Linfield six points clear thanks to four goals against Ballymena United

Celebration time for Linfield against Ballymena United. Pic by Pacemaker.
Celebration time for Linfield against Ballymena United. Pic by Pacemaker.

Linfield moved six points clear at the head of the Danske Bank Premiership standings as the defending champions proved too strong for Ballymena United.

The Blues left Ballymena celebrating success by 4-1 thanks to goals from Mark Haughey, Jordan Stewart, Jimmy Callacher and Andy Waterworth.

After a tentative start, Ballymena were the first to get a shot on target after 10 minutes but Ross Lavery’s effort barely troubled Rohan Ferguson.

Ballymena’s January signing, Joe McCready, saw his shot blocked after 13 minutes due to the tenacity of Callacher and Chris Casement.

Six minutes later, McCready’s forceful run down the right led to a throw-in taken by Andrew Burns.

He found McCready, who veered inside before firing a left-foot shot past Ferguson for the opener.

Ballymena’s lead lasted for five minutes until Mark Haughey’s header from Kirk Millar’s corner-kick made it 1-1.

United were struggling with the power of Linfield’s dangerous set-plays but at the other end McCready continued to cause problems.

On 42, he flashed a shot inches wide as United continued to press and two minutes later Tony Kane’s free-kick was saved by Ferguson.

Then, in added time, some sloppy defending allowed Stewart to force home after Joel Cooper was allowed to knock a ball, which should have been cleared, into the danger area.

It continued tight as a drum after half-time as United substitute Steven McCullough saw his header drop over the bar from Andy McGrory’s cross on 56.

A minutes later, Stewart’s snapshot from a loose ball ricocheted off Kane.

Then, on 68, McCullough’s sweetly-struck free-kick zipped just wide.

Six minutes later, Linfield sealed it when Niall Quinn’s in-swinging corner from the right was headed on across goal by Waterworth and Callacher stuck it home at the back stick.

On 73 it was 4-1 when Cooper made a mazy run across the box, only to see his well-struck shot come back off the bar.

The lurking Waterworth was in like a dog chasing a bone and quickly fired into the empty net.

BALLYMENA UNITED: Rs.Glendinning, Burns (Friel, 78), Whiteside, Balmer, Kane, Millar (McCullough, 46), McGrory, Kelly, Lavery, Lecky, McCready.

Subs (not used): Williamson, Addis, Knowles, Winchester, Re,Glendinning

LINFIELD: Ferguson, Casement, Haughey, Callacher, Quinn, Millar, McClean (Hery, 81), Fallon, Cooper, Stewart (Clarke, 76), Waterworth (Currie, 85)

Subs (not used): Moore, Stafford, Kearns, Boyle

Referee: Tony Clarke