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Linfield are the real deal: Jimmy Callacher

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Sammy Morrow was Man of the Match at Windsor Park

Sammy Morrow was Man of the Match at Windsor Park

Sammy Morrow was Man of the Match at Windsor Park

Jimmy Callacher punched the air with relief rather than delight as he made his way to the dressing room after this Christmas thriller at Windsor Park.

Linfield's 24-year-old defender admitted his emotions were 'all over the place' as the joy of heading his team into an early lead were tarnished by conceding an injury time penalty against Portadown.

Little wonder, then, that Callacher clung to the neck of goalkeeper Ross Glendinning at the finish after his marvellous reaction to Ross Redman's spot kick.

It was the final act in a contest that was a magnificent advertisement for Irish League football.

Callacher, Aaron Burns and Sammy Morrow were on target for Warren Feeney's side, with Sean Mackle and former Blues favourite Mark McAllister replying for the Ports.

But add into the mix some near misses, two penalties, eight bookings and a fair dollop of controversy combining to ensure that Christmas came early for the 2,500 fans looking on.

"It was a wonder save," beamed Callacher. "I actually couldn't believe he held on to the ball. There was a lot of power in the shot, I just couldn't believe it.

"I definitely owe Ross a pint. The only thing is he doesn't drink, so I'll have to buy him a coke or something like that.

"There was no doubt it was a penalty kick. McAllister rolled me and I had to try and block the ball. Instead, I chopped him down.

"Being honest, I thought McAllister had a super game. He was a threat all day. He pulled a ball out of the air on one occasion that even Messi or Ronaldo would have been proud of. It was ridiculous."

The victory shot the Blues four points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table. The jeers that previously echoed around the international venue have now turned to cheers as fans have at last given a seal of approval to new boss Feeney.

"The gaffer has been brilliant," added Callacher.

"He has been fair with everyone. If you are playing well, you keep the shirt. It doesn't matter who you are or what you have done before.

"We have now put together a nice little run. I think we've picked up something like 21 points out of a possible 24. But realistically, any one of four or five teams could still win the title. Crusaders, Portadown, Cliftonville and even Glentoran are all in there.

"It was a massive win for us. I think our second half performance showed that we are the real deal in terms of a serious title challenge."

It was Callacher who got the scoring show under way by heading home a Burns cross after only two minutes. But the Ports were in front going in at the break.

Mackle picked up the pieces after Glendinning spilled a Peter McMahon shot before McAllister brilliantly headed home a Redman cross.

Linfield came storming from the blocks in the second half and referee Raymond Hetherington awarded his first spot kick of the day when Ivan Sproule was hauled down by Garry Breen.

Burns' strike crashed off the under side of the crossbar and back into play but, on the advice of his assistant, Dungannon official Hetherington awarded the goal before Sproule set up Morrow for the winner.

Portadown manager Ronnie McFall was in little doubt that Burns' goal should not have stood.

"Our players are adamant that the first goal was offside and they maintain that the penalty kick didn't cross the line," he said.

"What baffled me is the fact that the referee played on for a good 30 seconds before he awarded the goal. How he came to that decision, I just don't know. I thought the ball came straight out off the crossbar.

"Every week now you hear and read about criticism about referees and officials. After that performance you can fully understand it."

Belfast Telegraph


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