It wasn’t quite a Title Eliminator, there’s far too many games to go. You couldn’t call it a Title Decider, not when it was a meeting of 6th and 7th.
Neither was it a must-win game for either side, but it certainly was do not lose for either side. Linfield got the win, to get back on track after two draws.
Linfield had went into this game on a winless run against Glentoran of five games, their worst run in this fixture since August 2011 – September 2012. Three of those games were in empty stadiums, this was the first meeting between the sides where both sets of fans can attend since the first of those games in December 2019.
Linfield’s starting eleven was what many would have expected it to be after changes on Saturday against Glenavon, with Matt Green getting the nod up front in place of the suspended Christy Manzinga, who would have started.
In the opening minutes of the game, Matthew Clarke was mostly based in Glentoran’s half, and Linfield weren’t afraid to use him, his best moment being a dangerous cross that almost fell for Matt Green.
It was Glentoran who had the first chance of the game when Jay Donnelly fired wide from an angle when he should have forced the keeper into a save.
Glentoran had a series of speculative shots well saved by Chris Johns.
They weren’t any moments of worry for Linfield, but it just needed one to get lucky. The real worry was that they were getting the freedom to shoot when it was obvious that was the option they were going to take.
On 18 minutes, it was Linfield who took the lead when a clearance hit Jamie Mulgrew and fell perfectly for Matt Green who managed to work space for himself against a defender trying to stop him, setting himself up to shoot from a similar position to Jay Donnelly earlier, but firing home under the keeper.
That assist (And he’ll definitely be adding it to his stats) was Mulgrew’s last involvement in the game, going off injured to be replaced by Cameron Palmer.
Glentoran replied with a shot from Jay Donnelly that was blocked and a Gael Bigirimana snapshot that went over the bar.
Worrying moments, but Glentoran weren’t offering much in open play. As long as Linfield did nothing stupid in defence, they would be fine.
Linfield almost doubled their lead in bizarre fashion when Jordan Stewart was able to keep a stray pass in play, to fire in a cross that evaded everybody, forcing Ross Glendenning into a save, tipping the ball over for a corner.
It was only a brief respite for Glentoran, as Trai Hume headed home from the resulting corner, the only competition he had for the ball was from Jimmy Callacher. It was his first goal for the club, and what a time to get it.
Linfield were able to maintain their 2-0 lead at half-time.
They knew that Glentoran were going to go at them at the start of the second-half, which is what they did, winning a succession of corners.
That was they could offer. As long as Linfield didn’t do anything stupid, they would be fine.
There wasn’t long to wait for a goal, but it wasn’t from Glentoran pressure.
It came in bizarre fashion for Linfield, when a clearance upfield resulted in a through ball to Cameron Palmer.
He was second favourite to the ball but he still chased it, the ball going in off him after a challenge with Ross Glendenning. It was poor goalkeeping, not that any of the Linfield support cared.
Palmer had enjoyed a stroke of luck that had eluded Linfield against Glenavon a few days previously. You make your own luck, and he didn’t chase the ball, he wouldn’t have got a goal.
Even at this early stage, before the hour stage, that was three points for Linfield. There was no way Glentoran would recover from such a devastating blow so soon after entering the pitch to overcome what was already an uphill hurdle.
In fact, for the next few minutes after that goal, the scoreline was only going to go one way, with Linfield now enjoying themselves with the commanding lead., having their best spell of attacking play.
Ironic you could say, as they were 3-0 up without playing that well. Although there is a counter argument that if you restrict your opponents to long range shots and take what chances come your way, that is playing well.
Unsurprisingly, with the three points in the bag. Linfield made the most of their allotted five subs to give players a rest with the next match just three days away.
There were three games on this evening, with this date being used to catch-up on games postponed due to International Call-Ups.
Of the only game of relevance to Linfield, Larne beat Glenavon 1-0, which meant that Linfield would finish the evening in 3rd instead of 2nd (which would have been the case if Larne dropped points) after starting the evening in 7th.
Off the pitch, the week saw the unveiling of info boards on the history of Linfield and Northern Ireland as you enter Windsor Park from Lisburn Road via that bridge.
There is also some artwork done by local schoolchildren, where there was previously a mural of Northern Ireland legends.
Good to see, brightens that area up.
I didn’t get a chance to see it at the Cliftonville game as I wouldn’t head in that way on a weeknight. I look forward to checking it out on the next Saturday afternoon game.
There is a relatively quick return to The Oval for Linfield, well, sort of.
Linfield Swifts have been drawn to face their Glentoran counterparts in the Steel And Sons Cup Quarter-Final, and it’s on a Saturday when Linfield aren’t playing. Very tempting if fans are allowed in.
A very productive trip for Linfield as part of a busy week. Now all attention turned to Cliftonville at home on Friday.