Let’s start with some positivity – We cut the gap at the top of the table.
Now for the reality – We dropped two points. Two extra points that should have been won.
Both sets of fans had a role reversal as to where they usually sit, Linfield fans in the North Stand and Glentoran fans in The Kop.
I usually like to sit where Linfield attack, so I took a risk and stood towards the Railway Stand, expecting Linfield to attack there in the first-half, but they were to attack The Kop in the first-half, so I had to make a quick move over the other end of the of the North Stand.
Good job I got over quickly, as Linfield were quick off the mark, with a cross from Jamie Richards being headed home by Sammy Morrow inside the second minute.
It wasn’t the first time Linfield had taken an early lead against Glentoran in recent years – Games in 2011 and 2013 saw Linfield take an early lead but fail to capitalise on it, and end up hanging on.
Unfortunately, today was the same.
Glentoran didn’t let their heads drop after the goal. Their main tactic was to try and get the ball to Curtis Allen running towards goal, it was effective, with him forcing Glendinning into a save, and Richards into a clearance out for a corner.
It was another corner, that resulted in Glentoran’s equaliser. A poor delivery saw the ball fall to Fre McCaffrey, who managed to find spence in the box to fire home.
The first cross should have been dealt with, but when the ball fell to McCaffrey, he shouldn’t have been able to get the space to shoot.
Linfield couldn’t get going again, Glentoran missed a glorious opportunity when McAlorum hit the post and wide from yards out.
On 36 minuted, Linfield regained the lead when a counter-attack saw the ball reach Andrew Waterworth, in a wide position, with no support.
He waited for runners, and waited, and waited, until Stephen Lowry arrived into the box, and backheeled home from his cross.
Linfield tried, but couldn’t get that third goal they needed before half-time.
With Glentoran attacking their fans in The Kop in the second-half, a big performance was needed, it didn’t come.
Linfield couldn’t keep the ball, losing it as soon as they won it.
There were chances though. Andrew Waterworth staying on his feet when he could have went down for a penalty when touched by Morris. That said, with Irish League referees ……
Michael Carvill, just couldn’t get onto a cross, while Stephen Lowry tried to get onto his right foot when he could have got a clear shot on his left.
Despite not getting a third, Linfield seemed content to hang on and win 2-1. It was just like the Ballymena game at the start of last month. It wasn’t so much winning the game, but hanging on, and nothing more.
Worse still, every time Glentoran had a set piece or a cross into the box, Glentoran were winning the 2nd and 3rd ball every time.
Linfield were heading to the corner flag at 85 minutes, Clucas came on for Burns. Memories of The Oval in 2005 and 2009 were coming to mind.
The fear was, that Glentoran would score so late, Linfield wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Unfortunately, those fears turned out to be justified, as Glentoran got an equaliser as injury time when Johnny Addis fired home after an assist from Stephen McAlorum’s arm.
As easy as it is to blame the ref for a shocking decision, questions have to be asked of Linfield’s performance, and why Glentoran weren’t killed off. You don’t need to score a 3rd goal to kill a game off when you’re 2-1 up.
If Linfield “Got away with it” by taking a point from today’s game given the performance, they certainly “Got away with it” in terms of the league table, despite dropping a place, actually reducing the gap at the top due to Crusaders beating Cliftonville 4-1, though it is Portadown who are now top.
Looking at next weekend’s fixtures, Glenavon v Cliftonville is the standout game. Glenavon (4 points behind Portadown) can’t afford to lose any more ground if they are to stay in the title race. Forget about Glenavon, Linfield can’t afford to drop any more if they are to stay in the race.
Up next, is Warrenpoint away, floodlight failure or waterlogged pitch permitting. As exciting as the visit in January was, i’d prefer a boring and routine win. In truth, i’ll take three points whichever way they come.
No disrespect to Warrenpoint, Coleraine, Ballymena and Ballinamallard, but that is a run of games that should bring 12 points, ahead of the Christmas/New Year run of games of Portadown, Glentoran and Crusaders – a potentially season defining run of games.