On the day of the 1st Round of the 2016-2017 Irish Cup, it was perhaps apt that last season’s two finalists should meet in the league. It wasn’t about getting revenge for Linfield, it was about getting their title challenge back on track after two draws, and leapfrogging a side expected to be one of their title rivals.
For me, this match was to be followed by Madness. The band, though the way recent meetings between Linfield and Glenavon have gone in recent years, there was the possibility of Madness at Windsor Park before the main event at Titanic.
Linfield were straight on the attack. Sammy Clingan, making his first start, had Linfield’s first attempt on goal, when his low free-kick was saved by Johnny Tuffey.
Within a minute, Linfield were 1-0 up when Chris Casement created enough space out wide to cross for Josh Carson to fire home from close range.
Linfield were having the better of the play in the first-half and doing most of the attacking, though Glenavon did have their moments.
Andrew Waterworth came closest to scoring a second for Linfield when his header goalwards had to be tipped over by Tuffey on his goal-line.
Glenavon were struggling to defend corners, though Linfield were struggling to take advantage of this.
Linfield went in at half-time 1-0 up, but knew the three points were far from won.
Having been so poor in the first-half, many were anticipating Glenavon to come out strongly for the second-half. That didn’t happen. Linfield didn’t need to withstand any pressure, they went out and got a second goal in the early minutes of the second-half, replicating their start to the first-half.
Unsurprisingly, it came from a corner, when Aaron Burns was unmarked to fire home from close range. There were only so many times Glenavon could get away with it before Linfield got it right and punished.
Having come back from 3-0 down to draw at Ballymena in their last away game, Linfield knew that Glenavon have the ability to come back from a deficit. They saw it first hand last September when Glenavon came from 3-1 down to level at Windsor Park, although it would turn out to be in vain that day.
If anything, it looked like Linfield would get the next goal. Kirk Millar and Andrew Waterworth going agonisingly wide.
Such is Waterworth’s luck at the moment, that his shot agonisingly just missed the post, when if it did, it would have went straight to an oncoming attaker.
Just after the hour, Rhys Marshall got sent-off for a high tackle on Chris Casement.
Soon after, Gary Hamilton, wearing 2 having changed from 80 and showing utter contempt for squad number protocol, entered the action.
You know Glenavon are in trouble when their chief back seat driver enters the play to try and influence things.
Aaron Burns was denied by the crossbar as Linfield chased a third goal. The wait wouldn’t be long, as Sean Ward ran unchallenged to fire home for his first Linfield goal at Windsor Park.
He had passing options left, right and centre, all of which would have probably resulted in a goal. He decided to go himself and got rewarded.
With Crusaders and Ards drawing, Linfield were going joint top of the league. If they could win this game 9-0, they would go top of goal difference.
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest they could have won by that margin.
By now, Paul Smyth had been introduced. It was the perfect time for him, against tired opposition chasing the game.
He played through Stephen Fallon who should have scored, but he fired his shot straight at Tuffey.
There wasn’t long to wait for Linfield to make it 4-0, when Aaron Burns headed home from a Ross Gaynor cross. There were Linfield players literally queuing up to score.
Burns was denied a hat-trick when his header hit the post, while Fallon fired a shot low across goal at Tuffey. Despite the frustration of those missed chances, I think Linfield fans would have settled for a 4-0 win at 2.59pm.
Ards got a late winner at Ballymena, which means they sit top, looking down on Crusaders and Linfield who sit two points behind them.
Immediately, talk is, if Ards can “Do a Leicester”?
Events in England last season mean that Ards are being taken seriously four games in as they would be if they were two points clear with four games to go.’
With games against Glenavon and Crusaders coming it, it might be advantageous to Linfield if Ards good start continues for the next fortnight. But ends by September 24th, obviously.
I’m hoping that Ards finish in the top six for purely selfish reasons. I might be able to get to Linfield’s trip there in December, and a second visit in the (hopefully) nicer weather in April is very appealing.
The reason why I might not be able to go to Linfield’s trip to Clandeboye Park in December, is that I might be in Manchester that weekend.
I’m waiting for the UEFA Cup group draw on Friday. I’m hoping to go to one of United’s group games, and see if I can get a decent price to stay out for a Sunday game afterwards.
A perfect draw for me would be Dundalk (no offence, but they won’t overturn a 2-0 defect in Poland) v United on Matchday 3 or 4 with a 6pm kick-off at Lansdowne Road. Could do a day trip to Dublin, see the game and be home by 11pm.
I’ll keep an eye on Dundalk’s draw for day trip purposes. Inter Milan would be nice if they avoid United. A chane to add them to my 102 Club list.
Next up for Linfield, is Dungannon at home, who have won their last two games, making their third trip to Belfast this month.
A must-win game for Linfield regardless, but especially since the game away to Cliftonville on 3rd September has been postponed due to international call-ups.
Linfield have taken advantage of this by arranging a friendly against Rangers for Jamie Mulgrew’s Testimonial.
Never mind getting fit, the performances of Sammy Clingan and Sean Ward means he’ll have a struggle to get picked for his own testimonial.