Linfield recorded their biggest win of the season today as the Blues ruthlessly swept basement side Newry City aside at Windsor Park in their penultimate pre-split League fixture to remain two points off leaders Larne.

Having lifted the League Cup last week, perhaps that lit the fire for the Blues to put in a strong performance this afternoon. David Healy was able to welcome Ethan McGee back to the squad after missing last week due to being cup-tied, and he came into the eleven in place of Joel Cooper. Chris McKee dropped out of the squad due to picking up a knock towards the end of last week’s final.

The Blues were efficient in the first half. They dominated the ball from the early stages onwards and took the lead after 14 minutes with the first meaningful chance of the match. Ethan McGee slid the ball down the left channel into Matthew Clarke who had space to attack, and he then clipped a pinpoint cross to the back post where Matthew Fitzpatrick converted from close range to take him into double figures for the season in terms of goals.

Having conceded three goals inside the space of seven minutes after going behind on their last visit to Windsor Park, Newry City’s initial response was much better this time as they put their foot on the ball to settle things down for the following 15 minutes or so, albeit only having possession in harmless areas deep in their own half.

However, they then found themselves two goals down on the half-hour mark. Kirk Millar delivered a deep, sweeping cross from wide on the left and it was headed across goal into Kyle McClean who was rewarded for gambling with a run into the box from midfield as he gratefully tucked the ball away from a central position at close range.

Newry City’s big moment came two minutes later as they passed up an opportunity to potentially put some edge back into the match. Linfield had pushed forward but lost possession which allowed the visitors to break and it was a 2v1 scenario in their favour. Adam Salley had John McGovern free to his right, however he opted to go it alone before Matthew Clarke put in a good defensive block.

The Blues were then able to make it three-nil five minutes before half-time courtesy of a penalty kick. Matthew Fitzpatrick pounced on a loose ball inside the Newry box before defender Barney McKeown stuck out a clumsy foot which tripped the forward. Kirk Millar stepped up to the spot in the absence of regular taker Chris Shields and he dispatched it expertly, low and hard to the left for his ninth goal of the season.

There was time for Linfield to add a fourth before the break as they scored again just two minutes later, although there was a real hint of fortune about it. A nice piece of play down the left saw Ben Hall’s long switch chested down by Kirk Millar into the path of Kyle McClean on the left side of the box at an improbable angle, and what can surely only be an attempted cross took a deflection off Newry City midfielder Fra McCaffrey, resulting in the ball looping up and over the goalkeeper before nestling in the far corner. If credited with the goal, it would be McClean’s 11th of the season.

HT: Linfield 4-0 Newry City AFC

Central midfielder Kyle McClean – who was tipped to be the Irish League’s Player of the Year last week by Blues’ captain Jamie Mulgrew – was unlucky not to be taking home the matchball as he went close the other side of the break. The ball was headed into the 25-year-old’s path on the edge of the box following a Linfield corner and he connected sweetly on the volley with his weaker left foot, a shot which drew a good save from Conor Mitchell.

David Healy then introduced Joel Cooper in place of Josh Archer, and the winger almost made an immediate impact as he went close within a minute of coming on when slipped in by Matthew Fitzpatrick before seeing a fierce strike beaten away.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors on 63 minutes when former Linfield defender Ryan McGivern pulled up with a hamstring injury and had to be replaced, resulting in Georgie Poynton slotting into the unfamiliar role of centre back.

Linfield’s legendary captain Jamie Mulgrew then made it five-nil to the Blues on 68 minutes as he netted his second goal of the season, with his only other goal coming in a UEFA Conference League away leg against Pogon Szczezin in Poland. His first domestic goal of the season was a tidy one, very nicely assisted by a deadly pass by Kirk Millar to find the midfielder in space inside the box, and from there Mulgrew slotted clinically past former teammate Mitchell.

That was to be Mulgrew’s last action as he was replaced by youngster Braiden Graham with 20 minutes remaining. The 16-year-old forward scored within two minutes of coming on. Cooper found Millar inside the box and he made room to clip a cross to the front post where Graham stooped to convert a diving header, scoring his second senior goal for Linfield in his ninth appearance.

Despite a six-goal victory, the largest cheer of the day was reserved for the introduction of popular midfielder Jordan Stewart who replaced Matthew Fitzpatrick on 76 minutes, making his first senior Linfield appearance since January 2023 following a torrid time with injuries.

The Blues continued to push in search of further goals in the closing ten minutes, however a string of saves and defensive blocks kept the score at six.

David Healy’s men have one more League match remaining before the split – away to Carrick Rangers on Tuesday 2 April – however, firstly they have a bumper Irish Cup semi-final against rivals Glentoran to look forward to at The Oval on Friday 29 April. With 13 days until that match, the Blues will hope this will give their players time to rest and recover, in the hope of welcoming some back from injury for the derby.

FT: Linfield 6-0 Newry City Man of the Match – Kirk Millar

Written by Jamie Megarry


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