So today, I was at Solitude, where Linfield kicked off three points clear at the top of the league, and left the pitch 2nd on Goal Difference. In reality, it would take more than a sentence to describe the utter carcrash of a performance today.
As per usual, this game began with me sitting on a parked bus for a longer period than the journey travelled. The joy of Bubble Matches.
The game began uneventfully, with both teams “Feeling each other out”, Cliftonville having more shots on goal but not being dominant, or forcing Linfield’s goalkeeper Tuffey into a save beyond the call of duty.
That changed on 31 minutes when a long ball through came to Joe Gormley, who ran at goal. It was a repeat of Dungannon as Kyle McVey backed off to allow a shot, which ended up in the back of the net. No need for a deflection on this one though.
For the rest of the first-half, Linfield were hanging on. A neat piece of skill from Liam Boyce saw him create a shooting opportunity, but the real moment was Tuffey’s quick reactions to deny Martin Murray an opportunity to make it 2-0. It could have been a game defining save, but it turned out not to be.
From the game struggling to get going to Linfield hanging on in the space of 15 minutes. The next 15 minutes (erm, half-time) were going to see if that could be reversed.
Linfield started better in the second-half, not that it was hard, with Mark McAllister having a shot well saved, and Andrew Waterworth fired the ball across the six yard box, with nobody there to put it in.
On infuriating thing about Linfield is the lack of ability to win 2nd balls. It has seen enough attacks end, but came back to bite us at the other end as Barry Johnston made it 2-0, being the first to react to a loose ball in the penalty area.
From then on, Cliftonville killed the game literally. There’s no point complaining about teams timewasting any more as referees do fuck all about it, and are happy for teams to run rings around them and play them like a violin.
Laughably, there was three minutes of Injury Time, when the game was stopped for at least three minutes for the double red cards for Michael Gault and Barry Johnston. Neither player could really complain about their red card.
Though, even if there was 33 minuted added on, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the result.
With two players already sent-off, Ryan Catney was lucky not to go for a second yellow for booting the ball away after a free-kick was awarded. The fact that it came soon after his first yellow card, and the double red, save him. It’s a polite way of saying the ref bottled it.
As a result, Linfield are now knocked off the top of the league on Goal Difference, with a swing of 6 in Crusaders favour today, meaning they have a GD lead of 5 over Linfield.
A few weeks ago, I posted about how Linfield needed to boost their Goal Difference, and keep getting results due to Crusaders having a generous run of fixtures. Sadly, I have been proved right.
Crusaders fixture run gets more difficult in coming weeks with matches against on form Dungannon, Glentoran and Ballymena. That will count for nothing if Linfield don’t start winning matches again, expecially with Cliftonville and Glentoran (potentially, depending on their result on Monday) closing the gap to a retrievable amount.
Worringly, that’s three poor performances from Linfield in a row now. Having got away with it last week, maybe David Jeffrey might realise that James Knowles isn’t a right midfielder.
Even more worrying, is that there has been no clean sheet kept since October 19th. Remember my posts every week last season about the lack of clean sheets?
Time to address that issue in order for history not to repeat itself. Perhaps the best result that could come at Coleraine next Saturday is a scrappy dug in 1-0 win. I’d take that right now.
That game next Saturday will be my first visit to Coleraine since October 2011. Have to say i’m looking forward to it.
Another game i’m looking forward to is the visit to Warrenpoint on January 4th, which has been confirmed to be taking place at Warrenpoint’s ground. I’ve never been there before, which is why i’m looking forward to it so much.
Hopefully, by the time Linfield visit there, they’ll be back on top.
Usual arrangements with taking photos. It’s not friendly for amateur photography. Not that there was many Linfield attacks to photograph.