Ballymena United 0-1 Linfield
By Paul Alexander
Andrew Waterworth proved to be the match-winner against Ballymena United for third time in 2019 as Linfield secured a slim 1-0 victory over the Sky Blues on Friday evening.
Waterworth’s winner at the Ballymena Showgrounds – his fifth goal against United this season – means that David Healy’s side are one point away from securing the Danske Bank Premiership crown.
The first-half was a lively exhibition in which the home side were superior. United had their first promising opportunity five minutes in. Johnny McMurray edged forward inside the penalty area before squaring the ball to Adam Lecky.
However fellow striker Lecky couldn’t apply the finish as he shot over whilst under pressure. This was soon followed by a free-kick at the Slemish end of the Showgrounds which was sent well over by Chris Casement.
Ballymena’s McMurray came close in the 23rd minute when his headed flick dropped wide of goal after Jonny Addis’ ball forward. Kofi Balmer had the Braidmen’s best chance of the night two minutes later. The defender’s close-range strike smacked off the crossbar before Jude Winchester’s attempt was directed wide for a corner.
With 11 minutes to go until the break, Linfield goalkeeper Gareth Deane produced a fantastic stop to deny Andrew McGrory. The 24-year-old’s one-handed save ensured that McGrory’s free-kick wouldn’t find the top left corner.
The Blues went in front when Waterworth scored the only goal of the encounter just seconds after the restart. The centre-forward received the ball from left-winger Joel Cooper before finishing past Ross Glendinning in the United goal.
After ten minutes of the second-half McGrory had a chance to bring the Sky Blues level. The midfielder was supplied from his left by Lecky although his effort was blocked and collected by Deane.
Linfield’s Jimmy Callacher tried to push his side further ahead with an hour played. The Blues’ centre-back advanced into the Ballymena half but his shot from 20 yards was guided around the right post by Glendinning.
The hosts found a further opening on 75 minutes when McGrory provided McMurray with the ball, however the latter prodded it straight at the visiting keeper.
In the third minute of stoppage-time the away side had another opportunity when Waterworth curled a shot over the bar. Although the late miss wouldn’t matter as the striker’s earlier goal proved to be decisive.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Addis, Ervin, Whiteside (Mayse, 79), McCullough, Winchester (Kane, 63), L. Millar, McGrory, Balmer, McMurray, Lecky
Subs not used: Williamson, Quigley, McGinty, Shevlin, Watson
Linfield: Deane, Quinn, Callacher, Robinson, Casement, Mulgrew, A. Mitchell, Cooper (Clarke, 83), Kearns (Fallon, 92), Stewart, Waterworth (K. Millar, 78)
Subs not used: C. Mitchell, Stafford, McGivern, Cervenka
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Andrew Waterworth (Linfield)
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