Having secured European football on Saturday, Linfield discovered what competition they would be playing in on Tuesday, as Crusaders win at Solitude condemned them to the UEFA Cup Final.
To take the Joleon Lescott approach, it was something we’d known for a long time. It wasn’t all bad news, as Linfield recorded their biggest league win at The Oval since 1933.
Going into the game, Linfield were the last team to beat Glentoran, 3-0 on 12th March. Since then, they’d won three and drawn one of their four games since. You could almost call them a form team.
Linfield managed to go 1-0 up when there was still daylight. Like on Saturday, it only took 3 minutes, and like on Saturday, Kirk Millar was involved. This time as assister rather than scorer. He could have been the scorer if he wanted to.
After gifting Linfield a goal last month with a poor kick out, Elliott Morris was at it again, hitting a free-kick low along the ground straight to Kirk Millar. Linfield supporters screamed for him to shoot, especially as there was a lot of the goal to aim for.
He elected to run with the ball and play it in to Andrew Waterworth. He got a bit of luck when an attempted Glentoran interception fell straight to Andrew Waterworth to fire home first time to put Linfield 1-0 up.
Linfield then dominated the opening moments. Ross Gaynor broke through but dragged his shot wide from a wide angle. If Linfield could get a second goal before the sky turned dark, it could potentially be a rout.
Having survived that period of Linfield pressure only 1-0 down, Glentoran came into the game, giving Linfield some nervous moments.
In truth, what Linfield had to deal with was speculative shots and crosses, defenders having to get in the way of things.
Gareth Deane, making his second successive start, his appearance in a stronger Linfield starting eleven, you would expect at least 9 to start the Irish Cup Final if fit, the biggest suggestion that he will be between the sticks on May 7th, having recovered from the finger injury suffered in the week after his appearance in the Quarter-Final against Cliftonville.
The height of Deane’s workload was making basic saves and catching crosses. Regardless of the difficulty of the task, it still needs to be done.
Stephen Lowry had a great chance to make it 2-0 when Glentoran tried to play offside at a free-kick, only for Lowry to be played onside, but was unable to take the chance.
Linfield got the second goal their play deserved when a headed clearance fell perfectly for Andrew Waterworth, to fire home a screamer from 25 yards.
He doesn’t usually score from that range, or even from outside the box. It was one of those nights.
Mark Haughey had Linfield’s next attacking moment, but his stab at goal was saved by Morris.
Linfield’s only moment of worry came when Jimmy Callacher and Matthew Clarke had a clash of heads on the stroke of half-time.
Clarke was unable to continue, substituted at half-time for Niall Quinn, but was fit enough to take a seat in the dugout, with an icepack for company.
Callacher was able to continue while sporting a bandage on his head, a badge of honour for a central defender.
In bygone days, even a 2-0 lead against Glentoran wouldn’t be enough to secure victory. The pessimist in me would be in fear of conceding a goal even if they had a throw-in in their own half. There was never that fear on Tuesday.
The best that Glentoran could offer was a header against the post. Even if it did go in, you got the feeling Linfield would have seen the game out or went on to win it 3-1.
It was Linfield who looked the most likely to score the third goal of the game. Paul Smyth broke away and fired just wide.
Like in recent games at Solitude, even when he didn’t have the ball, opposition defences were in fear of him, of what he can do when he gets it.
Linfield made it 3-0 when Glentoran’s offside trap failed, with Mark Haughey through on goal, and having enough time to decide wether to pass to Aaron Burns or score himself. He passed to Burns, on as a substitute, who made it 3-0.
Burns made it 4-0 when he bundled the ball home from a corner.
Linfield fans wanted five, but were more than happy to accept four.
The biggest roar of the night came as the Glentoran players left the pitch to boos from their own fans gathered at the tunnel. It was a beautiful sight and sound.
All they could offer for Linfield players leaving the pitch was chants of “CRUSADERS!! CRUSADERS!!!”
Their attempts at banter was as weak, uninspiring and devoid of ideas as their team.