The last time Ballinamallard United visited Windsor Park, was in October on the night David Healy was unveiled as Linfield manager. Nobody knew what the future would hold. I don’t think anyone would have seen a run of four successive defeats at that time.
That run had thankfully ended. Two wins in a row wouldn’t have meant that the corner was turned, but it would have been most welcome after recent events.
The game got off to a slow start, the most meaningful action coming when both sides exchanged speculative long range shots, as well as Aaron Burns and Liam Martin feeling they should have scored when having headers in the penalty area.
Linfield were playing it on the ground but not able to get through Ballinamallard’s defence. The only real moment came when Matthew Clarke was able to get space in the penalty area but it was on his right foot, which is for standing on.
When it looked like a goalless first-half, Andrew Waterworth was played in behind Ballinamallard’s defence and was able to lob the ball over Alvin Rouse who had come off his line in anticipation for a shot.
40 minutes late, Linfield started playing. Aaron Burns was played through and fired wide when clean through in the penalty area. Andrew Waterworth then forced Rouse into a save from close range when he fired goalwards after a cross from Guy Bates.
In first-half stoppage time, Shane McCabe saw red for a second yellow card as Linfield went in at half-time 1-0 up. The half ended too soon for Linfield.
As the second-half started, Linfield couldn’t get back into the rhythm they had in the latter moments of the first-half. Paul Smyth broke away from Ballinamallard’s defence but his shot was saved by Rouse when he should have made it 2-0.
Within minutes, he was left to rue that as Ballinamallard equalised within minutes when a free-kick fell to Michael McCrudden on the edge of the box, and he fired home.
There was brief flurry from Linfield, but to use a boxing term, they barely left a glove on Ballinamallard.
Kirk Millar came on for Aaron Burns but couldn’t get into the game. Mainly because the service to him was so poor. The main trick was to attempt a crossfield pass to him, which either hit a Ballinamallard defender and they were able to clear it, or it went straight out of play. The simple option, in most cases, was usually the best one, but was not taken.
Linfield had lots of possession and pressure but never looked like scoring. A familiar tale. A recurring tale.
In injury time, it looked as though Jimmy Callacher was the matchwinner for the second successive week, but his header flashed wide.
With the five minutes of injury time almost over, Linfield had one last chance, but Mark Stafford’s header went just wide.
It looks as though last week’s win was a false dawn. 1-0 up at home to a team in the bottom half who are down to ten men, this can only be best described as two points thrown away.
It’s beginning to look like Linfield’s best chance of European football next season is through the play-offs in May.
Up next, is Carrick at home, and the bid for County Antrim domination. A competition, which is getting bigger and bigger with each poor result.