Belfast Telegraph

Goal hero Andrew Waterworth hails Linfield's extra special spirit after semi-final success

Dungannon Sw 0 Linfield 1

Dangerman: Andrew Waterworth turns away in celebration after his extra time winner for Linfield at Stangmore Park
Dangerman: Andrew Waterworth turns away in celebration after his extra time winner for Linfield at Stangmore Park
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Andrew Waterworth praised Linfield's character after firing the Blues into their first League Cup final in more than a decade.

They needed extra time to overcome holders Dungannon in a tense semi-final at Stangmore Park last night.

But Waterworth's close-range finish, his 19th goal of the season, sent them through.

The striker said: "It was a tough, tough game, we expected nothing less.Both teams were obviously desperate to win and were set up strong defensively and to be hard to beat."

After the 90 minutes had finished scoreless, Linfield needed just three minutes of the extra time to make the breakthrough.

The outstanding Jamie Mulgrew played the ball to the back post, where Kirk Millar's first-time shot was brilliantly saved by Niall Morgan.

But the ball dropped perfectly for Waterworth, loitering a yard in front of goal, and he slotted home.

Waterworth added: "It is just nice, as a striker, to get one of those goals where the ball has just come at you in the box. You don't often get them, but thankfully tonight I did.

"Tonight was about perseverance, determination and a lot of grit, because this is a very hard place to come.

"Before the game we had a feeling it might take extra-time, because both teams are set up defensively strong, but thankfully we got the win."

It is the Blues' first League Cup final since 2008, when they beat Crusaders.

In a first half of precious few chances, the best fell to Dungannon in the 35th minute.

A free-kick from Mark Patton was directed back across goal by defender Christopher Hegarty, but his header clipped the post.

Otherwise the opening 45 minutes produced little in the way of drama.

The Blues looked comfortable on the ball, particularly in the opening stages, but struggled to test Morgan.

Morgan had been given permission to play by Tyrone GAA, with the Swifts' regular goalkeeper Alex Moore, who is on loan from Linfield, ineligible.

Dungannon's defence was badly hit by injuries, and a makeshift back line saw Seanan Clucas deployed alongside Hegarty.

But they coped well against the Blues' attack in the first half.

The best chance for Linfield came in the 13th minute.

It followed some terrific footwork from Millar, who turned past Jarlath O'Rourke but bent a shot just wide of the back post.

Otherwise the first half was a story of half-chances and near misses.

In the 25th minute a nice passing move from the Swifts almost provided the breakthrough.

Patton took a pass from O'Rourke and crossed to the back post, where Ally Teggart headed into the side netting.

Linfield started the second half strongly and had two big chances to get in front. The first came from a free-kick, awarded after Clucas was penalised for a foul just outside the box.

Niall Quinn's effort had power and accuracy, but was pushed wide by Morgan.

A corner was played short by Millar to Mulgrew. He hit a cracking shot which bounced down off the crossbar, but landed the wrong side of the line.

Just past the hour Cooper made one of his mazy runs, ghosting past several defenders, but shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Cooper was involved in the Blues' best attacking moves as they sought a breakthrough.

In the 65th minute he delivered a superb ball across goal, but Waterworth arrived a fraction too late at the back post to take advantage.

Morgan then made a superb save to thwart Jordan Stewart at close range after he'd been teed up by Waterworth.

It took just two minutes of the extra time period for Linfield to make the breakthrough via Waterworth's tap in.

Quinn then came close to making it 2-0, but blazed over when well placed.

Dungannon's best chance of an equaliser fell to substitute Oisin Smyth, whose snapshot was well saved by Roy Carroll, but Linfield held on.

• Warrenpoint Town will face Glenavon in the final of the Mid-Ulster Cup after they overcame Portadown 3-0 at Shamrock Park last night.

A Francis McCaffrey brace and Phillip Donnelly strike sunk the Ports.

DUNGANNON SWIFTS: Morgan, Lowe, Hegarty, Clucas, O'Rourke, Harpur (Hutchinson, 71), McMullan (Smyth, 97), Patton, Teggart (Hughes, 94), McElroy, O'Carroll (Lafferty, 77)

Subs not used: Addis, Burke, Campbell

LINFIELD: Carroll, Robinson, Callacher, Casement, Quinn, Mulgrew, Millar (Mitchell, 96), Fallon, Cooper (O'Connor, 81), Stewart (Clarke, 110), Waterworth

Subs not used: Deane, Forde, Garrett, Reynolds

Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare)

MOTM: Jamie Mulgrew

MATCH RATING: 7/10

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