BETMCLEAN CUP FINAL TICKETS

Linfield defender Jack Scott was at the double this afternoon as the Blues defeated Loughgall 2-0 in their first Premiership meeting since 2007. The victory at Lakeview Park saw Linfield return to winning ways following last week’s defeat in Larne, and subsequently moved to the top of the Sports Direct Premiership.

It was a memorable day for the Northern Ireland U21 International who didn’t start the match and was only called upon 24 minutes in following a head wound for Daniel Finlayson, before Scott scored decisive goals in each half.

The Blues had to be patient for their opener which came towards the end of the first half. It was a lively encounter with the Blues on top and Loughgall a real threat on the counter-attack, bringing chances at both ends.

Although the Blues had most of the chances, Loughgall had two big one in the first half which they live to regret. The first one was for Benji Magee who did all the hard work; he did superbly well on a breakaway run and he beat Chris Shields to go through on goal, and with the ‘keeper moving the opposite direction he only needed to hit the target on the left side of the goal, however he dragged his shot wide at the decisive moment.

The other big chance for the hosts came for talisman Nathaniel Ferris who latched onto a loose ball to go in the clear and he then burst past the onrushing Chris Johns. The angle was fairly difficult and he was under pressure from a Linfield defender, though he’ll still see it as a real chance that he couldn’t take as he fired wide. It was on his weaker left foot and he just didn’t get the curl on it.

The Blues had numerous early chances which led to near-misses and vital defensive blocks. Joel Cooper fired inches wide on two occasions, and Stephen Fallon curled a shot inches wide of the far post following a neat one-two with Chris McKee. McKee himself also went close when his low shot was well saved by the legs of the ‘keeper at his near post.

The opener arrived on 43 minutes and it was unsurprising that the goal was engineered by Kyle McClean. The midfielder was simply brilliant once again, and his movement into pockets coupled with quick interchanging of passes proved a nightmare for Loughgall to deal with. On this occasion he got into the box and pulled the ball back to Jack Scott on the edge of the box and the wing-back drilled a sweet strike which arrowed into the far corner.

Scott almost netted again just a few minutes later in stoppage time at the end of the first half when he went flying in at the back post in an attempted to meet Chris McKee’s cross from the left, and he was just inches away from getting a diving header on it which most likely would have diverted the ball into the net.

Half Time: Loughgall 0 – 1 Linfield

The tempo of the game picked up where it left off in the first half, with a bright start to the second. Joel Cooper threatened again a few minutes into the half when found unmarked by Kyle McClean at a Linfield corner, however his driven shot was crucially blocked by Caolan Loughran who prevented a goal.

A similar tale ensued within minutes as a good Linfield move saw Stephen Fallon find Matthew Clarke overlapping and he picked out Cooper in the middle, but again his goalward shot was blocked and it deflected just wide of the post.

There was a scare for Linfield ten minutes into the second half when the ball fell for midfielder Tiernan Kelly on the edge of the box and he let fly with a shot which took a deflection, putting spin on the ball which was dipping with menace, but thankfully for Chris Johns, it was just slightly over his crossbar.

Jack Scott went close again with a low driven shot, before he would then double his and Linfield’s tally on 67 minutes. There was a degree of fortune about this one as the Loughgall goalkeeper failed to fully grasp and corner which landed at the feet of Scott who tucked the ball home at close range for his third goal of the season.

There was almost a third for the Blues soon after, Kyle McClean once again the man at the heart of the move as he slotted Chris McKee through on goal with a neat pass, however the striker was denied by a good save.

Substitute Darragh McBrien also thought he’d scored his first Linfield goal in the latter stages of the game following great endurance and determination to burst his way through, however his goal was chalked off for a handball against the forward.

A deserved win for the Blues who dominated most of the game despite a few scares along the way. Next up is another tough test with Crusaders coming to Windsor Park on Tuesday evening.

Full Time: Loughgall 0 – 2 Linfield