Ballinamallard Utd 1-1 Linfield

Linfield's hopes of catching Premiership leaders Crusaders suffer a setback as they are held to a draw by Ballinamallard United.

Linfield's hopes of chasing down Premiership leaders Crusaders suffered a blow as they were held to a draw by battling Ballinamallard at Ferney Park.

The Blues looked on course to cut Crusaders's lead to four points when keeper Fergal Murphy's mistake gifted a goal to Andy Waterworth on 38 minutes.

But Colm McLaughlin strolled through the Linfield defence to level with a superb goal on 70 minutes.

Linfield are now six points behind the Crues but have a game in hand.

Ballinamallard's deserved draw - after Friday's 7-0 drubbing by Warrenpoint - leaves them four points ahead of bottom club Institute and two ahead of Warrenpoint.

Northern Ireland midfielder Grant McCann made his Linfield debut but after a bright opening period, faded somewhat from the contest.

Another recent signing Glenn Belezika was also handed a Blues debut and he and his fellow Linfield defenders had to be alert early on as Ballinamallard made a bright start.

David Kee tested Blues keeper Ross Glendinning with a first-minute shot and Steve Feeney then went close for the home side as he glanced a John Currie delivery across the face of goal.

McCann then began to make his presence felt with one of his dangerous crosses being headed on to his own crossbar by Mark Stafford in the 26th minute.

Johnny Lafferty should have put Ballinamallard ahead on 35 minutes when he somehow managed to volley a Currie corner over the crossbar from four yards.

Lafferty's miss appeared even more expensive two minutes later as Mallards keeper Murphy allowed Waterworth's low shot to squirm under his body.

Linfield scarcely looked like adding to their lead after the resumption but still appeared in control.

However, the Mallards were suddenly on terms with 20 minutes left as left-back McLaughlin strode forward, played a one-two with Liam Martin, before coolly slotting past Glendinning.

In the closing 15 minutes, Ballinamallard looked the fresher outfit although Waterworth did create a late chance for myself before being denied by the impressive McLaughlin.