DUNGANNON SWIFTS 1-4 LINFIELD 12.10.2019

Linfield enjoyed their visit to Stangmore Park on Tuesday night they decided to come back on the Saturday, and enjoyed themselves just as much.

This game was the second in a double header of away games against Dungannon Swifts. The objective on Tuesday was advancing in the NIFL Cup, this match was about getting three points and getting the title challenge back on track after defeat the previous weekend.

Linfield’s results in recent years against Dungannon have been decent, unbeaten since 2013, and winning the last four meetings. It’s been almost too good. Dungannon are due one against us, which makes me nervous going into games against them.

This run of results has gone one of two ways – a resounding win for Linfield by four or five goals, or an undeserved scrappy one goal win.

Curiously, the last time that 12th October fell on a Saturday was in 2013. Who did Linfield play that day? Dungannon Swifts, a 2-0 win at Windsor Park with both the goals coming from Andrew Waterworth.

The most memorable thing about that game was the fact it kicked-off at 3.45pm due to the motorway being closed that morning due to a bomb scare.

Six years on, Andrew Waterworth was still scoring against Dungannon, and arrived looking to score on his fourth successive visit to Stangmore Park, having been restored to Linfield’s starting eleven due to Shayne Lavery being unavailable due to being in the Northern Ireland squad.

He wasn’t the only Andrew returning to the starting eleven, with Andrew Mitchell coming in for the injured Bastien Hery.

Linfield had a lot of early pressure, the closest they came was when a Stephen Fallon shot was saved by the legs of Niall Morgan.

There wasn’t long to wait for Linfield to take the lead, as Andrew Waterworth finished from close range after a Joel Cooper cross, the fourth successive game at Stangmore Park in which he scored. He also scored at around the same time he scored when the sides last met in March last season, if you believe in omens.

Even at this early stage, it was clear that Dungannon were struggling to handle Joel Cooper, and Linfield weren’t slow in exploiting it. Every time he got the ball he was usually clear, in space and looking to cross.

Despite this, Linfield needed a two goal lead, especially as Rohan Ferguson was forced into a save after Sean Noble got in behind Linfield’s defence.

There wasn’t long to wait for Linfield to get a second goal, after Kirk Millar was played through on goal.

I was shouting for him to smash it low across the keeper, but what do I know, he chipped the keeper in an replica of his second goal against Sutjeska in August. His best goalscoring season at the club continues, long may it continue.

A few minutes later, it was 3-0 when Joel Cooper broke clear down the left and fired home low. That meant that all of Linfield’s front three had found the net.

That surely meant the points were in the bag, but Linfield made absolutely certain of it by going 4-0 up in the final minutes of the half.

As players were queuing up to score, Matthew Clarke cross for Kirk Millar to head home.

Pointless stat for you, but Linfield have scored at least four in a game on at least one occasion against every team they have faced in the League since David Healy became Manager in October 2015 apart from two. The answer may surprise you – Carrick Rangers and Newry City.

This was the sixth time Linfield had scored at least four against Dungannon Swifts during that four year period.

Having had a game in midweek and with midweek games in the next three weeks, it was no surprise that the second-half was a non event, with energy needing to be saved with big games coming up in the next few weeks.

A goalmouth scramble was the closest Linfield came to making it 5-0.

There would be a goal in the second-half, but it came for Dungannon Swifts when Daniel Hughes fired home to make it 4-1. Thankfully, there was never a danger of Dungannon making a comeback.

It was disappointing to concede in terms of Goal Difference. Linfield are seven worse than Crusaders and five worse than Coleraine in that regard, but with three games in hand, and a further twenty-seven to play after that, so there is no need to panic.

The only other moment of note in the second-half was when a cross was intercepted by a Dungannon defender, much to the frustration of Kirk Millar, who was set to put the ball home for a hat-trick.

The only thing of note, on the pitch that is.

During the first-half, an announcement was made over the tannoy for someone to remove their car as it was blocking a Farmer’s Field. A further announcement was made that the PSNI were arriving to remove the vehicle.

Whilst we were all waiting on the outcome of this situation, there is no announcement, so we’ll never know what happened.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield made three subs, with Joel Cooper, Andrew Waterworth and Kirk Millar getting an early rest, with a League debut for teenager Charlie Allen.

Other results saw Ballymena United draw with Crusaders, which was good for Linfield on two regards. Ballymena have snuck under the radar, but if they won this game and their game in hand (at home to Linfield), they would only be four points off the top of the table, so it is good to start opening up a gap on them.

We have a great opportunity to extend that next weekend when Ballymena United come to Windsor Park. It is a ground where David Jeffrey hasn’t won in his last eleven games there, including nine defeats in a row. Let’s make it ten.

This weekend should have been Matchday 11, when everybody should have played each other once, a good barometer of where teams are it.

It is for only five clubs, with the others having games in hand due to postponements caused by Linfield and Glenavon’s involvement in international competitions.

A few observations so far. Glentoran and Larne are at best going to be scrambling for Top 6 despite the hype. Larne’s only wins this season have come against the Bottom Four.

Coleraine draw too many games and Crusaders concede too many goals.

Cliftonville are doing better than I expected, but it is interesting to note their only defeats have come against Linfield, Crusaders and Ballymena United, so they come up short against the top teams.

Linfield can’t really say much with their only dropped points coming in defeats to Coleraine and Crusaders.

We’ll need to remedy that, and we’ll get a chance with a trip to Coleraine at the end of October.

Before that, Coleraine play Crusaders at Seaview. It makes a win against Ballymena even more vital. Not only will we pull clear of Ballymena, but we’ll take advantage of what happens at Seaview.

Whatever the outcome, there’s no bad result, but only if we win, as we’ll cut the gap on at least one, possibly two rivals.

And then, we’ll be ticking off one of our games in hand in the midweek after.

Talking of Glenavon, they lost 3-1 to Raith Rovers in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers Cup, with the first goal for Raith coming from a player called Bowie, who I believe was their Star Man.

Glenavon took Linfield’s place in the competition. As much as I would have enjoyed a weekend in Edinburgh (to base myself for the game in Fife) and a walk up Arthur’s Seat, I can see why the club decline the invitation to enter the competition.

If we were playing in it, wins over Cliftonville and Dungannon would be postponed and still to be played. We’d be six points worse off and 8th and fourteen points off the top, albeit with five games in hand.

If I was in Edinburgh, I may have been tempted to do a day trip in Glasgow to see Scotland v San Marino. That temptation would end at £30 a ticket.

If things had worked out differently, I may have been going to see a Euro 2020 Qualifier as a neutral.

I’m taking a short visit to Vilnius in November for a break. My original choice of date was this week (Sunday to Wednesday), to take in Lithuania v Serbia while i’m there. However, the flight dates didn’t suit as I needed to be back on Wednesday for Two Door Cinema Club.

Up next for Linfield, is a County Antrim Shield match at home against Cliftonville, after being drawn at home to Cliftonville in the NIFL Cup.

The big matches keep on coming. You wouldn’t have it any other way.

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