Only 15 hours into 2013, and I was off to my first football match of the year, as the league leaders arrived at Windsor Park
It’s not nice hearing the phrase “League leaders arrive at Windsor Park” but that’s the state of play this season.
I turned up at the game with optimism, mainly because, whisper it, the last couple of Linfield games have actually been enjoyable.
Having a Season Ticket means I have to go to every home game, in order to justify the financial outlay. If it wasn’t for that, and the fact I was going to the Ulster match afterwards, I probably would have given the Dungannon match a miss.
Sandwiched in the middle of a busy Christmas schedule, I was tempted to give the Glenavon match a miss, especially with United playing a rare Saturday 3pm game.
But it was the games against Crusaders (despite the two dropped points) and Glentoran that really reignited my enthusiasm after a season of what can only be described as utter dross.
Look at the November games against Glenavon and Distillery. We barely looked like scoring and had to rely on late goals to secure draws against teams in the bottom half of the table.
The past three games have been so positive, it felt to go to a game believing we will win.
I’d mentioned on Saturday about Matthew Tipton looking to have overcome his injury problems and have his best two games for the club. Well, it was more of the same.
Having scored hat-tricks on his last two appearances against Cliftonville (as a Portadown player), Matthew Tipton is probably disappointed to have only scored twice.
The goals came at a vital time. Both teams were “Feeling each other out”, but Linfield struck while they started to take control, then struck again.
With players running to celebrate with him on Saturday, showing their appreciation of him, Linfield’s home fans took the opportunity to show appreciation for a player determined to move on from his injuries and start scoring goals.
To use a cliche, his return to fitness and form is like a a new signing. Even though he actually is, a new signing.
A routine win, would have been too simple for Linfield, and when it looked like going to 3-0, Cliftonville pulled one back through Liam Boyce.
Looking back, it was probably a relief that the goal came in the first-half, rather than the second, with the break allowing to break up any momentum gained by Cliftonville.
Linfield started the second-half the better team, and scored while in control, Mark McAllister setting up Michael Carvill.
Even though Cliftonville had chances at 3-1, it was game over. It had a “one of those days” feel for Cliftonville. That said, Linfield had a “one of those days” feel at times as parries and blocks always seemed to bounce to a Cliftonville player.
A big win for Linfield and some sort of form now, especially with Coleraine and Glentoran drawing, Linfield are now 3rd outright (as opposed to others having games in hand) but realistically, the title is out of reach.
We kicked-off with a small chance, we still have a small chance. Realistically, it’s going to take a few more bad results for Cliftonville before it can be upgraded to “You never know”
Crusaders won today to cut the gap at the top to six points, albeit, having played a game more. It might sound strange to say, but that’s no bad thing for Linfield in my eyes.
If Linfield are to challenge for the title, we’ll need Crusaders to be breathing down Cliftonville’s necks to apply a bit of pressure. Crusaders are only four points clear of Linfield with the sides to meet twice. That gap can be overturned.
Not only is it great to start leaving games with a smile on my face once more, it’s now great top be turning up for matches looking forward to the action ahead. Hope the bubble won’t be burst come 5pm on Saturday.