Penalty gets Linfield on their way and leaves Carrick's Callaghan fuming
Carrick Rangers 0-2 Linfield
Carrick Rangers boss Aaron Callaghan had no complaints about his side's performance in their 2-0 loss to Linfield but he was unhappy with the penalty decision that allowed the title chasers to draw first blood.
Stephen Lowry fired the Blues ahead from the spot on the stroke of half-time when Carrick new boy Steven Quigley was adjudged to have blocked Niall Quinn's shot with his hand, a decision which left Callaghan fuming.
"You really have to question the decision at the penalty, don't you?" he said.
"It really is one of those decisions, I think, that Linfield seem to have got.
"They got away with it last week against Institute, which is neither here nor there, but how can a player get away from a shot when he's two yards away?
"It definitely didn't hit his (Quigley's) hand, it hit his elbow. I've seen the bruise at half-time and again those decisions seem to always go for the clubs in the ascendancy.
"I've asked the referee to explain it and I appreciate referees have difficult decisions to make and I have total respect for them but what I can't understand is how quickly they low the whistle.
"There's a directive coming down from UEFA to say you have to A, B and C but sometimes they need to use the human aspect, take their time and chat with the linesman."
Callaghan added: "To make that decision so quickly, making it before the incident sometimes, and with the experiences I've had over the last 25 to 30 years, I said to the ref, if you take your time a bit more, the players will respect that."
Before the penalty incident, Carrick had given a good account of themselves while under the cosh, but were dealt a massive blow when goalkeeper Brian Neeson suffered an injury to his side after making a double stop from Cameron Stewart and then Quinn.
With no substitute goalie on the bench, captain Mark Surgenor took the gloves, again to the chagrin of Callaghan.
"Another thing I can't get over from my seasons up here is that there's seven players on the bench in the English Premiership, seven on the bench across Europe and we have five," he said.
"Are we trying to stand out? What are the IFA trying to prove? We've a squad of 20 players - let's reward that and have seven subs on the bench."
Surgenor fared well between the posts as he and the home defence frustrated Linfield in the second half, right until the 90th minute when substitute Paul Smyth squeezed the ball in from close range to embellish the scoreline.
"I'm delighted with the win," said Blues boss David Healy. "We knew coming in to the game it's always a tough place to come.
"Earlier in the season we won 2-0 and the conditions played a part, but fair play to the pitch, it's not bad compared to others in the league. The wind today had a big effect on how both teams could go about their game.
"With the chances we missed, I didn't think the second goal would come. Again, when you don't take the chances, you don't put the teams to the sword and you allow the other team to feel they are well in the game.
"Fair play to Carrick, we knew they would make it tough with their cup final next week and I know they'll go there and fight with Ballymena and it will be feisty I'm sure."