Linfield boss David Healy last night saluted the character of his team following their Toals County Antrim Shield semi-final win over Ballymena United.
Striker Andy Waterworth bagged both goals in the 2-1 victory to earn the Blues a slot in the February 5 final against Crusaders.
“It was always going to be a tough game,” said Healy. “The two teams were pretty evenly matched, but I thought we had the edge overall.
“We showed great character and we stood firm when Ballymena tried to come back late on.
“We are delighted to be in the final.”
Healy also hailed the contribution of talisman Waterworth.
“I’ve always been a bit critical that we don’t get the ugly goals – the scruffy ones inside the six-yard box,” said Healy. “But Andy put that right. As scruffy as they were, they were two beautiful goals.
“His reactions for both goals were superb. He has been a massive player for the football club.
“I can look back at important league deciders, cup semi-final, cup finals, Andy is always the go-to man. He proved that again tonight.
“His work-rate was incredible. It was a special night for his – on his 250th appearance. He’ll be chuffed with that.”
United boss David Jeffrey admitted he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ not to take the tie to extra-time.
“I’m really proud of the performance,” he said. “I felt that both goals were perhaps against the run of play.
“Linfield were very much looking to hit us on the counter-attack.
“We’ve looked at the first goal from two different angles and we still can’t make up our mind as to whether Andrew was offside or not for his first goal.
“The second one was unfortunate because Ross Glendinning pulled off a great save, but it fell to Andrew and he put it away.
“We are disappointed that at least we didn’t take it to extra-time.
“I’m delighted with the effort the boys put in and the quality of the performance.
“We played some really good football. I’m really proud of the players.
“It was always going to be a fine margin – a thin line that separate the teams.
“But I still maintain, we are punching against our weight in terms of our budget compared with the other teams at the top of the table, so I was really pleased how we applied ourselves.”