Harland & Wolff Welders boss Miskelly's delight as his side put Linfield Swifts out of Steel & Sons Cup
Harland & Wolff Welders manager Paul Miskelly was brimming with praise for goalkeeper Lee Windrum after he made up for an earlier howler to save their place in the Steel & Sons Cup with a heroic performance in their third round penalty shootout with Linfield Swifts on Saturday.
The former Distillery and Ards Rangers shot-stopper was entirely to blame for gifting the Swifts an early 50th minute lead after miskicking a straightforward Jamie Sharvin back-pass to put Connor McMenamin through for a routine finish.
However, after the Tillysburn Park side trailed themselves back from two goals down to bring the game to penalties after a goalless extra time, Windrum stood up to the mark to keep out spot kicks from Dale Patton and Jamie Sharvin.
And Miskelly couldn’t contain his delight as Windrum put the seal on his redemption.
The Welders boss said: “I have to take my hat off to the character shown by our boys, especially the goalkeeper who let in a bad goal — he knows that — but he’s gone on and won the match for us with two penalty saves.
“He’s more than made up for his mistake there, but at the end of the day, penalties are a lottery, and it is a hard way to lose.”
Miskelly remained tight-lipped when it came to making predictions about his team going all the way to the famous Christmas morning final, but it’s clear this competition ranks high in his priorities for the season, as excitement builds towards a repeat of their Steel Cup win of three seasons ago.
He added: “The further you go in it, the better. There aren’t too many rounds to go in it now — we’re into the last 16, and if we could get ourselves a home draw, then who knows?”
The first half suggested this game was always going to be a tight contest, with no goals scored before the break, but plenty of attractive football on show from both sides.
The Welders arguably had the lion’s share of attacking possession, but the Swifts were creating the better clear-cut opportunities.
Wee Blues skipper McMenamin fired over a 20-yard free-kick from the right flank in the eighth minute, while another from the same area 15 minutes later from team-mate Matthew Clarke was headed just over by Kevin McLaughlin.
The Welders looked just as capable of breaking the deadlock, however, as TJ Murray’s defensive header from a dangerous Matty Burrows cross went just above the mark, while Swifts keeper Ross Glendinning was forced to pull off a tremendous punching save from Mark Magennis’ swerving effort from just outside the box after half an hour.
While neither team had breached the deadlock, both could feel fairly confident of doing so in the second spell... and so it transpired, as spectators were treated to a bundle of four goals in 15 minutes.
The first arrived in the 50th minute, with Windrum left cursing himself for his part in McMenamin’s easy opener.
Four minutes later, the Swifts lead was doubled as Sharvin slid a stylish through-ball to Patton, who kept a cool head and slotted past the keeper’s reaches.
Looking around at the yellow sea of dejection surrounding him, Simpson called for his Welders team-mates to show a little pride — and it was immediately restored, just seconds from the restart, as Stuart Beattie connected a bullet header to a well-struck corner from Magennis.
The sides were level once more in the 65th minute, with the outstanding Magennis turning provider once more, unselfishly crossing low and hard for a Simpson tap-in, when he could have struck home himself.
The momentum was all with the Welders, and they pushed hard for the win, but neither side could claim that crucial third goal in the remaining minutes, and with extra time inconclusive, the game was decided on penalties.
Jim Ervin, McMenamin and Ethan Knipe netted for the Swifts and Burrows, Beattie, Magennis and Simpson for the Welders, but despite a miss from Stephen Crockroft, Windrum saved the day for the hosts with two great saves from Sharvin and Patton.
Swifts boss Sammy McFadden lamented: “To be 2-0 up and not win the game is disappointing, but the boys will learn from this... especially the penalties.
“The Welders are a good, strong side who are doing well in Championship One, so we can’t be too disappointed.”
Lee Windrum: A hero on penalties after earlier blunder. 7
Gareth Beattie: Fully committed to the cause. 7
Craig Harris: Looked totally in control. 7
Stuart Beattie: Showed good initiative when pushing forward. 7
Daniel McMurray: A rock at the back – standout defensive display. 8
Philip Simpson: Used his height to good advantage. 7
Stephen Cockroft: Made sure he was first to the ball more often than not. 7
Ryan Deans: A committed captain’s performance from start to finish. 7
Matty Burrows: Looked a genuine threat when he got on the ball. 7
Mark Maginnis: Full of creativity and energy. 8
Paul Dickson: Kept the Swifts on their toes down the right. 7
Wiliam Armstrong: not used
Josh Cahoon: on for Deans, 96
Chris Middleton: on for Dickson, 76
Ross Glendinning: Not quite as impressive as his opposite number but did well. 6
Jim Ervin: Stood his ground well. 7
Matthew Clarke: Showed flashes of potential at the back. 7
Kevin McLaughlin: A no-nonsense display. 7
Michael Edgar: Put in a fair shift. 6
TJ Murray: Showed a good predatorial instinct. 7
Jamie Sharvin: Good quality from set-pieces. 7
Jack McCreanor: Had a reasonable afternoon. 6
Dale Patton: Made no mistake when he got his chance. 8
Connor McMenamin: Lively and eager in the Swifts attack. 8
Declan O’Neill: Wasn’t short on effort. 7
Ethan Knipe: on for Edgar, 65
Jack Upritchard: not used
Callum Byers: on for O’Neill, 76
Nathan McAleese: not used
Marc Reid: not used
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Magennis (H&W Welders) Set up both goals and got himself a penalty with plenty of work besides. Put on a really impressive display.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Lee Windrum’s second penalty save effectively winning the tie for the Welders, and in the process redeeming his earlier mistake.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ross Glendinning’s first half punch away from Magennis’ swerving goal-bound effort was a top quality save.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Lee Windrum’s miskick, which handed the Swifts their opening goal on a plate was one he’ll want to forget.
Belfast Telegraph Digital