Match report – Steel & Sons Semi final LDFC 0 v Linfield 3
The highly anticipated Steel & Sons Cup semi-final took place on Wednesday night at Seaview with Lisburn Distillery lining up against Linfield Swifts. The Swifts are the current holders of the trophy and were aiming to reach their fourth Christmas morning final in five years.
The Whites made two changes from the side that beat PSNI at the weekend, Nick Napier and Caoelain Young returned to the starting line-up in place of Jordan Lucas and Johnny McCaw. There was also the welcome return from suspension of Timmy Clarke, who took his place among the substitutes.
Distillery got the game started and had the first effort on goal within seconds but it was a tame effort from outside the box that was easily gathered by John Ruddy in goal.
After this, there was a cagey start to the game with not much to write about in the opening minutes but the ball definitely spent more time in the Distillery half. Eventually the Blues made their possession count when a cross from the left resulted in a shot on goal that Jonah Nicholl did well to save but despite the best efforts of Chris Getty on the line Adam Carroll was there to give the holders the lead from the rebound in the 10th minute.
The Whites initially responded ok to going behind and had a spell of possession but couldn’t make this count and the pendulum again began to swing the way of the Swifts again and another attack down the left almost resulted in a goal when again Nicholl parried an effort away but this time Getty was able to clear the danger and then in the 15th minute a chipped effort from range went just over the bar.
The Swifts lead was doubled in the 17th minute when a rare Distillery attack broke down and Linfield began to quickly counter and it ended with the ball in the back of the Distillery goal with a fine strike from Callum Marshall giving Nicholl no chance. At this point the Distillery faithful were beginning to fear a long evening.
Mikey Withers was one bright spark for Distillery down the left hand side and delivered a promising cross into the box after a fortunate deflection of an opposing players leg but the ball was just inches too high for Young. Five minutes before the break and Withers was involved again when the ball came to him inside the box with only Ruddy in front of him but he could only hit his volley straight at the stopper and the offside flag had been raised anyway.
The half-time whistle blew with the Whites have weathered the storm slightly but it would take something special to ensure a cup final appearance next month.
Half-time: Linfield Swifts 2-0 Lisburn Distillery
It was another slow start to the second half but Carroll had the first effort on goal of note with a header that went straight at Nicholl.
The second half was a largely drab affair with the Swifts mostly content to defend their two-goal lead and any attacks the Whites did have were quickly stifled. Clarke, Stephen Sullivan and Rhys Emerson were introduced throughout the half in as Distillery attempted to pull at least one goal back but it was too no avail.
Eventually it was the South Belfast side who scored again with Andrew Clarke showing some great skill and footwork before firing a curling effort past Nicholl and into the back of the net. Game over really after 68 minutes.
The remainder of the half was played out in much the same way and Linfield had the final effort on goal in the 87th minute when Jack Montgomery jinked his way beyond the defence but Nicholl made himself big and made the save.
Eventually, the referee called time on the game with the Whites simply beaten by the better team on the night but in truth, they never really got going. Linfield Swifts will now face Newington in the final, a repeat of the last final played two years ago.
Full-time: Linfield Swifts 3-0 Lisburn Distillery
Lisburn Distillery; Nicholl, Dillon, Moore, Reid, Getty, Higginson, O’Hanlon, Harris, Withers, C. Young, Napier
Lisburn Distillery substitutes; Pollock, Sullivan (for Higginson, 50 mins), Clarke, (for Withers, 54 mins), McCaw, Emerson (for C. Young, 71 mins)