This was not a scoreline many people saw coming at 3pm, certainly not at 3.13pm when Christy Manzinga put them 1-0 up, as Linfield ended up being both relieved and frustrated when other scores were being digested at 5pm.
The Top 6 faced the Bottom 6 on this matchday, and the weekend got off to a surprise start when Ballymena United beat Larne 2-1 on Friday night, presenting Linfield with an opportunity to pull further clear of them ahead of the trip to Larne six days after this game.
As the Linfield starting eleven was announced, it was a bit of a challenge trying to work out the formation, as the team picked itself due to a combination of injuries and suspensions.
The early minutes of the game saw Linfield having a lot of the ball trying to break Warrenpoint down. It looked like this was going to be the theme of the afternoon.
Inside the first five minutes, it looked like Linfield might be getting a much needed opener when Christy Manzinga got in behind Warrenpoint’s defence, albeit from a wide position, hitting a low shot that Conor Mitchell could only parry, but thankfully for him, there were no attacking players anywhere near who could take advantage of it.
Jordan Stewart then hit the top of the crossbar, before Christy Manzinga got in behind Warrenpoint’s defence to fire home. As soon as he was through on goal, you were already celebrating as there was only going to be one outcome, and we were not disappointed.
Even at this early stage, it was looking like a matter of how many Linfield would win this by.
When the sides met in October, Linfield got an early goal and kicked on, going 3-0 up quite quickly and killing the game.
However, it was Warrenpoint who kicked on, spending more time in Linfield’s half than they had previously. One of those attacks resulted in a free-kick being won on the edge of the box which was smashed home by Jonathan Leddy.
This was not supposed to happen. From being in charge of the game, Linfield now had to go out an win it again.
The response was the same as at the start of the game, lots of possession with Warrenpoint happy to lay down the challenge to Linfield to break them down.
There was almost an instant response when the ball fell to Kyle McClean, having just scored his second goal for Linfield nearly three years after his first. However, there would be no third goal for him, with Conor Mitchell making an excellent save from his fierce shot.
For the rest of the half, Linfield were restricted to long range shots as the sides went in at half-time level.
If it was 1-0 to Linfield at half-time, you would be satisfied with a job well done, now go out and finish the job.
That goal for Warrenpoint changed the game so much, it was now about trying to win the game rather than finish off their opponents, but there was still 45 minutes to do that.
It would be Chris Johns who would be the busier keeper in the early minutes of the second-half, making two outstanding saved to keep Linfield level.
A header from Jimmy Callacher was the closest Linfield came to going back in front, hitting the post and lying around the six yard box, with no Linfield player able to follow it up.
Linfield had a lot of possession and a lot of set pieces, but as excited as the crowd got when the ball was being placed in the quadrant for a corner, they never really looked like scoring.
Just as against Carrick, it was looking like a moment of stupidity from the defending team, or a moment of brilliance from the attacking team to break the deadlock.
And just as against Carrick, neither of those scenarios looked like happening.
In fact, it was Chris Johns who was the busier keeper, having to readjust his body to stop a goalbound effort which took a massive deflection.
Throughout the season, i’ve commented on how fantastic Johns has been. Usually, it has been through commanding his box as set pieces and nullifying attacks instantly. Today, he was being given an opportunity to showcase his shotstopping skills.
It was a tale of two Clarkes for Linfield as they went searching for a late winner.
With a lack of experienced attacking options on the bench, Linfield brought on Andrew Clarke from the bench, hoping he would have his own Federico Macheda Moment. Joining him from the bench was Niall Quinn, hoping to set up that winner, or maybe get one himself.
Matthew Clarke had a shot from a wide angle go over before, in injury time, the ball fell to Andrew Clarke, the day before his birthday.
If the scenario was a perfect set-up. the actual chance wasn’t, unable to get room for a clean connection, he scuffed the ball wide.
With 92 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, that was Linfield’s last chance to win the game gone with only three minutes of injury time awarded, a ridiculous amount considering how much timewasting was done by Warrenpoint.
The usual trick, wanting to restart the game with the ball that went out, not the ball they’ve been given by a Ballboy, aided by a Referee making as little effort to enforce the rules as a Shop or Pub enforcing Covid Regulations.
As the final whistle blew, Linfield fans were left to digest a set of results that not many people would have seen coming.
It was a point gained on Coleraine and Larne, but they missed the opportunity to jump above Cliftonville outright with a game in hand. Even though Cliftonville didn’t take advantage of Linfield’s slip, it was still frustrating not to send out a message of intent to a Cliftonville side who have gone four away games without a win, and would have been feeling doubts after their impressive start.
The big winners, were Glentoran and Crusaders.
Glentoran are now level on points with Linfield. Even though they are on a winning run, it is worth pointing out that on this run, they haven’t beaten a side higher than 6th in that run.
Linfield found out the hard, as they have twice already this season, that Bottom Half teams still have to be beaten.
Somehow, Crusaders are still in the title race despite suffering six defeats. If they win their game in hand, they will be four points off the top.
Even more amazingly, they’ve won the same amount of games as Linfield.
The answer is simple, draws can kill you. A win and a defeat is better than two draws. Basic maths.
After saying that draws can kill you, if Linfield win their game in hand it would put them one point clear of Cliftonville, because they would have six draws and one defeat compared with Cliftonville’s five draws and two defeats.
A sense of perspective is perhaps needed after this result. It came after a four game winning run where Linfield gained seven points over Cliftonville. The frustrating thing is, it feels like it undid the win over Coleraine.
If the results were switched and Linfield got four points from a draw at Coleraine and a win over Warrenpoint Town, you would have taken that.
There won’t be an opportunity to take any frustration over this result out on Warrenpoint Town until March, when they meet again in Matchday 33, a handy progress point in the season, the last game before the split.
There’s still another Matchday before they play that game in hand.
That comes on Friday night, away to Larne on BBC Two. After a bit of a kerfuffle, I sorted myself out for tickets. Larne’s website only worked when I changed my Dad’s ticket order to full price rather than concession despite being eligible for a concession. That’s probably why they have so much money.
We are due a win there? Right? Of course, if we do get something there, we’ll have to earn it, but what an opportunity this is if they can get the win, to pull clear of Larne and sit on top of the table as Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders and Glentoran are tucking into their Corn Flakes* (*Other cereals are available) on Saturday morning.
A draw wouldn’t be a disaster, but too many draws can kill you.
This match being moved to a Friday night means that i’ll have a free Saturday, which i’m planning to spend visiting Harland and Wolff Welders new ground for the first time. It’s been a long long wait.
Finally, the morning of this match saw Linfield release their 3rd kit, worn only once in the Euro Conference. It is such a good kit, I wish we would wear it more often. It’s a quality kit.
The only chance to wear it domestically would be if we drew Armagh City away in the Irish Cup, but Armagh City are out of the Irish Cup.
Might ask Santa nicely to get it for me.