Belfast Telegraph

Paul Smyth will flourish for QPR, says Linfield team-mate

Linfield 1 Ballymena United 0

By Alex Mills

Midfielder Andy Mitchell believes Paul Smyth's full-time career is ready for lift-off.

The 19-year-old all-but secured a move to Queen's Park Rangers at the weekend after the SkyBet Championship side agreed terms with Linfield for his transfer, which is due to be announced soon.

The news ended weeks of speculation about the striker's future. He signed off in style, helping the Blues to a hard-fought win over Ballymena United at Windsor Park.

Although all eyes were on Smyth on his final outing in a blue shirt, it was Mitchell who hit the winner from the penalty spot with only 13 minutes remaining.

Inevitably, Smyth was involved, dinking a delightful pass to Mitchell, who was chopped down by a scathing challenge from Willie Faulkner. The 25-year-old midfielder did the rest from the spot.

Having sampled the full time circuit with Rangers and Manchester City in his young days, Mitchell reckons Smyth is in the best possible shape to make a success of it at Loftus Road.

"Smythie said his goodbyes to the boys after the match," said Mitchell. "We'll miss him. He brings bags of energy to the team. I've obviously only played with him since the start of the season, but he is an amazing talent.

"I believe he can make a real impact in England. People may say he's small and light, but he's in good shape.

"He'll be put on a programme at QPR to build up his fitness and his physique. It will be much harder than what he's been used to, but he's got all the ability in the world.

"The best of luck to him. It's good to see boys over here getting the chance to go into the full time game... Paul deserves it."

Smyth was given a standing ovation from both sets of fans when he walked out of the international arena as a Linfield player for the last time.

United's chances of rescuing a point were flushed down the tubes when Andrew Burns was dismissed just two minutes after Mitchell's winner following a horrible challenge on Jamie Mulgrew.

Blues boss David Healy admitted his team had to grind out the result.

He said: "The good thing for me was we found a way to win a game without being great or scintillating. We were workmanlike. Although I always felt we were the better team, I suppose it would be fair to say we won ugly."

United manager David Jeffrey admitted referee Evan Boyce got the penalty decision and the sending off totally right, but missed two infringements leading up to both incidents.

"I was pleased with the performance levels, but when I saw the TV pictures clearly there was a foul at the halfway line before the penalty kick was awarded, and a foul should have been awarded to Andrew (Burns) before his tackle - end of story. He was impeded by Stephen Lowry.

"Decisions like that frustrate the life out of me."

Weekend results: Ards 0 Dungannon Swifts 1; Carrick Rangers 2 Ballinamallard United 0; Cliftonville 1 Crusaders 2; Coleraine 2 Warrenpoint Town 1; Glenavon 2 Glentoran 2; Linfield 1 Ballymena United 0 Fixtures to come Saturday (3pm): Ballymena United v Cliftonville, Coleraine v Glenavon, Dungannon Swifts v Ballinamallard United, Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town

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