Lisburn Distillery 2 Linfield 3: Linfield got back to winning ways last night with what at one stage was looking like it would be a very comfortable victory over Lisburn Distillery.
They bossed the game after an initial set-back, led by two goals at the break but then a late goal for the home side caused some late consternation as the Whites rallied in the closing minutes.
Linfield boss David Jeffrey made three changes from the line-up that lost to Glentoran on Saturday, their first defeat of the season — in came Damien Curran, Michael Carvill and Michael Gault with Daryl Fordyce and Philip Lowry relegated to the bench. Nathan Hanley was suspended.
Whites boss Tommy Wright brought Gary Liggett back after suspension and his return paid dividends after just four minutes as the striker lost his marker at the back post to head Jordan Hughes’ cross past Alan Blayney from eight yards out.
The champions responded and, after Albert Watson had an opportunity from a cross, they levelled from the penalty spot on 10 minutes.
Michael Carvill worked his way across the box before being upended by Mark Cooling. After Cooling had been booked Rory Patterson fired home down the centre for his second of the season.
Linfield continued to press and went ahead on 20 minutes, Patterson having a free run-in on goal from wide right to fire a low shot underneath home keeper Billy Brennan at his near post.
Jeffrey's men upped the tempo, lots of pace and accurate passing exemplified by a super angled ball from Jamie Mulgrew into the box and Mark McAllister's flicked header was a whisker wide.
Carvill went even closer on 28 minutes — McAllister chested down and the striker's drive clipped the outside of the post but good as it was it couldn't take the gloss off a simply stunning goal from Mulgrew a minute before the break.
He broke past several defenders and from 25 yards his shot whistled into the back of the net, giving Brennan no chance.
The woodwork denied Carvill 11 minutes after the break, this time the striker's 20 yard ground shot cannoned off the base of the post and back into play
The home side then threatened on 64 minutes, Blayney unable to gather defender Andy Hunter's long throw-in but David Cushley, back to goal, saw his bicycle kick sail over the crossbar.
Brennan then tipped a Curran free-kick over at the other end before Blues defender David Armstrong fired the resultant corner over the top.
The Whites then made two separate substitutions to freshen things up while Linfield brought on Daryl Fordyce for the hard-working Carvill.
The home side kept battling and then with six minutes to go Linfield conceded a free-kick some 30 yards out. Up stepped substitute Neal Gawley to whip the ball into the corner.
The Whites pressed forward in the hope of an equaliser and, while it didn't come, boss Wright and his side will be well pleased with a much improved second-half performance.
And while Linfield chief Jeffrey will probably not be happy that his side didn't capitalise more on that powerful first-half performance, he will be happy that they are still top of the table ahead of their visit to Ballymena.
LISBURN DISTILLERY: Brennan, Callaghan, Hunter, Simpson, McShane, McCullough (Davidson 46), G Thompson, Cooling, Cushley (Patton 69), Hughes (Gawley 73), Liggett. Subs: Ferguson, Gardiner.
LINFIELD: Blayney, Ervin, Watson, Armstrong, Curran, Mulgrew, Gault (BJ Burns 86), Casement, Carvill (Fordyce 80), McAllister (P Thompson 83), Casement. Subs: Douglas, Lowry.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).