Tiernan Lynch 'proud' of Larne after comeback win at Linfield

NIFL Premiership

LARNE manager Tiernán Lynch says his side knew Saturday’s trip to Linfield was a “must-win” game if the Irish League title race was to remain alive, even at this early stage of the season.

The Blues were eight points ahead of the defending champions going into the weekend and, when Joel Cooper opened the scoring with a fine finish in the first-half, David Healy’s men looked in danger of streaking clear at the top of the table.

However, a stunning long-range effort from Mark Randall levelled the game before a well-placed Joe Thompson header proved enough to give Larne all three points, and cut the gap to Linfield to five.

With the champions next in action at home to Coleraine on Friday night, Linfield’s lead could be down to two points by the time they next play again, away to Crusaders on Saturday.  

"I couldn't be more proud of the boys and I'm absolutely delighted," Lynch told the BBC after the Windsor Park win.

"We knew it was a must-win [game] – the intention was, by hook or by crook, to win this game. That doesn't always work out and we also knew we couldn't lose the game. We knew deep down we couldn't let Linfield get an 11-point lead."

"The players rolled their sleeves up and I thought we played some unbelievable football at times," added Lynch.

"We were really calm and composed, passing through the thirds and then there were times when we had to roll our sleeves up and turn it into a little bit of a grind.

"I thought we did both superbly well. Goals change games and we got good goals at good times with two great goals from Mark and Joe.

"In the last period, Linfield threw the kitchen sink at us but I though we defended superbly well."

Elsewhere on Saturday, Crusaders got their first win in three thanks to an injury-time winner from Paul Heatley against Loughgall at Lakeview Park. Ross Clarke opened the scoring for the Crues only for Pablo Andrade to equalise, and the game looked to be heading for a stalemate until Heatley’s 93rd minute intervention.

Carrick Rangers left Dungannon Swifts rooted to the bottom of the table with a 3-2 win on the road at Stangmore Park. The Swifts had taken a 1-0 lead but a brace from Nedas Maciulaitis turned the game on its head and Rangers were able to see out the win.

A Conor McCloskey goal was enough to give Glenavon victory at Ballymena, making it their third win in-a-row.

Tonight, Coleraine and Glentoran will both be looking to make up ground on the leading pack when they face-off at Ballycastle Road (7.45pm).