Carrick Rangers arrived at Windsor Park to take on a Linfield side looking to keep in touch with Crusaders at the top of the league, but most importantly, get back into second place after being overtaken by Cliftonville who won at Coleraine on Friday night.
It was Carrick who had the first chance of the game when Tiernan McNicholl fired well wide from outside the box.
For the rest of the first-half, the ball would be in Carrick’s half, like a training match between attack and defence, except it was defence who were winning, with Linfield not really creating anything of note.
That was, until Stephen Lowry intercepted a pass and immediately played in Andrew Waterworth who created enough space for him to fire Linfield in front.
More Linfield pressure followed, but they couldn’t get the second goal that would have settled everybody’s nerves, as they went in at half-time 1-0 up.
Linfield started the second-half in search of that second goal, and thought they were going to get it when Paul Smyth got on the end of a Kirk Millar cross, only to fire over from close range.
It was another Millar cross which brought the second goal, a cross which evaded Carrick’s goalkeeper, landing straight at Andrew Waterworth to fire home from close inside the six yard box.
Paul Smyth won possession on the edge of the box, setting himself up for a shot which was saved by Carrick keeper Neeson.
The reprieve was brief for Carrick, as Mark Stafford headed home from the resulting corner.
Stafford enjoys it when Carrick come to Windsor Park, the third successive meeting between the two sides in South Belfast that he has scored.
The bad news for him is, that unless Carrick have a run of form and get into the Top six or the two sides are drawn together in the Irish Cup, they won’t be back at Windsor Park this season.
Stephen Lowry tried to get in on the goalscoring act but his flick from a cross was tipped over.
With the game won, Linfield introduced some substitutes from the bench, Jonny Frazer getting rewarded for his hat-trick for the Swifts against Crumlin Star on Monday night.
Frazer looked like he was going to create a forth goal for Linfield but fellow sub Aaron Burns didn’t gamble on his low cross across the penalty area.
Up next, is a trip to managerless Ards, who lost 6-1 to Linfield last Tuesday in the County Antrim Shield.
Surprisingly, this game will be Linfield’s first competitive visit to Clandeboye Park in almost eight years. Looking forward to it. Without sounding arrogant, it’s a game Linfield should win.
In terms of the title race, it’s a must win game, to keep in touch with those above and not to give those below an opportunity to overtake, especially as Cliftonville have a generous run of games coming up.
The league table looking a lot better for Linfield today with the gap at the top cut to five points following Crusaders draw with Glentoran.
I’d planned on getting this blog published before the Irish Cup draw. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a big one – literally, meaning I missed out on my usual hope of a lower league team away, ideally a ground i’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while.
Matching that criteria would be Loughgall, Crewe United, Knockbreda or Annagh United.
Glentoran away on 7th January can be put to one side for now, there’s far too many games between now and then.
Four games remaining for Linfield in 2016. Win all four of them and the worst situation is that they’ll be going into 2017 just two points off the top of the league.
It’s been a good week for Linfield, three wins and fourteen goals, through to a cup final and the reserves getting to the Steel and Sons Cup Final, to face Dundela.
That was a game i’d been planning on going to as it was on the more convenient date of Christmas Eve, Linfield being in it is a bonus.
Hopefully, the first of many silverware this season.