Report: Andrew Morrison
Photo: Sam Johnston
Larne suffered their second defeat in a row as they lost 1-0 to Linfield at Inver Park.
The Inver Reds played most of the game with 10 men following the dismissal of Kofi Balmer as the resulting penalty from Christopher Shields sealed the game.
There was an early of panic for the visitors just seconds into the game as David McDaid’s scuffed effort from range was dropped by goalkeeper Christopher Johns. With the ball falling loose in the six yard box Andrew Scott was quickest to the ball only for Johns to recover well and scramble the ball away.
Larne came close moments later as Mark Randall drove his side deep into the opposing half before squaring it off to Ben Doherty on the edge of the box. However, his first time effort went just inches over the bar.
The chances kept coming for the Inver Reds as on the 12th minute Mark Randall found himself in space on the right flank before playing in a low cross. After seemingly missing everyone Ronan Hale managed to be first to the ball and cut back on his man only for his effort to be well held.
There was a moment of concern for Cian Bolger. The defender was injured trying to stop a Linfield free kick which was crossed to the back post and after a brief moment of treatment had to be replaced by Albert Watson.
After creating little in the first 25 minutes Christy Manzinga was played through on goal before being brought down by the Kofi Balmer judge inside the box. Referee Raymond Crangle immediately blew for a penalty before sending the defender off for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity.
Chris Shields stepped up to take the spot kick for the visitors with his effort requiring help from the post to beat Ferguson in goal who went the right way.
The Blues came close to doubling their lead when Albert Watson gave the ball away deep in his own half and a fortunate deflection played through Manzinga. The forward ran to the byline before cutting it back to Stephen Fallon who from 3 yards out slid in alongside Graham Kelly. The ball somehow managed to stay out of the goal having hit the bar and coming back out off the line.
Ronan Hale almost got Larne back into the game from seemingly nothing having pinned himself against his defender he managed to roll away to get goal side and have an effort. Unfortunately he was unable to hit the target as his attempt went straight across the face of the goal.
Half-time: Larne 0 Linfield 1
Linfield picked up the start of the second half as they ended the first. Controlling most of the ball as two half chances fell their way in quick concession from Shields and Manzinga. Fortunately for the home side Albert Watson was there to block both efforts.
As the half went on the visitors continued to pin Larne into their own half as the Inver Reds struggled to get any reasonable spell of possession. However, they were managing to remain solid at the back and restricted David Healy’s side to few chances themselves.
With 15 minutes left on the clock Tiernan Lynch resorted to using his last three subs to try and find a way back into the game. Lee Lynch, Thomas Oluwa and Andrew Mitchell being the players he called upon.
The changes seemed to make and impact with Oluwa making a direct run almost instantly after coming onto the pitch. Managing to get behind the Linfield defence the best the could do was win a corner from which Lee Lynch found Albert Watson. However, the defender was unable to guide his header on target.
As time was running out Tomas Cosgrove whipped in a promising cross towards the back post. For a moment it looked as though Larne would grab an equaliser as the ball fell to Oluwa for an overhead kick before a mishit clearance saw Andrew Mitchell strike over from range.
Into added time Linfield should have doubled their lead as a counter attack from Manzinga and Kyle McClean left them against Graham Kelly and Rohan Ferguson. With Manzinga squaring it to McClean he had a clear shot on goal only to hit it straight at the goalkeeper as the game finished 1-0.
Full-time: Larne 0 Linfield 1
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Sule (’74 Mitchell), Randall (’74 Lynch), Hale (’74 Oluwa), McDaid, Doherty, Scott (’31 Kelly), Bolger (’17 Watson), Cosgrove, Jarvis
Unused subs: Argyrides, Nasseri,
Linfield: Johns, Newberry, Shields, Callacher, Hume, Manzinga, Stewart (’80 Donnelly), M Clarke, McClean, Fallon (’87 Archer), Salam
Unused subs: Walsh, McCoubrey, A Clarke, Carroll, Marshall
Referee: Raymond Crangle