Linfield to Kop it after Cliftonville game
Linfield 2 Cliftonville 1
Linfield got back to winning ways after winning their on-field battle against Cliftonville – off the pitch however, the Blues now face another fight.
The Irish FA will surely launch an investigation after Reds director Gerard Lawlor was struck by a bottle thrown by a moronic so-called fan in the Kop stand.
Solitude boss Eddie Patterson had been sent from the dug-out by referee Alan Black, who came under-fire from both sides after a display he will want to forget.
Instead of celebrating goals from Michael Carvill and Michael Gault, the Blues will now await their fate.
New signing Kevin McHugh made a cameo appearance on the night Glenn Ferguson made his comeback.
And there is likely to be another man vying for a front line role at Windsor - Mark McAllister.
The Blues have agreed a fee with Dungannon Swifts - believed to be in the region of £35,000 for the Northern Ireland Under-21 international - and is expected to sign today after completing a medical and discussing personal terms.
It wasn’t all good news for the Blues on the playing front however. Steven Douglas suffered a foot injury at the weekend while Jamie Mulgrew is facing three weeks on the sidelines after twisting his ankle in training.
That gave the champions the opportunity to bring Michael Gault back into the side for the first time since he fractured a bone in his ankle in October.
Having been frustrated against Newry City on Saturday, the Blues made a lightening start to stun the Reds within a minute.
Returning hero Ferguson made a nuisance of himself in the penalty area after Conor Hagan’s throw-in. The veteran striker flicked the ball on twice and with the Reds defence ball-watching, Michael Carvill pounced from six yards to stab home after only 46 seconds.
Ferguson almost doubled their lead on 17 minutes when Carvill cut the ball back from the right flank and with the ex-Northern Ireland international poised to pull the trigger, George McMullan slid in to clear the danger.
Then came the first moment of controversy. Referee Black awarded a free-kick to the Blues on 18 minutes and, bizarrely, only blew his whistle after Damien Curran had taken the free-kick. The Reds defence paused and Gault took full advantage by heading past the helpless John Connolly.
As the ball hit the back of the net, Reds boss, Patterson and his assistant Tommy Breslin showed their fury at fourth official Michael McLaughlin.
Antrim official, Black, approached the bench to calm them down but they continued to remonstrate.
Their mood wasn’t exactly lightened on 24 minutes when Chris Scannell were dragged to the ground by Hagan. Black reached for a card after awarding a free-kick on the edge of the box but chose only to caution the defender even though Scannell was the last man. Cue another out-burst from the sidelines.
Three minutes later Mark Holland was booked for diving in the Blues box and the red mist descended again for Patterson and this time he was ordered off. As he was escorted off the pitch, along the front of the Linfield fans in the Kop Stand, missiles rained down and Lawlor was struck.
When order was restored the visitors threatened to make a game of it on 57 minutes when they pulled a goal back. McMullan’s free-kick into the box caused confusion and Chris Scannell stretched out a leg to divert the ball goal-wards.
Hagan got a touch on it before Alan Mannus pushed the ball into the net after failing to gather.
Ronan Scannell was given his marching orders with a minute to go but the repercussions will take centre stage in the days to come.
LINFIELD: Mannus, Hagan, W Murphy, Lindsay, Gallagher, Martin (McHugh 68), Gault, Curran, O’Kane (Lambe 54), Ferguson, Carvill. Subs not used: McLoughlin, Thompson, Munster.
CLIFTONVILLE: Connolly , Smyth, O’Hara, Donaghy, Scannell, McMullan (Hamill 88), Catney (O’Connor 76), Johnston, F Murphy (O’Neill 81), C Scannell, Holland. Subs not used: Clark, Dunlop.
Referee: Alan Black (Antrim)