Battling Mallards snatch point
Linfield 1-1 Ballinamallard
Goalkeeper Alvin Rouse admits it was 'payback time' as he helped 10-man Ballinamallard United pick up an unlikely point against ailing Linfield at Windsor Park.
The 33-year-old, former Barbados international produced a stunning performance to give his manager Whitey Anderson a pre-Christmas boost.
He was possibly at fault when Andy Waterworth lobbed Linfield into the lead just before the break, but he then produced a series of fabulous saves to prevent Waterworth and Paul Smyth from adding to United's woes.
What made their task much more difficult was that Shane McCabe was dismissed seconds before the break following a crude challenge on Jamie Mulgrew - his second yellow card of the day.
Anderson's half-time team talk worked a treat as United were level within 11 minutes of the restart when Michael McCrudden crashed in a crisp drive from the edge of the box.
After that Rouse, who had spent the previous three games on the sidelines through suspension following his dismissal against Glenavon, saved everything that came at him his way.
"I always play well against Linield for some reason - I think I was born for the big stage," he chuckled. "I was disappointed with their goal. I left my line, but the ball held up, giving Waterworth the chance to lob it over me. It was my fault, I take the responsibility, so I owed the boys a performance after that.
"As for the saves I made, I was simply in the right place at the right time. I think when you get a bit older, your positioning is a lot better, although I'm not saying that I'm an old man!"
Rouse was the victim of recent racial abuse from a small section of fans at certain Irish League grounds and the club, led by Anderson, took a stand to help 'kick out racism'.
"It wasn't so good when the racism stuff hit the headlines," added Rouse. "There is always one clown around. I personally think one person shouldn't be allowed to tarnish the name of any club. Ballinamallard stood behind me during the whole saga and I really appreciate that.
"Thankfully, I was able to repay them with my performance at Windsor. Now we must kick on. We had a great October, but nobody remembers that now. We had a dreadful November and everyone remembers it.
"We needed to start getting points on the board. This display will give us belief. The team showed great character, especially as we were down to 10 men. I really think we played better when we went down to 10 men. Yes, I made a few decent saves, but I thought we had the clear cut chances in the first half."
Not for the first time this season, Linfield chief David Healy was left scratching his head on how his team squandered the points.
"We didn't have enough quality to win the game against 10 men," he said. "We should have had the game out of sight after we scored. Once again we are relying on Andy, we just don't have enough players contributing in that department.
"Credit to Ballinamallard. They came with a game plan to sit in and hit us on the break, just as they did in the cup game a few months back.
"We had a few positives to take from the game, but we should be taking 11 positives from games, especially against teams down to 10 men."
LINFIELD: Ross Glendinning, Stafford, Callacher, Waterworth, Bates, Burns (Millar, 63 mins), Clarke, Kee (Murray, 73 mins), Mulgrew, Reece Glendinning (Quinn, 77 mins), Smyth. Unused subs: Deane, Haughey.
Ballinamallard: Rouse, McMenamin, McCartney (McKenna, 46 mins), McLaughlin, Martin, McCabe, Currie (Campbell, 76 mins), Elliott, Friars, Lafferty, McCrudden (Courtney, 88 mins). Unused subs: Feeney, Crilly.
Man of match: Alvin Rouse (pictured)
Match Rating: 7/10
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)