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Gutsy Ballinamallard tear apart the Linfield script in League Cup win


Party crasher: Johnny Lafferty celebrates his winner for Ballinamallard United at Windsor Park

Party crasher: Johnny Lafferty celebrates his winner for Ballinamallard United at Windsor Park

Party crasher: Johnny Lafferty celebrates his winner for Ballinamallard United at Windsor Park

Windsor Park and David Healy. You just can't separate the two.

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer received a rapturous reception from the stadium he made his own, just before Linfield's League Cup clash with Ballinamallard United.

It was the Mallards who were celebrating at the end, however, as a 70th-minute Johnny Lafferty goal sent them into the last eight.

Without prior announcement, Healy appeared from the bowels of the National Stadium, where he was paraded in front of the home support as the new manager of Linfield Football Club.

"Healy, Healy, Healy," sang the North Stand. It's a familiar chant round these parts, but it's the first time it's been sung by the Linfield faithful.

This is the ground where Healy scored against England, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and many others. But let's not forget it's also where he got his first taste of live football. As a youngster he cheered the Blues on from the terraces. Both David and Windsor look a little different these days.

With the new manager in the stands, it was easy to forget there was a match taking place.

With Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie in charge, the Blues faced Whitey Anderson's confident Mallards.

Alvin Rouse was the star of the first-half, denying the trio of David Kee, Ivan Sproule and Stephen Lowry.

The second period was largely unremarkable until the 70th minute.

The Mallards were fully focused on the task in hand, and although they endured long spells without the ball, they deserved some joy from their defensive discipline.

A cross was flighted over from the right-flank, finding Lafferty at the back post.

The former Dergview man showcased his undoubted talented with an acrobatic left-footed half-volley from 10 yards, which flew past Ross Glendinning and into the back of the Linfield net.

The drama didn't end there. Mallards goalkeeper Rouse injured his shoulder in a collision with Andy Waterworth and had to be replaced in the 78th minute by experienced shot-stopper Stefan McCusker.

With six minutes of time added on, and Healy now directing operations from the Linfield bench, the Blues went in search of the equaliser.

Substitute Adam Salley drove a low cross along the front of the Mallards goal, but defender Liam Martin put it over his own bar before Waterworth could tap home to take the game into extra-time.

The hugely impressive Emmet Friars then headed a Kee corner-kick off the line.

Healy's big night ended in Ballinamallard celebrations. It goes to show that while you can stage-manage a managerial announcement, you can't script a football match.

Belfast Telegraph