Just as with the trip to The Oval three days earlier, this match was never going to decide the destination of the Gibson Cup as early leaders Cliftonville headed to Windsor Park, but it was certainly a case of do not lose, as Linfield can’t afford to let Cliftonville start opening up a lead at the top of the table through the Winter months as they did in 2012-2013.
They didn’t lose it, but there was a sense of frustration at not getting the win, especially after having an early lead.
That early lead was given to them by Jordan Stewart, who fired home after got in behind Cliftonville’s defence, but was too wide to shoot, instead setting it up for Stewart to score.
“Hit it first time, what are you doing?” I shouted as Stewart controlled the ball, before he showed exactly why he plays for Linfield and I am sat in the stand.
Chadwick was one of two changes to Linfield’s team from Tuesday night. Not particularly surprising.
With the quick turnaround in games, Matt Green was never going to start both of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if this arrangement was in place before Tuesday night’s game. With Jamie Mulgrew injured, Cameron Palmer was always going to be the one to come in for him.
Ironically, Jamie Mulgrew was the cover star of the matchday programme as he was interviewed for it. And he didn’t even play.
Joe Gormley looked like he was going to get an equaliser when some sloppy passing from Linfield allowed him a shot from a wide angle, but his shot was blocked by Jimmy Callacher.
Jordan Stewart then had Linfield’s next attacking moment of note when he set himself up on the edge of the penalty area but instead of the expected blast, looked to lob Cliftonville’s keeper, but the ball just went over.
Linfield had plenty of other attacking moments with a Stephen Fallon effort that went over and a Matthew Clarke header that went across the goal.
Frustratingly, neither effort forced Cliftonville’s keeper into a save.
There was also a penalty appeal when Cameron Palmer was bundled over as he entered the penalty area. A soft one, but a penalty for me. One of those that would have been given anywhere else on the pitch.
Despite that, it was still a satisfactory half from Linfield, though they needed that second goal to give them a cushion.
And so it proved, just before the hour when Joe Gormley headed home from a cross.
Matt Green and Niall Quinn were immediately brought on for Billy Chadwick and Kirk Millar. In the case of Green, it wasn’t reactive, he was being warmed up in the minutes prior to Gormley’s goal.
Unsurprisingly, Cliftonville were perked up by their equaliser. Even though they didn’t have a clear goalscoring opportunity. they were having too much of the ball in Linfield’s final third.
Linfield responded by bringing on Martin Donnelly and Ahmad Salam, neither were able to make an impression.
For the second time in three games, Linfield were let down by poor set pieces. Even though Mark Haughey and Mark Stafford, two massive threats, have left the club, even they would have struggled due to the amount of balls into the box going straight to the keeper or not beating the first man.
In games that are tight, or where not a lot is being created in open play, opportunities like this have to be maximised when presented.
As the game entered it’s final minutes, Linfield’s best opportunities came when Matthew Clarke had a shot from the left saved, while Stephen Fallon fired agonisingly wide from a tight angle.
Chris Johns then had to race out to deny Paul O’Neill as he was played through, getting there first before the attacker.
The match finished 1-1, not ideal for either side but better for Cliftonville than it was for Linfield.
As the clock ran down, Cliftonville fans were signing about their side being top of the League. Sadly, they weren’t made to look silly, as the draw meant that they would finish the weekend in that position, regardless of other results.
Other results over the weekend weren’t ideal for either side, with both Glentoran and Larne winning. Carrick Rangers won to leapfrog Linfield and go into 3rd.
All those teams will be putting their feet up on the Monday night for the final game of the weekend’s fixture list between Coleraine and Crusaders, live on Sky Sports, hoping for a draw.
As this game meant I had a free Saturday, so I went on Saturday morning to Cavehill for a walk. Mainly, because I hadn’t been for a while and not because you can see both clubs grounds halfway up.
What a shambles. The Car Park was closed, but the barriers weren’t up until you got there, meaning I had to turn around and do a 3 Point Turn around cars parked on double yellow lines and basically anywhere where there was a space in order to turn around.
At least the amount of Linfield games moved to Fridays over the next few months will give me more opportunities to go to Cavehill.
One of those won’t be next Saturday hopefully, with the game against Carrick Rangers still on and not postponed due to International Call-Ups.
If it was, I had a back-up option of Harland and Wolff Welders v Dergview, the first game at Blanchflower Park.
The ground will be completed in time, but it won’t get a safety certificate in time, so the game has been switched. That means i’ll have to wait until November to visit.
So hopefully, the game against Carrick goes ahead, to avoid another free Saturday.
Before Carrick, is a game against Ards in the County Antrim Shield, with the winner at home to Dundela in the next round. If only that was away, i’d have been well up for that. Obviously, we still have to beat Ards.
It has also been announced that the Hugh Street Voucher will be accepted at Windsor Park, which is a handy option to have.
To be honest, i’d a bit uncomfortable with some of the economic gaslighting in the media. “You must spent here, you must spend there, you must go back into the office and go out for lunch, it’s your moral duty to go to the pub”.
It’s your money, you spend it how you like, although it is great that the Linfield Superstore is an option.
Up next in the League, title chasing Carrick Rangers come to Windsor Park. Let’s hope Linfield can put in a performance and pull off an upset.
And we’ll have Christy Manzinga back.