Linfield 3 Ards 1
A determined Ards forced Linfield to battle for the win in a hard-fought IRN-BRU League Cup encounter at Windsor Park.
Ards goalkeeper Graeme McKibbin made a string of good saves to keep the score at 1-1 until 13 minutes from time when the Ards defence finally relented to a scrambled Brian McCaul goal, before Jim Ervin wrapped up a 3-1 win for the Blues.
Despite having to wait for the winning goal, Linfield boss David Jeffrey never doubted his side would progress.
“I had no doubt it was going to be a very tough match and so it proved. I just think in the end that we had that little bit of extra quality and fitness, and that told. Peter Thompson and Jim Ervin both scored superb goals,” said Jeffrey.
“I was always confident that we would win in the end but I have to congratulate Ards on the way they played. They got the ball down and passed it around well — they worked and worked and worked, right up until the full-time whistle.”
The manager wasn't too concerned that Linfield only won by two goals against a Championship side, praising his players for battling until the end.
“I think people expect us to always go out and turn people over, but it's not always going to be like that,” said Jeffrey.
“Ards came here today to make it difficult for us — sure, I would have preferred to have scored a few more goals but it wasn't for the lack of trying. Their keeper made save after save.
“You have to give credit to our players, who showed a lot of patience and seen it through in the end.”
Linfield opened the scoring as early as the second minute when Peter Thompson (pictured) collected the ball on the right hand side of the penalty box before finding space and firing the ball across Graeme McKibbin and into the far corner of the net.
Lesser lower league teams might have folded after conceding a goal so early on, but Niall Currie’s side rallied and found themselves on level terms in the 21st minute.
Neil Dougan, who was released by Jeffrey in May, won a free-kick just outside the box when he was brought down by his former Linfield Swifts team-mate Niall Quinn.
Paul McDowell stepped up to rifle the 25 yard free-kick low into the bottom corner — his thunderbolt effort eluded both Alan Blayney and the Linfield wall.
The Ards goal served as a wake-up call to the Blues who piled pressure onto a nervous looking Ards defence for the rest of the half.
McKibbin was called into action making a trio of saves in under three minutes. In the 35th minute the Ards keeper kicked away a Michael Carvill effort. A minute later the young keeper palmed away a low Jamie Mulgrew effort, before once again coming to Ards’ rescue in the 37th minute by tipping over an Ervin chance.
For all Linfield's play in the final third Ards looked dangerous on the counter attack with Kyle McDowell and Neil Dougan causing Linfield problems on the flanks. The away side almost took the lead mid-way through the second half when Paul McDowell forced Alan Blayney into a great save after he directed a Ryan Moffatt free-kick towards the goal with his head.
Linfield finally made the break-through in the 77th minute when Ards failed to clear a Jamie Mulgrew free-kick. Peter Thompson's initial effort was blocked, but Brian McCaul was on hand to turn in the rebound from six yards.
The Blues secured their place in Wednesday's third round draw in the 81st minute when Peter Thompson set up Jim Ervin for a rare goal as Ervin slammed home Thompson's neat ball inside from ten yards out.
Linfield : Blayney, Ervin, Watson, Burns, Quinn, Carvill (Fordyce 88), Mulgrew (Henderson 88) , Garrett, McCaul, Browne (McAllister 56), Thompson. Subs: Curran, Clarke.
Ards: McKibbin, Hall, Nixon, Spence (D.Cully 84), Moffatt, Dougan, Smith, J.Cully (Dickson 70), K McDowell (McMillen 76), Arthurs, P McDowell. Subs: Kingsberry, McIlhagga.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).