It had been a long wait for today. For some, three and a half months (since last season ended), for some – five months (since Setanta Cup exit) and for some – seven months (since Irish Cup exit).
Linfield arrived at Shamrock Park today determined to get off to a winning start in a bid to regain the league title so feebly surrendered last season.
With so many new faces, it was interesting to see if the momentum from the UEFA Cup run could be built on, but the two stand-out men early, were two old faces, one of which was a new (ish) face, and one felt like a new face.
Aaron Burns shot wide inside the first five minutes, from where I was sat, I thought it was in, as he and Matthew Clarke schemed together, developing an understanding down the left side.
Peter Thompson was beginning to look like the player he was 2/3 years ago, causing problems form Portadown’s defence.
The difference this season, was that when Linfield attacked, you believe there would be a goal. Improved movement when in attacking positions was clear to see.
It wasn’t all Linfield pressure, as Portadown had their moments, forcing Linfield into last ditch interceptions and clearances. Last season, situations like that would have resulted in a comical goal being conceded.
At half-time, with the score 0-0, you just had a feeling that if Linfield could get 1 goal, if could set the momentum for an away win.
A goal came early in the second-half, when Peter Thompson battled through Portadown’s defence and slotted past the keeper. It was classic Thompson.
It was the catapult for more Linfield pressure, in search of a second goal that would kill the game. That said, Portadown didn’t really look like scoring from open play, though they only had themselves to blame as Darren Murray missed two shocking sitters.
Just when it looked like Linfield were going to hold out for a win, Portadown got a penalty. I haven’t seen TV coverage of the incident so can’t comment on it.
Of course, the player who missed the two sitters would take it. For a brief second, it looked like Tuffey saved it, but it wasn’t to be.
Last season, Linfield would have lost this game 2-1 in injury time. However, they went back on the attack, trying to find a winner, only to run out of time.
A disappointing result, but there were plenty of positives to take from the performance. 1 down, 37 to go …… it’s great to be back up and running.