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Larne fight back to humble Linfield and fire out title statement

Larne 3 Linfield 1


Double joy: Martin Donnelly celebrates scoring Larne’s second goal

Double joy: Martin Donnelly celebrates scoring Larne’s second goal

Double joy: Martin Donnelly celebrates scoring Larne’s second goal

A stirring second-half fightback from Larne saw them come from behind to extend their lead over Linfield at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership to four points.

The reigning champions led at Inver Park thanks to Shayne Lavery's early stunning strike, but a Davy McDaid-inspired home side fought back to bag three goals and all three points after the break.

The victory ensured Larne earned a four-point lead at the top of the table, and guarantees them top spot for Christmas.

Coming into the game Larne made two changes to the side which beat Glenavon last Saturday, with skipper Jeff Hughes and goalscrorer from that game Ronan Hale coming in to replace the suspended Mark Randall and Lee Lynch.

Linfield made one change with Mark Haughey replacing Conor Pepper at right back.


Graham Kelly is mobbed after hitting the stunning equaliser

Graham Kelly is mobbed after hitting the stunning equaliser

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Graham Kelly is mobbed after hitting the stunning equaliser

The home side looked lively in the opening exchanges, forcing a number of corners and went close to taking the lead after four minutes, but Hale's curling effort dipped just over the bar.

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But it was David Healy's side who went in front with 16 minutes gone, with a goal of ruthless simplicity.

Kyle McClean won the ball in midfield and slipped it to Niall Quinn, 10 yards inside his own half. He played an inch perfect ball across the path of former Linfield defender Josh Robinson to find Shayne Lavery on the right side of the Larne box and the Northern Ireland under-21 striker lashed an unstoppable effort into the top right corner from an acute angle.

The home side came agonisingly close to an equaliser on 21 minutes but John Herron's knockdown was just an inch ahead of Hale, lurking at the back post.

Donnelly then tried his luck with a free-kick 20 yards out, but it sailed a few yards over Walsh's bar.

That was the closest either side came to a sight of goal as Healy's men managed the game until the break.

The Invermen started the second half brightly and goalkeeper David Walsh was called into action for the first time on 52 minutes, palming Jeff Hughes low effort to safety, low to his right.


Shayne Lavery celebrates

Shayne Lavery celebrates

Shayne Lavery celebrates

Tiernan Lynch's men were level just before the hour and it came from an unlikely source.

Former Sheffield United defender Graham Kelly cruised his way down the left flank, before checking back on to his right foot on the angle of the box and curling a delightful finish over Walsh into the top right corner.

It was the left-back's first goal for the club since joining two and half years ago.

Larne had a great opportunity to get their noses in front with 20 minutes left.

After a quick counter attack the ball was played on the chest of Davy McDaid, 10 yards into the Linfield half, and his quick thinking saw him spray a ball to his left into the path of Hale.

However, after cutting into from the left and towards goal he fired over the ball just after breaking into the box.

The second goal arrived 16 minutes from time and, once more, Davy McDaid had a huge part to play.

Conor Devlin launched a quick break with an inch perfect kick out of his hands to McDaid on the right flank.

A clever drop of the shoulder from McDaid got him away from the full back and he laid it off to Marty Donnelly in space inside the box and his low effort from 15 yards was deflected home to leave Walsh with no chance.

The home side came within a whisker of extending their lead with eight minutes on the clock, but Fuad Sule fired a yard wide when Walsh looked beaten.

The game was sealed with a minute to go with former Cliftonville striker McDaid at the heart of it once more.

This time he found wriggle room inside the box and was brought down by Mark Stafford and McDaid stepped up fire the penalty down the middle, finding the roof of the net via Walsh's feet.

Larne: Devlin, Kelly, Watson, Robinson, Herron, Sule, Hale, McDaid, Donnelly, Cosgrove, Hughes.

Unused subs: C Mitchell, Scott, Lynch, A Mitchell, Wade Slater, Jarvis, McMurray

Linfield: Walsh, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Stewart ('71 Waterworth), Millar, Lavery, Clarke ('78 Hery), McClean ('78 Doyle), Mulgrew, Quinn

Unused Subs: Larkin, Shevlin, Kearns, Doyle, Hery, McGivern

Referee: Ian McNabb

Man of the match: Jeff Hughes

Match rating: 8/10

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