Linfield went into the now traditional (you can call three years a tradition?) August midweek fixture list looking to continue their winning start to the season and get two wins out of two. They ended up getting the win they wanted. In fact, they ended up being thankful to remain unbeaten.
Linfield began the game by getting a lot of joy out their left. They were having a lot of possession but not really doing a lot with it.
The closest they came to scoring was when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, unable to recreate his two goal heroics when the sides met in February, while Paul Smyth curled a shot straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Andrew Waterworth went closer when he knocked a cross goalwards was denied.
Coleraine had their attacking moments, but not a lot that worried Linfield. For all their possession, there wasn’t really a moment when it looked like a Linfield goal was inevitible.
In the opening moments of the second-half, Linfield continued in the same manner, when a Niall Quinn cross was asking to be put in, but nobody was able to get on the end of it and put it in.
Within minutes, Windsor Park was shocked, when a cross from the left fell straight to James McLaughlin, who fired home.
Most home supporters were shocked that he should be unmarked in the penalty area. When the ball landed at his feet, there was that agonising second when everyone knew he was going to score, but hoped that somehow he wouldn’t.
McLaughlin had only come on as a substitute at half-time.
Coleraine had a chance to make it 2-0 but couldn’t take it. They did get a free-kick for a handball by Mark Haughey when blocking it. They couldn’t take advantage of the free-kick.
For a team that never really looked like scoring, it was no surprise that Linfield’s substitutions were of an attacking nature – Josh Carson, Aaron Burns and Michael McLellan all entering the action.
Despite that, Linfield still struggled in front of goal, not creating a clear opportunity. It was all too predictable. Coleraine’s defence were comfortable.
As time ran out, Linfield got a fortunate corner when a clearance hit a Linfield player and went across the pitch and out for what looked like a goal kick.
Linfield fans sighed that another attack ended unsuccessfully with time running out.
To everyone’s surprise, a corner kick was awarded. Linfield took advantage of their luck, when Aaron Burns flicked home from close range after a flick on.
The body language of the Coleraine suggested that they could lose the plot. Lyndon Kane was sent-off before the game restarted.
Linfield couldn’t take advantage of the momentum swing or the extra man in the time that remained.
In fact, Coleraine almost got a dramatic late winner when Jamie McGonigle curled a shot that hit the post. Time stood still. Like with the corner kick decision a few minutes earlier, Linfield benefitted from a stoke of luck.
No disrespect to Coleraine, but this result was two points dropped, even though the circumstances of the game would see it considered one point gained.
What it was, will decided in 36 games time.
Already, Linfield trail Crusaders by two points. They travel to Seaview on Saturday. The gap can’t be allowed to go to five points, even if it is retrievable.
Linfield are more than capable of beating Crusaders if they get stuck in and play to the best of their ability.
They haven’t done that yet. Saturday would be a good start.