There is no way to gloss over this result, it was embarrassing.
After a difficult Christmas/New Year period, the Irish Cup offered a respite for Linfield, ahead of a nine day break before resuming League action.
The draw gave them an away trip to Lower League opposition, a great chance of progress and a new ground for fans to visit.
Well, not for all of us.
Due to the capacity of The Dub, Linfield were restricted to 150 tickets. Unfortunately, I missed out on getting one.
Undeterred, I decided to head over and chance my luck.
I asked at Reception and they had no spares, but I found a spot outside the ground to watch from. It was ok, but there some parts of the pitch that were obscured. While standing there, I was offered a ticket at face value so I decided to take it and get a better view.
If you did want to watch the match from outside, you could do so, or you could watch it from a sofa in The Pavillion, albeit with a restricted view.
The Dub is very small with no room for manoeuvre with regards to fitting more fans in. There could have been ways around it though.
They could have closed off some of the Car Park and created a standing area behind the goal at that end. I’m not sure what the feasibility was of playing the game at the pitch beside it, which had a bigger stand and standing area around the pitch.
After a busy run of games, I had expected some changes, with some players being rested and others who had been inactive recently getting some much needed game time.
That was not to be the case, although we did see three at the back getting binned.
It was a big day for Ethan Boyle, recently signed from Shamrock Rovers. Not only was it his birthday, he turned 23, he made his debut at right-back, coming in for Mark Haughey who continues his recovery from injury with a rest.
Do you want to feel really old? The day that Ethan Boyle was born, Saturday 4th January 1997, was the day that David Jeffrey took charge of his first match as Linfield manager.
In a match like this, Linfield had to be on the front foot early on, and not give Queen’s an opportunity to settle in the game. That would not be the case.
In fact, it was Rohan Ferguson who was the busier keeper, making a series of saves to keep it at 0-0.
On 38 minutes, Queen’s took the lead when Marc McKenna dispossessed Bastien Hery and then nutmegged Jimmy Callacher before firing home from outside the box. It was a goal that had been coming.
Once again, it was another poor goal conceded by Linfield. We’ve conceded some absolute shockers recently.
It acted as a wake-up call for Linfield, 38 minutes too late you could say.
Jamie Mulgrew, facing his younger brother Ben, hit the top of the bar as Linfield looked to go in at half-time level.
In the final minute of the half, it looked like Linfield had been given a reprieve with a penalty being awarded for a handball from a corner. However, the whistle was actually blown for a foul in the build-up.
The second-half began, or rather didn’t begin, in farcical circumstances, as the start was delayed due to the net that Linfield were attacking in the first-half being broken. I’m not sure how, as it didn’t see any action.
When the second-half did begin, it did so with Linfield being camped in Queen’s half. For the first time in the match, it felt like a Linfield goal was imminent.
Mark Stafford had a header hit the bar, while Joel Cooper saw his header from the rebound saved. Jamie Mulgrew then had an effort go wide as it looked like Queen’s had seen out the Linfield onslaught.
Joel Cooper was now getting the better of his opposing full-back, but he continued to frustrate with his final ball.
Just before the hour, Shayne Lavery was introduced for Daniel Kearns, and the impact was immediate, as he headed home from a corner to make it 1-1.
That should have been the springboard for Linfield to go on and win the game. However, there would be no onslaught, with Queen’s looking comfortable at 1-1.
On 75 minutes, the match swung in Queen’s favour when Mark Stafford slipped under pressure and handled the ball in the penalty area. After a delay, a penalty was given.
Jonah Mitchell stepped up to put Queen’s 2-1 up. Ironically, he was given his senior debut and then loaned to Queen’s by former Linfield manager Warren Feeney.
Linfield were in deep trouble and time was running out. Matthew Shevlin and Jordan Stewart came on for Bastien Hery and Mark Stafford in search of an equaliser.
That looked like coming when a through ball saw Matthew Shevline get in behind Queen’s defence, control the ball and go round the keeper, with the offside flag going up as he was putting the ball into the net. He looked onside to me.
Linfield were running out of ideas, and hoping to get lucky with a free-kick. The best they could offer was a header from Jimmy Callacher which was disallowed for offside.
In fact, it looked like Queen’s were more likely to score on the counter attack.
It looked like one of those free-kicks would bring Linfield an equaliser when a headed clearance fell to Kirk Millar, whose cross was headed wide by Matthew Shevlin from a few yards out. He really should have scored. If he hit the target, he would have.
Everybody sensed that was Linfield’s big chance, and it had gone. This was going to be Queen’s day.
Unfortunately, there would be no dodgy 95th minute penalty to save us. I note those days have returned. We would have missed anyway.
And so it proved, as they held on for a famous win. The most damming thing for Linfield was that they deserved it. It wasn’t a smash and grab.
To make it worse for Linfield, Larne and Dungannon Swifts both won, meaning that the free Saturday on Saturday 1st February can’t be used to slot in one of the two games that need rearranged.
Dungannon Swifts and Larne both have winnable ties, meaning the Quarter-Final date of Saturday 29th February probably won’t be able to be used to slot in one of these games.
If you’re a calendar nerd like me, you’ll be especially annoyed at Linfield not having a game on 29th February. Unless we have a midweek game between now and then, February 29th won’t fall on a Saturday until 2048.
So what now for Linfield?
Three trophies have gone and all focus is on the League.
Ironically, in order to over throw Cliftonville, Linfield must now look to Cliftonville’s past as an inspiration.
The important thing is not to panic. Just three weeks ago, Linfield were about to run away with the League, now it looks like the season might be falling apart.
The line-up for this game was totally wrong. There are too many players who have played too much football and need a rest. This game, the fifth in fourteen days should have been used to give some players a rest and others some much needed game time.
Linfield’s results since the 7-0 win over Warrenpoint have followed a worrying trend: 0-1, 1-0, 2-0, 1-1, 0-6, 3-0, 0-1, 2-1, 1-0, 0-3, 1-0, 2-0, 1-1, 0-3, 1-1, 3-0, 1-2.
Far too many 0s and 1s in those first figures.
The games where Linfield have scored more than one in that run have been against Carrick Rangers, Ballymena United, Warrenpoint Town and Institute (twice).
That is quite damming.
Linfield have been too slow starting games, allowing teams to get settled, and against Crusaders and Glentoran, giving away early goals and chasing the game, while also struggling against teams who are well organised in defence.
Even against Warrenpoint last month, we didn’t push on after scoring inside the first minute.
There’s no urgency in attack, teams are allowed to get comfortable.
When we create chances, the final ball goes awry, or we aren’t reactive enough when the ball is loose.
Now the fixture list has calmed down, but not in the way we wanted. We’ll be having a lot of gaps now.
This upcoming nine day gap couldn’t come at a better time. A chance to recharge batteries and get minds focused on the task at hand.
That task now is retaining the League title. It’s the only thing we can do now.
It is so important to be in Europe next season. Linfield gained a lot of co-efficient points this season. It might take a while to see the benefits but we have to continue to be in Europe and keep getting those points in order to secure a favourable draw, that’s how The New Saints got to be seeded when they enter the European Cup.
As said earlier, Linfield can use Cliftonville as a form of inspiration.
January 2014, reigning champions and just dumped out of the Irish Cup at the first stage on the back of a bumpy run of results in the League, although losing a replay to Coleraine is a bit more respectable. Sounds familiar.
They focused their minds and energy on the League and went on a winning run to secure the title.
And that winning run started against Linfield. The task for Linfield is to do something similar, starting against Cliftonville.
If we can get through the game at Solitude, we have a run of games against Bottom 6 opposition coming up, and a great chance of getting a winning run going.
Although saying that, a tie against Championship opposition should have been an opportunity to start a cup run.
It seems a bit coincidental that the lack of goals and dodgy results have come while Niall Quinn has been out injured. Key at both ends of the pitch.
There won’t be any trophy celebrations for Linfield at Windsor Park in May 2020. Let’s make sure there are celebrations for Linfield at Windsor Park in April 2020.
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