Larne ..... (1)2 .... Linfield ..... (0)0
Inver Park has a new hero!
Big money signing Lee Bonis repaid a sizeable chunk of that much talked-about transfer fee last night as his double sunk Linfield without trace in last night’s Irish Cup tie of the 2nd round.
The former Portadown striker looked anything but overpriced as he proved too much of a handful for Linfield throughout the game.
Bonis scored early, in the 13th minute, reacting miles quicker than Linfield’s static defence which watched on as Andrew Scott fired in a long-ranger. Johns, perhaps surprised by the power, could only parry into the path of Bonis, whose finish was as clinical as it was instinctive.
Showing pace, energy and desire, the 22 year-old might’ve had three by half-time. After stinging the hands of the goalkeeper following a good interchange with McDaid on 20 mins, Bonis got behind Callacher and debutant Hall, executing a perfect first touch to kill Doherty’s long ball but volleyed narrowly wide.
Larne were dominant for most of the first 45, yet Linfield almost hit back quickly after going behind. Kofi Balmer played a loose pass, gathered on the right flank by Millar who crossed for Salam. Despite having time and space to pick his spot the Hull City loanee could only rap the outside of the upright from 16 yards.
Ben Hall too sent a header goal wards following a corner on 22 but saw Devlin tip over the bar for another corner. Apart from a gilt-edged headed opportunity spurned by Callacher with 20 minutes to play, this was as close as Linfield would come to preventing a second successive scoreless display.
Larne controlled midfield for much of the contest, the dynamism coming from Sule and the calming influence, John Heron. McDaid often patrolled a deeper area for him ahead of the central pairing but behind Bonis. Mulgrew worked hard as always for the Blues but lacked a supporting cast. League points are now the priority for Linfield and you wonder how many might be lost before the influential Chris Shields returns to the engine room. How he was missed last night.
With three new loanees and new signing Ethan Devine from Knockbreda all being introduced from the bench, there was a look of unfamiliarity about Linfield in the second-half and they rarely threatened to get back on terms.
The Blues desperately need a reaction on Tuesday, when Larne travel to Windsor in the league.
This was the best I’ve seen from the Inver-men this season. Bonis’ signing, frontline presence and goals (5 in 6 games now) feels to have given the whole club a lift. They were certainly much more purposeful going forward last night, than before.
Bonis sealed Linfield’s fate on 83 mins, just after he had fizzled a fierce, dead-ball free-kick wide. Ironically the insurance goal was down to a rare error from Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew, whose blind back-pass left his goal-keeper in no man’s land, Bonis gliding past Johns towards an empty net.
It was a complete performance by the East Antrim outfit, one that suggests there might finally be an Irish Cup in them.
Should they reach the showpiece it would be seventh time lucky. Last year’s final appearance was their sixth, all lost and only two goals scored.
Lee Bonis may be ready to alter that rather depressing statistic come May.
Larne: Devlin - Cosgrove, Balmer, Watson (capt), Scott (Lynch, 81) - Doherty (Bolger, 81), Sule (Randall, 90+1), Herron, Jarvis - McDaid (Hale, 85) - Bonis
Subs not used: Ferguson, Mitchell, Nasseri.
Linfield: Johns - Quinn, Hall, Callacher, Clarke - Millar (Devine, 56), McClean (McKee, 56), Fallon, Mulgrew (capt) - Salam (Hastie, 56), Manzinga (Evans, 73)
Subs not used: Walsh, Newberry, Pepper
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)