Mark Haughey must hate Warrenpoint Town. Three appearances against them, and three goals, all winners. 7th March is the next meeting, if you want to bookmark that date for a trip to the bookies.
In truth, the three points was the only positive. It was the sort of game that pundits lazily cliche as “The sort of game that wins titles”
If today’s performance is repeated, it will be the “sort of performance that loses titles”
Linfield went in with two changes through injuries, Ross Clarke and Stephen Lowry. They were both sorely missed.
The opening minutes were uneventful, with both teams trying to get attacks going, without much success, before Warrenpoint took the lead when a cross was finished by Daniel Hughes.
The response from Linfield, didn’t come. In fact, it was Warrenpoint who looked more likely to score. Most of the shots they had on goal went over, but, they were creating chances and getting sights on goal, albeit not making the most of them.
Linfield weren’t even getting a sight on goal. Even on the rare occasion of a corner or an attacking free-kick, Linfield couldn’t create an opening.
When Linfield had the ball, they ran into trouble. When Warrenpoint got the ball, they seemed to be able to go straight on the attack.
The most damming fact of the first-half was that Jamie Mulgrew’s only meaningful contribution was to make a goalsaving block in his own six yard box.
As the half neared it’s end, there were those hoping it only be 0-1 at half-time, and that things could get sorted in the following 15 minutes.
There were probably just as many hoping for another floodlight failure, to try again at a later date.
Linfield came out for the second-half, and were already looking better than they did in the first-half. Not that it was hard. There was no real chances, but a lot of pressure on Warrenpoint’s goal.
You got the feeling, that if Linfield got one, there would still be enough time to win the game.
All games are must win, but with the title race so close, to fall more than a win off the top for the first time this season would be bordering on catastrophic, especially with Crusaders, Cliftonville and Portadown all winning this weekend.
The minutes ticked by, before Linfield finally made their breakthrough, and Andrew Waterworth got his only real sight on goal, it was all he needed. He had to hit a first time shot, which he did, and it went in. There was no celebration, he just grabbed the ball to get the game restarted as soon as possible.
There was 20 minutes to win the game. Linfield had all the pressure, snuffing out any breakaway by Warrenpoint. For all Linfield’s pressure and set pieces, it was a defender, Jimmy Callacher, who looked the most likely to score, first when his shot was blocked by the legs of Warrenpoint keeper Johnny Parr, then he got in behind Warrenpoint’s defence, but couldn’t control the ball to set up a shot.
Eventually, the winner came on 89 minutes when Mark Haughey headed home from a cross. Each side had a dominant half, Linfield took their chances when on top. That was the fact of the game. It was a real get out of jail. It also exposed the lack of creativity in the team outside of Ross Clarke.
Today’s results mean that Glenavon have dropped to the periphery (that’s me being generous) of the title race, with Linfield still very much in it.
Looking at next week’s games, Cliftonville and Crusaders (v Ballaymena and Institute) are odds on for victories, while Portadown should beat Glentoran, which makes Linfield’s match against Coleraine a must win, just to stary in the title race.
Any more performances like today, and we won’t be in the title race for long.
Meanwhile, there are strong rumours that Northern Ireland are play Scotland away in a friendly in March. Very tempted by that if it happened.
The best venue for it would be Easter Road, though Hampden Park is a fantastic stadium. It would be interesting to see what it is like post Commonwealth Games.
Of the two dates suggested, the Thursday night would be great for me. I’ve checked the gig listings, and Charli XCX plays Glasgow on the Friday. A two night break, then fly home on the Saturday morning in time for Glenavon v Linfield, then the Northern Ireland v Finland game on the Sunday teatime. Sounds tempting.
More upcoming, is my trip to Manchester next weekend, for the United v Hull game, but also planning to take in Accrington Stanley v Exter City on the Friday night.
As a result, i’ll be missing Linfield’s match against Coleraine. It’ll be the second time this season i’ll have missed Linfield take on Coleraine. I’ll eventually get to see Coleraine when they visit Windsor Park again on January 3rd.
Hopefully, by then, Linfield will still be in the thick of the title race. A long way, and a lot of work to go before then.