Linfield's treble dream up in smoke
Linfield 0 Bohemians 1 (Bohemians win 3-1 on aggregate)
Linfield will now put their full focus on claiming a fourth domestic double in five seasons after their Setanta Sports Cup adventure came to an end last night.
And it will be more than just a consolation for bowing out of the all-Ireland competition at the semi-final stage.
Unable to break down a stubborn and resolute Bohemians defence, it was the Dubliners who progressed to the final against St Patrick's Athletic thanks to a 2-1 first-leg victory and last night's 1-0 triumph, given to them by Paddy Madden.
There was more than a hint of offside around the first goal. The linesman's flag stayed down though, Madden ran through to latch onto Paul Keegan's through ball and kept his cool with Steven Douglas in pursuit to race in on Alan Blayney before sending a right-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net from just inside the box.
Madden didn't play in the first-leg, but he was the man every Bohs fan had wanted to see that day.
No wonder they were so desperate for Pat Fenlon to throw him on at Dalymount Park as he gave the Linfield defence a torrid time in the opening half of this one. He sprung the offside trap again on 20 minutes and Blayney had to backtrack to stop his cross-cum-shot towards Jason Byrne from going into the net.
A goal to the good on the night and two better off than the Blues on aggregate, Bohs sat in and stiffled the Linfield attack and frustrated strikers Paul Munster and Peter Thompson, starving them of any decent service.
When a half-chance came his way on 33 minutes Muster saw his shot blocked. He was quick to get onto the rebound, but again a Bohemians player was in the way of his second effort.
It was a different Linfield that came out for the second-half. There was a great deal more urgency about their play — and with two goals required to even force extra-time there needed to be.
Madden made another key contribution to his team's cause five minutes into the second-half when his header on the line stopped Michael Gault from levelling on the night.
Linfield then started to apply pressure and carve out opportunities. Robert Garrett fired in a shot from just outside the box which deflected off Paul Munster and goalkeeper Brian Murphy did well to change direction and make a vital save.
The Linfield fans in the South Stand were on their feet shortly before the hour mark as Munster pounced after a knock-down by Peter Thompson. He looked certain to score, but his shot flashed inches wide, much to the agony of those Bluemen.
Although he'd led the line superbly, none of the chances were falling to the normally lethal Peter Thompson and when one did all he was able to do was head into the arms of Murphy.
There will be little pain in this defeat though. A win against Crusaders on Saturday will secure the Carling Premiership title and then all eyes will turn to the May 8 Irish Cup final against Portadown, when the double will be the aim.
LINFIELD: Blayney, BJ Burns, W Murphy, Douglas, A Burns, Carvill, Gault, Garrett, Curran, Thompson, Munster. Subs: Addis, Lowry, Bailie, Allen, Ervin, McCaul, McAllister.
BOHEMIANS: B Murphy, Shelley, Oman, McGuinness, Rossiter, Cretaro, Keegan, Cronin, Brennan, Byrne, Madden. Subs: O'Connor, Powell, A Murphy, Quigley, Traynor, Burke, Greene.
Referee: David Malcolm (Bangor).