For the first time in almost two years, since the 2012 Irish Cup final, I arrived for a domestic Linfield game excited at what lay ahead.
Not only that, there was a bigger than usual crowd. Fans who were at Windsor Park today for the first time in a while would not be enticed back based on what they saw, as once again Linfield didn’t turn up for a big game.
Linfield now “Owe their supporters a big performance” so much, i’m considering taking Wonga style interest rates on that debt.
Both teams attacked from the start, “Feeling each other out”
Linfield had a couple of corners, and attacks on goal, but nothing that would trouble Cliftonville.
For the rest of the first-half, Cliftonville had the better of it. For all their play, they only managed one shot on target. If had managed to get some of their chances they created on target, they surely would have scored.
Linfield didn’t help themselves, with countless passes going astray.
Having been relieved to go in at half-time 0-0, Linfield needed to make an improved start to the second-half. It got worse, 1-0 down inside the first minute. Liam Boyce, free in the penalty area with enough time to fire home.
From there, it was a trademark capitulation. No ideas, no belief. Ross Clarke, who should have been on from the start, was brought on for Robert Garrett.
Cliftonville made it 2-0 from a counter-attack. Their players celebrated by swinging on the crossbar like chimps. I looked around at Linfield players. Not one player seemed upset that an away team strutting around Windsor Park like they own the place.
Serious questions have to be asked as to where the leadership was on the pitch? Nobody seemed to take it upon themselves to drag the team forward and get the result.
Michael Gault gave Linfield a bit of hope by making it 2-1, but Cliftonville made it 3-1 to get a deserved win.
That’s what hurts most. It wasn’t a smash and grab.
Worse thing is, this result is going to linger for two weeks until the next league game.
I was of the opinion that whoever is top at the end of today’s game will win the league. That is still my opinion. For Linfield now, we have to win four games and hope.
You’ve got to have hope.