I enjoy travelling to away matches, but sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. It was great to be back at Windsor Park, as Linfield hosted Warrenpoint Town in their, belated, first home game of the season.
Playing away from home didn’t prove to be too much of a disadvantage, as Linfield kicked-off three points off the top, and with a game in home. That game, of course, away from home.
With the redevelopment of Windsor Park taking place, alternative arrangements were made for Linfield fans to be housed in the North Stand, which was previously for away fans exclusively.
The last time I watched a match in the Upper Deck of the North Stand, Warren Feeney (Northern Ireland v Portugal in 2005) scored. That wouldn’t be happening today, as he was suited, rather than booted.
There were seats where the dugouts were, but no roof. Wouldn’t want to be a sub on a wet day.
With boards covering where the South and Railway Stands used to be, hopefully the club are working to secure advertising (there was some advertising behind the goal) for those areas, especially with the camera position now in the North Stand, giving brands prime position on TV coverage.
No turnstiles to access for supporters from Donegall Avenue, supporters without Season Tickets bought a ticket from a Ticket Office beside the North Stand entrance, and supporters walked through. It seemed to work quite well from what I could see.
Not everything went according to plan, as kick-off was delayed by a couple of minutes due to an issue with the sprinkler system it seemed. Hopefully, that would be the only thing on the pitch that went wrong.
The first-half, was mostly attack v defence, with Linfield doing most of the attacking, with Warrenpoint hoping to get lucky with a counter-attack or a set piece.
Linfield stepped it up a gear, getting closer and closer. Curiously, most of the crosses that came in were low, looking for someone to strike, rather than head, the ball home.
Nobody was able to do that, with shots being blocked, or players just not able to get into the box in time. Ironically, it was a cross into the air which brought about the decisive goal, heading home from an Ivan Sproule cross.
At half-time, I had a look at the temporary shop and bar. It’s not a bad set-up, but it felt strange there being no TVs to check half-time scores from England, or to watch Final Score after the game. Some habit, die hard.
Linfield just couldn’t get the 2nd goal that would have killed the game. Warrenpoint showed more attacking intent, but never looked like doing anything of note until 20 minutes from time when the managed to cut through Linfield, but the shot was straight at Jonathan Tuffey when he really should have scored.
It should have acted as a wake-up call and warning to Linfield, but it didn’t
Linfield had shots on goal and situations, but nothing where you thought a 2nd goal was inevitable. Once again, the lack of goals is a concern. Linfield currently have the 3rd worst scoring record, but the best defensive record.
Today was Linfield’s 3rd successive clean sheet, last achieved in December 2011. A welcome development.
With the final minutes being more nervous due to only being 1-0 up, the need to hang on became even more important with scores from other games filtering through, all in Linfield’s favour.
Portadown were the only team above Linfield to win, and that was against the league leaders. Linfield now find themselves sitting in 4th, level on points with Portadown, Glenavon and Ballymena. Importantly, Linfield have a game in hand.
Getting a good start was important, for the new manager, and to keep in touch due to having two games postponed due to internationals in the opening months of the season.
The first of those games, against Crusaders, has been arranged for 29th September, a Monday. Not ideal, playing on the Saturday before, but Crusaders are in the same situation
Before that, Glenavon at home, a must win, and a chance to break away from the traffic at the top.
You may have noticed this week, a story in the Belfast Telegraph, suggesting that Windsor Park could be bidding for the 2017 European Super Cup Final.
I was in Cardiff for this year’s final, and it was a fantastic. To add a tenuous Linfield link, Warren Feeney was on my flight home.
It would be great if it came to Belfast, but I can’t see it unfortunately. We can hope.
Anyway, Glenavon at home next week, where a much improved performance will be required.