After an eventful trip to Lurgan last week, it was a lot more mundane for Linfield today, though that was nothing to complain about considering the opponents were a side at the bottom of the table. The end result was the same – three points and encouraging signs for future games.
Stat fans will note that today was Linfield’s biggest league win under Warren Feeney, first home league win this season by more than one goal, and the biggest home league win over Dungannon (Previous biggest was a 4-1 win in 2010, though there was a 4-0 Irish Cup win, also in 2010)
The match itself, was a glorified training exercise, defence v attack, with Linfield taking on the role of attack.
Dungannon did have brief attacking moments, mostly attacks that were snuffed out before Linfield could have any worries.
Linfield’s best chance of the opening stages came when Ross Clarke cut in, but couldn’t get enough power when shooting on his left foot.
For most of the first-half, Dungannon were forced into last ditch clearances and blocks. Despite not having a clear shot on goal, it was obvious that a Linfield goal was inevitable.
As the final minutes of the half approached, it looked like it was going to be 0-0. It would have been frustrating, but no need to panic, such was the one way traffic.
On 37 minutes, the breakthrough came when Aaron Burns picked up possession, ran through Dungannon’s defence to give himself a clear shooting position, before firing home. It was similar to a goal he scored against Dungannon in January 2012.
Burns was the subject of a feature on Newsline the previous night, about him going up against his twin brother Andrew, though they had faced each other competitively twice previously (at least)
Unfortunately for them, Dungannon ruined the story by not picking Andrew Burns.
Aaron Burns was involved in Linfield’s second goal, playing through Andrew Waterworth in first-half injury time, who had the simple task of firing home first time for his 7th goal in 8 games.
Even though it was half-time, the game was over. A second goal for Burns in the opening minutes of the second-half removed all doubt.
Warren Feeney took the opportunity to bring on some subs, all attacking. One of those, Ivan Sproule made it 4-0 when played through by a bootless Ross Clarke.
Technically speaking, the goal should have been disallowed. There are probably internet warriors who will argue that the goal changed the game as Dungannon were on the verge of making a comeback.
Unsurprisingly, the game faded after that, the only incidents of note being a low shot saved by Glendinning, and Aaron Burns being denied a hat-trick when his close ranges shot was blocked by a Dungannon defender.
With Cliftonville, Crusaders and Portadown all facing bottom half teams this weekend, a win was essential to keep up ground at the top. Crusaders were the only team to blink today.
Also pleasing, was the Goal Difference boost, as Linfield’s is currently poor for a team challenging for the title.
And of course, a first clean sheet in 8 league matches.
Next week is big, not just because it is Glentoran, as there are derbies in both North Belfast and Mid Ulster. If results go Cliftonville and Portadown’s way, the traffic jam at the top of the league could be reduced to just 2 or 3 teams.
Ideally, both games would end draws. Whatever the result in those games, there’s only one that matters next Saturday, that Linfield win. If Linfield keep doing that week after week, the league table will look after itself.