BETMCLEAN CUP FINAL TICKETS

Linfield suffered their first Sports Direct Premiership defeat of the season tonight, falling to reigning champions Larne under the floodlights of Inver Park.

David Healy’s men didn’t get off to the best of starts. They were nearly behind within a minute, when Levi Ives’ corner from the right was met by Cian Bolger and glanced wide of the far post.

The Blues did then go behind after nine minutes when Larne unleashed wing-back Tomas Cosgrove down the right and he fizzed in an inch-perfect for Paul O’Neill who clinically volleyed in from a central position.

Larne almost doubled their lead a few minutes later with some excellent one-touch football as Levi Ives played a one-two with Leroy Millar before fizzing the ball just past the far post, and just beyond the reach of Andy Ryan arriving at the back post.

Paul O’Neill then probably should have doubled his tally midway through the first half as Larne continued to cause problems for Linfield down the sides, with the ball dropping kindly for the forward who fired wide when unmarked inside the box.

The Blues then had two golden opportunities to level which they passed up. A cross from the right by Jack Scott found Joel Cooper unmarked in the middle, however he headed against the post, and Chris McKee will still be scratching his head as to how he fired the rebound over the crossbar at close range; unlike him, particularly given his early season form.

McKee also had another big chance towards the end of the first half when Joel Cooper slipped him through after winning the ball high up the pitch, however the striker was denied by a good save by the feet of Rohan Ferguson in the Larne goal. It was a frustrating night for Linfield’s top goalscorer, who will feel he did the hard work as his hold-up play was excellent all night, but just lacked the finishing touch to go with it.

Half Time: Larne 1 – 0 Linfield

Another key moment in the game arrived early in the second half when a great save from Larne ‘keeper Ferguson denied the Blues. One of several excellent set-piece deliveries from Kyle McClean – this time a free-kick – found the head of Chris McKee who was somehow denied at close range.

Then, decisively, Larne doubled their lead just a minute later. It was a regrettable goal for Linfield to concede as defender Ben Hall was dispossessed on the edge of the box by Andrew Ryan who then converted his finish into the corner.

The second goal seemed to knock Linfield for six as they totally lost their way for a couple of minutes, and only for instinctive defending from Michael Newberry to get back to head Paul O’Neill’s shot off the line, it would have been three.

David Healy changed things up with a treble substitution, taking off central defenders Newberry and Hall, dropping Chris Shields into the back three alongside substitute Euan East, whilst going to two centre forwards with the introduction of Matthew Fitzpatrick. He held the ball up well but got little to no service of note.

The game fizzled out, with a tame shot from Joel Cooper in stoppage time all that the Blues were able to muster up as they tried to find a way back into the game. They will look to bounce back next Saturday, away to Loughgall in a league fixture.

Full Time: Larne 2 – 0 Linfield

 

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