Belfast Telegraph

Blues stars let everyone down, blasts boss Healy

Linfield 1 Portadown 1

By Alex Mills

David Healy last night slammed his players after Linfield fell a massive nine points behind Crusaders in the Danske Bank Premiership title race.

It took an injury-time equaliser from substitute Josh Carson to spare the Blues' blushes after another horror show in front of their home fans.

Adam Foley shot the league's basement team, Portadown, into a dramatic lead nine minutes from time.

This was a team that had lost their last six league games and were sitting a whopping 12 points adrift of 11th-placed Carrick Rangers before kick-off - but this was a team that displayed a passion and desire that would suggest they could still make a fist of the battle to avoid the drop.

"It was a night to forget," blasted Healy, who was sent off towards the end. "In fact, I felt rather embarrassed after the performance. I've come out many times after games to take responsibility in terms of selection or wrong substitutions.

"Tonight, the players let everyone down. We weren't good enough and that's a hard one to stomach. They set the standards with recent displays, but it's baffling how they can turn in something like that. We've got to be better than that.

"It was unacceptable. If we are to be successful, we need to be better than that. We had no tempo and lacked ideas. It's a difficult one to put your finger on."

Jimmy Callacher thought he had given the Blues a perfect start when he headed home Niall Quinn's free-kick, but referee Lee Tavinder disallowed the effort as the defender had strayed offside.

Then, an error from Stephen Lowry presented the visitors with a rare chance of breaking the deadlock. The midfielder's wayward pass was gobbled up by Foley and, after an impressive 25-yard dash, he slipped a pass to Marcio Soares, whose low shot was superbly beaten away by the outstretched boot of Roy Carroll.

Healy attempted to inject fresh life into his team with the introduction of Paul Smyth after the interval, with Millar making way.

A little piece of Smyth magic opened up the Ports and he cut the ball back for Ross Gaynor, but Mark Carson popped up with a wonder tackle.

But Foley silenced the home fans with only nine minutes left. Callacher was caught napping in his own box and when the ball fell to the big man, he looped an unstoppable shot into the net.

With the dejected fans making for the exits, the Blues at last sparked to life when Andy Waterworth's shot was flicked away by Chris McGaughey, but Carson was on hand to head home.

Healy also finished the game in the grandstand after speaking out of turn to the fourth official.

Ports boss Niall Currie said: "It was disappointing to lose a goal right at the finish. However, we must build on this result."

Crusaders: Carroll, Stafford, Stewart, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry, Millar (Smyth 46), Clarke, Casement (Carson 78), Mulgrew, Quinn (Gaynor 63).

Unused subs: Ward, Fallon.

Portadown: McGaughey (Duffin 97), Carson, Shannon, Larkin, Hazley, Garrett, Henderson, Mackle, Soares (Mulvenna 80), McGerrigan, Foley.

Unused subs: Duffin, Gardiner, Richardson, Dolan.

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