BETMCLEAN CUP FINAL TICKETS

Linfield maintained top spot in the Sports Direct Premiership this afternoon, hitting Newry City for six at a drizzly Windsor Park.

Although it was a comfortable win in the end for the Blues, they had to be patient. It took a set-piece to break Newry down and it took thirty minutes. Kyle McClean delivered a corner to the back post area where Daniel Finlayson nodded in the opener. The goal lifted the Blues, and they would hit a rampant streak before the break.

Within a couple of minutes, the Blues were twice close to doubling their lead in quick succession. Firstly, another excellent corner from McClean caused trouble as he picked out Euan East at the back post, with the defender unlucky not to net his first Linfield goal as his header was cleared off the line. Soon after, Joel Cooper turned inside the box and curled a right-footed shot just wide of the far post.

David Healy’s men then did double their lead on 36 minutes following a move down the left as the ball was worked into Matthew Fitzpatrick inside the box and he laid it back to the edge of the box where Kyle McClean raced onto the ball to leather in the sweetest of low strikes on his weaker left foot.

And the Blues then added a third goal a minute later as Kyle McClean turned provider. The midfielder got inside the box to pull the ball back to Daniel Finlayson at the back post area. The Scottish defender showed great footwork to get past his marker and from there he produced a nice left-footed finish, similar to his goal against Pogon Szczecin at Windsor Park a few months ago, as he netted his second of the afternoon.

There was a fourth in it for Linfield before half-time, although there was a hint of fortune about it as Kirk Millar’s wicked free-kick delivery from the left was put into an area of uncertainty for Newry and, ultimately, it flew all the way through and into the far corner as the Shankill Road man marked his 400th Linfield appearance with a goal.

Moments before Millar’s goal, he almost assisted as he sent Joel Cooper away with a lovely threaded pass, though Cooper was denied by a good save by the legs of the goalkeeper.

Half Time: Linfield 4 – 0 Newry City AFC

The Blues continued to probe in the second half and came out hungry for goals after the break. Only for the Newry ‘keeper who made several great saves, it would have been a bigger scoreline. He made a number of good saves within ten minutes of the restart, with one to pluck Cooper’s effort away from the top corner the pick of the bunch.

Then, when the ‘keeper was beaten as he lay on the deck after attempting to push away a cross, he was rescued by full-back Noel Healy who produced an excellent defensive block to prevent Joel Cooper scoring into an empty net.

Gary Boyle’s Newry City then pulled a goal back just after the hour-mark following a move from the right to a central area where Darragh Owens’ 25-yard drive was deflected into the path of former Blues forward Adam Salley who finished well from a tight angle.

The Blues then re-established their four-goal lead four minutes later. Joel Cooper drifted in from the right and teed up Kirk Millar to his left and he swept in an excellent curling strike from 25 yards for his second goal of the day on his 400th appearance.

Millar then went in search of a hat-trick, volleying over with an ambitious volleying – a decent effort from a difficult angle. He also continued to provide wonderful deliveries in an all-round excellent display, and only for another good save he’d have an assist for Euan East who he picked out at the back post, as the defender’s side-footed shot was stopped by the foot of the ‘keeper.

To cap a good day for Linfield, summer signing Darragh McBrien netted his first goal for the Blues. It had been coming, after a disallowed goal at Loughgall, and a thunderous strike deflected against the underside of the bar today before his eventual goal. This one came about from a deflected cross from the right which he pounced upon inside the box to arrow a volley into the far corner.

The Blues host Queen’s University in the League Cup this Tuesday, before the first ‘Big Two’ derby of this season at Windsor Park on Friday night.

Full Time: Linfield 6 – 1 Newry City

LinfieldFC.com Man of the Match: Kirk Millar