Roy Carroll on song for inspired Linfield in Queen of the South loss
Queen of the South 2-0 Linfield
The man overlooked by Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill for his side's World Cup qualifying campaign grabbed the headlines for Linfield yesterday with a sensational performance against Queen of the South.
David Healy's side suffered heavy bombardment in the IRN-BRU Cup battle in Dumfries, but it was Roy Carroll, their number one, who really shone in the club's first competitive fixture in Scotland.
The Scottish Championship pacesetters couldn't unlock the Blues' defence and find a way past the Fermanagh man until extra time.
The former Manchester United stopper has been left out of O'Neill's squads for the matches against Czech Republic, San Marino and Germany but his class shone through at Palmerston Park.
Lyndon Dykes, who had earlier missed two golden chances, eventually beat Carroll with a close range finish, and Stephen Dobbie topped off a superb individual display with a stunning free kick.
Danske Bank Premiership sides and Welsh clubs have entered the new-look Challenge Cup, joining at the last-16 stage, and after Crusaders' 2-1 loss at home to Livingston on Friday night, it was Linfield's turn to wrestle with full-time opponents.
Carroll, who pulled off several outstanding saves, said: "I was hoping it went straight to penalties because I would have fancied that.
"Our fans were magnificent and the welcome we got at the end from over 1,000 of them who travelled shows why this tournament is a good idea.
"Coming here, you're going to have to make saves. You are playing a full-time team here and they are top of the Championship.
"But the players worked hard and had a few chances in the first half, but, at the end of it, Queen of the South's fitness showed. It was a great free-kick for the second one, but credit to Linfield, the support and the work-rate was unavailable.
"It is great for players to come over from the Irish League and see how far they can go."
The international added: "I'm 39 now and I just love football, I have had my problems off the pitch but these days I am back and I enjoy every single minute."
Eleven minutes into the extra half-hour, Dykes eventually got it right and rounded Carroll to score.
Dobbie put the final polish on the win with a fabulous free-kick that curled in at Carroll's right post.
The striker poured praise on Linfield's number one, saying: "He made one double save from me and I just started laughing.
"Roy has played at the top level and you could see that.
"I wasn't worried about that being three full games for us without a goal because we are top of the league and in the last eight of this cup. If you'd offered me that at the start of the season I'd have taken it."
Linfield boss David Healy was rightly proud of his players' efforts.
"It has been a brilliant experience, and they must repeat this (the IRN-BRU Cup) next season," he said.
"I just hope we get a softer draw than Queen of the South!"
Queens boss Gavin Skelton said the Blues made his side sweat and he also singled out Carroll for praise.
"What a great atmosphere and bringing in the likes of Linfield has really added something to the tournament," said Skelton.
"Roy Carroll was magnificent, you watch him for Manchester United and you don't realise how big he is. He commanded his box.
"Dobbie's free-kick just shows you the quality he has, although he snatched at an earlier chance and could have made it easier for us!"
More than 1,000 Blues fans cheered on their team and pre-match there was a minute's silence followed by applause in the 39th minute in tribute to Ryan Baird, the Rangers fan from Larne who was killed in a supporters' bus crash.
QOTS: Robinson, Hammill, Marshall, Dowie, Brownlie, Anderson (Brotherston 58'), Jacobs (Millar 35'), Pickard, Dobbie, Rigg (Moxon 105'), Dykes. Subs Not Used: Leighfield, Higgins, Hooper, Nelson.
LINFIELD: Carroll, Haughey, Callacher, Casement, Clarke (Fallon 105'), Mulgrew, Clingan, Millar, Carson (Quinn 57'), Burns (Strain 73'), Waterworth. Subs Not Used: Moore, Stafford, Ward, Glendinning.
Referee: Iwan Griffith (Wales)
Man of the match: Roy Carroll
Match rating: 6/10