After getting nice and comfy in the North Stand at Windsor Park, it was a road trip to Fermanagh for Linfield, as they looked to recover some momentum lost by last week’s defeat to Glenavon.
It wasn’t the most exciting of games, but that was no bad thing. When you’re facing a side that started the day second bottom, the last thing you want is excitement. You just want to get the win, and wrapped up as soon as possible.
In truth, this game was won inside the first 15 minutes as Linfield raced into a 2-0 lead with goals from Lowry (his first for the club) and Burns.
What was pleasing was that the first time in a while, Linfield looked like scoring every time they attacked.
Ross Clarke, back in the starting line-up, was superb, creating chance after chance. I’m a big fan of his, but he was shocking against Ballyclare, and it’s great to see him back in the team and back in form.
The ever frustrating Ivan Sproule played well too, creating chances and causing problems for Ballinamallard.
Peter Thompson and Andrew Waterworth, who’ve rarely played together, linked up well, but couldn’t get the goal they deserved.
Watching Linfield, one of the most nervous situations to be in is 2-0 up, especially away from home, when you always have that horrible feeling that the opposition will get two quickfire goals.
Though Ballinamallard had an early half-chance in the second-half, another goal from Aaron Burns put the game beyond doubt.
At 3-0, that was the cue to make some substitutions with a game against Crusaders coming up on Monday night, a rest for Andrew Waterworth, and a chance to give Jamie Mulgrew some minutes as he returns from injury.
The only disappointment was a late consolation goal for Ballinamallard. I like clean sheets, and runs of clean sheets, and it ruined a possible run of 5 clean sheets in 6 games.
A bonus from this game was results elsewhere, with Glenavon, Portadown, Cliftonville and Ballymena all dropping points. Just a pity Institute couldn’t have got something at Seaview on Friday night.
All the attention now is on Seaview, and the clash against Crusaders, where a win will send Linfield top for the first time this season.
If that happens, it won’t automatically see Linfield declared champions, just as last week’s defeat to Glenavon didn’t see Linfield condemned to a season of being also-rans.
It’s early days, but there have been positive signs (and to balance it out, some not so positive signs either)
But tomorrow is a crucial game for both clubs, as a win will send a statement of intent.
Just imagine how demoralising it will be for the rest of the league to see Linfield go top as we approach the stage of the season when everybody is playing each other for the second time.
Especially with Linfield having a run of home games until the end of 2014.
To end, some self promotion, one of my photos from the game against AIK was featured in a photo gallery on The Guardian’s website, titled “This Is My Football Team”