Belfast Telegraph

Noble thrilled as late Ballinamallard equaliser rocks Linfield

Ballinamallard United 2 Linfield 2

By Gareth Cauldwell

Sean Noble bagged a goal in injury time to clinch a point for 10-man Ballinamallard against Linfield at Ferney Park last night.

Linfield had looked as if they were on their way to the points after goals from Mark Stafford and an Andy Waterworth penalty saw them come from behind after Ryan Curran had given the home side the lead.

The Mallards' case was not helped when substitute Josh McIlwaine was red carded by referee Lee Tavinder.

But, with the game in injury time, Noble capitalised on a mistake by Robert Garrett to fire home a valuable equaliser for Harry McConkey's side.

"We just kept fighting and I felt we deserved to win the game," said Noble. "Their young keeper played well but I probably should have scored.

"Harry McConkey has revitalised the squad and given ourselves belief. He's getting the best out of everybody. We have six games left and the Carrick one is big, we will look forward to that.

"Harry got the balance of the team spot on and we have closed the gaps in midfield. It's a lot more compact in midfield."

Linfield started the brighter of the sides and had a chance to take the lead in the third minute but Niall Quinn saw his shot blocked by Michael Kerr.

The Mallards, who worked hard in closing down Linfield throughout the contest, soon started to grow into the game and they had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes.

It took a good save by teenage Linfield goalkeeper Alex Moore to deny Stephen O'Flynn's drive from distance while the young netminder was again called into action as he got down to tip an O'Flynn flick around the post as it remained 0-0 at the break.

The game really came to life in the second half though, and the Blues had a couple of good chances to take the lead but Waterworth couldn't steer his header on goal while Niall Quinn blasted wide when well placed.

It was basement side Ballinamallard who were to break the deadlock as Ryan Curran put the home side ahead when the industrious Noble clipped a ball in from the right and Curran rose to head to the corner to give the Mallards the lead.

The visitors had a chance to level things soon after but home keeper Richard Brush made a good save with his feet, while at the other end, Noble had a great chance to put Ballinamallard two up but he saw his drive pushed away for a corner by Moore.

The miss was to prove costly as Linfield levelled up the contest three minutes later as Stafford headed home from a Quinn free kick.

It went from bad to worse for the Mallards as Waterworth swept home from the spot in the 78th minute after a handball in the box, while McIlwaine was then dismissed for a foul on Quinn.

However, there was a late twist as the Mallards swooped for their equaliser as Noble raced through after Garrett's error and tucked the ball home to leave it 2-2 at the finish and a second successive draw for McConkey since he took over the reins from Gavin Dykes.

Ballinamallard Utd: Brush, Kerr, Smyth, McKenna, McLaughlin, Clarke (Hutchinson, 86 mins), Kee (Leddy, 90 mins), McGinty, Noble, Curran, O'Flynn (McIlwaine, 82 mins).

Linfield: Moore, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Millar, Clarke (Byrne, 69 mins), Garrett, Mitchell (Lowry, 65 mins), Campion, Quinn.

Man of the Match: Sean Noble

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Lee Tavinder.

Belfast Telegraph

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