Joshua Robinson (54)

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Josh Robinson celebrates scoring Linfield's winner (©INPHO/Brian Little)

ROBINSON WINNER MOVES BLUES NINE POINTS CLEAR

It's advantage Linfield in the race for the Gibson Cup following a narrow defeat of second placed Ballymena United at Windsor Park, a win that moves the Blues nine points clear.

The visitors created the first effort of note after seven minutes when Andy McGrory lobbed the ball over keeper Gareth Deane but Ryan McGivern was on hand to make a goalline clearance.

At the other end Andrew Waterworth had a chance with a turn in the box only for his shot on goal to be deflected away for a corner.

Jamie Mulgrew was unlucky just before the half-hour mark when his shot hit Waterworth's back but Ross Glendinning was on hand to save while, moments later, Waterworth flick on a Niall Quinn cross with the ball just evading Chris Casement at the far post.

Ballymena might have found a way through soon after when a flowing move ended with Steven McCullough crossing for Adam Lecky but his header just missed the target. The Sky Blues had another chance on the stroke of half-time when Scot Whiteside headed over from a free-kick.

The deadlock was almost broken seven minutes into the second half when Josh Robinson rattled the crossbar with a great strike from fully 25 yards.

That proved to be little more than a stay of execution for the visitors when, moments later, Robinson did find the net after rising highest to power home a header from a Kyle McClean corner.

Despite knowing how important an equaliser would be it took Ballymena until four minutes from time to come close to levelling when substitute Shane McGinty cannoned a header off the crossbar from Leroy Millar's corner.

However, apart from stoppage time penalty claims, there was nothing David Jeffrey's side could do to avoid slipping to a second successive defeat to the Blues in as many weeks.

Linfield: Deane, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Kearns, McClean, Mulgrew, McGivern, Cervenka, Quinn, Casement subs Mitchell (not used), Stafford (not used), O'Connor (replaced Kearns 68), Stewart (replaced Cervenka 68), Millar (not used), Forde (not used), Clarke (not used)

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, McGrory, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs Williamson (not used), Quigley (not used), McGinty (replaced McCullough 85), Faulkner (replaced McGrory 76), McMurray (replaced Winchester 70), Watson (not used), Shevlin (not used)

Referee: Tim Marshall

Attendance: 2747

Tags:  Ballymena United  Linfield