You ever have a feeling when you watch a football match and you know early on that it is going to finish 0-0? This was one of those games.
Before the match, there was a presentation made to Jamie Mulgrew in recognition of him making his 500th appearance for Linfield, against Warrenpoint Town on Tuesday, making him just the 513 appearances behind Noel Bailie.
Match number 501 would end prematurely, and wouldn’t be one that would be stored in the memory bank.
In the opening minutes of the game, Dungannon were unable to get out of their own half. Unfortunately for Linfield, Dungannon weren’t really pinned into their own penalty area.
The best that Linfield could offer during this period was a speculative long range shot from Mark Stafford, which had to be palmed around the post by Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis.
It was blatantly obvious that this was a game that Linfield needed an early goal, or this was going to be a long afternoon. They didn’t get it, and it turned out to be a long afternoon.
They didn’t help themselves by getting offside at nearly every attack, Jordan Stewart being a serial offender.
There were goals in this game for Linfield as Dungannon’s defence looked shaky when they had possession. The problem was, Linfield weren’t getting the bodies forward. This was typified by a Louis Rooney cross that was asking to be finished, but nobody was on the end of it.
A Dungannon break saw Jarlath O’Rourke hit the bar after being teed up. Throughout the attack, Dungannon players always looked as though they were one step ahead of Linfield’s players.
A few minutes later, Jimmy Callacher lost possession to Daniel Hughes, who was too wide to shoot directly, so tried a chip which was saved by Gareth Deane, before Jamie Mulgrew cleared the danger.
It wasn’t the first time that Callacher lost possession when on the ball. In fact, Linfield’s defence looked every bit as shaky as Dungannon’s when they were in possession of the ball.
Niall Quinn had a free-kick saved in Linfield’s only attack of note of the half.
It was a half that saw Jordan Stewart leave the pitch later than the other 21 players, as he received treatment for an injury following the tackle. The fact he took his top off as he headed down the tunnel was a massive clue that he wouldn’t be making an appearance in the second-half. That, and the fact that Kurtis Byrne spent the interval getting warmed up.
That was the change that happened at half-time.
Byrne had a low shot turned around for a corner. Linfield had numerous corners in the second-half. Every single one of them was headed clear by David Armstrong. Unchallenged.
It looked like Louis Rooney got in behind Dungannon’s defence and had to options, to shoot or cross, either would have brought a goal. He did neither dragging the ball across goal out for a goal kick.
Rooney was then replaced, making way for Achille Campion, who got past a defender and shot straight at the keeper when a pass to Kurtis Byrne looked the best option.
A ball in behind Dungannon’s defence looked to have set up Andrew Waterworth, but he fired at Addis from close range, when a glancing header over the keeper would have brought a goal.
It was then time for a third substitution, Stephen Fallon. It wasn’t the obvious decision of Kirk Millar making way, but the hobbling Jamie Mulgrew.
Fallon almost accidentally set up a winner when his tackle was almost instinctively headed home by Mark Stafford, but it went just wide. You just knew it was going to be one of those days.
It almost got worse for Linfield when debutant Joe Crowe had to make a block when it looked like Dungannon were going to score. The move came about after possession was cheaply given away by two different defenders in the final third.
And that was that, the first time this season that Linfield failed to score in the League this season. They never looked like scoring. There was no urgency or drive, summed up by a bout of sideways passing three minutes into four minutes of injury time.
The truth was, Dungannon’s chances, not as many as Linfield, were better chances. Linfield had to do more to stop Dungannon scoring than Dungannon had to do to stop Linfield scoring.
With Glenavon drawing, this was a missed opportunity to catch up ground on them, especially as they will be inactive next weekend.
The only positive was that Linfield kept their first clean sheet in four League matches.
Elsewhere, Ballymena beat Cliftonville in the long awaited League Cup Semi-Final, meaning that Linfield will definitely have a match next weekend. I can’t contain my excitement after today’s display.
So, Linfield fans will have to take time out during the working week if they want to go to Solitude.
This could have all been avoided if the NIFL had arranged the Cliftonville v Ballymena Semi-Final for either week commencing 8th January or week commencing 29th January, giving the club more time to arrange selling tickets.
It’s a lot of effort to go to just to watch a 0-0 draw. Sorry, i’m just being cynical and negative about this game, but it does have 0-0 written all over it.
It’s a game we need to win, not just for our League position. It’s not about laying down a marker for the Irish Cup tie on March 3rd. We can’t just turn it off and on and save ourselves for the Irish Cup. We need to start building momentum in all games.
We’ve barely turned it on all season, whatever “it” is.