This was not a night for football. This was a night for putting your feet up in front of the TV. Ironic, for a match that was broadcast live on TV.
When this game was announced for live broadcast, Linfield were hoping that this game being on a Monday night would give them extra recovery time from their opening UEFA Cup group match (I promise, that will be my last mention of the UEFA Cup until I go to see United v Partizan Belgrade in November) but instead, they were recovering from a League Cup tie at Ballinamallard.
They needed it too. A long trip and extra-time. I think Sky did Linfield a favour by pushing this game back to Monday night.
Not that I was thinking that when I was getting drenched. As soon as I saw how lovely the weather was, I knew it was going to chuck it down when this match started.
Linfield’s starting eleven saw two injury enforced changes from their last League match, with Jamie Mulgrew being replaced by Stephen Fallon and Chris Casement was replaced by Ryan McGivern, forcing Linfield to line-up in a 3-5-2 formation.
A bit surprising, as Andrew Mitchell, on the bench could have slotted in at right-back, or Trai Hume, another substitute, could have started, meaning there would be no need for a tactical reshuffle.
Linfield struggled at times in the first-half due to the inclement weather. We got a taste of that in the opening ten seconds when Jimmy Callacher misjudged a header back to Rohan Ferguson at the cost of a soft corner.
If it was more central, it would have been 1-0 to Carrick.
The danger wasn’t cleared yet, and from the resulting corner, Rohan Ferguson missed it, and was relieved to see Daniel Kelly head over.
Within a minute, Linfield were rueing a missed header of their own when Mark Stafford headed wide from a few yards out. He really should have scored. From where I was stood, it looked like he did.
Stafford has a good goalscoring record against Carrick, but only at Windsor Park. He was still looking for his first goal at Taylor’s Avenue.
Carrick were encouraged by their start, especially so when Daniel Kelly had a header tipped over by Rohan Ferguson, in a game that mirrored some of my previous visits to Taylor’s Avenue.
Linfield’s best attacking moments usually came when Joel Cooper or Shayne Lavery got on the ball. Despite that, Linfield couldn’t create any clear chances.
It was Carrick who had the best opportunity to score when a poor backpass played in Stewart Nixon, who rolled the ball into the side netting from a wide angle.
From where I was stood, it looked like he had scored. He probably should have scored.
To be honest, Linfield fans were happy to take 0-0 at half-time.
It looked like that was going to be the half-time score, until the very last seconds when Niall Quinn managed to create space and fire home low with his right foot.
Undeserved, but Linfield were happy to take it.
It mirrored Linfield’s game there in 2017, where they had to wait until injury time in the first-half to take the lead.
Although, that was the only time Linfield had managed a first-half goal at Taylor’s Avenue since Carrick were promoted in 2015.
You always felt the first goal would be key in this game. If Linfield could get it, it would deflate Carrick’s enthusiasm. At least, that was the hope.
Linfield were out to make Carrick pay for their missed opportunities in the early stages of the second-half, with both Quinn and Lavery both hitting the crossbar, while Ryan McGivern had a shot saved.
If Linfield needed a reminded that they needed a second to be sure of the points, it came when Reece Neale flashed a shot just wide.
Neale’s luck didn’t improve when he flicked a Kirk Millar free-kick into his own net to put Linfield 2-0 up.
That goal Linfield in a strong position, a header from Mark Stafford, a customary goal against Carrick made it 3-0 on 75 minutes and secured the points.
This lead gave David Healy an opportunity to rest some players and give gametime to players who haven’t had much of it this season – Andrew Mitchell, Ross Larkin and Daniel Reynolds.
The only other moment of note in the rest of the game was some magic by Joel Cooper to work himself into a shooting position when it didn’t look possible, only to hit the sidenetting from a wide position.
A two goal defeat would have dropped Linfield from 8th to 9th, but this win moved them up to 5th. They would have been 4th if it wasn’t for Glentoran’s late winner against Warrenpoint on Saturday. If they win their games in hand, they will go top, which is where they want to be.
Elsewhere on Monday night, Dundalk won the League Of Ireland, meaning they will play Linfield in the Unite The Union Cup, two more games which will have to be arranged.
Linfield have already started getting dates arranged for their three outstanding League matches, with Warrenpoint Town visiting Windsor Park on Tuesday 22nd October. A handy double for me, as i’ll be heading to OMD the following night.
Last week, Easyjet released their Summer 2020 flights. I’d hoped to jump in and nab a brgain weekend in London for The 12th, to be there for the Euro 2020 Final.
£150 just to get on a plane. That’s before my luggage and hotel.
Looks like i’ll have to have a Plan B for that weekend. Feel free to hit me up with ideas.
Talking of European football, the 2021 European Super Cup Final will be at Windsor Park. Really want to go to this having been to the 2014 Final in Cardiff.
No pressure on Ole and David.
Meanwhile, UEFA have announced a third club competition called the Europa Conference League. Good idea, but an awful name.
I’ll wait to see what the qualifying criteria and format of the competition is before making a full analysis.
Up next for Linfield is a home match against Glenavon.
It’s not a fixture that has been kind to Linfield recently. No wins or goals in the last three meetings. No wins in the last four at home, and failed to score in their last three at home.
The last time Linfield beat Glenavon at home was the day the 2017 General Election was announced.