It’s over. It’s not mathematically, but realistically, it’s over, as Linfield dropped two points at home to Portadown.
The game began differently, with Linfield attacking the Railway End in the first-half for a change. I usually like to sit at the end where Linfield are attacking, so I headed over to the South Stand. Had to be quick, as Linfield scored after 18 seconds of their last meeting with Portadown.
Linfield started well, having a Callacher header cleared off the line and a Waterworth header hitting the bar. The early goal didn’t come and the game deteriorated for the rest of the first-half with Linfield not creating anything and Portadown looking more threatening when on the attack.
Worst thing is, it wasn’t “Resolute defending” from Portadown that was denying Linfield, it was a lack of creativity, picking the wrong pass and just playing long balls forward, meat and drink for Portadown’s defence.
Towards the end of the first-half, Linfield had some pressure. 44 minutes is a bit late to start looking lively.
Linfield came out for the second-half a better team and scored within 58 seconds when the ball went out wide to Aaron Burns, whose cross was turned in by Michael Carvill.
The vital breakthrough, should have been the moment to push on and kill the game. Even though Portadown weren’t really offering much in open play, 1-0 was still a dangerous lead, and so it proved.
A long range free-kick from Chris Casement was punched straight to Darren Murray by Johnny Tuffey, and he couldn’t miss from close out. The third such mistake (after Crusaders and Ards in January) that has cost Linfield points this season. That’s six points Linfield couldn’t have been better off.
All three mistakes were basic and inexcusable. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and back him, but there’s only so many points costing mistakes that can be made before the recruitment of a new goalkeeper in the summer becomes a viable suggestion.
At this point, 74 minutes were played, and Linfield still had made no subs. David Jeffrey once again being reactive rather than proactive with his subs.
When the subs came, it was a right-midfielder for a right-back and a striker for a midfielder. Quite what formation Linfield were playing was anyone’s guess. Looked like 10-0-0 when Portadown attacked, 0-10-0 when the ball was in midfield and 0-0-10 when the ball was in Portadown’s defending third.
The shape was so bad, Matthew Tipton was lucky (from where I was sat) not to be sent-off for a professional foul on the edge of the box ……….. in left-back position.
What saved him was the wide position he was in.
Despite so many attacking players on the pitch, Linfield never looked like scoring, which is quite damming.
The only may you could see a goal was if there was an own goal or a lucky bounce. It almost happened when a Portadown defender headed against their own post from a cross. From the rebound, Matthew Tipton couldn’t put the ball in.
If the title was unlikely at kick-off, it was impossible come full-time. Admittedly, Cliftonville dropping points at Portadown and Crusaders isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, especially as they have drawn both visits there this season, but realistcally, it’s not happeneing.
Worst thing is, this was a title thrown away. A chance to kill off Cliftonville in November, not taken. A chance to kill off Cliftonville in February, not taken. A chance to kill off Cliftonville in March, not taken.
A chance to kill off Portadown in the match today, not taken.
There’s a recurring theme here.
So, two more games to go, got to win and hope. Same situation as last week. Unfortunately, we’re hoping Cliftonville slip up twice instead of once.