A train trip to Dublin was what Linfield supporters were hoping for this weekend, but they ended up having to do the train trip to Coleraine that was originally scheduled. However, wins are fun wherever you get them, even if this one was the dictionary definition of grinding one out.

That train journey for me began at Great Victoria Street, in order to get a table. I seriously hope this new Belfast Transport Hub has wider platforms. While I was waiting to get onto my train, there were two trains getting off at the same platform, not a brain cell on board. People were expecting me to jump onto the tracks to give them room instead of walking around me.

Making it to Coleraine, to be greeted by the team news, surprise perhaps, of a first start of the season for Kyle McClean, in only his third appearance back after long-term injury.

It was a change that resulted in a change of formation for Linfield, from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3/4-5-1.

Linfield had the first opportunity of the game when a Ahmed Salam free-kick forced Gareth Deane into a save, while Christy Manzinga dispossessed a defender and ran towards goal but didn’t take the shooting opportunity when it was there.

Coleraine had their own opportunities, with Patrick Kelly creating space in the box to shoot, but Chris Johns was well placed to make a save.

Throughout the first-half, Linfield were sloppy in possession, giving it away too easily and cheaply, presenting Coleraine attacking opportunities.

It felt like it was only going to be a matter of time before Linfield gifted Coleraine a goal.

And so it proved. A corner resulting from an attack which started from cheaply lost possession was headed home by Rodney Brown to put Coleraine 1-0 up.

To say that going 1-0 down to a team unbeaten since August was not ideal was a bit of an understatement.

Linfield almost had an instant response when the ball was pulled back to Kyle McClean but he pulled his shot wide.

It almost got worse for Linfield when their defenders backed off Jamie Glackin and invited him to shoot, his shot going just wide.

Just as Linfield fans were feeling relived at going in at half-time only 1-0 down, the game swung in their side’s favour.

The ball fell to Kirk Millar after a challenge, and he was able to cut in an shoot, hitting the bar before the ball fell perfectly for Christy Manzinga to put the ball into the empty net, with Gareth Deane unable to get back into position after trying to save Millar’s shot.

It was Linfield’s first real attacking moment of quality, and it resulted in a goal. Barely deserved, but they’ll take it.

If Linfield fans were relieved to be going in at half-time level, things almost got better for them in the final minutes of the half, when a cross from Kirk Millar fell to Matthew Clarke went just over the bar.

The shot worried Gareth Deane enough to dive for it, his momentum lifting the netting up briefly and the ball almost ended up in the back of the net in unorthodox circumstances.

Older supporters were denied the opportunity to see Coleraine get their long await comeuppance for their ghost goal in the 1980s.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Linfield went in front when Stephen Fallon won possession and got space to shoot so decided to fire home from outside the box.

It took a while for the game to restart due to Coleraine players protesting about the goal.

I was stood on the Terrace between the Stand and the Shed where away fans were based, so I didn’t get a clear view of the goal. I couldn’t see what they were protesting so furiously about.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one, as people around me were confused as to what they were protesting about.

What the protest was about, was that Coleraine felt that the ball hit the Referee before Stephen Fallon got the ball.

Having reviewed the TV footage, I can’t see it. I’m not being biased, I just can’t see it. I do agree with Oran Kearney that the Referee’s positioning was poor in the incident.

Eventually, the game restarted. Thankfully, although I wasn’t quite starting to worry about not making the 5.19pm train home.

If it did hit the Referee, he would have known about it, and he wouldn’t have been slow in doing so, especially as there was a window of opportunity between Fallon getting the ball and scoring in which to do so.

Coleraine were spurred on by their perceived sense of injustice, going all out for an equaliser.

Matthew Shevlin, formerly of Linfield, was usually involved in that search, first of all, hitting the top of the bar from a header

Then, he looked set to benefit from Linfield’s own doing, almost losing possession on their own goal line when a backpass to Chris Johns was cleared under pressure from Jamie Glackin, falling perfectly to Shevlin.

It looked certain he was going to score, especially in the form he has been in this season, but he fired over. It was a let-off for Linfield.

Linfield weren’t helping themselves with their defending at times, but even when they did, they couldn’t clear the ball, with clearances being blown back towards their goal by the wind.

Yes, even the wind is against us. I’m writing an angry letter to Michael Fish about this.

The Coleraine chances kept coming, a header just over onto the roof of the net, while Chris Johns was forced to make himself big and save a shot from point blank range.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though, Linfield having attacking moments of their own. A lot of them were shots blocked just as they got into Coleraine’s final third.

The best of those attacking moments was a shot from Chris Shields which went just wide.

In the final minute of injury time, Coleraine had one last attempt at goal, a low speculative shot from outside the box which took a deflection. Just before you could moan about losing two points in such a cruel way, the ball landed safely in the arms of Chris Johns. No need to panic.

As we were now over the allotted amount of injury time, all Linfield had to do was clear the ball as far away from their own goal and that would be that.

If you want somebody to kick for touch in injury time and secure the win, who better than the son of an ex Rugby player.

And so it proved, the final kick of the game, securing the three points for Linfield.

It was a three points Linfield had to work very hard for. They were up for the challenge.

This was the sort of game that pundits say you look back on in May, but wins in November and December are worthless if they’re not followed up with wins in January, February and March.

You don’t really see the Irish League table take shape until 22 games in.

So far this season, it’s been the Top 6 all in close proximity to each other, but postponed games have meant we haven’t been able to see what the table truly looks like.

Crusaders are starting to get cut adrift after defeats to Ballymena United and Glenavon.

Linfield have now got a bit of a gap from Coleraine, but they will know from last season that they are a hard team to shake off.

However, it is Cliftonville who lead the table, although Linfield have a game in hand on them.

All they can do is keep winning to put the pressure on them. Up next, Warrenpoint Town at home.

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One thought on “COLERAINE 1-2 LINFIELD 4.12.2021

  1. Pingback: 2021 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR ….) | Analogue Boy In A Digital World

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