Roy Carroll is worth this many points for Linfield, says beaten boss McAree
Linfield 1 Dungannon Swifts 0
Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree praised the enduring class of Roy Carroll after watching the veteran goalkeeper frustrate his side at Windsor Park.
The 40-year-old pulled off a series of impressive saves as Linfield claimed an unconvincing win.
Among them was a superb one-handed stop to keep out Ryan Harpur's header.
Later, after Andy Waterworth had headed the Blues in front, Carroll made a crucial block as Peter McMahon ran through on goal.
McAree said: "Roy Carroll must be worth 12 to 15 points to Linfield at the start of each season. He's a terrific goalkeeper - the best there is in the league, that's for sure.
"I'm not saying we deserved to win the game, I'm not saying that Linfield didn't deserve to win it, but he makes crucial saves at crucial times."
The winner from Waterworth came in the 68th minute. A cross from the right had been overhit but Niall Quinn rescued the situation, turning the ball back towards Matthew Clarke.
He had time to pick out Waterworth in the area, with the forward rising above three defenders to head home. But it was far from a polished performance from the Blues, who were wasteful in attack and needed Carroll to bail them out on several occasions.
McAree added: "I'm disappointed with the result but we gave ourselves something to fight for today. We gave ourselves an opportunity to try and get something out of the game. I think we can take confidence from that."
Aside from Carroll, teenager Ryan Strain impressed for Linfield after coming off the bench in the second half. The 17-year-old added urgency and creativity to the Blues' attack. And the result, while unconvincing, was all that mattered for Linfield boss David Healy.
He said: "Hopefully when we total up the points come the end of the season, that might just be a big three points for us today."
The busy festive fixture schedule could yet define this season's title race.
Clubs play four times between December 23 and January 1.
Healy says the "ridiculous" programme will place an unfair demand on part-time footballers.
"These guys get a week or two weeks off for Christmas and new year and they're being pummelled to play football four times in nine days - madness," he said.
Linfield: Carroll, Casement, Stafford, Haughey, Quinn, M Clarke, Garrett, Lowry, Millar (Mitchell, 84 mins), Stewart (Strain, 62 mins), Waterworth. Unused subs: Robinson, Rooney, R Clarke.
Dungannon: Addis, McMenamin (Fitzpatrick, 76 mins), Armstrong, Clucas, O'Rourke, Harpur, Hutchinson (McMahon, 72 mins), Lowe, Mayse, Burke (Teggart, 60 mins), Lafferty. Unused subs: Coleman, Campbell.
Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)
Man of the match: Roy Carroll
Match rating: 7/10