Linfield move level with Rangers’ league title world record
Linfield secured a domestic league-and-cup double as a point in Coleraine moved David Healy’s side level with Rangers on a joint world-record 55 titles.
Mark Haughey’s early goal handed the Blues a vital advantage, with Curtis Allen’s equaliser ultimately unable to stop Linfield from another Premiership triumph.
Linfield’s early pressure was rewarded on 14 minutes with the 81st goal of the Premiership title defence.
Shayne Lavery - fresh from becoming the first player to win both the Ulster Footballer of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards in the same season - displayed his trademark tenacity to secure his side a corner-kick.
With set-piece success such a key part of Linfield progress under David Healy’s management, it served up dividends once again when Kirk Millar’s delivery was flicked towards the back post for Haughey to head home.
The Coleraine response offered encouragement in front of the fans as around 500 supporters returned inside The Showgrounds.
James McLaughlin’s stinging drive from distance was tipped over the crossbar by former Coleraine goalkeeper Chris Johns.
From the resultant corner-kick, a loose ball dropped for Jamie Glackin but his effort was blocked.
Coleraine had the ball in the Linfield net soon after but referee Raymond Crangle was alert to rule out the goal for handball, with Allen picking up a booking off the infringement.
Allen, a former Blues forward, proved a constant threat to the Linfield backline as Coleraine regrouped from the early setback in search of an equaliser.
Allen could only volley over at a stretch after clever build-up play between Glackin and McLaughlin.
However, on 36 minutes, the penalty-box predator secured his spot on the scoresheet with a decisive header after Lyndon Kane took full advantage of time and space wide on the right to pick out his striker inside the danger area.
Ben Doherty had an effort saved by Johns as Coleraine continued to test the visitors’ resolve before the break, with another Haughey header which proved well wide the attacking response by Linfield.
McLaughlin and Glackin combined in the closing moments of the first half to present Allen with another sight of goal but his header dropped wide of the target from a promising position.
However, an injury-time Linfield surge almost led to the Blues going back on top.
Cameron Palmer picked up possession from deep and attacked the Coleraine goal before firing a low drive which Martin Gallagher dropped low to push out.
Aaron Canning’s crucial sliding challenge prevented Lavery from tucking away the rebound and Gallagher pulled off a superb recovery dive to stop the supporting Joel Cooper from squeezing home.
Coleraine managed to maintain the momentum after the interval but only an inswinging Glackin corner-kick which put Johns under pressure marked any significant talking point by the hour mark.
Johns’ instinctive close-range save then stopped Coleraine from taking the lead as Aaron Jarvis attacked Doherty’s corner-kick cross.
Linfield had attempts by Niall Quinn and Jamie Mulgrew before a promising counter-attack featured Cooper slipping a pass behind the backline for Lavery but his low cross across the face of goal lacked a final touch.
Johns was forced into a diving save on 88 minutes off Josh Carson’s curling shot from outside the area but Linfield hacked away the rebound thanks to Jimmy Callacher.
Carson had another opening in injury-time but his snapshot failed to trouble Johns as Linfield sealed the title-winning point.
COLERAINE: Gallagher, Kane, Mullan (Parkhill, 80), Canning, Jarvis, Doherty, Lowry, McLaughlin, Carson, Glackin, Allen (Bradley, 67)
Subs (not used): Wilson, Nixon, Beverland, Brennan, Kelly
Linfield: Johns, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Clarke, Quinn (Fallon 77), Mulgrew, Palmer, Millar, Cooper (Waterworth, 87), Lavery (Manzinga, 87)
Sub (not used): Moore, Newberry, Nasseri, Stewart
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle
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