If, as the saying goes, a week is a long time in Politics, then the same (well, eight days) can be said about Football as Linfield regained top spot in the Irish League.
It is easy to moan about scraping a 1-0 win against Portadown, but if Glentoran had managed it ten days previously, they’d be sitting two points clear at the top of the table.
Glentoran’s visit to Larne on the Friday night was always going to be part of the narrative of this game.
Honestly, i’d expected Linfield’s task would be to keep up with Glentoran. I’d hoped it would be cutting the gap. The chance to overtake them provided by Larne’s win was most welcome.
Although, Linfield could have been kicking off this game in 3rd, if Cliftonville had beaten Dungannon Swifts, but that match was postponed, meaning that they have two games that need rearranged, the other being a match against Warrenpoint Town on the week of the League Cup Final.
There was no Christy Manzinga in the starting eleven for Linfield, giving Eetu Vertainen a first start alongside Chris McKee as people were trying to work out the formation which turned out to be 3-5-2 with Jake Hastie as wing-back in the absence of a recognised left-back.
Told you we should have given Ryan McGivern a new contract.
It took just sixteen seconds for Hastie to be involved, finding himself free in a crossing position but the ball went out for a goal kick.
Linfield were getting a lot of joy out left, so it was no surprise they were looking to exploit that, with Hastie and Jordan Stewart having most of the ball in the early stages trying to work an opening as the game started to resemble Attack v Defence.
Chris Shields flicked an effort wide from a corner while Chris McKee had an effort go wide as Linfield searched for an opener.
On a day like this, getting a 1-0 lead as soon as possible would be key, although it was still too early to start panicking that this would be a repeat of the 1-1 draw at Windsor Park in 2017 (five years and two days ago)
Thankfully, the goal came, when Jake Hastie crossed the ball into what Commentators call “The corridor of uncertainty” and the ball ending up in the back of the net.
Who of? was the question, as Chris McKee and Michael Ruddy went for the ball with Jethren Barr, with some media outlets giving it as an own goal before TV footage confirmed it was McKee.
McKee certainly celebrated it as if it was his goal, sending out a pre-emptive message to the Dubious Goals Committee.
Now that Linfield had the lead, they had to push on and get a second to kill the game.
It looked like that was going to come when a neat passing move saw Eetu Vertainen be set up to fire home, only for a Portadown defender to block him and deny him a Goal Of The Season contender.
1-0 at half-time, a satisfactory 45 minutes for Linfield.
The need for a second goal became more and more emphasised when Portadown began to cross the halfway line in the second-half, with Adam Salley having an effort go over.
Despite not creating a clear opportunity, Portadown were almost gifted a goal when a backheader from Jimmy Callacher looked to have left Chris Johns stranded, but in truth, Johns claimed it easily, the view from the opposite side of the ground made it look worse than it actually was.
Callacher was having a frustrating day at the other end, loitering with intent at set pieces but often finding himself frustrated with the outcome.
Jake Hastie was taking most of them, usually firing the ball into the six yard box or penalty spot, forcing Portadown to worry a lot.
Ironically though, it was a Jordan Stewart corner that almost brought a second goal, with a Stephen Fallon header just going wide.
Ethan Devine then came on for Eetu Vertainen, before a double change saw Ahmed Salam and Kieron Evans come on for Chris McKee and Jake Hastie.
Evans showed some decent touches in his brief cameo.
Kyle McClean had an even briefer cameo, coming on in injury time for Jordan Stewart as Linfield looked to see out the win.
With five minutes of injury time indicated, the final minutes were going to be nervous for Linfield, although they will have been used to on visits to Windsor Park for League matches since the start of November, with all bar one game being a one goal win for Linfield or a draw, meaning the game was up for grabs in the final minutes.
The only two goal was was secured with a goal in the last five minutes. A whopping five minutes of relaxation.
It looked like Linfield might get a second goal when Ethan Devine had a shooting chance, but he dragged his shot wide because the Quadrant inbetween the North and Railway Stands.
If you can’t score, that’s the best place to miss, denying Portadown an opportunity to get the game restarted as soon as possible.
There would be no late scare for Linfield seeing the game out for a 1-0 win, a welcome clean sheet after five games without one.
Elsewhere, Crusaders beat Carrick Rangers, meaning they will be seven points off the top if they win their game in hand. Linfield, Glentoran and Cliftonville just can’t seem to get rid of them.
I got my Northern Ireland Campaign Card sorted for the Euro 2024 and UEFA Nations League games, and i’ve moved from The Kop to the Railway Stand as The Kop has gone “A bit Holyland”.
I don’t want to be that guy, but i’m right. Being so pissed at 6pm you can barely walk is embarrassing, and i’m fed up of not being able to breathe while watching the game due to cigarette and vape smoke.
That is despite having a signposted and dedicated area for their trampy lifestyle choice.
Don’t give me “Oh, but they’re sick and they can’t help it”. Bullshit. They’re not, and they can get help.
It takes a special kind of scumbag to have people go out of their way and accommodate them, and then turn around and say it’s not good enough.
Being in the Railway Stand also means I won’t have to walk all the way to Boucher Road to get in, which is handy.
One of those games might be against Estonia, where I am considering visiting in May, flying from Dublin. Just looking at it at the moment, also try to take in a football match of one of the Tallin teams. We shall see.
To be honest, it’s not Covid 19 that is the worry there, it’s that Estonia is “A bit close to the action” if it all kicks off in Eastern Europe.
Also celebrating a victory was the UK, who scored a resounding 20-0 win over Covid with all twenty goals coming from Boris Johnson, every one of them he got the ball and skinned their entire team.
As a responsible adult, I feel that I should speak up and say a few things.
Covid is not over, it’s just that your Government has decided to stop pretending to give a shit.
Language is so important, but let me spell it out. Being politely asked to wear a mask when going into a shop is not, and I repeat, IS NOT A FUCKING RESTRICTION.
Being asked to isolate when you have an infections virus, IS NOT A FUCKING RESTRICTION.
Bill Bailey summed it up perfectly with his routine about how the Nazis loved mildly inconveniencing people.
Softest lockdown in Europe, and people still felt they were oppressed.
There were a lot of media outlets who had the brass neck to get outraged at events at Wembley in July.
When you spent the early months of 2021 pushing a narrative of “We’re all going to go mad when this is over” then come early summer run weeks of headlines of “Freedom Day”, that is what you get.
That is why language is so important.
This is the worst possible time of the Pandemic, the absolute worst in society have been egged on and emboldened to believe they can behave how they feel, leaving everybody else to pick up the pieces.
Let us never forget, that this country as a collective, told old and vulnerable people to fuck off and die because The Court Of Popular Opinion found them guilty of closing pubs.
We are a country paralysed by our obsession with Pubs and War, people giving more of a shit about closed pubs and increased beer prices and closed hospital wards and increased Covid figures.
All throughout the Winter of 2020-2021, we heard more about reopening pubs than about getting The R Number down.
A nation of Grifters, Spivs and Charlatans, who all hijacked Covid for their own agendas.
Be careful who you listen to. The same people who were demanding that pubs should reopen “Because mental health” will laugh at you and taunt you if you ask for a bit of room on the footpath or if you asked them not to climb over you to get something from a supermarket shelf.
They speak from their bank balance, not their heart, in a lot of cases.
There are a lot of behaviours that were actually an issue before Covid. They’re an even bigger issue now.
Belfast people seem to have a default setting of “Nobody tells me what to do” even when what they’re being told to do is show some basic courtesy towards others.
It’s amazing how Boris Johnson is a liar who can’t be trusted, except when he says it’s ok to do things you like doing. In which case, he’s ok.
Just a reminder that just because others can get away with dropping their standards, doesn’t mean you should as well. A reference that is applicable to a certain funeral.
“We can’t be afraid and stay indoors forever”. Nobody is asking you to stay indoors. All you’re literally being asked to do is just be careful and use your brains when you go outside.
“Why should I have to stay indoors because of old people and vulnerable people? Let them shield so I can live my life”. Why should old and vulnerable people have to stay indoors because others can’t behave themselves?
We also need to knock this Economic Gaslighting on the head as well. “You must go to the pub”, “You must go to the office and go out for lunch”, “You must shop in City Centres”. It’s my money, and it’s staying in my pocket until you provide me with a safe environment to do so.
If you don’t wear a mask indoors or in a crowd, you’re very naive. That’s me being kind. There are other terms which I could use which are more accurate.
I’m not one of those people who wears a mask to protect others. I’m not that great a guy. I wear a mask to protect me from others, because nobody else is going to protect me.
If we have to “Live with Covid”, fair enough, but i’m not living with stupidity.
Having lived through Covid, I know everything that has happened, and I will challenge every bullshit historical revision in years to come.
No mask requirements, no legal need to isolate. You expect me to be jumping for joy at being exposed to Covid like this?
I’m not afraid of Covid, I just want to make sure I don’t get it. I’m not going to gamble on being in a wheelchair in my 50s or 60s with Long Covid because this country can’t behave itself.
You can do things right, or you can do things quick. We’ve decided to do things quick.
It’s like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer takes on a Max Power alter ego. “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way” to which Lisa points out that the Max Power way is the same as the wrong way, only for Homer to point out, “But faster”.
There is another Simpsons episode that sums the UK up perfectly. Home is hailed a hero for stopping a nuclear explosion by closing his eyes and pushing a button at random.
Towards the end of the episode, Homer is outed as a fraud, and one of the final shots is of a dictionary with the definition of Homer.
“To pull a Homer. To succeed despite idiocy”.
This is what we as a nation are trying to achieve.
Apologies for the brief diversion into Politics, nonsense football ramblings will resume at Carrick, where hopefully it will be third time lucky for Linfield to get a Friday night win in February.
If they do, three will be a very magic number for Linfield. That would be how many points clear they would be of Glentoran with a win, and really put the pressure on Glentoran and Cliftonville.
For many, it will be their first chance to see Linfield play at Taylor’s Avenue since the more innocent times of March 2020.
Little did we know that it would be seven months before we see our team play again.
Certainly puts the ten day gap between games after Carrick into perspective.