Portadown on the opening day had been problematic for Linfield twice in the past decade, but thankfully not today.
If Linfield are planning to be managing a calendar of domestic and international competition through September and October, it’s probably a good idea to get as many points on the board in August.
There was one eye on the Euro Conference game against RFS of Latvia, with some changes to the Linfield starting eleven, as like the Starship Enterprise, they were led by Captain Kirk, with Kirk Millar being captain in a week that saw him make his 350th appearance and celebrate his 30th birthday.
It was Robbie McDaid who had the first chance of the game for Linfield when Joel Cooper pulled the ball back to him, but he couldn’t control the ball to get the shot away when a goal looked certain.
There wasn’t long to wait for Linfield to take the lead.
It came indirectly from Joel Cooper who was able to flick on an overhit pass, turning keeping the ball in play into an art form by setting up Eetu Vertainen to cross for Kirk Millar to fire home via a Portadown defender trying to stop it on the line.
At the ground, it looked like the ball was going in, so we’ll give it to him.
Having seen a replay on the BBC, i’m not so sure. It might have been hitting the post so it technically should be own goal.
It was his birthday week, so he should be awarded the goal. I think that is a rule.
Linfield were in the mood for getting this game wrapped up as soon as possible, and almost got a second when Joel Cooper chipped an effort just wide.
Stephen Fallon then had an effort saved while Ethan Devine had a bicycle kick go just wide as Linfield searched for a second.
Linfield were then denied when a goalbound shot by Ethan Devine was accidentally blocked by Robbie McDaid, such is his luck at the moment. He never hid though.
Portadown did have some possession in Linfield’s half and a few shots at goal, but nothing that was going to trouble Chris Johns making his 100th appearance for Linfield.
Ethan Devine then had a shot blocked at the expense of a corner while Joel Cooper headed over from close range as Linfield looked to kill the game off.
1-0 at half-time and it was looking like a repeat of the League game in February.
Although Linfield won that game, it was a bit nervy at the end.
Sam Roscoe then had a headed chance early in the second-half when he headed against the post (In real time, I thought he had headed straight at the keeper) from a few yards out.
Thankfully, there wasn’t long to wait for a second goal for Linfield, when Kirk Millar pulled the ball back for Ethan Devine to hook the ball in just over the head of a Portadown defender.
Even though 2-0 isn’t a definitive lead, you felt that would be the game for Linfield.
Although, such confidence was almost misplaced within minutes as Portadown had a clean through opportunity which was blasted well over the bar.
You felt they wouldn’t have as good an opportunity to score again, they really needed to make the most of any chances that came their way.
It looked like Linfield were waiting for the opportunity to make some changes ahead of the big European game.
Jamie Mulgrew and Daniel Finlayson came on at 2-0. Most were expecting David Healy to wait to see if Linfield could go 3-0 up to be absolutely sure and make all five subs at once.
There wasn’t long to wait for that 3-0 lead, when Kirk Millar, who scored the first goal and set up the second goal crossed for Ethan Devine, who scored the second goal and now set up the third goal by heading across for Eetu Vertainen to head into the empty net.
The way the Score/Assist thing was going, it would be Vertainen’s turn to set up the next goal.
That goal was the signal for more substitutions, with Cameron Palmer, Andrew Clarke and Chris McKee coming on.
Jethren Barr made further saves, from a Joel Cooper shot and then an Andrew Clarke shot on the line.
From where I was, I thought it was in, the lack of a vociferous protest by Linfield players following up suggested that I was wrong.
Replays proved that to be the case.
Robbie McDaid would be next to be denied by Barr as he looked to squeeze the ball in from a tight angle.
McDaid would sort of have the last laugh when beat Barr to a header to set up Andrew Clarke to put Linfield 4-0 up.
Still time for a fifth, which would put them top of the League.
It was not to be, as they had to settle for four which left them 2nd.
No need to panic, there are still 37 games to get the points to finish top.
Thoughts now turned to the European game in Latvia. The first 89 minutes were good. Let’s not talk about the rest of it.
However, the reserve game between the two sides saw a very interesting name in the Linfield eleven for that game in the shape of Jimmy Callacher. A welcome return as he continues his recovery from injury.
Meanwhile, Aspects Festival in Bangor (always worth keeping an eye out for) have an event for a book about Northern Ireland’s 1982 World Cup campaign.
Unfortunately, the date might be inconvenient as Linfield might be playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup that day.
That would take priority but i’ll keep an eye out and wait to see if I can make it.
Staying in North Down, Ards have announced that a lease has been agreed for a new ground on the Portaferry Road in the town.
Oooh, lovely, another new ground to look forward to visiting.
As well as Moyola Park in the very near future, thanks to the League Cup draw.