I guess you could say it was Devine Intervention. A bit obvious, but it felt like it.

In a season where every point is vital, a header which turned one into three was most welcome.

Going into this game, Linfield and Cliftonville had the same amount of wins, but it was Linfield who led by a point due to drawing one more game and losing one less.

Despite that draw giving Linfield the lead, too many of them can kill you, and one here was letting Glentoran back into it and handing the initiative to Cliftonville.

If draws can kill you, so can postponements. Just ask Crusaders.

Throughout the season, they have always had games in hand. Throughout the season, wins in those games in hand could have put them five, six or seven points off the top, close enough to be considered in the title race, albeit having to do a lot of chasing.

The problem for them has been getting those games slotted in and won.

More recently, the problem for Crusaders has been losing big games, as 2022 has already seen them lose to Glentoran and Cliftonville. meaning they can no longer be considered part of the title picture.

It’s also a benchmark of sorts for Linfield, to keep clear of Cliftonville and Glentoran, they had to beat a team that had already lost to them this year.

There wasn’t long to wait for the first attack of the game, just eighty seconds after Chris McKee stretched but was unable to get on the end of a Kirk Millar pass in a counter attack after a Crusaders free-kick was cleared.

The rest of the early stages was the two teams, as Commentators say, “Feeling each other out” with no clear chances.

That was to change on twenty minutes when Chris McKee timed his run to perfection, and got onto a Ahmed Salam pass and found himself through on goal.

There was still quite a bit to go, but there was only really going to be one outcome, as he put Linfield 1-0 up.

The lead didn’t last long, as within five minutes, a flick on put Johnny McMurray through on goal and a gentle lob over Chris Johns made it 1-1 with a goal quite similar to Ben Kennedy’s goal against Linfield in November.

All the work getting in front was now undone.

Even though Linfield are unbeaten at home in the League, there is an element of frustration that the record includes four draws, all 1-1 after after going 1-0 up.

Surely this wouldn’t be another one?

Linfield would have been inspired, if you will, by the fact that the last team to score an equaliser at Windsor Park, Larne, left empty handed.

Hopefully, 2022 will be the year of Linfield killing teams off at home.

Certainly not in this first-half, a half that meandered and looked like to be going 1-1.

Frustrating, but something that could be built on.

However, things soon took a turn in Linfield’s favour when a shot from Kirk Millar was adjudged to have hit a Crusaders player’s hand.

Same drill as in the build-up to his penalty against Ballymena United three days earlier.

This was of massive importance and he simply had to score. Chris Shields perfect record was making me nervous.

I don’t know why I was nervous, as he made no mistake to put Linfield 2-1 up, and totally changing the mood and atmosphere inside Windsor Park.

However, the game was not won. That was even more evident when Ben Kennedy fired a long range shot over in the early minutes of the second-half.

Linfield had their moments in Crusaders final third but weren’t able to make the most of it.

Just before the hour, Crusaders were presented with an opportunity to equalise when they got a penalty after a handball award against Jimmy Callacher.

It was an incident similar to the Linfield penalty, so at least it was consistent so I can’t complain.

But I will because i’m a football fan.

Ben Kennedy was the man to take it, despite missing a penalty when the sides met at Seaview in November.

He almost missed this one, Johns went the right way but just couldn’t get his hand on it.

From where I was sat, I thought he did.

Back to square one.

Linfield almost responded immediately, when Eetu Vertainen worked space for himself down the right, picked out Kirk Millar whose shot was saved on the line by Jonathan Tuffey and landed straight to a Crusaders defender to clear.

Of course it did. Surely it’s not going to be one of those nights.

Linfield responded by bringing on Kieron Evans, Jordan Stewart and Mike Newberry.

With fifteen minutes to go, it looked like Stewart and Evans were going to get another lead for Linfield.

Evans was able to make space for himself to shoot, his shot was saved by Tuffey, but he couldn’t hold onto it.

Just as Jordan Stewart was setting himself up for the rebound, a shot will score and so would a pass to Ethan Devine, he found himself frustrated by a tackle from a Crusaders player.

Surely it wasn’t going to be one of those nights.

One last throw of the dice for Linfield, as Andrew Clarke came on for Eetu Vertainen.

However, it was Crusaders who had the next chance to get the fifth goal of the game which, with each passing minute, would be likely to secure the three points.

A cross fell to him, with his back to goal, and he was able to flick it up and hook it goalwards, like Zoltan Gera’s goal for Fulham against United in 2009. Yes, that’s a bit of a niche reference.

Thankfully, Chris Johns was able to save it at the expense of a corner. One point wasn’t ideal, but it was better than no points.

At the time, it felt like a big save. We just didn’t realise how big it was.

As the clock was about to hit 93 minutes, Linfield had one last attack (there was still one minute of injury time left) and won a corner.

The person sat next to me said “It’s now or never”. It turned out to be now.

Ethan Devine headed home from the corner and Windsor Park erupted. In a title race so tight where every point counts, one header which turned one point into three was celebrated in a way you would expect of a goal so important.

Although, with thirty seconds remaining, and the way the game had gone, you weren’t quite celebrating the three points yet.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to see out those remaining thirty seconds and secure a most dramatic win that caused a few sighs in North and East Belfast.

Curiously, Cliftonville and Glentoran both had a game in hand on Linfield, and they were both against Dungannon Swifts.

Glentoran got their game against them played, and managed to win 1-0.

Dungannon will be at Windsor Park as Linfield’s next opponents.

This week, Warren Feeney found himself new employment as manager of Welling United, replacing Peter Taylor.

It’s not often a former England manager gets replaced by a former Linfield manager.

Unless Watford sack Roy Hodgson and replace him with David Jeffrey.

That would be very Watford.

If you care, they play in the National League South, Sixth Tier in England. They’re trying to stay there as they’re in a relegation fight.

It’s in South London, so if there was a pre-season friendly away from home, I could base myself in Brighton.

I’m getting a bit giddy, aren’t I?

You know the list, all away – Bray, Stranraer, Brantwood and Bangor (on the day of Seaside Revival)

Forget about the Summer, it’s still a long way away.

Let’s just take it one game at a time.

As an addendum, I made the most of being off on St Patrick’s Day to go an see the new mural of George Best in Cregagh that has been doing the rounds on Social Media.

It’s a fantastic artwork, the only problem is, it’s very inaccessible, sandwiched inbetween two houses and difficult to photograph.

Even if you don’t want to take photographs and just want to look at it, it’s still very inaccessible.

Which is a pity, as it is a mural that deserves to dominate the whole area an be seen from afar.

Photo Album

One thought on “LINFIELD 3-2 CRUSADERS 11.3.2022

  1. Pingback: 2022 IN PICTURES – MARCH | Analogue Boy In A Digital World

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