County Antrim Shield: Allen at double as Linfield progress past Cliftonville
Linfield 2 Cliftonville 0: Curtis Allen is fast becoming Linfield’s go-to man.
With regular strikers misfiring, Allen got a rare start last night after his winner against Newry City a week ago and didn’t disappoint with two goals to see off Cliftonville in the Paddy Power County Antrim Shield quarter-final.
Allen has had to be patient since his arrival at Windsor Park but there’s no doubting he knows where the goal is and he will fancy his chances of tormenting the Reds again in the league on Saturday.
Peter Thompson, Jamie Mulgrew and Robert Garrett were amongst those rested by tinkerman Blues boss David Jeffrey while the Reds were under-strength, nursing four injury knocks.
And Eddie Patterson’s plans were dealt a further blow when midfielder Eamonn Seydak suffered a leg injury, and although he returned after treatment, he was quickly replaced.
But not in time to stop the opening goal of the game. With Seydak hobbling around the pitch, Allen pounced to give the Blues the lead on 19 minutes.
The former Lisburn Distillery man shot across goal and the ball appeared to take a deflection off the unfortunate Ciaran Donaghy, totally wrong-footed Reds keeper John Connolly rolled into the unguarded net.
It was particularly frustrating for the north Belfast men as by that stage the visitors should have been a goal to the good.
Chris Scannell teasing ball into the six-yard box was completely missed by Martin Jones and Ciaran Caldwell could only find Blues keeper Alan Blayney with his weak effort at the back post.
After that the Blues took a stranglehold but Mark McAllister was unable to double the lead with two separate headers.
First, the ex-Dungannon Swifts hitman glanced Jamie Tomelty’s cross wide on 32 minutes and then he headed Aaron Burns’ inviting cross to the back post against Reds defender Liam Fleming four minutes later.
Both sides huffed and puffed their way through the opening 10 minutes of the second period before the Reds had a decent shout for a penalty when Tomelty appeared to impede the marauding Ronan Scannell. The full-back’s honesty to stay on his feet perhaps, wrongly, convinced referee Alan Black there had been no infringement.
At the other end, Allen stung the hands of Connolly with a low drive but he went one better on 65 minutes to seal the game.
Allen, the smallest man in the box, somehow found space to head Aaron Burns’ perfect cross into the corner of Connolly’s net.
With the tie seemingly dead, Caldwell was lucky to escape a red card for a crude lunge on Aaron Burns while Paul Munster missed two close-range headers which would have put a gloss on the scoreline.
LINFIELD: Blayney, BJ Burns, Casement, Armstrong, A Bruns, Carvill (McGrory 75), Lowry, Gault, Tometly (Kane 66), Allen (Munster 78), McAllister. Subs not used: Douglas, O’Kane.
CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly, Fleming, Hutton, Donaghy, R Scannell (Donnelly 85), Caldwell, Johnston, O’Connor, Seydak (McVeigh 20), C Scannell, Jones (Stuart 69). Subs not used: Smyth, C Burns.
Referee: Alan Black (Antrim)