Before Tuesday night, the last Linfield match I was at was at Mourneview Park. It was perhaps symbolic or symmetrical that my next should be at the same venue. In the nine weeks that have passed, people have left Linfield, and people have joined Linfield.
The most obvious, is in the dugout, with Warren Feeney as new manager, replacing David Jeffrey, who was in attendance on Tuesday as a supporter. Since you ask, the last Linfield match I attended where David Jeffrey wasn’t manager? A 0-0 draw v Glentoran on December 26th 1996.
Change on the pitch, in the dugout, and change at or of the club, Linfield playing home European ties (Until September, when we’re in the group stage, of course) at Mourneview Park, due to redevelopment of Windsor Park.
It’s two months and one day until an actual home ground there, against Warrenpoint on September 13th. Looking forward to that one, just to actually see in person the changes at the ground.
If you had to choose an alternative home ground, Mourneview Park wouldn’t be a bad choice. Not only is it the perfect size and modern stands, Linfield have an excellent record there. Though, the last time they played a European tie (v Randers in 2009, due to Windsor Park’s pitch being relayed) it resulted in a 3-0 defeat.
Linfield went into the game with a 2-1 first leg lead against familiar opponents, having beaten B36 in a penalty shoot-out in the European Cup in 2012. Linfield supporters were expecting this tie to be advanced without the need for a penalty shoot-out.
For me, and a few others I guess, this was my first viewing of Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.
B36 started the game with a few shots on goal, but shots you would expect Jonathan Tuffey (despite his wobbly moments last season, and even last week) to save.
Linfield then started to play some nice passes. There was some long passes, but the had a purpose. Players being proactive and running onto flicks, or running past defenders. Attackers were even prepared to run at defenders.
Linfield seemed to be able to get round the back, but not getting the bounce. You got the feeling if there was an early goal, it could end up 3 or 4-0.
The early goal came just after the quarter hour. A cross came in which looked to be overhit. It was great play by Aaron Burns to seize the opportunity to keep the move alive to get his foot onto it and play it across goal for Michael Carvill to score, who appears to be a penalty box poacher these days.
For the rest of the first-half, Linfield looked the most likely to score, without creating clear cut opportunities. 1-0 at half-time, things are going well so far.
In football, things can change in an instant, and B36 got a penalty in the opening minutes of the second-half, which they scored. Suddenly, it’s now a different game.
For a while after the goal, Linfield appeared nervous, but B36 never really looked like scoring. Despite that, you can never be too careful when there’s only one goal in it.
Eventually, Linfield regained their composure and got back into the game, but just couldn’t get that 2nd goal that would have made the final minutes a lot less nervous.
There were plenty of positives, there were plenty of negatives. One big positive was Peter Thompson off the bench. Hopefully, he can stay fully fit throughout the season. As the cliche goes, it would be like a new signing.
The final whistle went, and Linfield were through, to face AIK Solna next Thursday. A Massively improved performance will be needed against the Swedes to have a chance of keeping the tie alive before the trip to Stockholm.