Linfield 2 Glentoran 1: Linfield boss David Jeffrey saluted his boys following their dramatic festive Premier League win over Big Two rivals Glentoran at Windsor Park.
The Blues dominated this pulsating Boxing Day thriller after Glens midfielder Stephen McAlorum was dismissed after only five minutes following an off the ball incident with Michael Gault.
Big defender Jay Magee headed the Glens into the lead midway through the first half, but late strikes from Mark McAllister and substitute Ross Clarke helped preserve Linfield’s immaculate record of never having lost a derby tie on December 26 at the international venue.
“I am so proud of my players,” said Jeffrey. “We certainly deserved the victory. Elliott Morris was man of the match — I think that tells you everything.
“Full marks to Glentoran. The defended for their lives and got bodies to block everything we threw at them.
“It’s usually difficult to play against 10 men, but we kept our shape and kept plugging away to get our rewards. I’m thrilled for young Ross. He made a great impact when he came into the game in the second half.”
The game exploded for all the wrong reasons after only five minutes in front of the rain soaked 5,500 fans when McAlourm|(pictured) was dismissed by referee David Malcolm after flooring Blues skipper Gault with an ugly right hook.
It was a frantic opening with the Blues having strong appeals for a penalty kick on four minutes when Johnny Black’s corner zipped across the greasy goal mouth and appeared to come off the hand of a Glentoran defender.
The Blues almost took advantage of McAlorum’s hasty exit when Brian McCaul crossed for Tipton to head against the crossbar.
Johnny Black’s teasing corner then caused mayhem in the Glens defence on 19 minutes, but McCaul lashed a volley over the top.
Glentoran who broke the deadlock two minutes later when Magee roared forward to meet Stephen Carson’s corner kick and his header flashed past Alan Blayney
Linfield missed a glorious chance to equalise on 24 minutes. Another Black corner kick was flicked on by Michael Carvill, but McAllister shot wide from point blank range.
Glentoran almost grabbed a second on 31 minutes. Stephen Carson’s nimble feet took his past a number of challenges and, just when a goal looked imminent, the midfielder drilled his shot across the face of the goal.
Linfield’s response was positive. McCaul’s cross found the head of Tipton, but his glancing effort scraped past the post.
Black then tried his luck from 35 yards, but his blockbuster was superbly clawed out for the top corner by Glens goalkeeper Elliott Morris.
Glentoran were let off the hook again six minutes before the interval.
McAllister’s trickery took him clear of his marker and his cross was met by Gault, but the midfielder’s first time effort was spectacularly blocked on the line by Magee.
Linfield roared from the blocks at the start of the second half with McAllister squandering a wonderful opportunity on 52 minutes. Carvill cut the Glens defence to shreds with a penetrating left wing dash, but Magee again rescued his team, with a brilliant block.
Blues defender Billy Joe Burns was next to hold his head in frustration when his blistering drive was headed off the line by Richard Clarke,
And, from Black’s in-swinging corner Carvill’s header looked to have cross the line before the ball was hoofed clear. Referee Malcolm wasn’t impressed.
Minutes later Morris produced a wonderful save to deny Black’s ripping drive, with McAllister or Tipton failing to put away the rebound.
Linfield at last got back on terms on 76 minutes.
McCaul’s free kick from the right was powered in by the head over substitute Daryl Fordyce and, even though Morris again kept out the initial effort, McAllister followed up the thunder the ball home.
The home fans were on their feet nine minutes before the whistle when Clarke poked his team into the lead. Carvill’s cross was met by McAllister, but his shot was again brilliantly stopped by Morris only for the substitute to prod home from four yards.
Linfield: Blayney, Gault (Clarke 66), Murphy, Carvill, BJ Burns, Tipton (Ervin 90) Mulgrew, Watson, McCaul, McAllister, Black (Fordyce 73)..
Subs: Browne, Garrett.
Glentoran: Morris, Ward, Kane (McCullough 72), Magee, Birney, Callacher, McAalorum,,. Clarke (McComb 85), Waterworth, Howland, Carson (O’Hanlon 79).
Subs: Bradley, Gordon.
Referee: David Malcolm (Bangor).