Gault’s golden goal has Linfield closing in on glory
Linfield 1 Glenavon 0: Michael Gault’s stunning second-half strike edged Linfield closer to their 50th title at Windsor Park last night.
The former Northern Ireland international isn’t exactly known for his ability in front of goal but he came up trumps with a superb effort as the champions saw off an adventurous Glenavon side.
David Jeffrey’s troops now lead the Carling Premiership by a whopping 14 points, having played two games more than closest rivals Glentoran but the Gibson Cup will surely reside at the international stadium for another year.
Quite how this encounter was goalless at the interval is anyone’s guess. Both sides created — and wasted — gilt-edged opportunities when a goal seemed certain.
The Blues were first to threaten on eight minutes when Marcus Kane’s vicious in-swinging corner was met by the in-from Philip Lowry but the midfielder was off target this time, heading over the bar from close range.
It was a wonderful chance to break the deadlock for the runaway leaders but they didn’t have to wait long before another chance presented itself.
This time it was 25-goal hitman, Peter Thompson, who fluffed his lines a minute later, blazing wildly over the bar on the volley from 10 yards after Michael Gault picked him out with a wonderful ball into the box.
Lowry popped up again on 14 minutes, evading a couple of challenges before forcing Andrew Plummer to palm the ball behind for a corner.
At this stage, a boxing contest would have been stopped; it was all Linfield. But just as they were beginning to coast, young winger Kane hobbled off and was replaced by Aaron Burns.
Glenavon began to find their feet and they should have landed a sucker punch on 24 minutes.
Adrian Harper released the goal-happy Gary Hamilton, but just minutes after receiving treatment for a knock, the on-loan talisman scuffed his weak effort from just inside the box into Alan Blayney’s hands.
Both sides traded blows with Winkie Murphy heading over for the Blues and Gault clearing a Kyle Neill free-kick just before Tony Grant could pounce.
Glenavon certainly didn’t come to Windsor Park just to make up the numbers. Within two minutes of the restart they carved out another clear-cut chance when Mark Turkington released Grant but the veteran striker’s low drive was smothered by Blayney at his near post.
Then, despite a low-key start to the second period, the champions struck from out of nothing.
The ball dropped to midfield ace Gault and he lashed home an unstoppable drive from 20 yards, via the post.
It was the one true moment of genuine class in front of goal from the table-toppers and a strike worthy of winning a see-saw tussle.
Gleanvon continued to press, however, and Trevor Molloy fizzed a fierce strike across Blayney’s goal but just the wrong side of his far upright.
Quinn’s last throw of the dice was a triple substitution; James Costello replaced Grant and former Blues striker Mark Miskimmin and Diarmuid O’Carroll came on for Neill and Brendan Shannon but it was Linfield who looked more likely to add to their lead.
In the end, Gault’s thunderbolt was enough to make sure Linfield increased their lead at the top in what is fast becoming a one-horse race.
LINFIELD: Blayney, BJ Burns, Casement, Murphy, Curran, Lowry, Garrett (Mulgrew 79), Gault, Kane (A Burns 19), Thompson, McAllister (Munster 84). Subs not used: Armstrong, Allen.
GLENAVON: Plummer, Shannon (Miskimmin 86), Magee, Haughey, Turkington, Molloy, Harpur, Harper, Neill (O’Carroll 86, Grant (Costello 86), Hamilton. Subs: McDonagh, Walsh.
Referee: Keith Halliday (Bangor)