Tria Hume, who is currently on loan from the Blues.

David Healy also made two alterations to his starting eleven – drafting in Cammy Palmer and Conor Pepper for Mark Stafford and Jordan Stewart.

It was a frantic start by both teams in the wet conditions with chances created in the opening minutes. Linfield’s Joel Cooper fired in a dangerous cross from the left that was mopped up by Ross Redman and, when the action switched to the other end, Leroy Millar just failed to get on to the end of a great Paul McElroy delivery.

The Blues, quick and incisive on the break, opened up the United defence again on 10 minutes. Palmer’s clever pass sent Stephen Fallon clear on the right, but when he whipped in a low cross, there were no takers in the middle.

And, seconds later, Shayne Lavery’s pace created havoc at the back before finding the unmarked Niall Quinn, but the defender shot straight at goalkeeper Ross Glendinning.

Linfield had better luck on 19 minutes. Lavery capitalised on an error from Keeley and, when he drilled in cross, it was touched home at the near post by Fallon.

Fallon was almost at it again on the half-hour. Kirk Millar’s cross was headed clear by Keeley, but the midfielder was first to react on the edge of the box only to see his shot flash wide.

The Sky Blues then had penalty claim waved away by referee Jamie Robinson when Keely’s scuffed shot was ushered clear by skipper Jamie Mulgrew, the United players protesting the midfielder had handled the effort after a bout of pinball in the box.

Healy’s boys should have been out of sight four minutes before the break. Lavery’s inch perfect pass sent Cooper totally free in the left channel, but the midfielder shamefully could only blast the ball against the body of Glendinning.

Lavery required merely four minutes after the restart to double his team’s lead. The alert striker gobbled up a poor pass from Josh Kelly and, after outpacing Jim Ervin, his shot cannoned back off Glendinning, but followed up to poke home the rebound.

United were on the ropes. Keeley prevented Lavery from scoring again when he managed to smuggled the ball away for a corner kick before Cooper rapped the base of the post following Millar’s corner kick.

But United were almost back in it on the hour. Ross Redman’s cross was met by Paul McElroy, whose header clipped the top of the crossbar with Chris Johns rooted to the spot.

The Blues sealed the deal on 63 minutes. Niall Quinn’s header was met by lethal Lavery, and his header bulleted past a startled Glendinning.

Lavery then missed the easiest chance of the night with 14 minutes left, somehow blasting a Cooper cross high over the top.

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