Mark Haughey and Stephen Garrett in action (Picture: Cameron Hamilton/PressEye.com)
Monday, 13 March 2017
Two first half goals helped Linfield maintain their title challenge with this home defeat of Cliftonville.
The Blues might have gone ahead as early as the fourth minute when Jamie Mulgrew tested Jason Mooney with a half-volley but the Reds 'keeper got a hand to the ball to make a superb save.
Mark Haughey then came close eight minutes later only to head just wide from a Paul Smyth corner.
But David Healy's side did find a way through on 22 minutes when Stephen Lowry converted from the spot after Caoimhin Bonner was adjudged to have handled a Mulgrew volley.
Cliftonville had a chance to level soon after, also from the spot, after Haughey had brought down Aaron Haire but Jay Donnelly could only drag the subsequent penalty wide.
Then, after half-an-hour, Cameron Stewart almost doubled Linfield's advantage with a low drive that came back off the base of an upright.
However, the Blues did grab their second goal ten minutes after that through Andrew Waterworth after Lowry had an initial effort blocked.
It might have been 3-0 early in the second half but Haughey's touch from a Niall Quinn free-kick which strong enough to stop the ball drifting just wide.
And moments after that Mark Stafford was denied by the woodwork when his header from another Quinn delivery, this time a corner, struck an upright.
Haughey did have the ball in the net on 69 minutes but his 'goal' was ruled out offside while both Lowry and Stafford had near misses later in the game.
Linfield: Carroll, Stafford, Stewart, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry, M. Clarke, Mulgrew, Quinn, Mulgrew, Smyth subs Millar (not used), Burns (replaced Stewart 85), Ward (not used), Casement (replaced Haughey 80), Gaynor (not used)
Cliftonville: Mooney, Ives, Bonner, Ramsey, Curran, Garrett, Hughes, J. Donnelly, Cosgrove, Nelson, Haire subs Burke (not used), M. Donnelly (replaced J. Donnelly 66), Seydak (not used), Winchester (replaced Hughes 46), Lavery (replaced Garrett 76)
Referee: Andrew Davey