I had originally planned on spending today on a day trip to Dublin, followed by taking in Bray Wanderers v Galway United, but I didn’t book the train in time to get a discount price, so I had to make alternative arrangements.
Once news broke yesterday that Peter Thompson would be leaving Linfield, I soon decided I would be heading for Shamrock Park to take in his last appearance for Linfield.
Sadly, it’s the right decision, but that doesn’t make it easier. Like Garrett, Murphy and Ervin in recent years, it was the right decision for Linfield, even though they will cause us problems when playing against us.
The amazing thing about Thompson is, despite the past three seasons being disrupted through injury, his goal stats for his Linfield career are still better than 1 in 2, which shows how prolific he was before injury.
There were times when we were 1-0 up in the tunnel when you saw his name on the teamsheet.
He captained Linfield today, and both teams formed a guard of honour, which I just about got to see, thanks to Portadown only having one turnstile open prior to kick-off.
As one Linfield career ends, Gareth Deane will be hoping another one is just beginning, as he made his first start, replacing Johnny Tuffey in goals.
Deane didn’t have a lot to do. He was unsighted by bodies for the goal and had one ropey moment from a cross, but didn’t do a lot wrong bar a couple of overeager kickouts that gave away possession.
Both teams had a lot of changes, with Portadown looking forward to the Irish Cup Final, and Linfield taking the opportunity to give gametime to players who haven’t played a lot this season, or players returning from injury, such as Chris Hegarty.
Ross Clarke had the first shot on goal of the game, but it was Portadown who had the first goal, when a cross fell to Darren Murray who fired home.
You could tell it was an end of season game by the lack of celebration from Murray. Even the Linfield fans behind the goal didn’t bother to get wound up to make their feeling known to the defence.
Despite it being an end of season game, you don’t want to lose four times in one season to the same team.
Linfield responded well to the setback, and got an equaliser almost immediately when Aaron Burns fired home from close range after Jimmy Callacher headed across the box.
To see Linfield respond so well to going behind was pleasing, considering some the limp defeats that happened this season.
In fact, the last three games given Linfield fans optimism for next season – not capitulating at going 1-0 down to Cliftonville and Portadown early on, and not capitulating when Crusaders pulled it back to 2-1 on Tuesday, or when Ivan Sproule was sent-off.
Maybe a corner has been turned and Linfield are adding some resiliance to their game? Too late for this season, but not too early for next season.
There was still some dodgy defensive moments for Linfield, mostly when the ball was in the air, allowing it to bounce and cause havoc. When the ball was on the ground in open play, Linfield coped with Portadown.
After the early goals, the game became end of season stuff, not particularly exciting, the best moment in the remainder of the first-half coming for Portadown when Soares hit the post.
Linfield were better in the second-half. You could tell they were desperate to get Peter Thompson a farewell goal, trying to pass to him at every opportunity.
He almost got that goal from a close range header, but was denied by a top class save by David Miskelly. Linfield fans behind the goal rued the save, not because it denied their side going in front, but because it denied them the Thompson goal they all craved.
Thompson had another chance for that goal when he headed over after a scramble in the box.
If he couldn’t get a farewell goal, he almost got a farewell assist, when his cross was headed over by Rodney Brown.
Linfield had more of the attacking play, but couldn’t get the breakthrough, the match finishing a draw.
It might not have been a win, but it was a better way to end my Linfield watching season than the pitiful surrender against Glenavon two weeks previously.
There were some positive moments this season, but a lot more frustrating moments. A lack of a second striker to score goals alongside Waterworth cost us.
Waterworth scored his first goal in a while on Tuesday night. You don’t notice it in his performance when he doesn’t score, but you notice it in the rest of the team.
Ultimately, it was the run of bad results against Crusaders, Coleraine, Ballinamallard, Cliftonville and Portadown in January and February that killed off Linfield’s title challenge before the split.
I believe that Warren Feeney is the right man for the job and needs to be given time to get his players, and his squad, but he needs to learn from his mistakes and not be so stubborn at times.
There are far too many players at Linfield just making up the numbers.
It’s easy to forget that David Jeffrey had some bad signings and results in his first calendar year in charge.
After being appointed in January 1997, it was his signings of William Murphy, David Larmour and Glenn Ferguson between September 1997 and January 1998 that set the club up for the next decade.
The player recruitment for 2015-2016 has already begun, the positions of urgency are goalkeeper and striker.
One team that Linfield will be playing in the league next season will be Carrick Rangers, who won promotion today. I’ve never been to Taylor’s Avenue, so hope they will be able to use that next season so I can have a new ground to visit for the first time.
Bangor face Warrenpoint in the play-off. I’ve no dislike towards Warrenpoint, but a trip to Bangor, ideally in August or September is very tempting.
While in Portadown, I got myself a ticket for the Irish Cup Final. I’ve been in Coleraine (2003) and Glenavon (2014) ends when they’ve won the cup, so you can thank me if you win Portadown.
That’ll be me domestically for this season. All that remains is a trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Arsenal, and Northern Ireland’s matches against Qatar and Romania.
I’m planning to do the Dublin/Bray day trip on June 27th, when Bray are at home to Sligo Rovers. It would be my first match of 2015-2016, two weeks after my last match of 2014-2015. For the record, Bray lost 5-0 at home to Galway today.
Northern Ireland’s match against Romania will give me a first opportunity to experience the new Railway Stand or South Stand at Windsor Park, a lot earlier than expected.
Then there will be Linfield’s European matches in July. Hopefully, we can get to the 3rd Round of the UEFA Cup after near misses in recent years, although i’m wanting Linfield to be playing in the European Cup in 2016-2017, obviously.
It’s only 105 days until the opening league game of the 2015-2016 season. It can’t come soon enough.