Crusaders 1-3 Linfield: David Healy banishes County Antrim Shield blues
Linfield won their first piece of silverware in almost two years with a 3-1 victory over Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield final.
Blues boss David Healy celebrated his first trophy as a manager after goals from Cameron Stewart, Mark Stafford and Stephen Lowry killed off the Crues.
Jordan Owens pulled a goal back in the first half with a stunning header but despite battling superbly with 10 men, Linfield managed to get the job done.
Crues boss Stephen Baxter said: "Linfield won the game in the opening 12 minutes. They deserved to win it because of that. Our performance was absolutely superb and I'm proud of the boys.
"The sending off was a joke, it's absolutely embarrassing. It was a hand on Mark Stafford who is a real warrior and I don't believe it was a penalty either."
Manager David Healy: "It means a lot to the players. We lost two finals last season, but we were the better team by far tonight.
"People will say decisions maybe changed the outcome, but certainly not - we were deserved winners.
"We work hard on set plays and if you get the delivery right and get the right players on the end of it you will score goals."
Linfield boss David Healy is hoping it will be third time lucky when he leads his team into Tuesday night's Toals County Antrim Shield final against Crusaders at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Since moving into the Windsor Park hotseat in October 2015, Northern Ireland's record goalscorer has suffered final heartbreak in the Shield decider against Ballymena United a year ago and then in the Irish Cup showpiece when Glenavon grabbed the glory.
"It's a cup final and one we want to win," said the former Manchester United and Rangers man. "We haven't turned up in recent finals, so it's something we must address.
"We were the better team in last season's Shield final, but mistakes cost us on the night.
"The performance in the Irish Cup final was very disappointing. Apart from the first 10 or 15 minutes, we just didn't function.
"But those games are now gone - we've another big final to focus on."
The Shield was the last piece of silverware to appear in the Linfield trophy cabinet — that was back in 2014. Ironically, it was achieved following a penalty shoot-out against the Crues, under the managerial watch of Jeffrey.
“Games between the teams have been so tight this season,” added Healy. “We managed to win at Seaview on New Year’s Eve following two scoreless draws.
“I’ve no doubt this will be an equally tight, cagey affair. We are on a nice little run at the minute, so we’ll be aiming to keep that going.
“We had it tough in the Irish Cup at Institute at the weekend. Performance-wise we could have been better, but the objective was to be in the draw for the next round.
“It was a tough pitch to play on — it was a difficult game. We were professional and got the job done, keeping a clean sheet as well. This final is now a massive game, the players need to prove they are capable of winning big games — fixtures that really matter. Hopefully we turn up and do it right. It would be great to add a bit of silverware to this already successful club.”
Healy admits he is concerned about the fitness of defender Jimmy Callacher and skipper Jamie Mulgrew, who were both forced off at the Riverside Stadium due to injury.
“We’ll have them assessed before the game, we’ll give them every chance but my gut feeling is that the final will come too soon for both of them,” added Healy. “I reckon it will take something miraculous to have them available. It’s hardly ideal for a final, but it will open the door for someone else.”