Linfield bounced back from their first defeat of the season, at Seaview last week, by getting back to winning ways today, and extended their lead at the top from two points to four points.
A week is as long a time in football as it is in politics.
Facing opposition they’d beaten in all seven meetings between the two sides, it wasn’t that much of a shock, though not many would have seen a 5-1 final score during the first-half.
Linfield began brightly, straight on the attack and not letting Warrenpoint any time to rest. A clearance went to Warren Feeney in his Technical Area which he caught and immediately threw to Matthew Clarke to take a quick throw and keep the attacks alive. This was in the first five minutes of the game.
Everytime Warrenpoint misplaced a pass, there was normally a Linfield player immediately in possession.
If Linfield had got a goal during this flurry, it would have been a long afternoon for Warrenpoint.
Warrenpoint managed to hold out, and even had some of the game. Enough to get Linfield worried rather than nervous. They were getting into Linfield’s final third but never looked like doing anything with it. There was never a moment when you felt Linfield were going to concede, but their defence still had to be on their game.
In that defence, was Mark Stafford, making his first start in the league. He did well, even though most of what he had to do was mopping up.
More Linfield attacks came, mostly through Kirk Millar, playing out left after swapping positions with Aaron Burns. Often Millar would be in space crying out for the ball to be played to him, and would find himself frustrated at not getting the ball.
When he did get the ball, he was often Linfield’s biggest attacking threat. His afternoon ended prematurely in the first-half when he was substituted after suffering an injury.
Depite most of their attacks coming down their left in the first-half, Linfield’s best moment in the early stages came when a cross from the right came to Aaron Burns, and his instinctive shot was well save.
Linfield took the lead from their first real moment of quality when Bates and Clarke combined down the left for Bates to cross for Andrew Waterworth to head home from close range.
A couple of Warrenpoint players slumped to the ground with their hands on their heads. This wasn’t in their gameplan.
Despite that blow, Warrenpoint finished the half strongly and were still very much in the game, as the half finished with only one goal separating the sides.
Linfield needed a second goal just to kill the game off and be sure of the three points. Before you could say “Linfield need a second goal”, Linfield got a second goal, when Andrew Waterworth fired under the keeper from the edge of the box.
The goal came about when Aaron Burns won the ball out right and played a simple pass to set up Waterworth.
In the first-half, Burns struggled out right but was a lot better in the second-half, mainly due to him being more involved in the game.
It seems a bit of a stupid thing to say, but Linfield’s wide play was focused on the North Stand, attaking down the left in the first-half, and on the right in the second-half.
Soon after the goal, he was setting up an opportunity for Guy Bates, whose header was tipped over, as well as making late runs from right that almost got rewarded with a goal.
Despite that, i’d be a lot happier if he was back out the left next Saturday.
Burns was lucky to finish the game, having been booked for a high challenged There was no intention to hurt the Warrenpoint player, Burns clearly went for the ball, but if it was the other way around, we’d be screaming for blood.
What is worrying is that the yellow cards are starting to stack up and he can’t be far off a suspension.
Mark Haughey got his customary goal against Warrenpoint, his fourth in five appearances against them, to definitely make sure of the game, giving Linfield a 3-0 lead.
Warrenpoint got a goal back from a long range shot from Mark Hughes, after he managed to get some space outside the box and wasn’t closed down to stop the shot.
Warrenpoint then sensed they might be able to get a second goal and make the final stages nervous for Linfield. Despite their possession in Linfield’s final third, that was never really going to happen.
It definitely wasn’t going to happen once Waterworth fired home from close range to get his hat-trick, his second of the season, and his second of 2015 against Warrenpoint.
Soon after, it was 5-1, when some neat passing, especially the final ball from David Kee which set up Waterworth to simply touch the ball past the keeper, and then roll it into the empty net for his fourth goal of the game.
According to the commentator on Radio Ulster, it was eleven in six appearances against Warrenpoint for him, and yet, it is Mark Haughey’s goalscoring record against Warrenpoint that gets all the media attention.
Trying to raid my memory, but I think that’s the first time I have witnessed a Linfield player score four in the flesh, having not been there when Peter Thompson (v Dungannon 2005) and Philip Lowry (v Institute and Donegal Celtic, 2011) did it.
Redevelopment of Windsor Park also made some significant progress this week, with the South Stand now almost full of seats, though the amount of scaffolding there suggests it’s not quite ready for public use yet.
One game that supporters could be watching from the South Stand could be in a proposed third European competition.
If I was being cynical, I would suggest making it for domestic cup winners only and call it the European Cup Winners Cup.
In all seriousness, this competition, for clubs who exit European Competition in July and August, actually sounds like a good idea, as it would be a benefit to Irish League clubs, and maintain European games into August/September and possibly beyond.
It wouldn’t kick in until the 2018-2019, and there are a lot of logistical details that need to be decided in terms of dates, sponsorship and TV rights, but i’m hoping this idea becomes a reality.
Forget about 2018-2019, it’s the 2016-2017 season I want Linfield to be playing in European, most specifically, the European Cup.
Next up in the league, Glenavon.