After seeing their unbeaten start to the season bite the dust at Solitude on Tuesday night, Linfield found themselves in a reverse role of trying to end someone’s unbeaten start to the season – Coleraine’s unbeaten home record, but most importantly trying to return to winning ways and keep the pressure on Crusaders at the top of the league.
If it wasn’t for Guglielmo Marconi, I would have thought this was a 1-0 win for Coleraine, having missed the start of the game due to being stuck in roadworks. It gives an indication of how much I missed as Linfield were 1-0 up through and Andrew Waterworth goal by the time I entered the ground, having listened to the start of the game on the radio, due to being stuck in roadworks. I even managed to miss Paul Smyth’s involvement in the game, as he was stretchered off in the opening minutes and replaced by Aaron Burns.
It certainly didn’t help being stuck in queues as I stopped off for lunch in Applegreen, with people making a simple task like ordering a sandwich seem like trying to work out quantum physics.
It wasn’t the first time i’d missed action in Coleraine. In 2009, the roads were so bad that I missed the first-half and entered the ground with Linfield 2-0 down. They came back to draw 2-2.
In 2011, I missed Aaron Burns goal in the opening minutes as Linfield went on to win 3-1. I was naturally hoping today would be a repeat.
Of the first-half action I did see, it was very scrappy. Linfield were letting Coleraine have too much possession in their half and inviting pressure on.
One of those self inflicted problems was a softly conceded corner which saw Coleraine hit the bar.
Within minutes, it was Linfield who were hitting the bar from a Jamie Mulgrew shot from outside the box.
In first-half injury time, a needless tackle from Chris Casement which resulted in a foul saw a succession of set pieces which caused concern for Linfield. Aaron Burns had to head out for a corner, a corner that saw the ball headed just over Linfield’s goal.
A reminder for Linfield that this game was far from won.
After a slow start to the second-half, Linfield began to apply some pressure, the ball in Coleraine’s defensive third but not being able to get a strike on goal or play the killer pass. It was clear that Linfield needed a second goal.
Within minutes, Coleraine showed them how it was done when James McLaughlin scored just minutes after coming off the bench, just as he did in August.
There was no response from Linfield as the game began to meander.
Linfield’s best chance came when Aaron Burns put the ball wide from close range. If it did go in, it would have been a (right footed) repeat
Josh Carson was then introduced from the bench. He almost had an impact within minutes as he fired in a dangerous cross that nobody could get on the end of. It summer up Linfield’s attacking. There were even times when they were getting in each other’s way
Coleraine had their chances in the final moments, with Roy Carroll had to get his timing right to deny James McLaughlin. If he didn’t, it was either a penalty or a goal for Coleraine.
Linfield had one last chance in injury time when Mark Haughey couldn’t repeat his goal heroics from February’s visit, and heaaded over after a long throw-in.
Th compound the frustration for Linfield supporters, they were held behind in the ground for five minutes on the advice of the local Dibble, living in fear of the Liam Gallagher Cosplayers Association (AKA, Coleraine’s “Hooligan Firm”)
Regular readers of this blog will know that I go to one Ulster European match a year. Naturally, they would have a Saturday night game on the day of one of Linfield’s longest away trips.
Their other home game pre-Christmas is on a Saturday lunchtime on the day Linfield are away to Ards. Sorry, Ulster, but Linfield come first.
It would have been tight to go straight to Ravehill from Coleraine, especially with a combination of roadworks and being kept behind at the whistle.
To compensate for this, i’m going to the match against Connacht on December 23rd. I know what you’re thinking, an Ulster match on the last Friday before Christmas. It is going to be Pisshead Central.
Of more immediate concern, it’s the second-half of Linfield’s quadrology of teams beginning in C, Cliftonville (County Antrim Shield) and Crusaders (League)
I said last week that Linfield needed four A* performances, they’ve barely scraped C- so far this week.
Despite a good start (going 1-0 up inside three minutes at The Oval), October has been a horrible month for Linfield, but it could all change this time next week, with Linfield being in a Cup Semi-Final and closer to the top of the league than at the start of the month.
It’s a funny old game, as one of Donald Trump’s mates once said.