Three points in the bag but it was nervy at times, as Linfield made it two wins out of two domestically ahead of their European Date With Destiny.
Away to a newly promoted side early in the season is never ideal. They’re feeling good about life and reckon they can beat anyone. Linfield found that out the hard way on the opening day back in 1998 at Newry.
With this game being sandwiched inbetween two big European games, it was no surprise that David Healy shuffled his pack for this game in front of a large crowd.
Newry lined-up with their kit looking like Espanyol in weather that was Catalan at times, while Linfield lined up in their Hearts/Aston Villa away kit, debuted the previous Thursday.
I noticed something a bit curious, or at least I think I did.
Is it me, or have Newry narrowed their pitch?
It seemed to confuse Linfield players who were conceding lots of throws by passing it to where they though the touchline should be.
Despite that, Linfield had the first chance of the game, when Kirk Millar was played through in a wide position but his shot across goal was well saved.
Newry weren’t here to play for a 0-0 and weren’t afraid to make their way into Linfield’s final third.
They responded a few minutes later when Noel Healy burst through from a wide position but his shot across goal was saved by the legs of Chris Johns.
One Healy was left frustrated while another Healy was relieved.
Linfield were next to be frustrated in their attempts to take the lead when Jamie Mulgrew burst into the penalty area.
Just as the crowd were expecting him to smash it into the net, he pulled it back and a Newry defender was there to get a foot on it and clear the danger.
Ethane Devine was next to be frustrated when his shot was deflected low and wide.
When you are 3 or 4-0 up, that usually ends up in the bottom corner. Never when you are drawing 0-0.
Linfield’s frustration didn’t last for long as they took the lead from the resulting corner.
Newry could head the ball clear to Joel Cooper, whose inswinging cross was finished from close range by Eetu Vertainen.
I had initially thought he was offside as he was in so much space but replays showed that he times his run perfectly.
It looked like they were going to get an opportunity to get a second goal when Joel Cooper was fouled as he headed to the byline to get ready to cross.
Surprisingly, no penalty was given. It was a pretty clear penalty.
Cooper got punished for his own honesty for trying to play on instead of rolling around in agony.
Soon after, Cameron Palmer had an opportunity from a cross but his deft effort goalwards was saved at the expense of a corner.
Linfield soon got a 2-0 lead when Eetu Vertainen fired home from outside the box..
A good lead, but far from comfortable. Linfield needed a three goal lead just to be sure.
Newry had been giving as good as they were getting and were more than capable of getting a goal that would make the game a contest.
And so it proved, when John McGovern was able to burst through Linfield’s midfield and defence, finding himself through on goal, only to see his effort saved by Chris Johns.
He really should have scored. However, the respite was short lived for Linfield, as Newry pulled a goal back from a Lorcan Forde header to make it 2-1.
On the balance of the game, it would be hard to begrudge Newry a goal.
A lead at half-time, with an element of frustration to concede in the final ten minutes of the half.
Despite the lead, there was a lot of possession cheaply given away. A bad habit.
Things weren’t exactly much better at the start of the second-half.
You were starting to worry if it was one of those games. You know exactly what I mean. 2-2 written all over it.
If it did, you would have to give serious consideration to binning this new away kit due to being a jinx.
Act now, not in April like when United ditched their grey kit.
Eventually, Linfield got themselves going, and were denied a penalty for a challenge on Eetu Vertainen by Newry’s keeper.
Conor Pepper then headed over as Linfield looked for a third goal they desperately needed.
They got a reminder of that when Matthew Clarke was forced to make a block in his own penalty area.
With just over ten minutes to go, Linfield got a third goal when Andrew Clarke finished from a Joel Cooper cross.
Finally, a decisive lead for Linfield.
Although, the game was far from won, even at this late stage of the game.
Newry might have been deflated but they wouldn’t be demoralised.
Having had a go for most of they match, they weren’t going to give up now.
If they got one, it would set up a grand finale. Linfield just had to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid.
They didn’t. The only moment of danger they had to worry about was a shot from Newry that flashed wide.
3-1 at full-time, and a result that sent Linfield top of the table, one of only two sides with a perfect record just two games into the season.
It was a temporary reign at the top, as there was a midweek fixture list two days later that Linfield weren’t involved in. Their match at home to Larne was postponed because ………… you should know why it was postponed.
Midway through the second-half, it was looking like a good night (apart from the Coleraine match) without playing, but Ballymena United, Dungannon Swifts and Portadown decided to be useless and not hold on for their results.
No need to worry, there are still 36 League games left for Linfield, plenty of points available to grab.
Up next, the big European Date With Destiny against RFS.