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High-flying Linfield thrash Portadown

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Linfield's Curtis Allen celebrates scoring against Portadown  during Tuesday night's Carling Premiership game at Windsor Park

Linfield's Curtis Allen celebrates scoring against Portadown during Tuesday night's Carling Premiership game at Windsor Park

Linfield's Curtis Allen celebrates scoring against Portadown during Tuesday night's Carling Premiership game at Windsor Park

Linfield sent out a ‘catch us if you can’ message to their title rivals as they powered to a crushing 5-0 victory over Portadown last night.

The Blues may only hold a slender one point lead at the top of the Carling Premiership, but it was the nature of their victory over Ronnie McFall’s side that spelt out their desire to end two years of hurt by bringing the Gibson Cup back to Windsor Park.

And they did it in no uncertain terms too.

It took the league leaders almost half an hour to open the scoring, but once they did they took the game — and Portadown — by the scruff of the neck and refused to let go until the visitors had no fight left in them.

Curtis Allen’s double and other goals from Philip Lowry, Billy Joe Burns and Jamie Tomelty may have won the game, but classy individual displays from Jamie Mulgrew, Robert Garrett and Mark McAllister — in arguably his best display in a Linfield shirt — contributed to the collection of three points just as much.

It could all have been so different if the in-form Ports — who had knocked both Cliftonville and Glentoran off the top of the table in the last ten days — had made their early pressure pay.

When you don’t score when you’re on top though often you pay the price and the Ports did.

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Alan Teggart headed a deep cross into the arms of Alan Blayney with just a couple of minutes gone, Jordan Baker was asking all sorts of questions of Noel Bailie and confusion between the captain and his goalkeeper gave the Ports a corner, but Gary McCutcheon’s delivery into the box didn’t cause any real danger.

Linfield gradually came into the game more and more and by the halfway stage of the first half they were starting to show signs of what was to come.

David Miskelly raced from his goal to punch the ball away as McAllister tried to latch onto a through ball and the Ports goalkeeper needed two attempts to gather the ball after Allen’s shot from the left.

Allen then struck with the first clear-cut chance of the game on 26 minutes when he sprung the offside trap and latched on to Mulgrew’s flick to go one-on-one with Miskelly and he found the bottom corner of the net.

Mulgrew was instrumental in the second goal seven minutes later. He won a challenge 30 yards from goal and was quickly back on his feet to supply the rampaging BJ Burns with a fine pass. He had options and instead of electing to cross he slipped a sort pass to Lowry who fired through a crowd of bodies and into the net from the right hand corner of the box.

The spark that Portadown had shown early on had disappeared, as had their cohesion and composure in the final third and any confidence that was left.

And any hopes of a comeback were killed off 70 seconds into the second-half as the Blues struck their third.

Allen’s ball to McAllister was good, but the touch from McAllister that presented BJ Burns with the chance was even better. Burns won the race with Miskelly to tuck the ball beyond the goalkeeper from 10 yards.

Now it was all Linfield. The Ports were punch drunk and Blayney had become little more than a spectator.

Aaron Burns headed a free-kick over the bar shortly after the third goal, McAllister sent a shot wide and Allen saw Miskelly somehow save with his legs when he latched onto the ball just a couple of yards out.

Mulgrew was the architect of Linfield’s fourth of the night midway through the second-half when he sent Allen through once again and the 22-year-old powered home his 11th of the season.

David Jeffrey denied Allen a shot at another Linfield hat-trick when he was withdrawn 17 minutes from the end, but he will have enjoyed the standing ovation from the South Stand as he made his exit.

Linfield weren’t done though and with 11 minutes remaining McAllister sent in a dangerous cross from the right, Tomelty followed the flight of the ball and he met it with a side-foot volley that had Miskelly well beaten.

There is still nothing certain in the title race and with Linfield meeting second placed Cliftonville in their next outing there is the opportunity of another twist, but the Blues are looking strong and are coming into form at just the right time if they are to be crowned champions in May.

LINFIELD: Blayney, BJ Burns (Casement 71), A Burns (Curran 77), Bailie, Lindsay, Lowry, Garrett, Mulgrew, Tomelty, McAllister, Allen (Munster 73). Subs: Addis Gault.

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Redman, Clarke, Kelly, Braniff, Mouncey, Teggart (Morrison 53), McCutcheon, Baker (Topley 66), Hunter (O’Hara 82), Mackle. Subs Armstrong, McCluskey.

Referee: Brian Turkington (Belfast).


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