Sports Direct Premiership: Matchday 22

Linfield 2 - 1 Coleraine
22 Dec 2023 - 19:45Windsor Park

SET-PIECES would cost Coleraine dear at Windsor Park as the Bannsiders were beaten 2-1 by Linfield…

Stripes boss Oran Kearney made two changes for the contest as Jack O’Mahony started at the expense of Lee Lynch, whilst Darren Cole returned to the back four as Michael McCrudden dropped out.

On a wet evening in the capital, Coleraine would have two sights of goal inside the opening 20 minutes as Dean Jarvis’ strike from the edge of the box cleared the crossbar, before a strong run and chip by Conor McKendry was narrowly off target.

However, Linfield would create the best chance of the half on 32 minutes as Matthew Clarke’s cross was on the money for Rhys Annett but the teenager’s first-time volley was smashed over the bar.

Just before the half-time whistle, the Blues would work the ball to Aodhan Doherty who hit a strike towards goal that was palmed away by Gareth Deane as Matthew Fitzpatrick was flagged for offside with the rebound.

Within a minute of the restart, Kearney’s men thought they had taken the lead as a pin-point cross by Dean Jarvis was met by the onrushing Andy Scott. The winger got his toe to the ball and could only watch on as his effort smashed off the crossbar and cleared away to safety.

Just after Annett would send a strike over the bar, the hosts would take the lead on 66 minutes. A corner-kick delivery was glanced into the back of the net by Euan East for his second goal of the campaign.

Four minutes later and the advantage was doubled from yet another corner-kick. Matthew Clarke would be the provider for the second time as the ball somehow landed to Annett less than two yards out who converted.

David Healy’s side knew a win would see them top for Christmas and they went in search of a killer third goal but Deane made two superb saves to thwart Annett and Fitzpatrick.

On 86 minutes, Coleraine halved the arrears as a delivery into the box by Jamie Glackin was stabbed home at the back post by substitute Andy Mitchell.

The Bannsiders’ best chance at completing a dramatic turnaround saw Mitchell head harmlessly wide from a cross into the box as Linfield saw the game out for a 2-1 win.

LINFIELD: Johns, Finlayson, East, Millar, McClean, Hall, Clarke, Fitzpatrick, Annett (Newberry ’84 mins), Archer, Doherty (McBrien ’57 mins).

Subs Not Used: Walsh (GK), McCullough, McKay, Graham, O’Neill. 

COLERAINE: Deane, Kane, D. Jarvis, A. Jarvis, McKendry, Farren (Wallace ’77 mins), Glackin, Cole, O’Mahony, Scott, O’Hara (Mitchell ’77 mins)

Subs Not Used: Gallagher (GK), Harkin, McCrudden, Devine, Gaston.

Referee: Lee Tavinder