David Jeffrey’s farewell tour rolled into Ballymena, the home of last season’s winners, last night for the much belated County Antrim Shield Final against Crusaders.
I don’t usually bother with this competition, especially given the farce involved in trying to arrange this game, but sentiment got the better of me, deciding to go, as it would be the last time I see Linfield play in a final under David Jeffrey’s management.
Despite having been to Ballymena Showgrounds many times before, it gave Linfield fans a chance to experience something different, being situated in the home end at Ballymena.
I’ve seen a lot of things watching football, but last night had a first ………… certificates on the wall outside the toilets in honour of them achieving Gold Standard in the Loo Of The Year Awards. I guess they don’t have many trophies to parade
The match began with Linfield on the attack, but there were very rare in the opening stages. Crusaders were the more effective with their possession in the early stages, causing some mild panic in Linfield’s defence at corners.
That seemed to be Crusaders tactics, try to win a corner and hope for the best. After some shaky moments, Linfield got better with each corner, to the point that they could defend them with their eyes closed.
As the first-half ended, Linfield were the better team, forcing Sean O’Neill into saves. Unfortunately, his saves were nothing special, and saves he’d be expected to make.
In the second-half, Linfield continued to have chances, forcing O’Neill into saves, albeit, saves he’d be expected to make.
The best chance came when a Mark McAllister cross was headed wide by Aaron Burns, a first-half sub for the injured Ivan Sproule – his first appearance since being injured in mid January, away to Ballymena, ironically.
Sometimes you just know when a game was going to finish 0-0. This was one of games.
The game was crying out for Michael Carvill to be introduced off the bench. It seemed that Jeffrey was waiting until the end of the 90s minutes to introduce him. He was introduced in the second period of extra-time. It was so late, I thought it was for a defender in order to have more attacking (and theoretically better strikers of the ball) on the pitch for the impending penalty shoot-out..
With there being only ten minutes each way during extra-time in the County Antrim Shield, it was no surprised that there was no real momentum to the game from that point onwards.
The game went to penalties, for the second time this season between the clubs. The previous one in the League Cup, finished 10-9 to Crusaders after 11 kicks. Thankfully, we were spared that.
Two saves by Jonathan Tuffey had Linfield at match point with 3 kicks taken. Billy Joe Burns stepped up to secure the trophy 4-1 on penalties.
This isn’t a major trophy, but it’s still nice to win, especially when you haven’t won it for 8 years. The only downside was that once again, the trophy presentation was ruined by idiots invading the pitch and denying the players the chance to parade the trophy to supporters, and for supporters to see the trophy being paraded by their team.
I hope i’m just as moany at the end of April.