Linfield boss David Healy paid his team a big compliment after this crucial result by claiming it was their most impressive win of the season, so far!
The Blues bared their title teeth by battling back after Cathair Friel had headed a gutsy Ballymena United into an early lead.
Big striker Michael O’Connor shot the Healy’s boys level, finishing off a delicious low cross from Matty Clarke before the Blues’ jewel in the crown, Joel Cooper, rammed home a second half winner with a blistering drive from the edge of the box
“I’m usually not over complimentary, because I like to keep things in-house, but I thought some of our play was very good, we didn’t get our just rewards at times,” said Healy. “I would say that’s our best win to date this season. It was a big test of character because it can be a difficult place when you are a goal down. I think our players answered a lot of questions in terms of their attitude and the way they went about their business.
“It was as good as we’ve played at home for the first 20 minutes or so. But we then found ourselves a goal down – it was a sloppy one to concede. We had a man on the post (Jamie Mulgrew) and it was very uncharacteristic of him not to get it off the line.
“He held up his hand and admitted he should have done better. But the boys worked our socks off. The tempo from minute one from both sides was excellent. Credit to Ballymena, the are a big, fit, strong side that have match winners in the top half of the pitch.
“I thought our first goal was a terrific effort. Ballymena played with a back five at times and can be difficult to break down, but we got in behind them and Michael put it away. I though he was good today. He gives us the centre-forward attributes that we have been lacking and that’s no disrespect to the other lads that have been here.”
The game didn’t pass without incident with both manager claiming they had stonewall penalty claims turned away by referee Tim Marshall. Healy reckoned Scott Whiteside used an arm to keep out a close-range O’Connor effort, while David Jeffrey is adamant that Josh Robinson blatantly pushed Friel in the back.
“To me it was a stonewall penalty,” added Healy. “Michael was two yards out – he should have scored anyway. But the ball clearly struck an arm. It was a big decision at a crucial stage. It was a big call because not only was it a penalty, but a red card. Thankfully, it didn’t cost us.”
But Jeffrey countered: “Linfield will probably claim a penalty, but it was a ridiculous situation, the ball hit the player’s arm. There was no intention on his part.
“The other incident was clear cut. Robinson clearly put his elbow down the back of Cathair Friel. The linesman is only yards away. He has got to have that courage to make the call. It was a clear penalty. I’m so disappointed for the players because in my opinion we deserved at least a point, I don’t think anyone could say otherwise.
“We came here today to get a result. We didn’t sit in, with came with a positive attitude and we gave as good as we got.I asked my boys to be warriors against a really good accomplished side – a team that is currently unbeaten so far this season. You can come here and try to frustrate them, or you can come here and go out and play football, which we did. Some of our football was first class.
“If I’m wrong about the penalty, fair enough. To me it was a clear push in the box.
“It’s interesting that managers, coaches and players are called to account, but I wonder when we are going to have a day when officials are sitting in front of the Press answering independent questions? I had three phone calls last year from referees apologising for decision they got wrong in games.”