Belfast Telegraph

Kirk Millar doubles up for Co Antrim Shield but holders Linfield are forced to dig deep

Ballyclare Comrades 1-4 Linfield

By Alex Mills

Holders Linfield are into the second round of the Toals Bookmakers County Antrim Shield, but it took two late goals from Kirk Millar and Louis Rooney to shake off gritty Ballyclare Comrades at Dixon Park.

The Blues approached the game with horrible memories of their last visit, when they were dumped out of the League Cup back in 2014 under the watch of Warren Feeney.

But a first-half quick-fire double from Stephen Lowry and Millar looked to have settled this tie early on.

Comrades, however, came out battling and once Mark Kelly shot them back into it before the break, they made a real go of it.

The Championship side bossed the second half until Millar notched his second of the game. Rooney then put the icing on the cake with the fourth.

The Blues almost got off to the best possible start, but Lowry headed over the crossbar after goalkeeper Paddy Flood had made a hash of Millar's cross.

But the visiting fans hadn't long to wait for the breakthrough. Lowry powered his way into the box and, even though his first attempt was blocked, the midfielder's persistence paid off. When the ball fell kindly to him, he buried the second attempt.

David Healy's boys struck again on 12 minutes. Millar gobbled up a Cameron Stewart flick and having spotted Flood off his line, the midfielder produced the most delicious of lobs.

Linfield should really have been out of sight on 20 minutes, but Andy Mitchell shamefully headed a Millar corner kick over the top from point blank range.

It was all one-way traffic. Jimmy Callacher's deep free-kick was flicked on by Mark Stafford, but Millar could only drill his shot into the body of Flood.

But after soaking up all the pressure, the home team managed to claw their way back into the game. Kelly pounced on a loose ball and out-paced both Stafford and Callacher before dinking the ball over the advancing Gareth Deane.

Comrades grew in confidence and came out for the second half looking for an equaliser. Linfield had Deane to thank for producing a wonderful response to a Dean Youle header following a cross from Gary Browne.

And they gave the visiting fans another fright on 65 minutes. Brown again was involved, but Johnston just failed to touch home his low cross.

But Millar finally settled the issue with a classy finish nine minutes from time. He motored onto to a Chris Casement cross, rounded Flood and tucked the ball home from a narrow angle.

Substitute Rooney ensured the Blues would be in the draw for the next round when he drilled home the fourth four minutes from time, finishing off a Stafford pass.

BALLYCLARE COMRADES: Flood, Woods, Parker, Youle, McQuitty, Nixon (O'Hanlon 88), Gray (Robinson 81), Brown, Johnston, Dobbin, Kelly (Mackie 85).

Unused subs: McKinty, McIlveen.

LINFIELD: Deane, Stafford, C Stewart (Strain 63), Callacher, Lowry, Adams (Rooney 63), Millar, Clarke, Casement, Garrett, Mitchell (Mulgrew 78).

Unused subs: J Stewart, R Clarke.

Referee: Andrew Davey

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