No goals, but still plenty of talking points, as Linfield’s attempts to get back to winning ways after losing their perfect start to the season enduring a frustrating afternoon in Lurgan, as part of a combination of results that were celebrated by both North Belfast teams.
There were a few familiar faces in the Glenavon squad. Joining Daniel Wallace, Sean Ward and Robert Garrett in the starting eleven were two of their three Summer signings from Linfield, Mark Haughey and Andrew Waterworth, with Mark Stafford on the bench.
Linfield’s former number 7 started the game on the pitch, but their current number 7 began on the bench alongside Jamie Mulgrew, with David Healy shuffling his team around ahead of a busy run of three games in six days.
Those changes resulted in first League starts for Ahmad Salam and Martin Donnelly.
Despite spending most of the opening minutes in Glenavon’s half, that was really as good as it got for Linfield as an attacking force.
Any time they got in behind Glenavon, there was usually a heavy touch or too many bodies in defence or not enough bodies offering support.
Glenavon had a Mark Hughey header go over as their best moment in a first-half that was a bit of a non event. Both defences were on top and you never believed that a goal was coming when either team got into their attacking third.
If the first-half didn’t have much incident of note, that was remedied in the opening minute of the second-half with an incident that resulted in a double red card, with Andrew Doyle stood on Christy Manzinga who kicked out in return. Doyle seemed intend on continuing the conversation as both players headed to the dressing room
A big blow in terms of the match, but the next two matches as well, as Linfield will be without a key player and one of their main attacking threats ahead of the Tuesday-Friday double header.
For the next ten or twenty minutes, you would have thought it was eleven v ten in Linfield’s favour as they appeared to react better to their loss than Glenavon, being camped in their half, being roared on by fans standing behind the goal.
It looked like there was going to be an instant breakthrough when the ball was pulled back for Cameron Palmer to strike, but his low goalbound shot was blocked by a defender.
Sensing that Linfield were now on top for the first time in the game, David Healy introduced some attacking substitutions, with Matt Green, Kirk Millar and Jamie Mulgrew entering the action.
Millar almost made the breakthrough when a cross came in perfectly for him to volley, which he did, only for a defender to get in the way and take the sting out of the shot, being easily caught by Glenavon’s keeper.
It had to be. His legs were wide open. If he didn’t catch the ball, they were going through them for an embarrassing goal that would give Linfield the lead.
That should have been a sign of things to come. When things are going your way, that slides under the keepers legs and the floodgates open.
Mike Newberry then had a volley fly over after the ball dropped to him at a set piece. Again, when things are going your way, that smashes into the back of the net.
One of the biggest frustrations for Linfield was the quality of set pieces, and they had a lot of them.
More often than not, not beating the first man, or not getting to the second ball.
In a game where Linfield were not creating a lot of clear chances in open play, they simply had to make the most of set pieces when they came.
Jordan Stewart and Billy Chadwick were brought on, to offer more attacking support as Linfield searched for a winner.
There was to be more frustration for Linfield as Matt Green flicked a header just wide from a corner.
You felt it was coming despite the clock running down. You only need seconds to score a goal.
There was a worry that it might come for Glenavon. It was one of those unwritten rules.
After spending most of the second-half playing for a draw, Glenavon decided they quite fancied winning the game.
Even though Linfield had sniffed out their danger all game, you just felt that Glenavon would score in the final minutes when they started to attack.
There was no evidence to back up that worry, it’s just one of those things. You know what I mean. I haven’t explained it properly, but you know exactly what I mean.
Thankfully, Linfield were able to continue to frustrate any Glenavon ambitions of scoring, going straight on the counter attack as the game became end to end, as if it was Goal The Winner in the school playground.
By now, Jimmy Callacher was basing himself further and further upfield to the point he was practically a centre forward.
Nobody could provide him with the cross to score. Nobody could provide anybody with a pass to score.
Despite all the possession and pressure in the second-half, Linfield couldn’t work a clear goalscoring opportunity.
There wasn’t a moment when you felt that Glenavon’s keeper made a great save or that a Linfield attacker had a shocking miss.
It has happened in the past, and will happen in the future, that Linfield will play worse than this and win.
In relation to Glentoran and Larne, the result wasn’t that fatal, with Glentoran losing 3-0 at home to Crusaders, and Larne drawing 0-0 at home to Carrick Rangers in a teatime kick-off.
The way that the day had gone, you just knew that Larne were going to draw.
However, there are teams other than Glentoran and Larne that Linfield should be focusing on.
Cliftonville have taken advantage of having a full schedule by getting points on board and sit six points clear.
Famous last words, I don’t think they’ll finish that way.
You can’t truly assess a league table until everybody has played each other, and they still have to face Linfield, Larne and Glenavon.
However, they got the points on the board early on in 2012-2013 and lay down a challenge to the rest of the league to catch them. We simply can’t let them get further ahead.
Coleraine have recovered from a poor start to sit in 2nd, no surprise there.
They sit ahead of Crusaders on goal difference, whose seven points against Cliftonville, Larne and Glentoran suggest they might be better than I thought they were based on their showing at Windsor Park on the opening day.
Up next for Linfield is a trip to The Oval, 6th against 7th, a mid table battle you could say.
The table is so tight that the winner can jump up to 2nd depending how Larne’s visit to Mourneview Park on the same night ends up. There’s no reason why that can’t be Linfield. Truthfully, between me and you, I think this game has 0-0 written all over it.
After two successive defeats in big games, Glentoran will be there for the taking. We simply cannot let them settle. We must be asking them the questions and not giving them a chance to answer.
That is followed three days later with a home game against Cliftonville, live on BBC Two.
It’s not an ideal schedule, but when you’re winning, you’ll want to play every day.
This is a great short term goal, win two games and shoot up five places and start breathing down Cliftonville’s necks, giving the rest of the League something to think about while having their Saturday morning Corn Flakes*
*Other breakfast cereals are available.
Ultimately, this was a frustrating day for Linfield. If they played the second-half for the entire game, they might have worn Glenavon down.
They’ll play worse and win at some point in the season, but they’ll have to play a lot better throughout the season if they want to win more often throughout the season.