Exactly five years earlier, David Healy named his first starting eleven at Warrenpoint. Three titles is what a lot of people would have been expecting or hoping for. At least.

However, starting a season in a reduced capacity stadium in order to avoid a contagious disease was not something that even the most pessimistic of supporter would have predicted back in 2015.

Just twenty hours earlier, they were thankful just to be in a reduced capacity stadium, as on Friday teatime, it looked like this match would be taking place in an empty stadium. I’ll get back to that later.

Arrangements for matches at Windsor Park mean that tickets go to Members first and then a small general sale for Season Ticket holders from last season.

As a Season Ticket Holder, I was anticipating a Friday Night Scramble. Events at Stormont meant that sale was delayed. 

Eventually, there was a sale on Saturday morning, hitting refresh on my browser over and over again, before eventually getting through. It felt like I’d got a golden ticket for Willy Wonka’s Chcolate Factory.

Windsor Park’s redevelopment has seen a lot of trial and error in terms of matchday arrangements, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Just as everything seemed to be settled, a whole new set of arrangements come in.

There seemed to be a bit of a mix-up with the Ticket Partner, as the portal wouldn’t open at the allotted time, causing a panic among fans desperate to get a ticket. 

Whenever I purchased my ticket, I wasn’t charged for it. I don’t think that was part of the Service Level Agreement. I did e-mail the club to flag it up, so I’ll get the arrangements sorted regarding payment in due course.

A quick look through Social Media suggests that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t charged.

Tickets only being available online presented a bit of a problem for me. I don’t use data on my phone and my phone couldn’t download the PDF anyway to scan in. Libraries were closed so I couldn’t print it off.

That meant I had to take a screenshot on my iPad use that to scan in.

I’m not a take an iPad to the football kinda guy, but I had no choice. It stayed in my bag from that point on. 

When you purchase a ticket through the portal, you have to pick a specific seat and stick to it. It’s a change in behaviour I’ll have to get used to (I won’t be the only one) as I like to sit where we attack. If sitting in the same seat all match gets me in the ground, it’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make. 

The concept of trial and error applies to this, as I’ll have to find a spot that I’ll enjoy the view from.

For my next match, whenever that is (be positive, Crusaders on October 30th), I’ll try to move somewhere else as front row of the Lower North Stand isn’t the best view of the game.

Before you enter, you get a Temperature Test. I slightly embarrassed myself in front of Eventsec staff as I took out my iPad thinking the Temperature Gun was a Ticket Scanner. At least I’ll know that for the next match (be positive, Crusaders on October 30th) I go to.

The Concourse in the North Stand is quite spacious, which made Social Distancing easy, as was the fact that people were being sensible, meaning I wasn’t having to make an effort to avoid people, I was doing it naturally.

I exited at full-time towards Olympia Parade. Not ideal for my own travel arrangements, but it meant I could boost the step count. At no point, did I feel unsafe or anxious when watching the game.

As with last weekend at Dundela, Social Distancing extended to the players, with both teams warming up in their kit, although both teams were having their teamtalks on the pitch, instead of the away team only, as it was last week.

It has been said that it is important to try and keep a routine in these confusing and uncertain times, and this was evident when walkout music was played minutes before kick-off, even though both teams were already out on the pitch.

Carrick Rangers being Linfield’s opponents for the first game was this season was perhaps apt, as they were Linfield’s last opponents in the League, last March. They were also Linfield’s last opponents in any competition, having met in the County Antrim Shield four days earlier.

Linfield won that match with two early goals, and their attacking intent in this game suggested they wanted to do the same in this match.

They were halfway there when Andrew Waterworth fired home low across the keeper to put Linfield 1-0 just three minutes in. A good sign if you believe in omens, with three being the number of successive titles Linfield are looking to secure.

More pressure continued from Linfield, and the second goal came, a bit later than on Tuesday night, when a neat passing move saw Conor Pepper play a low sliding cross beyond Carrick’s keeper, giving Andre Waterworth the opportunity to slide the ball into an empty net. 

It’s easy to forget that Waterworth finished last season strongly, with five goals in the last four games, and he was picking up where he left off. Make that now seven goals in five League games. (SPOILER ALERT : He might make it eight goals in five matches later in the game)

From there, you’d be expecting the game to meander into a routine 2-0 win for Linfield. Well, not quite, as Carrick came back into the game, starting to make themselves at home in Linfield’s half, and got rewarded with a penalty after a foul by Chris Johns.

Caolan Loughran scored to make it 2-1, and Carrick were back in the game. 

It was Carrick’s first goal against Linfield since October 2015, twelve games ago.

For the next few minutes, Carrick were very much in the game, and were getting too many sights at goal for Linfield’s liking.

Despite a strong finish to the half, which included a Kyle McClean shot that went just wide, Linfield were glad to be going in 2-1 up, despite their strong start. 

The start of the second-half saw Chris Johns have to tip an effort over his crossbar.

That was the most work he had to do, as the game turned away from Carrick Rangers following a red card for Mark Surgenor for a bad tackle on Conor Pepper. He knew what his fate was going to be as soon as the Referee arrived on the scene. 

Carrick didn’t even have an opportunity to reorganise or to get settled, as Jimmy Callacher bundled the ball home to make it 3-1. 

It might have been precautionary, but Pepper’s game was over, replaced by Ryan McGivern. 

McGivern had an instant impact, heading home to make it 4-1 just seconds after the game restarted. It was the second successive season that McGivern had scored on the opening day of the season. 

Any faint hope that Carrick had of getting something had well and truly gone.

It was assumed that McGivern’s introduction would push Mark Haughey would move to right-back.

When the game restarted, McGivern and Haughey were part of a three man defence, with Niall Quinn pushed further forward.

That was good news for Andrew Waterworth, who was in the mood for a hat-trick. 

It looked like he was going to get it but was thwarted by a header that went just wide.

Not for long, as he soon got his hat-trick, to make it 5-1. 

With a long and intense season to come, David Healy gave Jamie Mulgrew and Navid Nasseri a rest, bringing on Daniel Kearns and Bastien Hery.

There were more chances for Linfield, but they had to make do with 5-1, a winning start to the season, for the sixth successive season. I can remember when Linfield used to always drop points in their first game of the season, having only won three openers in the decade before the start of this winning run.

That scoreline was good enough for Linfield to finish the day top of the league on goal difference, as one of six teams on three points, none of which include Glentoran.

They will be knocked off the top of the table by the time they kick off their next match, on Saturday teatime at Ballymena due to Crusaders and Cliftonville facing each other. 

If you think a Saturday night in Ballymena is grim, not being allowed to go to Ballymena on Saturday teatime is even more grim. 

It’s on at the same time as Man United v Chelsea. I’m not sure that was the wisest time for a broadcast game (It’s on the BBC website) but I’ll be multitasking with a laptop and a TV. 

So yes, that Friday Night Farce. I’m all for the Irish League getting a bigger profile, but I’m not sure Coleraine v Ballymena getting featured on the BBC’s Lunchtime News was what I had in mind.

It was announced that no fans would be allowed in to grounds by one Minister, before Arlene Foster overruled her.

The worst aspect of this wasn’t the actual decision, but the way it was handled and communicated.

There quite a lot of MLAs in Stormont who follow football. I know that, because they are usually telling everybody about it when a team in their constituency wins something, or if Northern Ireland look like they have a chance of qualifying for a tournament. 

Surely someone would have raised their hands and pointed out there was a football match on Friday night? You know, so that any decision could be made well in advance of that.

I just turn up for a match and go home, I’m not au fait with matchday operations. I do know one thing, a match might start at a certain time, but the matchday starts a lot earlier.

To make an announcement midway through an event was crass and disrespectful.

If Coleraine were acting on the side of caution and evict those in the ground and not let people outside in, only to find out that they didn’t need to do it, imagine the shitstorm that would have been, costing them money because they’ve been mislead and shafted by those whose job it is to guide them.

On Saturday morning, people still didn’t know if they could go to the game.

Decision makers seem to think that football fans sit in the house until 2pm on a Saturday and then go to the ground. Everybody is different and people have different plans and arrangements for Saturday mornings and lunchtimes, they would like to know if a football match will be part of their afternoon.

If football can’t behave themselves, it will face the consequences. The two matches I have been to this season, at two different grounds, I’ve had no problem with the arrangements and felt totally safe.

Far safer than when I go into Belfast City Centre to get some lunch from Monday to Friday, which is a complete free for all.

It’s not a case for Football v Other Sports or Football v Other Industries.

Football fans aren’t asking for full stadiums, just an opportunity to make small steps towards it. The emphasis on small.

Football fans know how much there is too much to lose by not complying so they do comply with Social Distancing instrustions. The rest of society can learn a lot from that.

A group of fuckwits can spread themselves across a footpath in Belfast City Centre because they know they’ll get the opportunity to do likewise the next day. That’s why people have had pubs taken away from them. That’s why there’s no Christmas Market.

Eventually, some day, the penny will drop.

So, no Ballymena for me. Crusaders, we’ll wait and see.

Remember, wear a mask, stay the fuck away from others, use your brains.

Do that, and we can all be in a football ground a lot quicker.

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2 thoughts on “LINFIELD 5-1 CARRICK RANGERS 17.10.2020

  1. Pingback: LINFIELD 2-1 CRUSADERS 30.10.2020 | Analogue Boy In A Digital World

  2. Pingback: 2020 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER | Analogue Boy In A Digital World

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