Photo: Bill Guiller
Peter Wilson reports from Windsor Park
Linfield edged out Larne with a narrow 1-0 victory at Windsor Park.
A late Josh Robinson winner was all that separated the two sides after the Blues and the Inver Reds had exchanged chances at either end.
The first effort of note for Larne came after five minutes when David McDaid controlled Albert Watson’s long ball well but his tame shot was comfortably held by Linfield keeper Rohan Ferguson.
The home side also had a good chance on 12 minutes as Shayne Lavery drove at the Larne defence but his shot through the legs of defender Graham Kelly was held low down to his right by Conor Devlin.
In a period of pressure for Larne, captain Jeff Hughes led a Larne charge, shooting twice from outside the area. The first deflected back out to him with the second falling to Ben Tilney inside the box, but unfortunately he blazed over the bar.
It was five minutes after this the Invermen came close again but Marty Donnelly’s shot inside the area from an acute angle was just over the bar.
Just before half-time, Andrew Waterworth’s shot from outside the box took a deflection, making it difficult for Devlin but he got down early to control the ball.
The last chance of the half fell to Larne. This time, Donnelly turned provider as he floated a cross in from the left-hand side but the ball went just over McDaid and Lee Lynch’s touch was not good enough to threaten Ferguson’s goal.
Lavery had two chances in the space of ten minutes in the second period. First, on 50 minutes, he managed to get on the end of a Linfield corner but the striker put it right at Devlin then nine minutes later, his long-range shot was well grasped by the Larne stopper.
With six minutes left of normal time, McDaid thought he had found the winner when his low drilled strike was brilliantly tipped onto the inside of the near upright by Ferguson and the ball dribbled out of the other side of the goal.
Little more than two minutes later, the hosts found the winner: Devlin was unable to deal with Andrew Mitchell’s awkward long free-kick launched into the box, allowing Josh Robinson to tap into an unguarded net at the back post.
In the third minute of stoppage time, in one last-gasp effort, McDaid cut inside and unleashed a decent strike but Ferguson was equal to the effort.
Linfield: Ferguson, Stafford, Waterworth (Stewart 71), Cooper, Robinson, Millar, Lavery, Fallon, Mulgrew (c) (Casement 37), McGivern, Mitchell
Unused subs: Moore, Shevlin, Clarke, Reynolds, Hume
Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Kelly, Watson, Ramsey (Gilmour 88), Sule (Randall 75), McDaid, Donnelly, Tilney (McKendry 75) Lynch, Hughes (c)
Unused subs: Mitchell, McEleney, Graham, Andrade