The post Warren Feenry era began for Linfield in disappointing and frustrating manner, as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Glentoran, and knocked off the top of the Irish League.
It had been four days since Warren Feeney resigned to become Assistant Manager at Newport County. It was disappointing to see Feeney leave, but when given the footballing, financial and personal reasons for doing so, you can’t really begrudge him for doing so.
Having had a manager for 17 years, it feels strange to be on a lookout for a new manager after 17 months. It’s not a situation Linfield fans are used to. If you are a Linfield supporter in your late 30s, Warren Feeney would have been only the 5th Linfield manager in your lifetime, never mind match going lifetime.
It’s not ideal, but that’s the situation we are in, with Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie in charge on an interim basis.
It’s an appointment i’m not unhappy with. Our manager left because he was headhunted for another job. He wasn’t sacked because the team was struggling. We aren’t looking for a new manager to come in and shake things up and stamp his authority.
Unscientific, but seen as he wrote the programme notes, it’s safe to assume that Andy Todd is the “Manager” in this arrangement.
Todd’s first team selection saw three changes from the side that started at Solitude. That might sound drastic, but it wasn’t really. One of the changes was enforced, and the other two were ones that Warren Feeney might possibly have made if he was still manager.
Reece Glendinning came in for the suspended Sean Ward, while Kirk Millar, left out at Solitude for tactical reasons, replaced Jamie Mulgrew (It would have been for him or Stephen Lowry) and Aaron Burns, a goalscoring substitute last week, came in for Niall Quinn (It was either him or Matthew Clarke making way, and it would have been harsh on whoever was left out)
Linfield started the match slowly, and never got any faster.
Curtis Allen was Glentoran’s figurehead up front. He too, was impeded by the lack of support from teammates coming to join him.
Stephen Lowry had Linfield’s first meaningful attempt on goal when his snapshot in the box went over. A lot of Linfield shots went over, due to them being restricted to speculative long range shots.
None of them even hit the target, never mind looking like scoring.
Glentoran’s best attacking moment came when a Curtis Allen cross/shot was unable to be finished by Fra McCaffrey.
Allen had a second sight at goal when his shot after a sloppy pass by Aaron Burns was easily saved by Ross Glendinning.
There wasn’t one Linfield player who was winning their individual battle. Even when they managed to get past their man, they didn’t get a clear sight on goal, or passed it right into traffic.
One the rare moments they got a clear crossing position, the ball would go straight into the stand, a trend that continued in the second-half.
The first-half was summed up in one moment when a promising attack ended when Andrew Waterworth and Guy Bates left the ball for each other, and Glentoran were able to clear.
Linfield’s best attacking moment came when a cross came to Kirk Millar at the far post. He was too wide to score and headed it across the penalty box. Not one Linfield player was there to fire home. The fact that was Linfield’s bets moment says it all.
Todd’s first half-time team talk didn’t have the desired effect, as the performance wasn’t much better. In fact, it was Glentoran who were the most likely going forward.
The game came into life with a good old fashioned squaring up to each other, or “handbags”, as it’s known in modern football punditry, sparked by an incident off the ball between Curtis Allen and a Linfield player (I couldn’t see who)
This fired up the crowd.
Within minutes, Linfield were 1-0 up with their first moment of quality, as Guy Bates defence splitting ball put David Kee through on goal. All he had to do was hit it low and keep it on target. He did that, and Linfield were 1-0 up.
That should have been enough for Linfield to gain some momentum and kill the game off. They thought they did that when Andrew Waterworth headed home, but his effort was ruled out for offside, making it 1-1 in terms of offside goals, with Curtis Allen having a strike ruled out early in the second-half.
Ivan Sproule came on for Kirk Millar as Linfield aimed to get that second goal that would kill the game.
They were given a reminder that the game wasn’t over when Glentoran fired a free-kick over from the edge of the box, and Curtis Allen fired wide after being put through.
Glentoran had one last attack in injury time, which resulted in Stephen Lowry conceding a soft free-kick by making a tackle he didn’t need to make. The resulting play saw Glentoran get a corner kick, which saw Curtis Allen fire home from close range.
The goal was three minutes and twenty seconds into three minutes injury time. No point complaining, Linfield should have had enough to see the game out.
The result saw Crusaders overtake them on goal difference at the top.
A late 1-1 draw at home as a result of a stupid free-kick conceded in injury time, allowing Crusaders to overtake them at the top. It was 3rd January 2015 all over again. Linfield never recovered from that last season, and allowed Crusaders to run away with the league.
Linfield have a generous run of games (Warrenpoint, Carrick, Dungannon) where they can get themselves back on track ahead of a tasty run of games in November – Crusaders, Cliftonville, Portadown, Glenavon.
Stunned by the late goal conceded, there was an even more subdued atmosphere as supporters left the ground via Donegall Avenue, rerouted from the current exit on Olympia Parade due to what was described on the tannoy as a “Medical Emergency”
I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I did witness commotion underneath me in the bottom tier of the North Stand, with St John Ambulance volunteers, officials from Glentoran, and some of Linfield’s Medical Staff all rushing to the scene, it was obvious that something wasn’t right.
It later emerged that the supporter in question sadly died.
In the space of 48 hours, Windsor Park has hosted the best and worst of footballing emotions.