BetMcLean Cup


10 Mar 2024
© Jonathan Porter/INPHO Ben Hall celebrates opening the scoring for Linfield

Two goals at the end of the first half set Linfield up to retain the BetMcLean Cup with a 3-1 defeat of Portadown at Windsor Park.

Both sides got the game off to a bright start, with Portadown being the first to threaten when the ball fell for Eamon Fyfe but his effort was well blocked by defender Ben Hall while, at the other end, Kyle McClean send the ball over for Matthew Fitzpatrick to head it just wide.

The action continued at pace with Fyfe delivering a cross for Ryan Mayse with his first time effort blocked by Daniel Finlayson.

Linfield thought they had broken the deadlock with just over a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock after Matthew Clarke sent a low shot towards goal which Ports keeper Aaron Hogg pushed out only as far as Matthew Fitzpatrick but his finish was ruled out by the officials.

Back came Portadown with an Aaron Traynor 25-yard drive from another Fyfe lay-off but this whistled just wide of the target.

A few minutes after that and it was Linfield's turn again, with Kirk Millar's free-kick only cleared as far as Fitzpatrick who acrobatic overhead kick thundered back off the crossbar.

There was finally a breakthrough on 40 minutes, however, when another Millar set piece - a corner - took a deflection off Portadown striker Zach Barr only as far as Hall who duly nodded home from close range.

Then, just before the game ticked over into first half stoppage time, Linfield doubled their advantage after a Joel Cooper corner from the right was headed into his own net by Ports defender Luke Wilson as he attempted to deal with the threat posed by Fitzpatrick.

David Healy's side attempted to kill the game off early in the second half with McClean firing into the side netting, followed swiftly by a Rhys Annett shot straight at Hogg.

But, on 56 minutes, they did bag their third goal after McClean cut the ball back from the left side of the area for Annett to comfortably finish in front of goal.

To their credit the Ports responded positively and hit back with a consolation with around a quarter-of-an-hour remaining when Fyfe got his reward for his earlier efforts with a strong header past Chris Johns after Mayse had cut the ball over from the left.

And Portadown almost registered again a few moments after that when a Mayse cross was eventually cleared at the near post amid a scramble in the box.

However, the Blues held on to retain the trophy, and for a record extending 12th time in the history of the club.

Linfield: Johns, Finlayson, Millar, McClean, Cooper, Hall, Clarke, Mulgrew, Fitzpatrick, Annett, Archer subs Walsh, Newberry, McBrien, McKee, McCullough, Doherty, Graham

Portadown: Hogg, D. Wilson, L. Wilson, Chapman, McCawl, Mayse, Russell, Fyfe, Traynor, Barr, Thompson subs Coyle, Redman, McElroy, Kane, Montgomery, Buchanan, Diau