Long awaited rebuilding work that was looking good at Christmas and being on track, it is now in danger of falling apart into rubble. It’s fair to say that the Windsor Park Redevelopment could be a metaphor for Linfield’s season, or vice versa.
Despite my qualifications in Structural Engineering (being a football fan with internet access is what you need seemingly), i’m not going to comment on the unfortunate events/god’s wrath for playing football on a Sunday as it’s being handled by professionals, and it’s best to wait to see what they report.
It means that Linfield’s home games won’t be at Windsor Park (there’s only two remaining, it was probably lucky it happened at this time of year rather than November/December time), it could mean next season’s European games being played at another team’s ground this summer.
However, it was ensuring European qualification that was Linfield’s main concern. They were in a good position to do so at kick-off.
Glenavon’s win over Cliftonville helped their chances, though they would have been helped no matter what the result. 4 points from the next 3 games, assuming Portadown lose one of theirs, would be enough.
Linfield travelled to The Oval to take on a Glentoran side just beaten 4-0 by Glenavon, and desperate to repeat their title challenge ending win over Linfield on Easter Tuesday last year.
Both teams went into this game without a major attacking threat through suspension – Curtis Allen for Glentoran and Ross Clarke for Linfield.
Ivan Sproule came in for Clarke, while Peter Thompson came in up front for Linfield in place of Sammy Morrow. Thompson played well despite not having many clear cut opportunities, always making himself available as an outlet up front.
It was early Linfield pressure, the best chance coming to Andrew Waterworth.
Glentoran’s best moment came when David Scullion lobbed the ball over from a wide angle.
Glentoran were trying to get it behind Linfield’s defence, waiting for the moment to get lucky. That moment came when Fra McCaffrey was played through. He was never going to miss. He didn’t.
Andrew Waterworth had a chance to equalise when he fired over from a dangerous Aaron Burns cross.
Chances were there for Linfield, but not being taken. You hoped the goals would come. You feared it would be a repeat of the last league game at Glenavon.
Glentoran players were able to get to the second ball every time. It was sloppy and sluggish from Linfield. As much as Linfield were the better team, there was still a lot of improvement needed.
As the second-half began, Linfield had the ball in an around Glentoran’s penalty area but weren’t doing much with it. They didn’t look like scoring in open play. As the hour mark approached, they got a glorious opportunity to score from a dead ball situation, a penalty kick.
Ironically it was an overhit touch from Glenn Belezika which created the opportunity, by inviting a tackle from Marcus Kane.
As Aaron Burns stepped up, I thought he was going to miss. Partly because he missed against Portadown, and partly because of the way the game had gone so far. Thankfully, he didn’t.
Like the Glenavon game ten days earlier, this was not a game that was going to finish 1-1. It was either going to be a 1-0 defeat or a 2-1 win.
Unlike at Mourneview Park, Linfield got the equaliser they desired. Crucially, they had half an hour to get the winner.
Peter Thompson had a chance that he fluffed before Linfield took the lead with a Mark Haughey header from a corner. There was only on winner from there.
Linfield were able to see the game out with relative ease, though they didn’t help themselves by sitting back and inviting Glentoran onto them. Thankfully, Glentoran didn’t have the ability to make the most of it.
Jimmy Callacher came on for Ivan Sproule. No offence to Callacher, but it should be a like for like sub (ie – Kirk Millar)
Better teams will punish us if we state our intentions are to have what he hold in the final stage of matches.
An Aaron Burns header just wide, would have made the final stages a lot more relaxing.
As the game entered the final minutes, Linfield were able to keep possession, and do so in Glentoran’s half. They can;t hurt us if we’ve got the ball. As the minutes and seconds ticked down, Linfield fans were aware that Crusaders had lost 1-0 to Portadown.
A win on Saturday will secure European football for next season, but what competition? Let’s be realistic, it’ll be the UEFA Cup.
There’s a small hope of it being the European Cup. It’s better than no hope.