Belfast Telegraph

Smyth head over heels as Linfield keep up the pressure

Linfield 3 Glenavon 0

By iIn Callender

Linfield's winning run goes on, but the prize of top spot in the Danske Bank Premiership still eludes them.

Three first-half goals at Windsor Park against Glenavon guaranteed a seventh straight victory, and extended their unbeaten run to 12, but Crusaders' victory over Coleraine at Seaview still leaves the Blues one point behind the long-term leaders, now with just two games remaining.

An Aaron Burns penalty, a Mark Haughey header and a Paul Smyth drive saw off the Lurgan Blues before half-time and turned the second half into a formality.

At the end of their last home game of the season, the Linfield players applauded the fans on a lap of honour, but they are sure to turn out in force at Coleraine on Saturday as the title chase continues.

Glenavon had actually started on the front foot but all their efforts were easily dealt with by Roy Carroll, who last week signed a new one-year deal, and it was Smyth who forced the first save of the night.

Put through by Burns, the diminutive winger fired a piledriver which Jonny Tuffey fisted away at his near post.

Jamie Mulgrew then got to the byline but his shot was blocked by Caolan Marron, one of only four Glenavon outfielders to keep their place in the starting line-up from their draw at Coleraine on Saturday.

The game turned on a tale of two penalties, one given and one not given just before the half hour. Glenavon were denied what seemed a clear-cut decision when James Singleton was pushed over in the box by Smyth but referee Steven Taylor waved play on.

Two minutes later, Singleton was again holding his head in his hands, this time after his fatal error. His horrible back pass went straight to Andy Waterworth and, as the big striker rounded Tuffey, the keeper brought him down. No argument about this one and Burns made no mistake from the spot.

It took Linfield only four minutes to double their lead when a typical pin-point cross by Niall Quinn was met by Haughey and his superb header from 12 yards out flew into the corner of the net.

The Blues, with their confidence soaring, as good as settled the outcome a minute before the break when Waterworth headed on a free-kick and Smyth found himself with only Tuffey to beat and finished clinically.

Blues skipper Mulgrew, who had picked up an injury, did not come out for the second half, replaced by Sean Ward who slotted into his central midfield role.

To be fair to Glenavon, they refused to lie down and for the first 20 minutes of the second half they restricted Linfield to one goal attempt, a Jimmy Callacher header from Quinn's corner which cleared the bar.

However, at the other end, the home defence were just as comfortable, and a Joel Cooper header, from Andy McGrory's cross, ended even higher over the crossbar.

Waterworth, with a deft piece of footwork which took him past two defenders and into the penalty area, thought he had scored Linfield's fourth in the 64th minute but his goal-bound effort was saved by Tuffey's right boot.

The nearest to a goal in the second half came five minutes from time in front of the Kop Stand when McGrory's corner reached James Gray at the back post but his shot was cleared off the line by Matthew Clarke with Carroll beaten for the first time all night.

But by then the Blues fans packed into the lower deck of the South Stand knew their team had secured all three points and all they could do was pray for a late Coleraine equaliser at Seaview.

Their prayers went unanswered, and so attention now turns to Saturday.

LINFIELD: Carroll, Haughey (Stafford 51), Callacher, Casement, Clarke, Quinn, Mulgrew (Ward 45), Lowry, Burns (Millar 68), Smyth, Waterworth.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Canning, Kilmartin (Patton 67), Cooper, Hall (Norton 45), Marron, Doyle, McGrory, Moorhouse (Jenkins 67), Singleton, Gray.

Man if the match: Jimmy Callacher

Ref: Steven Taylor

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