Portadown arrived at Windsor Park for the first of a double header of games against Linfield, a match moved as part of the NIFL’s “Friday Night Experiment”.
Portadown arrived at Windsor Park on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Cliftonville and without a recognised striker due to injuries and suspensions. Anybody thinking this would be an easy win for Linfield would do well to remember the number of suspensions they had on the opening day of the season, and won 3-0.
Warren Feeney continued up front for Linfield, his first playing appearance for the club at Windsor Park.
Not much happened in the opening minutes, no real chances, until Linfield started to get more possession. Most of the attacks were coming down the left, hoping that Aaron Burns and Niall Quinn could find a way around Portadown’s defence.
Linfield’s breakthrough came, from the right hand side, when a cross from Michael Carvill found Warren Feeney to head home. He didn’t know much about it, but they all count.
Linfield had a lot of possession but didn’t really do much with it. There were times when they seemed content to go backwards at times. Admittedly, if somebody tried a pass that was unrealistic and lost the ball, people wouldn’t be slow in complaining, but Linfield needed urgency. Somebody to make that run, somebody to play that pass. Somebody to make something happen. Portadown were comfortable without the ball, happy to let Linfield have the ball as they weren’t hurting them.
Sean Ward gave the ball away trying to shepherd it out for a goal kick. A warning, if it were needed, that Portadown were not out of this game.
A defensive mistake allowed Andrew Waterworth a run at goal, which he was unable to take. A minute later, he had a header off the bar.
Linfield suffered a blow when Glenn Belezika had to go off through injury. Thankfully, there was a ready made replacement on the bench in Reece Glendinning.
Linfield needed a second goal, and had a great opportunity to get it early in the second-half when they got a penalty after a handball in the area.
Aaron Burns stepped up, David Miskelly stood on his line and managed to save the strike which went straight down the middle. It was almost as if he’d done his homework.
Despite not offering much as an attacking force, Portadown were still very much in the game. Linfield needed that second to kill them off. There was a brief rally after the penalty miss, but not much in terms of chances for Linfield.
On 68 minutes, Aaron Burns gave away a stupid free-kick. From the resulting free-kick, Jimmy Callacher headed past his own goalkeeper. The ball, agonisingly, dropped into the net, prompting a delayed celebration from the Portadown fans at the opposite end of the ground.
Last season, a 1-1 draw at home to Portadown put Linfield’s backs up against the wall in the title race. This season, it looked like the same would be happening, albeit, with more games to make up the defecit.
Thankfully, Linfield had more than 20 minutes to rectify the situation. They didn’t look like doing it, always running in to trouble and giving away soft possession.
Stephen Lowry came on as a sub for Jamie Mulgrew. The crowd voiced their disapproval. The game was crying out for Kirk Millar to be introduced as Linfield’s 3rd sub.
One incident summed up Linfield’s lack of ideas in the second-half. Portadown kicked the ball out for one of their injured players to get treatment. Linfield threw it out for a goal-kick, allowing Portadown more time to kill the game, rather than throwing it to their defence/keeper and making them play it and keep the game live.
The was an all round lack of smartness in Linfield’s game in the second-half. It was all too predictable.
Portadown had an effort hit the bar after a scramble from a set piece, before Robert Garrett set up Sean Mackle to get in behind Linfield’s defence to fire Portadown 2-1 in front.
Despite there still being time remaining, the result was never in doubt for Portadown. They weren’t hanging on, Linfield weren’t putting them under pressure. After 44 minutes of next to no urgency, it was hardly going to increase in the final minutes.
Once again, Linfield throw away a lead, and throw away points. It’s been a recurring theme all season, especially in the last two months. Surely at some point, the penny will drop not to try to defend leads and to kill off teams when they have the chance.