With three games in seven days, there isn’t much time to relax at the start of the Irish League season, as Linfield made it two wins out of two in the North Down sunshine, beating Ards 2-0, the three points being secured before the sun went down.
The only worry for some away fans was getting into the ground, as roadworks at Ballyrobert made it a one hour journey for me.
As I arrived, there was a massive queue of people in front of me, and soon afterwards behind me. Would it really have been too much effort to delay the kick-off by five or ten minutes for those who were held up?
I ended up getting my first experience of the NIFL’s new £11 admission fee, due to the increase in handing back change in coins instead of the nice round £10 fee.
I only missed about a minute of action, and thankfully, Linfield weren’t quick off the blocks.
They weren’t slow either, building up pressure and being camped in Ards half. It was a matter of time until Linfield scored. That came when Mark Haughey was able to flick a loose ball over a defender in the box, and smash the ball home from close ranger after 18 minutes.
On 28 minutes, a Paul Smyth cross found Kirk Millar to head home and make it 2-0.
The pressure continued but Ards held out to keep the score to 2-0 at half-time.
A commanding position but not a definitive lead.
You know all those cliches about 2-0 being a dangerous lead? Linfield almost found out in the early minutes of the second-half when Scott Davidson was played through and hit the post.
You know that pundit speak of “He hit it too well”? It applies here. If he scuffed it, he would have scored, he struck it perfectly and hit the post, and straight to a Linfield defender to clear.
That was Ards big moment, as Linfield went in search of that third goal to put the match beyond all doubt.
Paul Smyth and Aaron Burns came closest for Linfield.
The third goal didn’t come for Linfield, but it wasn’t needed.
Burns, alongside Stephen Lowry were substitutes in the only change to the squad from Saturday after a one game suspension.
With Cliftonville, Glentoran and Crusaders waiting in September as well as the League Cup, County Antrim Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup between now and then, strength in reserve will be key to Linfield, even if it wasn’t needed here.
Results elsewhere meant that Linfield were one of five teams with six points out of six.
It is peak modern day Glentoran that they have actually had their best start to the season in eight years …… and find themselves 5th in the table.
Linfield are tucked away in 4th.
With two of the teams above them, Coleraine and Crusaders, playing each other, Linfield travel to Dungannon on Saturday knowing that a win will propel them into the top three at least.
The reason why Linfield are 4th is due to goal difference. It could have been so much better across these two games.
Goal difference was the thing that put life in Linfield’s title challenge last season when all looked lost. Linfield knew they didn’t need to overtake Crusaders, they just had to pull level with them and let the goal difference do the work.
There’s still 36 games to make up four goals.
Whilst the goals for column could be better, there’s no complaints about goals against, two clean sheets. Defensive records usually win you titles.
Linfield only needed two goals to be sure of beating Ards, Cliftonville needed to score six just to be sure. I know what position i’d rather be in.
Thursday sees the draw for the Scottish Challenge Cup, where Linfield will face an away tie. Stranraer away please.
I was amused to see that the scorer of Elgin City’s winner was Steve Bronsky. I’ve no idea where in Scotland he’s from so I don’t know if he’s a Smalltown Boy.
That’s enough 80s pop jokes.
Unless Kris Lowe of Dungannon is thinking “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” as Linfield score another goal on Saturday.