Linfield concluded a busy week on the road with a trip to Dungannon hoping to build on the performances at Glenavon and Ballymena, totally contrasting yet both satisfying.
The game had an even start. Dungannon weren’t afraid to attack Linfield, having a header go wide of the post with their best opportunity and forcing Roy Carroll to be alert at set pieces. Linfield were doing just as much attacking.
Even in the early moments, it looked like being a game where the first goal would be vital. It would have been a bigger blow for Dungannong to concede it than Linfield, as even if Dungannon went 1-0 up, you would have felt Linfield could come back. If Linfield went 1-0 up, they always looked like they would take control and get the three points.
Stephen Lowry fired just wide from the edge of the box as Linfield went in search of it, while Mark Haughey headed over from close range.
Just before the half hour, Linfield got the breakthrough when a Ross Gaynor free-kick was bundled into the net. It looked like a Chris Hegarty own goal but Jimmy Callacher was claiming it. TV replays seem to back up that it was an own goal. However, there is no Dubious Goals Committee in the Irish League, and if the attacking player shouts loud enough, they generally get awarded it.
As Callacher ran away as if he scored it, he’ll probably get credited with it.
It was the second goal this week to come from an inswinging cross into the six yard box from Ross Gaynor.
Linfield instantly doubled their lead when a misplaced pass went to Paul Smyth who found space to play it to Jamie Mulgrew who fired home via a slight deflection.
Linfield were in the mood to wrap the game up, Paul Smyth firing over first time after a ball was played in behind the defence.
Another misplaced pass from Dungannon saw Niall Quinn get some space in a shooting position, replicating Chris Brunt’s goal against Azerbaijan less than 24 hours earlier, firing low into the net.
It should have been 4-0 when Jimmy Callacher blasted over after his original shot was cleared off the line.
Linfield continued on the attack in the second-half, and a Save Of The Season contender from Andy Coleman denied Stephen Lowry a Goal Of The Season contender when his first time shot from outside the box after a header clear was tipped onto the bar. It would have been a goal so good, it deserved commentary from Alan Partridge.
There wasn’t long to wait for a 4th goal, a cross wasn’t cut out and went straight to Ross Gaynor, who fired home.
You could argue that three goals were gifted to Linfield, but they weren’t in the mood to turn down gifts. Why should they? There’s already Christmas adverts on the TV, it’s the time of year for it.
Despite a 4-0 lead, Linfield weren’t in a reciprocal gift giving mood in defence. Long may this scroogeness continue.
After that, the game unsurprisingly meandered, giving Linfield an opportunity to give players a rest. Surprisingly, Aaron Burns was again made to wait on the bench.
Stephen Lowry seemed to be having a personal battle with Andy Coleman and Dungannon’s defence, unable to get a fifth goal. It didn’t matter, four was enough.
Crusaders won, so the deficit is four points still.
Linfield’s poor run of form in October means they’ll have their feet up in midweek while other clubs are in action in the League Cup. One of those is next Saturday’s opponents Cliftonville. Wouldn’t it be awful if their match on Wednesday against Glenavon went to extra-time? I suppose the same could be said for Coleraine v Crusaders but Crusaders play Ards next Saturday, and they would probably beat Ards even if they played a match on Saturday morning.
After Cliftonville, comes Portadown, Carrick and Ards. That is a generous run of games after next week, and a great chance to build some momentum ahead of a busy and potentially season defining run of games over Christmas/New Year.
Ten goals, three great performances and no lost ground. It’s fair to say Linfield have had a productive week on the road, though it will be great to be back at Windsor Park next week.