Linfield handed first Premiership loss of the season by defending champions Larne as Glentoran go top of the table

Andy Ryan celebrates scoring Larne's second goal during their Sports Direct Premiership win over Linfield. PIC: Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press
Andy Ryan celebrates scoring Larne's second goal during their Sports Direct Premiership win over Linfield. PIC: Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press

O’Neill, who repaid manager Tiernan Lynch’s faith after opting to start him ahead of Lee Bonis, is undoubtedly Larne’s lucky charm with the Inver Reds maintaining their record of winning every league match in which the striker scores as the former Cliftonville man netted for the second consecutive game following his strike in a 4-0 win over Newry City last time out.

Linfield shot themselves in the foot as Andy Ryan pounced on Ben Hall’s second-half error to double his side’s advantage.

Larne extended their unbeaten run at the start of the league campaign to seven matches while they’re now unbeaten in the last 14 Premiership games at Inver Park.

Lynch’s men started quickly and could have been ahead within seconds as Levi Ives’ superb corner caused chaos with young defender Craig Farquhar unable to make the desired contact.

The deadlock was broken eight minutes later though as Tomas Cosgrove’s wicked cross from the right was smashed home by O’Neill after he arrived in the box unchallenged.

Larne were looking dangerous with almost every attack in the opening stages and Ryan came within inches of doubling their lead from an Ives delivery, but the Scot couldn’t quite make up the ground despite his sliding effort.

Dylan Sloan had a prime opportunity to net his second league goal of the season when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box only for his snap effort to sail over the bar in the 26th minute before O’Neill failed to control Cosgrove’s pass moments later after his own good work set the attack in motion.

After weathering the storm, Linfield had two prime chances to equalise, firstly when Joel Cooper dispossessed Aaron Donnelly and slid in Chris McKee, who had his 35th minute shot saved by Rohan Ferguson.

The Blues came even closer on the stroke of half-time when Cooper headed Jack Scott’s cross onto the post before McKee blasted over from the rebound – an effort which was ultimately flagged for offside.

Sloan started quickly after the break with Ryan failing to control his delightful chipped pass over the Linfield defence and he was then denied at the back-post by Matthew Clarke.

David Healy’s side could have went level in the 63rd minute only for Ferguson to produce another wonderful save from McKee’s header and they were immediately made to pay as Ryan capitalised.

Larne almost benefitted from another Linfield mistake minutes later with O’Neill intercepting Michael Newberry’s pass, only for the defender to make amends and head off the line with the ball destined for the top corner.

It marks a first home league win for Larne against Linfield since December 2020 as they leapfrogged Crusaders, who host rivals Cliftonville on Monday evening, into third spot.