Last time I went to Bangor, it had a grass pitch and was called Clandeboye Park. In the 14 months since my last visit, it has had a 3G Pitch installed, had some renovation work done, and been renamed the Bangor Fuels Arena as part of a sponsorship deal.
With Windsor Park out of use, Bangor Fuels Arena was the venue for Linfield’s “Home” friendly against Cowdenbeath. A trip to the Seaside in the middle of July? That sounds good. We were treated to typical Northern Ireland summer weather ……… pouring rain.
Less than 48 hours after the UEFA Cup game against AIK, this was a much changed Linfield team, 11 changes in fact.
I knew what sort of team to expect, but my main reason for going today was to see what
Bangor Fuels Arena Clandeboye Park was like.
Obviously, the pitch was done, and had a Seaview style fence around the pitch, tarmac between terracing and the fence if supporters want to get closer, and supporters can now stand behind the end where the houses are. Though, with the weather as it was today, nobody took up that option, unsurprisingly.
The inexperience Linfield side held their own in the opening exchanges, with Ross Clarke being the focal point of the attacking.
Sometimes he lost the ball trying to do too much, but he was always trying to make things happen.
Eventually, Cowdenbeath took control of the game, creating some chances, which required some last ditch Linfield defending to deny them.
In the final ten minutes of the half, they got behind Linfield’s defence, and (just about) made it count.
Ross Glendenning hesitated, not knowing if he should stay on his line or run out to force the shot, and did neither, but the Cowdenbeath attacker crossed, and it was turned into his own goal by Niall Quinn, trying to intercept it.
Cowdenbeath stepped it up and it became important for Linfield to keep it 1-0 to half-time at least, as such an inexperience line-up could have fallen apart if the gap widened.
Linfield came out for the second-half strong, with Rodney Brown forcing a save from Cowdenbeath’s keeper, who also had to be alert as Conor McMenamin was unable to get a touch to a cross. If he did, he would have scored.
The rest of the second-half was typical pre-season fare, largely interrupted by substitutions from both teams.
Even though it was an inexperience Linfield team, there were still first-team players. In a departure from recent seasons, friendlies have run alongside European games, instead of being announced once elimination has been confirmed, meaning that players such as Ross Glendenning, Ross Clarke, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher and Niall Quinn are getting game time ahead of the start of the domestic season.
Linfield had a late rally but couldn’t get a goal that would have secured a deserved draw, and Cowdenbeath’s travelling fans celebrated the win.
Hopefully, next year, there’ll be a return fixture.