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Andy Waterworth double sees Linfield back on top

Linfield 2 Dungannon Swifts 1


Linfield's Andy Waterworth scores at Windsor Park. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Linfield's Andy Waterworth scores at Windsor Park. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Linfield's Andy Waterworth scores at Windsor Park. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Two goals from Andy Waterworth saw Linfield reclaim top spot as the title race took another twist.

The Blues came from behind to behind Dungannon and move a point clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.

But they were made to battle for the victory by a well-organised Swifts side.

A scoreless draw when the sides met here 18 days earlier had seen David Healy’s men concede ground in the title chase.

And when Daniel Hughes put the away side in front, Healy must have feared another setback.

But a defensive slip handed Waterworth an instant equaliser, and the striker secured the points with a second half header.

It takes Linfield back above Crusaders and Glentoran as the lead changed hands yet again.

With Cliftonville also winning on Tuesday night, the top five remain separated by just four points.

Yet as the first hour of this game showed, there will be plenty of twists and turns as the final weeks unfold.

The main action in an entertaining first half came in the space of 60 seconds.

First Dungannon stunned the home crowd by taking a 25th minute lead.

It was a goal of some style as Rhyss Campbell crossed to Kris Lowe, who opted to pass rather than shoot, slipping the ball through to Hughes.

The striker, having been involved earlier in the move, had ghosted into the danger area and reacted fastest to steer home a low effort via the inside of the post.

It was his first goal in four injury-disrupted months, and a quality finish to cap a fine move.

Yet it was wiped out almost instantly, as Linfield equalised from the restart.

The ball was played back to Stephen Fallon, and his pass forward was misjudged by Ally Teggart.

Waterworth, always so alert around the box, reacted fastest, darting between Dylan King and Dougie Wilson to slot home.

On the sideline, an exasperated Kris Lindsay turned away in frustration.

It was just about the only slip from the Swifts, entering this game on a four-match unbeaten run.

They looked solid at the back and, in Caolan McAleer and Campbell, had players capable of breaking at speed.

In midfield, Oisin Smyth caught the eye, showing a growing maturity with his use of the ball.

The only moment of real concern had come in the 15th minute.

A free-kick was played down the left to Stephen Fallon, who cut inside and teed up the unmarked Kirk Millar. He went for the spectacular, attempting a rabona kick, but it was just over.

Later in the half the Blues won a free-kick on the left, but Millar’s delivery bypassed everyone and crept wide of the back post.

Linfield sought to increase the attacking tempo as the second half got under way.

A free-kick from Millar found Jimmy Callacher, who dragged a shot across goal.

Then Joel Cooper’s pass picked out Millar, but his attempted lob was off target.

The Swifts countered as Smyth crossed to Hughes, but he struggled to control the dropping ball and the chance was gone.

A foul by Caolin Coyle gave Linfield a free-kick in a dangerous position 20 yards out. Waterworth and Millar stood over the ball, but the latter’s attempt clipped off the Swifts’ wall and spun over.

Yet there was a greater urgency to the Blues’ play.

Rory Currie’s shot was deflected for a corner - and from it Linfield struck.

The ball was played to Niall Quinn and his cross picked out Waterworth, whose instinctive header looped in via the back post.

The Swifts, needing a goal, introduced January signing Guillaume Keke for his debut.

Linfield, though, were now in control and almost wrapped it up 15 minutes from the end.

A corner from Quinn was met by a powerful Mark Stafford header, but goalkeeper Conner Byrne made a terrific point-blank save.

Sub Mark Patton had a late chance for the Swifts, but his shot was easily saved.

LINFIELD: Ferguson, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Quinn, McClean, Millar, Fallon, Cooper, Currie (Stewart, 73), Waterworth

Subs not used: Moore, Shevlin, Clarke, Kearns, Hery, Boyle

DUNGANNON: Byrne, Coyle, King, Wilson (Brennan, 77), Teggart, Lowe, Smyth, McGinty (Keke, 69), Campbell (Patton, 76), McAleer, Hughes

Subs not used: Johnston, Redman, Convie, Fitzpatrick

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Cookstown)

MOTM: Andrew Waterworth

Match rating 7/10

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