When Dungannon Swifts were arranging a date for this match after it was postponed in the middle of January, i’m not sure that Groundhog Day was the date to choose, considering they would be visiting a venue they have lost on their last twelve visits.
Make that thirteen now. There was nothing unlucky about this for Dunganon. If it’s any consolation for Dungannon, they usually beat Linfield at home every three years (2007, 2010, 2013) so will get some sort of revenge in the early months of next season.
Wether Linfield will be defending champions whenever they suffer an early season defeat at Stangmore Park next season remains to be seen,
Both teams started with attacking intent, but it was Linfield who had the first effort on goal, with Paul Smyth firing goalwards from a wide position, his shot was easily saved.
Good play down the left resulted in a bit of pinball in the penalty area, the ball falling to Andrew Waterworth. There was only going to be one end result, 1-0 to Linfield.
Having been unlucky for the first goal, Dungannon shot themselves in the foot a few minutes later when Dermot McCaffrey lost possession to Paul Smyth, giving him a clean run at goal.
In recent weeks, Paul Smyth has missed a couple of chances when he has been through on goal. Young players learn from their mistakes, remedy them, and get better.
As he ran towards goal, there was no doubt that the score was soon to be 2-0, not even when he elected to go round the goalkeeper rather than shoot, leaving himself with defender on the goal line to put it past, which he did, to make it 2-0.
It was his first goal at Windsor Park, and he celebrated with a somersault. If that is his routine, here’s to more somersaults.
Dungannon, to their credit, continued to attack. Unfortunately for them, so did Linfield, with Reece Glendinning going close with a speculative shot, and Ross Gaynor unable to finish from a wide angle.
Mark Stafford made it 3-0 before half-time. A goal that Linfield needed, in order to stop Dungannon going in at half-time thinking “You know, if we can get an early goal in the second-half ……..”
He almost made it 4-0, as a cleared corner came to Kirk Millar on the left, crossing with his right foot for Stafford, whose header was saved. It was almost a cover version of his goal on Saturday.
The second-half was a slow burner, unsurprisingly with a 3-0 scoreline. Even though they were 3-0 up, Linfield’s players were still throwing themselves in the road and fighting for every ball whenever Dungannon attacked.
Andrew Waterworth was unable to finish from a wide angle, while Sean Ward had a shot turned around the post.
Guy Bates and Michael McLellan came on to give them gametime. Especially important for McLellan, as he adjusts to life back in the top flight, and life at Linfield.
On 80 minutes, Linfield made it 4-0 with a header from Mark Stafford, his second of the game and third in two games. Goal machine.
It was two substitutes who made Linfield’s final contributuons to the game, Aaron Burns flicking the ball over his twin brother (like Paul Gascoigne over Colin Hendry) to then fire home and make it 5-0.
Michael McLellan was then played through by Guy Bates and he finished as if he’s been playing up front for Linfield all of his career, despite the fact it was only his second substitute appearance.
Having spent most of the season (and last season as well) complaining about Linfield not having striking options off the bench, suddenly they had two strikers coming off the bench and combining for a goal.
It wasn’t that important in the context of this game, but it’s good to see a partnership coming together than could come to Linfield’s aid later on in the season.
Six goals, six successive league wins and only six points off the top of the league, albeit with a game more played than Crusaders. Linfield are looking devilishly good at the moment.
The league is on the backburner this weekend, as Armagh City travel to Windsor Park in the Irish Cup. Up next in the league – Portadown (away), Coleraine (away), Glenavon (home), Glentoran (home) and Cliftonville (away)
That is a tasty run of games. They’ll become even tastier if Crusaders fail to beat both Cliftonville and Glenavon this month and Linfield keep on winning, especially with Cliftonville inactive in league terms next weekend.