LINFIELD 0-1 COLERAINE 12.3.2011

Was at Windsor Park today for the match between Linfield and Coleraine.

Windsor Park isn’t a venue which is kind to amateur photographers. The photographs I got today were dull and uninspiring, much like the Linfield performance witnessed today.

It’s not as if today was a one-off blip, it’s been a groundhog day repeat of recent results and performances.

1 win in the last 5 league games, 3 wins in the last 10 games in all competitions. That’s not the form of a team trying to win the league. That’s not even the form of a team fighting for every point against relegation.

To use a proverbial cliche, even Stevie Wonder could have seen today’s result coming. Granted, Coleraine went into the game unbeaten under new manager Oran Kearney, it was also a deceptive stat due to the number of drawn games in that run.

Trying to play a high line, looking for offside against a team built to play on the counter-attack was just asking for trouble.

With an attack like that against a defence like that, all it needs is for one pass to played right, and one run to be made right to get a goal.

Low and behold, after surviving two offside scares, the third time Coleraine tried it, it worked to perfection, and the goal came.

Not only are the defence not working as a unit, they’re not even working individually.

For Aiden O’Kane to destroy an attack through hitting a speculative shot, not once, but twice, was simply unforgivable.

Steven Douglas and William Murphy, guilty of too many lacks of decision making when in defensive situations.

Heading it or hoofing it when the ball comes to them, regardless of if there is a striker near them.

In the situations where there isn’t, an opportunity to take control of the ball and build from the back is wasted, often resulting in the ball returning to the opposition to launch another attack.

And in similar situations when the ball is on the ground, instead of taking control of the ball and building from the back, it just gets played back to the goalkeeper, buying some time for the opposition to get into position.

Who on earth is coaching them to do this and why?

When the ball is then played up in the air, there appears to be no tactic as to what to do. Nobody challenges for the ball, and nobody gets into position for the knock-down regardless of wether or not a Linfield player wins the ball.

As well as shape an application, questions need to be asked about personnel when players deep into their 30s who’ve spent most of the past year not even in the matchday squad are suddenly the flagship of our defence.

This has been woefully exposed against Glenavon and Newry in preceding weeks.

It is easy to say that drawing 1-1 to a team who score with their only shot on goal is bad luck. When there is an air of inevitabilty about that goal, and a lack of urgency to make it 2-0, it isn’t.

Against Glenavon, when pegged back to 2-1 up, they should be more than capable of either getting a 3rd goal, or keeping in control of posession to make sure Glenavon can’t get into an attacking position to make it 2-2.

It’s hard to remember the last time Linfield scored a last-minute winner. The answer, was against Coleraine in last season’s Irish Cup Semi-Final. The last time before that, was in a match against Glentoran in March 2009.

Sadly, it’s become a fact of life that if Linfield are to win a game, it has to be secured by midway through the second-half.

When at Windsor Park, being held or a goal down, there is an air of inevitability that the visitors will hold on.

How has it come to this? Whatever happened to “Fortune Favours The Brave”?

In this situations, you’d think that set pieces should be put to good use. Sadly, it’s almost a get out clause for defending teams to concede a corner or a throw.

Apart from the inability to actually get the ball past the first man, on the rare occasions that this does happen, nobody seems capable of either attacking the ball, or getting into position for the second ball, either to attack it, or to keep the ball alive.

Just as concerning, is the lack of originality as set pieces. If Linfield have three corners on the right taken with a left foot, you can guarantee the fourth corner will be the same, meaning the defending team can get into position and almost defend it in their sleep.

Whatever happened to mix and match? Do they even work on set pieces in training?

They can’t even use attacking corners to defend in injury time. For Jamie Mulgrew to be flagged offside at a one-two, like at Dungannon last week, was unforgivable.

No doubt, people will point out that Linfield are still top of the league. We were ten points clear a month ago, now only goal difference seperates us from Crusaders.

You can’t even use the excuse of tiredness caused by too many midweek games, there was a full week between the Dungannon and Coleraine games.

In fact, the fixture calendar has been kind to us in terms of rearranging postponed games from “The Big Freeze”

This unacceptable decline must be arrested by David Jeffrey, and quick. He deserved immense credit for managing to turn around the final four months of last season, and for the results and performances in September and October.

But when results and performances are of the standard of the past few weeks, then questions need to be asked.

If they aren’t answered, then he will be forever remembered as the man who ruined Linfield’s 125th anniversary season.

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