It was October 2006 the last time that Dungannon Swifts avoided defeat in a league game at Windsor Park. Since then, they’ve lost all of their 13 league visits since. Their last 5 visits saw them concede 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 goals. So logically, Linfield were going to win and score 7? Recent form would suggest not.
Both teams went into this game on the back of good results in their last 2 games. Linfield have taken 4 points against their 2 main title rivals and had the motivation of knowing they would got joint top of the league with a win following Ards defeat on Friday night.
Dungannon arrived at Windsor Park with two successive wins, including a win at Solitude.
The game got off to a slow start, the only attempts on goal from Linfield came from a couple of speculative Aaron Burns shots, while Sammy Clingan failed to hit the target from a couple of free-kicks.
Josh Carson has Linfield’s best attacking moment in the first-half when he headed the ball goalwards from a cross, the ball going wide, neither being a goal or an assist for the oncoming Andrew Waterworth.
Eventually, Linfield took the lead when Mark Haughey headed home from a corner.
Straight away, Roy Carroll was forced into a spectacular save from a Jamie Glackin shot from outside the penalty area.
A reminded, if it was needed, that 1-0 would not be enough for Linfield.
In the early moments of the second-half, Dungannon had some sloppy moments in their defensive third, giving the ball away, but Linfield weren’t able to take advantage of their visitors generosity.
They were made to pay for that within minutes, when a cross from the left found Kris Lowe unmarked with an open goal.
He was probably thinking “What Have I Done To Deserve This? as he put the ball into the empty net. You can’t afford to give teams Opportunities like that. It’s A Sin was the only way to describe the defending by Linfield.
The goal was deserved for Dungannon on the balance of play. The only positive for Linfield was that there was still a lot of time to rectify it.
Unfortunately, the only response from Linfield came off the pitch, with Ross Gaynor and Paul Smyth coming on from the bench.
The came continued in the same pattern though, with Linfield struggling to create anything in open play and Dungannon looking comfortable.
It was set up for Kris Lowe, the New Zealand international, to make his Linfield debut from the bench. The only question was would it be Ward or Clingan sacrificed for him to come on? It was Ward.
Bright almost got a debut assist when he headed the ball to Ross Gaynor couldn’t connect with the overhead kick, to groans from the crowd.
To be fair, it’s hard to have any spatial awareness when you have your back to goal, it was all he could probably do.
The most damming fact was, it was Linfield’s best attaking moment of the second-half.
Dungannon’s best attacking moment came in the final moments whenever Roy Carroll was forced into a save whenever Ally Taggart burst down the left.
As injury time approached, Linfield suddenly had the urgency they had lacked in the previous 90 minutes, with Paul Smyth single-handedly taking on Dungannon’s defence without reward, especially when a cross from the left agonisingly went past everybody waiting in the box.
It was too little and too late for Linfield as Dungannon left with a deserved point.
Dropping 4 points from 3 home games is already a concern, especially with Linfield not in competitive action next weekend.
Neither are Glenavon though. Crusaders are, they play Ards. Those four clubs seperated by just 2 points in a traffic jam at the top, propped by Linfield.
Maybe the international break has come at a good time for Linfield?
Though perspective must be had, we’re only 2 points off the top and have the joint best defence in the league.
Upon Linfield’s return from their mid-season break, they’ll be facing two sides expected to struggle at the bottom, Portadown and Carrick in must-win games. I guess they are all must-win games.
Before that, is a League Cup tie at home to Larne, which will be far from easy, with the East Antrim side leading The Championship.
A win there would set things up for Jamie Mulgrew’s Testimonial, against Rangers, a chance to celebrate his 11 years with the club and to give some players game time, most notably Kris Bright, and hopefully Ross Clarke and Mark Stafford, if they are fit.
Meanwhile, the UEFA Cup draw was done on Friday, and I got the home game on Matchday 5 I wanted for United, as it means i’ll miss Portadown away rather than Ards away.
I’ve booked to go to the Feyenoord game, and then stay over for the West Ham game on the Sunday.
On the Saturday, i’ll have a spare day and will be planning to take in a game while i’m there.
The options are Bury v Millwall and Oldham v Peterborough.
To be honest, the Oldham one looks the more tempting. Oldham and Linfield have had some mutual players in recent years (Feeney, Tipton, Millar, Winchester) as well as the fact that both teams (Steven Robinson and Grant McCann) have managers from Northern Ireland.