On a Matchday where the Top 6 faced the Bottom 6, this was a game that Linfield were expected to win. It was a game they had to win, as they would fall further behind the Top 3 as you might get one shock result, you were never going to get three or four.
If Linfield players needed any more motivation to win this game, the sight of Carrick in their white away kit, looking like Derby County, should have done the trick.
I’ll have you know they have been reported to the Kit Police, a full statement has been made and a Reference Number has been provided.
The topic of ends attacking has been an interesting point in recent home matches.
Over recent years, Linfield have attacked The Kop in the first-half, but not in their last two home League matches against Ballymena United and Warrenpoint Town, meaning a quick change of ends for those who like to sit where Linfield attack.
On Tuesday night against Cliftonville, it was a return to attacking The Kop first, so that’s where I set up camp, only to have to walk the length of the South Stand as they changed ends.
When Larne come to Windsor Park at the end of the month, i’ll set up camp at the Railway Stand pre kick-off, meaning it’s an absolute cert they’ll attack The Kop in the first-half that day.
However, it was both ends that were getting an equal share of the attacking in the first quarter of the game, with Carrick giving as good as they were getting, not being afraid to attack, though not having chances of the scale that they had when the sides met in September.
As with most of Linfield’s recent games, good things happened when Joel Cooper got on the ball, wanting to add to his tally of eight goals in his last seven games, though it should have been nine in seven after the Linesman failed to spot a Cliftonville player clearing his shot halfway on the Boucher Road.
When Cooper wasn’t on the ball, Mark Stafford could usually be seen lurking at set pieces,a player with a ridiculously good goalscoring record against Carrick, especially at Windsor Park. Stafford was looking to score against Carrick for the third successive game, having scored at Taylor’s Avenue earlier this season, and when the sides last met at Windsor Park in March 2018.
Unsurprisingly, it was Cooper who was involved when Linfield took the lead, his defence splitting pass finding Matthew Clarke clear on the left. I thought Clarke was going to shoot but he crossed instead for Andrew Waterworth, in for the injured Shayne Lavery, to put Linfield 1-0 up.
Just as when the sides met in September, it took Linfield until the final minutes of the half to take the lead, albeit just a few minutes earlier than in September.
Curiously, this goal was almost a cover version of Andrew Waterworth’s goal against Cliftonville last season that completed his hat-trick.
Having scored a few minutes left of the first-half, it looked like Waterworth was going to score a few minutes into the second-half when he finished from close range but he was adjudged to be offside. It didn’t look it from where I was sat.
A quick corner saw Kirk Millar run into the box but his shot hit the bar.
A few minutes later, Millar was assisting rather than scoring a second when his cross was headed in off the post by Mark Stafford. It did look like an own goal by Carrick’s keeper, but I think Stafford will claim it. He always scores against Carrick.
Just as it looked that would be the game won for Linfield, Carrick had a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit when a stray pass from Rohan Ferguson fell perfectly for Guaillaume Keke, who went round Ferguson, but his goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Bastien Hery.
I was surprised that Keke didn’t shoot first time. By taking a slight delay, he gave Hery an opportunity to get back.
Having got into a commanding lead, the last thing Linfield needed was for the game to be competitive again.
Carrick didn’t have any attacking moments of note after that, as Linfield saw out the game comfortably.
A curious thing was that there were no substitutions made by Linfield. I know that 2-0 isn’t totally secure, but even for five or ten minutes, it would have been a perfect opportunity to bring on Josh Robinson as he continues his recovery from injury.
In other results, it turned out that Crusaders were the team who slipped up while Coleraine, Cliftonville and Glentoran also won.
That’s four League games without a win for Crusaders and one win in six in all competitions. If it was Linfield on this run of form, it would be talked about at length.
Apologies for going on about it, but it makes Linfield’s defeat at Seaview even more frustrating.
There is even more frustration for Linfield as they are inactive in League terms due to their involvement in the Unite The Union Challenge Cup.
It comes in a weekend where Cliftonville, Glentoran and Coleraine all face Bottom 6 opposition they would be expected to beat.
It is worth pointing out that Linfield were also due to face Bottom 6 opposition at home. IT depends how you look at it.
Dungannon have lost their last six games, including two defeats to Linfield (conceding four on each occasion) so they are prime for another three points for Linfield.
There is an alternative viewpoint that they are due something, and they are most certainly due one against Linfield. So it’s maybe for the best that this game is set aside for a bit.
It’s just frustration that having got one outstanding game played (and won), we will now be back up to three games in hand.
The reason for the postponement is the Unite The Union Challenge Cup match against Dundalk.
Due to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland running on different calendars (football wise), arranging a full Setanta Cup style competition is going to be hard, so this is the best you can get, though the scheduling of this is far from perfect.
There are only four windows to play the match, the start or end of each country’s season.
July/August, at the start of the Irish League season is out as both clubs would be focusing on Europe. Even if it was scheduled on two Saturdays around their European Cup tie, both teams will have their minds on the European game instead and won’t be full application.
May, end of Irish League season. Makes sense in marketing terms to have the game on brighter evenings, but if the Irish League season goes to the last game, there will be not a lot of time to arrange the game.
November, end of League of Ireland season. Same problem as if League Of Ireland season goes to last game, there won’t be much time to arrange the game. However, Dundalk won the 2019 title with a few games to spare, so arrangements should have started then.
If Dundalk weren’t in the FAI Cup Final, I have a suspicion it would have been played this weekend.
I can’t imagine Dundalk being enthused about this game at the end of a long season.
It’s a good idea but the arrangements looked rushed. The games were only confirmed two weeks ago, meaning that ticketing is being arranged late. For me, I wouldn’t be able to purchase a ticket until the first leg.
That’s not ideal as my job is appointment based, so i’d need to know if I have a ticket before booking time off, and i’m sure there are others who do appointment based jobs or shift work.
And then there are the arrangements, having to make your own way to Banbridge first. If I did have a ticket, i’d be tempted to book a hotel (i’d imagine a hotel in Dundalk on a Monday night in November wouldn’t be fully booked) and make a two day trip of it and explore Louth.
Considering some people are trying to promote the idea of an All Ireland League, this isn’t selling it to people.
What about February/March? The start of the League Of Ireland season. This might be the best option, part of LOI side’s preparation, not too late in the IL season to be a distraction.
Looking at this season’s schedule, Dundalk played in the President’s Cup on 9th February and their first League game on 15th February.
That would present difficulties in terms that 2nd February was and Irish Cup date and 16th February was ringfenced for the NIFL Cup Final.
Nothing that couldn’t be overcome. Hypothetically speaking, if it was introduced last year, could have been played on 8th and 11th February, with the League Of Ireland season being pushed back a week and the President’s Cup on 16th.
Or, 2nd February could be a League date with the Champions game postponed to accommodate this and 9th February an Irish Cup date.
That would be the best idea for this competition to have it played in February or March on a mutually agreed date that doesn’t interfere with either country’s cup competitions.
This competition is a good idea, but the arrangements are rushed. A game in February means we know who will be playing for three months, and arrangements can be made.
After all my complaining about tickets and travel, i’ll actually miss the Windsor Park game as i’ll be flying back from Manchester after seeing United take on Partizan on the Thursday night.
If you believe in omens, the last time Linfield played when I was in mid air was the away leg against Sutjeska in August.
High hotel prices over the weekend meant I wasn’t able to make it a double header with the game against Brighton on the Sunday, I consoled myself that i’d be back for the Linfield match on the Saturday. Flip sake.
That’s the second time that high costs (flights frustrating my London/Brighton break plans for July 2020) have frustrated my attempts to see Brighton, the city and football team.
I’ve got an idea in my head to do a London/Brighton long weekend in January 2021, but there’s still a while to go before I worry about that.
The most frustrating thing about the scheduling about these matches against Dundalk is that it rules out two midweeks for slotting in outstanding games, especially with a Friday night TV game against Glenavon also ruling out another midweek later in the month.
Talking of ticketing, still no news about the game against Institute in two weeks time. There should be a rule in the Irish League that if a game is ticketed, tickets should be on sale (at least) four weeks in advance.
Talking of fixture scheduling, there’s a midweek in early December that Linfield won’t be able to play a League match, but in a good way, as they play Coleraine at home in the NIFL Cup Semi-Final.
I guess we’re due one against them.
No pressure, but if Linfield lose, i’m spending my birthday in Ballymena. What a grim thought.
It seems that fixture scheduling is also an issue in England with this business over Liverpool in the League Cup.
I’m slightly worried that the United match against Burnley i’m going to in mid January could be postponed to accommodate League Cup Semi-Finals.
Talking of Semi-Finals, Linfield are in the Semis of the Steel and Sons Cup, meaning I could be facing a decision wether to go or not. If they do, that would be three finals in four years, which will be impressive, especially as the team is all youngsters, due to so many senior players being ineligible for the competition.
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