LINFIELD 0-0 LARNE 23.4.2022

Another weekend, another draw, another mixture of relief and frustration.

All the excitement was at Seaview, all the tension was at Windsor Park.

It all meant that Linfield and Cliftonville are as you were going into the final match of the season.

The kick-off was put back to teatime to accommodate live broadcast at relatively late notice of just over a week before.

BBC were waiting to see if one of those sides could pull clear to the point that they could win the League. It turned out they were still neck and neck, so they decided to show both games.

The title could have bee decided today in Linfield’s favour if they won and Cliftonville lost. Linfield just had to concentrate on their own game.

Linfield lined up with the same starting eleven as at Seaview on the Tuesday night, meaning that Ethan Devine was on the bench despite his latest goalscoring heroics.

He would still be lurking ominously on the bench should Linfield need him.

Devine made up what was a rather balanced Linfield bench. Two wide men, two strikers, one midfielder, one defender and a keeper. Somebody to come on in any situation.

Linfield had the first attack of note in the game, when Eetu Vertainen was able to get a shot in but it was easily saved by Rohan Ferguson.

There was a lot of early pressure from Linfield, having a lot of the ball in Larne’s final third. They really needed to make this count.

Eetu Vertainen then had a penalty appeal turned down. I didn’t think it was when watching the match but I can see why there were appeals. It was a challenged best described as untidy.

Linfield were soon dealt a blow when Jamie Mulgrew had to go off injured, replaced by Kyle McClean.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, with Larne eventually making their way to the opposite end of the pitch when Mark Randall had a shot which needed to be tipped over by Chris Johns.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield had a flurry of corners, four on a row but none of them brought a goal. Linfield needed to ram it home when they were on top.

0-0 at half-time but no need to panic, but there was a need to step it up.

Especially as news emerged that Cliftonville were 1-0 up at Seaview, a result that was putting them top with a game to go, leaving Linfield fans with the prospect of, and I feel dirty even typing it, having to cheer on Glentoran next Saturday.

More of Windsor Park being opened up meant a long awaited return to watching the second-half from the quadrant between the South and Railway Stands.

In the opening minutes of the second-half, Ben Hall had a header saved from a corner.

Even though we hadn’t played an hour, Ethan Devine was being warmed up, eventually coming on for Jake Hastie as Linfield went with two up front.

Devine’s reputation as a supersub was enough to rev up the crowd.

They were even more revved up when Chris Johns took a goal kick so good that everybody started cheering and celebrating.

Of course, this is the time of year when cheers and celebration can happen at random moments due to events elsewhere. It could only mean one thing, Crusaders had equalised against Cliftonville.

There were two more cheers. I don’t have data on my phone to check, but I overhead somebody in front of me saying it was now 3-1 to Crusaders and showing them their phone.

That meant, if the score stayed the way it was, Linfield would win the League if they won this match.

Eetu Vertainen had a shot saved as Linfield searched for that vital goal.

However, it was Larne who had the best chance of the game when the ball was pulled back to Davy McDaid and he fired over when he should have scored.

Thoughts turned to that scare at Warrenpoint last month before winning. You can’t survive something like that and not get three points.

Those three points were made even more important when the sold out allocation of 81 tickets in the North Stand started cheering and chanting “You’re not singing anymore” to indicate that Cliftonville had pulled it back to 3-3 at Seaview.

Inver/Solitude Relations had suddenly improved over the past week.

Linfield responded by bringing on Chris McKee and Ahmed Salam to try and get a winner, but the closest they came was an Ethan Devine header that went agonisingly wide.

Larne were able to hold out for a 0-0 draw. Linfield were the better team but didn’t do enough to win.

The lack of any cheers from either set of fans suggested that things had finished 3-3 at Seaview, which turned out to be the case.

Another Weekend where Linfield and Cliftonville fans were left with a mixture of frustration and relief.

It reminded me of Matchday 37 in 2018 when both Crusaders and Coleraine drew their matches meaning it went to the final game.

The good omen for Linfield if that the team who started the final day top won and won the League.

A repeat would be nice, though i’m not sure my nerves could take going 1-0 down as Crusaders did that day.

Another good omen for Linfield is that last season, they fluffed their lines against Larne and then out it right to clinch the title in their next match against Coleraine, who Linfield play next.

There are also bad omens from history, but let’s not talk about them.

Talking about fluffing lines, Newry City did that in the Championship as well, delaying their promotion by a week barring a ridiculous goal swing.

One more game to go.

It would be nice if Linfield could go 4-0 up inside the first minute and give us a relaxing evening.

European football has been secured. So important with those ranking points from 2019 still in the bank. That means it’s even more important to be in the European Cup.

You may complain about this team dragging our emotions all over the place every weekend, but you’ll miss it over the next three months.

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