Blues make it a double

By Colin Millar

Linfield replicated their end of season celebrations from 12 months ago as they lifted their second trophy in the space of a week, defeating Crusaders 4-1 in Saturday’s Irish Cup final.

It was a case of déjà vu for the Blues faithful as they once again shattered the hopes of Stephen Baxter’s side in the showpiece event of the local football calendar to reinstate their dominance.

The emphatic performance ensured the club completed its sixth league and cup ‘double’ in seven years and third on the bounce.

Even more stats are readily available. Linfield now sit on 23 of these ‘doubles’ in their distinguished history, equal to rivals Glentoran’s overall tally of league trophies.

This truly is a magical spell for Linfield, even with their own high standards taken into consideration.

Last year the final was won 2-1 thanks to two late goals, however, the manner in which David Jeffrey’s men brushed aside their North Belfast rivals this time around was much more convincing.

A double from Mark McAllister put the Blues in control prior to the break, before a delightful Michael Carvill free-kick and Jamie Mulgrew finish put the game out of reach for the Crues who had pulled a goal back via a deflected Colin Coates free-kick.

With the game being broadcast live on BBC, the champions put on a performance worthy of their status and fitting of their rich and illustrious record in the competition.

There was not one under par performance throughout the side as they overpowered and outplayed the Crues in every department.

Captain Michael Gault was ruled out of the match through a foot injury which meant that Robert Garrett partnered Jamie Mulgrew in the centre of the midfield, the rest of the team was unchanged from that which overcame Newry City 7-0 in the semi-final.

All four Linfield goals were exceptional, with Carvill’s third the pick of the bunch; the perfectly placed free-kick fit to win any cup final.

 

Tipton arrival

Linfield announced their second post-season signing this week with the arrival of striker Matthew Tipton from Portadown (pictured below).

The former Wales U21 striker has had a distinguished career in England where he had spells at Oldham, Mansfield, Bury and most prolifically, Macclesfield Town.

He then had prolific stints at both Dundalk and Portadown before signing for Linfield on a two-year deal this week. It is expected that he will battle Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister for the striker allocations in Linfield’s side next season. The Blues have already signed Donegal Celtic’s midfielder Ryan Henderson in the closing stages of this season.

There are also a number of rumours of players that will be leaving the club.

With the Henderson and Tipton signings confirmed, along with the promotion of three youth players (Ross Glendenning, Niall Quinn and Ross Clarke) to the senior squad, it is expected that a few players will leave the club this summer, with a number out of contract.

Steven Douglas is being linked to a number of Irish League clubs, but he is expected to link up with Ballymena United who are now managed by his old teammate Glenn Ferguson.

 

Difficult

The versatile Chris Casement may also be leaving. The former Ipswich Town player has found it difficult to cement a place in Linfield’s side despite some encouraging signs and is most likely to move to Portadown.

Newspaper reports that striker Mark McAllister will be leaving to join League 1 side Yeovil Town seem wide of the mark, as Linfield chairman Jim Kerr dismissed the rumours at the weekend as ‘fairytale rubbish’. Meanwhile, Aaron Burns has yet to extend his contract at the club with rumoured interest from a number of cross-channel clubs.

Veteran central defender William Murphy is set to extend his contract by a further year after his fantastic season. David Armstrong, Michael Gault, Brian McCaul and Michael Carvill have all already extended their stays with the club.

Linfield hosted Rangers in a fundraising friendly on Monday afternoon in what was their final game of the season.

All proceeds went to the financially stricken Ibrox club with over 7000 fans seeing the Glasgow side win 2-0.

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