When Glenavon won at Windsor Park at the end of January, with two games in hand and still to play Crusaders and Coleraine twice, they looked set to be in a position to launch a late title charge.
Draws since then against Warrenpoint Town, Cliftonville and Coleraine have since forced them to reevaluate their ambitions. Now they were looking to get three points to try and secure 3rd place.
They kicked off only three points clear of Linfield, but with a game in hand. With the two sides having to meet twice before the end of the season, Linfield knew they had 3rd place in their own hands.
Finishing 3rd could be so important. If Coleraine win the Irish Cup, it will secure automatic European football, and avoid the farce of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.
Though, both teams were still in the Irish Cup at kick-off, they had that avenue to qualify automatically.
Linfield had been unbeaten since that defeat to Glenavon the previous month, though the form wasn’t sparkling with four wins and three draws.
This game should have been played last October, but was postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup. It wasn’t ideal to be playing it in the midweek before the Irish Cup Quarter-Finals, but as documented in previous blogs, this was a fallout from the delays of confirming if the away game against Cliftonville was going ahead.
Linfield started well, Achille Campion fired over from close range when he should have scored, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot saved.
The good start was undone when Glenavon took the lead through Josh Daniels, who took out four defenders with one touch before firing home.
Linfield had a brief flurry after that, but it soon died down. They were restricted to half chances. They didn’t help themselves with poor decision making.
They almost gifted Glenavon a goal from one of their own throw-ins whenever Stephen Lowry misread a throw from Joe Crowe, which set up a Glenavon attack, where Stephen Murray was played clean through but his shot was saved.
It was noticeable how quickly Glenavon attacked and how alive they were every time Linfield played a stray pass.
Linfield fans could only enviously look on and wish their team could do the same.
With ten minutes to go, a shot from Marc Griffin went over Gareth Deane to make it 2-0. Windsor Park began to empty, not that it was anywhere near full to begin with.
A few weeks earlier, Linfield made a late comeback to secure a point from 2-0 down against Coleraine. This was never going to happen this time.
A win would have seen Linfield jump level with Glenavon, giving them the opportunity to try and finish the season in 3rd, giving the, two possible avenues for automatic European qualification. Now, they only have one.
That, is the Irish Cup. Their Quarter-Final at home to Cliftonville was postponed due to the weather. Nobody knows the actual reason why.
It’s maybe not a bad thing for it to be postponed. It wasn’t ideal to have this match in he build-up, especially with Cliftonville having the midweek off.
It will be played ten days later than expected, we have to be ready for it.