Belfast Telegraph

Thompson returns to save Linfield

By Mark McIntosh

Linfield 1 Lisburn Distillery 1: Returning hero Peter Thompson bagged his first goal of the season last night to save Linfield's blushes and deny Lisburn Distillery one of the biggest upsets of the campaign at Windsor Park.

Thompson, who has been out since mid-September following kidney surgery, showed he'd lost none of his killer instinct during his lay-off, as he slammed the ball past Billy Brennan from six yards after good work from Mark McAllister and Michael Carvill.

The point keeps the Blues top of the table at Christmas, five points ahead of Portadown, who could only draw with Carrick Rangers despite leading twice.

The Whites were good value for their point — only their third in 12 games — and they threatened to add to Mark Cooling's early penalty throughout.

The Blues strikers were certainly aiming to impress with Thompson itching to get off the bench, but it was a defender who had the first chance for the champions when Albert Watson headed over.

Within a minute, the visitors gave a warning sign as to the problems they could cause on the break as David Cushley sprinted clear of the Linfield defence before flashing his shot just wide.

On seven minutes Aaron Burns found himself in the perfect position on the edge of the box when Michael Carvill chested down Philip Lowry's right-wing cross, but Philip Simpson threw his body in the way to clear the strike.

David McCullough saved the Whites four minutes later when he slammed Aaron Burns’ back-heel off the line after Jamie Mulgrew’s corner.

Then came the moment the game needed as the 13th minute proved unlucky for the Blues. After great work from Gawley, he released Gary Thompson who took a touch past Addis and Alan Blayney's deputy clipped his ankle. Referee Raymond Hetherington took a second to make the call before pointing to the spot.

Cooling lived up to his name, cooly slotting the ball to Addis' right, sending the keeper the wrong way.

It was a lead John Cunningham's men were worthy of, but Linfield continued to create at the other end. On 23 minutes McAllister saw his strike from the right corner of the box deflect off former Blues youngster, Andrew Ferguson and Brennan palmed over the bar.

The visitors weren't content just to hold what they had and they could have doubled their lead on 33 minutes when Cushley's free-kick to the back post eluded every blue shirt and Ferguson was just unable to take advantage.

Seven minutes before the break, McAllister skinned Andy Hunter before laying the ball off to Lowry and when his shot was blocked by Aaron Trainor the ball fell perfectly for the former Dungannon Swifts striker, but his curling strike from 10 yards smashed off the crossbar.

Less than a minute into the second-half the Blues had penalty claims waved away as Jim Ervin crashed to the ground, but the referee deemed the offense to have taken place outside the box.

On 50 minutes it should have been double trouble for Linfield. Cushley wriggled free and crossed for Gawley who was free 12 yards from goal, but he somehow managed to stab his shot wide.

Cushley hobbled off three minutes later to be replaced by Andy Hall, but it was a double substitution from David Jeffrey which made a bigger impact.

Thompson and Robert Garrett were introduced on 56 minutes and eight minutes later, the former Northern Ireland front man was celebrating a timely first goal of the season to level.

Both sides threw caution to the wind in search of a winner and it was Distillery who almost grabbed it five minutes from time when McCullough's lob hit the post and Blues skipper Michael Gault blocked Gary Liggett's rebound.

LINFIELD: Addis, Ervin, Watson, Murphy, BJ Burns, Lowry, Mulgrew (Garrett 56), Gault, A Burns (Thompson 56), Carvill, McAllister (Fordyce 80). Subs: Armstrong, Curran.

LISBURN DISTILLERY: Brennan, Simpson, Hunter, Ferguson, Trainor, McCullough, Forysthe, Thompson, Cooling (Hughes 90), Cushley (Hall 53), Gawley (Liggett 75). Subs: Larmour, McShane.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).

Belfast Telegraph

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