Linfield blow big chance
Linfield 3 Ards 3: Substitute Stephen Gordon grabbed a last gasp equaliser as struggling Ards stunned league leaders Linfield at Windsor Park.
Niall Currie's men simply failed to buckle under intense pressure from the Blues, who were looking to go seven points clear of the chasing pack at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
Ards, however, had other ideas and even though they trailed 3-1 six minutes before half-time, they bounced off the ropes to pick up their first away point of the season.
It was also the perfect send off for Gordon, who today moves back to Glentoran following his loan deal.
First-half goals from Jamie Mulgrew, Philip Lowry and Andy Waterworth had the Blues coasting even though a Johnny Tuffey howler presented Mark McClelland with a gift.
Linfield old boy David Armstrong reduced the deficit two minutes after going 3-1 down before Gordon struck with only five minutes remaining.
Little wonder Blues boss David Jeffrey roared from the dug-out and up the tunnel at the end, amid a chorus of jeers from the unhappy home fans.
They are now five in front of the Reds, but this was a real shocker in every sense.
With goalkeeper Alan Blayney and midfielder James Knowles both ruled out due to their loan deal arrangement from the Blues, Ards manager Niall Currie drafted in Graeme McKibbin and David Gibson, while striker McClelland was also handed a starting shirt..
Defender Adam Rodgers, snapped us this week from Loughgall, was thrown straight into the line up.
Ards survived an early scare with Matthew Tipton sending Waterworth hurtling down the left, leaving James Cully in his wake, but his cut-back flashed across the face of the gaping goal.
Jamie Mulgrew and skipper Michael Gault worked a neat interchange on 14 minutes, to create an opening for Waterworth, whose stinging left-foot drive was capably dealt with by McKibbin.
It was no surprise when Linfield broke the deadlock three minutes later. Tipton was the architect with a wonderfully measured pass into the path of Mulgrew, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
But Currie's boys silenced the home crowd two minutes later, courtesy of that Tuffey howler.
The former Northern Ireland goalkeeper's attempted clearance rebounded off a defender and into the path of McClelland, who even looked embarrassed as he walked the ball into the empty net.
Linfield tried desperately to hit back, with Billy Joe Burns thumping a stinging drive just wide before Ivan Sproule played in Tipton, but his cross was cleared by Cully.
The Blues' second goal arrived on 26 minutes. Waterworth worked his way along the by-line and his cross was completely miscued by David Gibson, leaving Lowry with a simple tap-in.
Linfield struck again six minutes from the interval with a sublime strike by Waterworth. Gault's cute back flick bamboozled the Ards defence, leaving the striker in the clear and his low drive rippled the net before McKibbin could even move.
Ards replied inside 60 seconds – a goal that will give the Linfield defence nightmares, including Tuffey.
Craig McMillen's deep cross found former Linfield defender Armstrong at the back post and he managed to bundle the ball over the line, through a posse of legs.
Ards had another let-off seconds in to the second half when Sproule's corner kick was spilled by McKibbin, but the ball fortunately rebounded into his arms of the back of a defender.
Left-back Niall Quinn then walloped a vicious free kick inches over the crossbar afer Waterworth had been chopped down by new boy Rodgers.
Even though they were under the cosh, battling Ards again raced from defence with McMillen suppling a perfect cross that was completely mis-judged by McClelland, who looked a certain scorer.
McKibbin produced a wonderful save to keep his team in the game on 68 minutes when he got his finger tips to a Tipton blockbuster after a fantastic run by Sproule, who showed lightning pace to go clear of the defence.
Linfield became nervous as the clock ticked down. Tuffey was guilty of another blunder when he failed to deal with a McMillen corner and McClelland again failed to capitalise at the back post.
Ards began to pile forward and Willie Faulkner held his head in frustration on 82 minutes when his low drive was pushed past the post by that man Tuffey.
Ards finally got back on terms five minutes when McMillen's long through found its way to Gordon, who lashed his shot home from inside the box.
Linfield: Tuffey, Gault, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, BJ Burns, Ward, Tipton, Mulgrew, Sproule, Quinn. Subs: McVey, Carvill, M Clarke, Garrett, R Clarke.
Ards: McKibbin, Rodgers, Cleary (Mitchell 69), Gibson, Armstrong, McMillen, McDowell (Corry 76), Cully, Smith (Gordon 71), Faulkner, McClelland. Subs: Arthurs, Hunter.
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor).