Roy Carroll hails passion as resilient Linfield hold off Champions Crusaders
Crusaders 0 Linfield 0
Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll admits he is playing with a smile on his face again. The big Northern Ireland international may be in the twilight of his career, but his faultless performance against the Danske Premiership title holders Crusaders at Seaview, suggested it was a 'masterstroke' signing by manager David Healy.
Although it was a disappointing offering from the league's two heavyweights, the visitors will be happy to glean a little satisfaction on the Shore Road, where they had won only once in their previous nine visits.
They had to play most of the second half with only 10 men after having midfielder Stephen Lowry dismissed. He picked up two bookings in a madcap six minute spell either side of half-time, which heaped a little bit more pressure on his colleagues.
But with Mark Haughey and Jimmy Callacher manfully snuffing out the threat of Jordan Owens, Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte, plus the fact that Carroll was a man mountain between the posts, it was a well deserved point for the Windsor Park team.
"The Irish League is a different environment from what I was used to in England, but I'm really enjoying it," beamed Carroll. "These players work hard all day (in their normal jobs) and then come in to train or play games.
"They work hard on the pitch which they showed in abundance against Crusaders, especially with only 10 men.
"We are only three games into the season, winning once and drawing two. So we can't be too disappointed. We are unbeaten which is important. We have shown passion and our fitness is at a high level. Now we need to start getting the ball down and playing some good football."
Following the disappointing draw against Coleraine in midweek, the Blues came out fighting against the title holders.
"The boys grafted and stuck in there after going down to 10 men," added Carroll. "We knew what Crusaders would do and our back four worked very hard to deny them. It showed commitment and passion to get a result. We had a few chances and we could have sneaked the win on another day.
"I didn't really have that much to do. It was the same against Coleraine. That is going to happen at Linfield, but I just have to keep concentrating, so I am ready when I am called into action.
"But the boys in front of me deserve credit, and it was a team effort to keep a clean sheet. Wednesday was disappointing, but we improved today."
Crusaders chief Stephen Baxter labeled it as a 'nothing game'.
"There was not a great deal entertainment value out there," he said. "Defences were on top all day, with (Colin) Coates and (Howard) Beverland) doing particularly well for us and (Jimmy) Callacher and (Mark) Haughey solid at the other end.
"But I can't complain. I was pleased with all the effort and pleased with the commitment. The players did everything we asked of them, but our quality just didn't shine through and that was the disappointing thing.
"We didn't really capitalise on the extra man. Linfield, to their credit, organised well. They had a good shape.
They killed off the game over the last 10 minutes or so, but that's what you do when you have 10 men."
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Gault (Cushley, 62 mins), Coates, Caddell (Lowry, 75 mins), Forsythe, McClean, Owens, Heatley, Whyte. Unused subs: Carvill, Dougherty, Clarke.
Linfield: Carroll, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry, Millar, Burns, Ward, Casement, Carson (Smyth, 67 mins), Quinn.Unused subs: Clinghan, Clarke, Fallon, Salley.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)
Man of the match: Roy Carroll
Match rating: 5/10