League’s Top Two to Face-Off for Silverware in February!!!
The old adage reads, “semi-finals are for winning”, and whilst it might have been secured a little later than David Healy might have hoped, Andy Waterworth’s extra-time goal was enough to break Dungannon hearts and send the Belfast Blues on to a date with Ballymena United, in February’s Irish League Cup Final.
The veteran striker was on hand to turn home from two yards when Swofts goalkeeper Niall Morgan palmed away a Kirk Millar volley four minutes into the first period of extra tens.
On the balance of play, it was just about what Linfield deserved, having dominated proceedings at Stangmore Park.
A toothless first-half display for the nine times winners of the tournament, was in stark contrast to their form after the break, as they fashioned many chances, that on another night could easily have seen them through comfortably in normal time.
In the opposite dugout, for the New Year showpiece, will be former manager David Jeffrey, whose Ballymena side heaped further misery on Stephen Baxter and his increasingly bewildering Crusaders team.
The Premiership title holders have endured a testing time this season, and find themselves well off the pace in fifth spot in the league. Wins over PSNI, Ballinamallard United and Glentoran had given them some respite in the League Cup run, but their challenge was brought to an end this evening in front of their own fans.
It was Leroy Millar who threw himself at Jude Winchester’s knockdown with twenty minutes to go, that proved the key to the deadlock at Seaview, in a game of few chances.
Try as they might, the Crues could just not find the equaliser, with Paul Heatley blowing a gilt edged opportunity at the death to throw his side a lifeline.
*The Irish League Cup Final between Linfield and Ballymena United is scheduled for Saturday 16th February.