Linfield blinked, but they slightly got away with it because Cliftonville blinked as well, meaning it’s as you were in the race for the Irish League title, with both sides feeling a sense of frustration and relief.

Past experience means that Linfield fans know how Cliftonville fans feel. Twice in fact.

In 1999 (Linfield 1-1 Coleraine, Glentoran 1-1 Cliftonville) and 2009 (Glentoran 3-3 Distillery, Linfield 2-2 Cliftonville), Linfield were chasing and dropped points in the run-in, only to see Glentoran had dropped points as well.

You end up relieved the gap hasn’t increased but frustrated that an opportunity to cut it or go in front wasn’t taken, because you won’t get many more.

Cliftonville went from being the frustraters to the frustrated.

The absence of Christy Manzina through injury presented a start for Jordan Stewart, hoping to kick on after recent impressive cameos.

For Glentoran, this was their last chance to push for the title now that the gap was six points and an inferior goal difference working against them as well. Defeat would theoretically, if not mathematically finish them off.

Ending Glentoran’s title challenge wasn’t Linfield’s main aim, it was boosting their own. Things can be a bit distracting when there are three teams in the race. It was about keeping ahead of Cliftonville.

The scheduling of this game gave Linfield the opportunity to do just that, and really put the pressure on Cliftonville.

Well, the pressure would have been on Cliftonville anyway regardless of the result, but a Linfield win would have left them with no margin for error.

Inside the opening minutes, some decent passing out the left worked space for Matthew Clarke but his cross to Kirk Millar was cut out by a defender. A good promising early opening.

From then on, Glentoran had a lot of the ball but not really doing a lot with it. Linfield were getting a lot of goal kicks from overhit passes by Glentoran.

No need to panic, but it did need to get sorted. Far too often Linfield were losing the ball as soon as they were winning it.

Michael O’Connor hit the outside of the post from a corner while Jay Donnelly was unable to connect with a through ball. Things were getting very concerning for Linfield.

Even more concerning when Conor McMenamin was played clear out right only to see his low shot was easily saved by Chris Johns.

Not only were Glentoran having more of the ball, they were actually now doing something with it. Linfield needed to step up their game.

Within a few minutes, they issued a welcome response that was needed, when a cross from Jordan Stewart evaded everybody and went straight into the net.

It might have been a fluke and undeserved based on the way the game had gone so far, but you’d take it. You’ll take anything at this time of year.

This came a few minutes after he worked space for himself on the edge of the box but fired over.

Considering how brittle Glentoran’s confidence was after a 4-0 hammering by Crusaders, it was disappointing that Linfield hadn’t gone at them from the start instead of letting them bed into the game.

Now Linfield had the game in their control now, they needed to push on.

Well, not quite. Within a few minutes, Glentoran were level when Conor McMenamin was able to cut in from the right and smash the ball home with his left.

Having survived a similar situation earlier in the game, Linfield couldn’t say they weren’t warned.

Whilst not the best performance, it was still frustrating to go in at half-time level having taken the lead and given it away so quickly.

The second-half didn’t start off much better, they were still giving the ball away cheaply.

Thankfully, that was only for the first couple of minutes, and things did start to pick up.

Despite that, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Eetu Vertainen and Jake Hastie for Chris McKee and Kirk Millar. It was a glaringly obvious substitution to make.

It almost had an instant impact when Vertainen created space for himself on the edge of the box to shoot, but hit the side netting.

With four assists in his last three appearances, I was glad to see Hastie on the pitch but disappointed that he wasn’t on corner kick duty.

On a night where not everything was going to plan, they should have been getting him on corners, especially if he delivered one like he did for Ethan Devine’s winner at Warrenpoint.

If he was frustrated at not taking corners, he was further frustrated when his header was saved by Aaron McCarey with nobody able to follow up. It was already looking like a frustrating evening for Linfield.

It could have got worse when Conor McMenamin burst towards goal from a counter-attack, but his effort hit the side netting.

Having scored a couple of important late goals from the bench, Ethan Devine has developed a bit of a reputation for himself for this sort of thing.

As the minutes ticked by, we were getting closer to Devine Time.

And so, he was summoned from his warm-up, the home crowd began to get excited at the prospect of another late goal in Linfield’s favour.

It looked like that goal was going to come, but from an alternative source, when Jordan Stewart had a shot saved but his follow-up header neither went goalwards or to Ethan Devine who was following up, the ball going just wide.

Full-time, 1-1. It can only be described as two points dropped when you have a lead so slender.

That meant Linfield fans were going to be spending their Saturday afternoon hoping Larne could get something at Solitude, which they did.

As a result, it was as you were, with both Linfield and Cliftonville feeling a sense of frustration and relief.

Of course, if they both won their matches, it would still be the same gap at the top without any of the emotional turmoil.

Talking of Larne, their visit to Windsor Park has been put back to a 5.30pm kick-off.

To be honest, I was surprised that it was a 3pm kick-off in the first place.

I presumed that the BBC were waiting until after Easter Tuesday before deciding which game to show. In the end, they’re showing both Linfield and Cliftonville’s games at the same time.

Let’s hope they’ll be capturing something decisive in Linfield’s favour.

Before then, a trip to Seaview.

If there’s two lessons to take into this game, it’s play better, and if you can get in front without playing well, stay in front.

And if you do that, you’ll do that in the title race.

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One thought on “LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 15.4.2022

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

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