Linfield went into this game on a run of two wins in their last eight League games. That run began with a 3-3 draw at home to Warrenpoint in December. They were hoping that a game against Warrenpoint would be the springboard for a run of form in the opposite direction.
Linfield had fond memories of the last time they visited Warrenpoint back in September. A 4-1 win that night put Linfield top of the League. They were knocked off the top the following day and haven’t been back since. I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that it will be until next season at least that they will return there.
This was supposed to be the first match at the newly renamed Q Radio Arena in January before it was postponed. Thankfully, this match survived the weather second time around.
It was to be a milestone night for Jamie Mulgrew, who made his 500th appearance for Linfield. There’s another milestone awaiting in the coming weeks as he is due to be fouled for the 5,000th time as a Linfield player.
He would have reached that milestone the weekend before, but a rainstorm caused the abandonment of a game against Cliftonville in 2008, and the appearance doesn’t count. He also lost a goal as well, struck from the record.
The early moments saw Linfield struggling to get into the game. I just had a bad vibe that this might be the night Warrenpoint get their first win over Linfield.
Linfield were having “Nearly chances” with through balls just about being intercepted by Warrenpoint’s defenders. Linfield just needed to get one of them right.
Involved in most of these attacks was Louis Rooney, a surprise inclusion but was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks, having his best performance in a long time.
Despite Linfield’s possession, it was Warrenpoint who were making the most of it every time they got the ball, with Gareth Deane being forced to save from Alan Davidson, before Davidson put Warrenpoint 1-0 up after a Deane save from Lorcan Forde.
You couldn’t deny that Warrenpoint didn’t deserve it.
The goal sparked Linfield into life, with Warrenpoint unable to get out of their own half.
It only took five minutes for Linfield to be rewarded, when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a corner to make it 1-1.
Louis Rooney got in behind Warrenpoint’s defence before dragging his shot wide. If it was September, it probably would have been a goal.
It looked like a matter of time before Linfield made it 2-1, but Warrenpoint were able to hold out and go in at half-time level.
The second-half continued the theme of Linfield pressure with Andrew Waterworth heading against the top of the bar in the opening minutes.
Jordan Stewart, who would often frustrate by trying to beat one more man, delivered a cross for Louis Rooney who headed over. In September, that probably would have hit the back of the net.
Lorcan Forde hit the post for Warrenpoint. I could hear it hitting the post from the other end of the ground, such was the power in the shot.
On 74 minutes, Linfield got the breakthrough when a Jimmy Callacher’s header ended up in the back of the net. To me, it looked like an own goal from a Warrenpoint defender trying to clear it.
As there is no Dubious Goals Committee in the Irish League, so if an attacking player shouts loud enough, he will be awarded the goal.
A few minutes later, Callacher had a header cleared off the line. If that had went in, he definitely would have been claiming the second goal.
With five minutes to go, Mark Haughey got his obligatory goal against Warrenpoint to make it 3-1 and secure the points, ending any possibility of a third successive 2-2 away draw.
It was a win that moved Linfield up to 4th, with games against Dungannon and Cliftonville to come.
Well, that second bit is definitely true as we play them in the Irish Cup in a few weeks time. Playing them in the League? Well, that is a bit up in the air.
On the same night this match was played, the second League Cup Semi-Final between Ballymena and Cliftonville was postponed, causing a bit of a problem with the League Cup Final scheduled for February 17th.
If this was to be on the midweek of wc February 12th, that would give fans of the winning team only a few days to get a ticket.
That’s why Windsor Park was chosen as the venue, as it was a lazy one size fits all option that could accommodate any combination of Semi-Final winners.
This game was scheduled for this coming Saturday, meaning that Ballymena and Cliftonville’s League games are postponed, which especially royally shits on Warrenpoint, who miss out on a home gate as they were scheduled to face Cliftonville.
The most obvious solution would have been to play Ballymena v Cliftonville on Saturday 17th February at 5.30pm and have it live on Sky Sports instead of the NIFL Cup Final, with Sky showing the Final on Saturday 17th March.
Why Saturday 17th March?
That is the date of the FA Cup Quarter-Finals. Let’s not kid ourselves, Sky are only using that date and that slot because they don’t have an FA Cup game to show.
It would also give the competition organisers five weeks to organise the Final and choose a venue. Linfield are scheduled to be at home that day, so that could provide a logistical problem if the Final was at Windsor Park.
How are Linfield fans caught up in all this mess?
Well, Linfield are scheduled to play Cliftonville away on Friday night.
If Ballymena win on Saturday, the match goes ahead.
That means Linfield fans will have no home games, and no Saturday games, only a couple of working days to purchase tickets.
Now, you could say that Linfield could make plans to sell tickets at 5pm after the Dungannon match, but what if Ballymena v Cliftonville goes to extra-time?
Are we supposed to sit about in the Car Park at Windsor Park listening to the radio to see if Ballymena win and queue for tickets that might not actually be going on sale?
What a farce.
One plus point if it does go ahead next weekend will be that it will take place on Saturday 17th February, possibly with a 5.30pm kick-off if Ballymena v Cliftonville is postponed again, taking the Sky Sports slot.
That is because Warrenpoint v Cliftonville has been postponed to Tuesday, with both sides weekend games moved from Friday to Saturday.
Strange that Linfield had to play Tuesday and Friday in September, but Warrenpoint and Cliftonville can get an extra day’s rest to accommodate midweek matches in February.
Questions have to be asked why Ballymena v Cliftonville wasn’t played on week commencing 29th January. Should this game not have taken precedence over a rearranged League match?
One of those Semi-Finals could have taken the Sky Sports slot that Cliftonville v Glenavon occupied that midweek.
It is important to note that when Cliftonville v Glenavon was originally scheduled for December, it wasn’t selected for TV broadcast.
I was considering getting a neutral ticket for the NIFL Cup Final. I’m glad that I didn’t now it looks like Linfield might be playing that day.
The longer this farce has dragged on, we could have made the most of a potentially free weekend to play our outstanding League game at home to Glenavon. That option has now long gone.
Got to feel for Cliftonville fans. They know their team has a match next weekend, but they don’t know where, when or who against.
It remains to be seen if Dungannon are playing at Windsor Park next weekend. They’ll definitely be playing at Windsor Park this weekend.
Hopefully they’ll be going home empty handed. We’ll just have to wait and see who Linfield and Dungannon are playing, if at all, next weekend.