I don’t normally do League Cup ties, but last night I did, as Linfield travelled to The Oval to take on Glentoran.
I’d been enthused by recent results and performances, but how wrong that proved to be.
The evening got off to a farcical start, though it didn’t affect me too much directly.
As a driver, I have to get to The Oval early to ensure a parking space. It gets better, the parking space I usually use has now been converted into a bicycle lane. It’s going to be fun and games on Boxing Day trying to get parked.
I was lucky I arrived as early as I did, as there were only two double turnstiles open. I was amazed the kick-off wasn’t delayed as I looked out and saw a massive backlog of people looking to get in as the teams were entering the pitch.
Worst thing was, the queues were divided into “Terrace” and “Stand”, with the queue for Terrace being bigger than the one for Stand. When Linfield attacked the Sydenham End, I sat in the stand, and wasn’t once asked for a ticket.
Those that were queuing outside were unlucky, as they missed the most exciting moments of the game, with both sides having chances, Kyle McVey heading wide, Andrew Waterworth outpacing his marker and shooting just wide and Johnny Tuffey making a double save in quick succession.
After a good start, it looked like this was going to be a good game. How wrong I was, that was the height of excitement.
There are some matches that you just know early on, are going to finish 0-0. This was one of them. Worst thing was, as the tie was to be played to finish, I had no choice but to stay.
Linfield had most of the possession but didn’t really do anything with it.
One random observation was Johnny Tuffey wearing a mismatching kit of Black/Yellow/Yellow, presumably to avoid a clash with Glentoran’s Elliott Morris, who was wearing yellow.
I found this curious as Ross Glendenning wore Yellow against Distillery last season, whose keeper also wore Yellow that day, making me wonder if both keepers were allowed to wear the same colour top.
Any referees out there, feel free to get in touch and clarify.
The fact I was noticing something like that said much about the actual game.
Just after an hour, while Elliott Morris was getting booked for timewasting (quite late by his standards), there was a flare-up which saw Mark Clarke sent-off for a second yellow. It was his third red card against Linfield since February 2012, a walking red card if ever there was one.
Curiously, it was the 12th red card i’ve witnessed in 15 matches been to this season. Must be one of those seasons.
The numbers were levelled up towards the end of 90 minutes, when Kyle McVey had to leave the pitch for tratement after a clash of heads.
Stitched and bandaged, he arrived just in time for extra-time.
It seemed to be a Glentoran tactic to put their only striker up against him and try to go up against him in the air. A wee cut wasn’t going to stop him winning every header.
Extra-time, like the 90 minutes, saw Linfield dominated possession but not do much with it.
Glentoran actually finished strongish, winning a few tackles, but having their crowd right behind them.
Inevitably, the game meandered into a penalty shoot-out, nicely setting up Linfield for a 3rd League Cup penalty shoot-out defeat in 4 years, with Waterworth and Ward missing the vital kicks.
Waterworth missed the first penalty, it all looked like the perfect set-up. It changed at the third kick, with Glentoan 2-1 up.
Matthew Tipton scored his penalty, celebrated in front of the Linfield fans, and the atmosphere suddenly changed. Glentoran missed their next penalty, and it was all level. Tuffey celebrated in front of the Linfield fans.
Sometimes in a penalty shoot-out, you just know when the momentum has changed. Billy Joe Burns made it 3-2 before another Glentoran miss, setting up Michael Gault to win it, which he did.
It wasn’t a good game, but the main positive is that we won. Massive improvement needed for future matches, especially when up against teams set up to defend.