This match was never going to win the League for Linfield, but a win would have seen them move eight points clear of Coleraine (albeit with a game more played) in late September, which would have been a monumental statement to make in the title race, even at this early stage.
They knew it wouldn’t be easy, as League meetings over the past two seasons were evenly matched, two wins each and four draws.
Last season, they were perfectly matched, a 2-1 win for Coleraine, a 2-1 win for Linfield, then two successive 2-2 draws. In those 2-2 draws, the away team came from 2-0 down with two quickfire goals.
This game was the first in charge for new Coleraine manager Rodney McAree. Surprisingly, he walked to the dugout almost unnoticed, giving a wave to the fans seated in the stand beside the dugout.
To be honest, I was expecting him to take his seat before the teams came out, in an attempt to gee up the home support.
Those that were there to see his debut saw an early corner for Coleraine evade everybody, while a Linfield corner saw Jamie Mulgrew hit a speculative shot over.
About ten years ago, Mulgrew had a run of goalscoring against Coleraine, and because of this, shot at every opportunity. This looked like being another one of those days, as he had another similar effort in the half.
Jamie McGonigle then had an effort saved by Roy Carroll, with nobody following up on the parry.
Coleraine’s attacks were more convincing than Linfield’s, but while Coleraine were having more opportunities, Linfield were always getting bodies in the way. They needed to be.
Coleraine had the better of things at the start of the second-half. Their attacks seemed to be a lot quicker than Linfield’s, but when it came to that final pass or shot, Linfield were able to avert the danger, with Jimmy Callacher having to block a shot after Roy Carroll parried out.
Even though Coleraine weren’t getting many shots on goal, they were having too many attacking moments, that they were bound to get one right.
It looked like that was going to come from a Stephen Lowry header, but it went wide. Jamie McGonigle then headed wide after a flick from Aaron Burns fell to him. He really should have scored.
Linfield’s best attacking moment resulted in Daniel Kearns getting space to shoot, only to see his effort saved.
It was clear that Linfield needed to look to their bench to liven things up. There was no Andrew Waterworth (I presume he was injured) which would have been the obvious change, especially with Michael O’Connor being on a yellow card. The only striking option was Daniel Reynolds.
The realistic attacking options were Jordan Stewart, Stephen Fallon and Niall Quinn. It was Quinn who got the nod, replacing Kirk Millar.
Having survived Coleraine pressure, Linfield were now applying pressure on their own, hoping to make Coleraine pay for not taking advantage when they were on top.
It looked like that was going to happen when Josh Robinson headed towards goal, but his effort hit the bar, with Coleraine able to clear the danger.
If either team were able to break the deadlock, that would surely win the game. It was one of those games. It looked like it was always destined to finish 0-0.
There was late drama as both teams went about changing that.
Jamie McGonigle got in behind Linfield’s defence, but his effort was saved by Roy Carroll just before the goalline. A lucky break for Linfield. Last season, it probably would have been cleared off the line but a goal would have been awarded. Oh, wait …….
Deep into stoppage time, Michael O’Connor had a shot deflected onto the post. The ball went slowly towards the goal. I dared to let myself to believe it was going in.
0-0 it finished, overall, a fair result. Neither side doing enough to win.
Frustrating, as Linfield could have opened up a healthy lead over Coleraine. They did extend their lead over Crusaders by a point, but that comes at the expense of Glenavon now having the opportunity to overtake Linfield if they win their game in hand, which they took, beating Ards 2-0.
I said last week that Linfield’s four point lead was deceptive due to other teams having games in hand, and the table can’t fully be assessed until those games are played.
And don’t forget Glentoran, who will be one point behind Linfield if they win their game in hand, with the sides due to meet on 8th October, live on Sky Sports.
That will be the second live game that weekend, with Crusaders facing Cliftonville on the Friday night as part of a new TV deal announced with BBC NI. Good to see.
Hopefully, we’ll be watching that game with a further three points in the bag and another clean sheet.
Top of the League with seven clean sheets out of eight and trips to Glenavon, Crusaders, Cliftonville and Coleraine out of the way.
That will only be a good foundation if Linfield have title winning home form. That has to start next Saturday.