With it raining all day, it was certainly the weather for staying indoors with your feet up. That’s what Glenavon were doing, though that postponement was due to international call-ups.
This presented an opportunity for Linfield to go top of the League with a win over Newry City.
This match also represented a milestone point in the season, the eleventh game when everybody has played each other once. Well, that should have been the case, with two games postponed today (one due to international call-ups, and another due to Coleraine’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup) and Ballymena United v Glentoran being postponed a few weeks ago, only half of the teams in the League will have reached that milestone today.
It was an unchanged starting eleven for Linfield, with Chris Casement having to make do with a place on the bench after injury. Thankfully unchanged, as it meant that Joel Cooper was fit to start having been substituted in the early minutes of the second-half at The Oval on Monday night.
This was Newry’s first League visit to Windsor Park since February 2011, though they did visit in the Irish Cup last season. Amazingly, there were two players starting this game who started that day – Robert Garrett for Linfield and Andy Coleman for Newry, both in their second spell at their respective clubs.
There would have been some doing a double take when the teams came out, with a clash of socks saw them wearing blue sock, and looking very much like HSV Hamburg.
Newry, unsurprisingly, were spending the opening minutes defending, and it was nor surprise when Linfield took the lead on 10 minutes when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a corner.
As in most games he plays, Michael O’Connor was involved in a lot of Linfield’s attacks, the closest he came to scoring was when he was just unable to get on the end of a low Joel Cooper cross.
Eventually, Newry began to show themselves as an attacking force, with Jimmy Callacher being forced to make a last gasp tackle to deny Newry, while Roy Carroll made a spectacular save from a long range shot.
It was perhaps apt, in the week that Alan Blayney announced his retirement, it was almost a cover version of a save that Alan Blayney made in this fixture in October 2010.
Daniel Kearns headed over as Linfield chased a 2-0 lead, which eventually came when Jimmy Callacher headed home again.
It was the third time he had scored two in a game, having done so against Ards in 2016 and against Warrenpoint earlier this year.
Linfield were in the mood to go in at half-time 3-0 up, with Joel Cooper hitting the post before having a low shot saved by Coleman, who would later stretch out an arm from close range to deny Michael O’Connor.
In that incident, O’Connor collided with a goalpost, but was thankfully able to continue.
The second-half continued with more Linfield dominance, with Michael O’Connor controlled but fired over, while a nice move saw Robert Garrett hit the bar and go out for a goal kick.
In search of a hat-trick, Jimmy Callacher had a penalty appeal turned down when he appeared to be grappled. The fallout from that incident saw Josh Robinson pick up a yellow card for dissent. It was the third yellow card this season he has picked up that could easily have been avoided. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by him, or else he will pick up a one game ban, and might not get back into the team.
The third goal that Linfield needed didn’t come, and suddenly they would need it, as a bout of pinball in the penalty area saw a Kevin McArdle shot be deflected past Roy Carroll.
Newry, were suddenly back in the game.
Before you could say that Newry were back in the game, they were back out of the game.
The goal jolted Linfield back to life, going straight on the attack, winning a corner, which was headed home by you know who.
Having sense that a hat-trick was on, Callacher was like a man possessed every time Linfield got an attacking set piece. Nobody was going to deny him the matchball.
That was the three points secured, as Linfield went top of the League, albeit that Glenavon have a game in hand.
After the game, it turned out the two sides could be meeting again next month, as the draw for the Quarter-Finals of the League Cup saw Newry City or Portadown drawn at home to Linfield or Institute. Newry City (2010-2011) and Portadown (2008-2009) have both eliminated Linfield from the competition since they last won it.
It’s been so long since Linfield won it, Glenn Ferguson scored the winner in the Final. I’m used now to just writing the competition off. I’m not even confident that we’ll beat Institute.
Next weekend, is a trip to Ards, a ground that has been kind to Linfield in recent years, so hopefully, another win can be notched up to keep the pressure on Glenavon, and everybody else in the League.
If things had worked out differently, it could have been a weekend of groundhopping instead. I’m not sure why I didn’t book it, but I never got round to booking a trip to Northern Ireland’s trip to Austria. If I did, I would have made it a double header and seen in Slovakia v Czech Republic this afternoon. If you care, Czech Republic won 2-1.
Not going to lie, I really wish Linfield were involved in the Scottish Challenge Cup, especially when you see the complete disaster Coleraine made of their trip to Connah’s Quay.
Saturday night game in North Wales, 2.30am boat home and a midnight meal in the Holyhead branch of McDonalds. Sounds like heaven.
Today’s trip to Windsor Park that I did make, was worthwhile and enjoyable.
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