I really hope this new kit, as wonderful as it is, isn’t going to be a jinx, as Linfield blew a 1-0 lead for the second successive season. Just like in November 2021, it leaves them with a bit of work to do in the title race, but no need to panic.
It could and should have been so much better. Defeats in their last two games had seen Crusaders slip out of two cup competitions. A third in a row could have seen any hopes of the League title slip away, even at this early stage.
The three points in the bag puts them very much back in the race, as well as the damage to Linfield as Glentoran and Cliftonville were now being presented with an opportunity to pull clear.
No surprises in Linfield’s starting eleven, but the subs made for interesting reading with a lot of attacking options and not much defensive cover.
It was an even start, with both sides having attacking moments but no real opportunities, although Crusaders were getting slightly further into Linfield’s third than Linfield were getting into Crusaders third.
Linfield weren’t really helping themselves with some sloppy passing, giving the ball away far too easily.
Eventually, Linfield began to flex their attacking muscle when a quick counter-attacking move saw Robbie McDaid put the ball over on the stretch from a few yards out.
During various stages of the attack, it might have been better for Joel Cooper or Kirk Millar to shoot instead of passing, especially Millar.
A shot across the goalkeeper would surely have resulted in a goal.
McDaid would be denied again when he ran on to a through ball but his low shot under pressure was well saved.
Linfield were now putting on the pressure,but needed a goal to show for it.
Sam Roscoe was denied from a header as another chance went astray for Linfield.
No need to panic for Linfield at half-time with the score at 0-0.
I did think to myself that if Crusaders went 1-0 up, there would be no need to panic as Linfield were more than capable of getting the goals to win the game, and that if Linfield could get 1-0 up, there would be no way Crusaders would be able to come back.
Spoiler alert, that observation would turn out to be spectacularly off the mark.
The second-half started perfectly for Linfield, with a goal inside the opening minutes, just as against Moyola Park three days previously.
Just as against Ballymena (twice) it came from a cross from Stephen Fallon on the left hand side, who worked space for himself despite having two defenders for company, straight to Joel Cooper to hook the ball home from close range.
To describe it as a dream start to the second-half would be an understatement. Now to push on and wrap up the three points.
Well, not quite. Not only did Linfield disappear as an attacking force, Crusaders started to get back into the game and were denied when Jimmy Callacher had to block a goalbound shot after Chris Johns dropped a cross under pressure.
The reprieve didn’t last long with Philip Lowry finishing from close range after a corner that Linfield simply couldn’t clear. Crusaders always seemed to be one touch ahead of them.
All the good work at the start of the second-half was now undone.
Just fifteen minutes earlier, it was looking like a matter of how many Linfield would win by. Now you would have happily taken a draw.
Even at this early stage, it was obvious that changes in personnel were needed.
There were plenty of options to freshen things up front, while there was Jamie Mulgrew and/or Niall Quinn to freshen things up in midfield.
However, there was no activity from the away dugout.
As the personnel stayed the same, so did the flow of the match.
If you hoped that the Crusaders goal would waken Linfield up, it would turn out to be false hope.
Crusaders continued to be on top as they pushed for a winner.
It was Linfield who had the next big chance of the game when a Jimmy Callacher header from a corner was agonisingly saved.
With just under ten minutes to go, Crusaders took the lead, and it was a self inflicted blow from Linfield.
Stephen Fallon lost possession and the cross from the resulting attack was scuffed into the net by Jordan Forsythe to put Crusaders 2-1 up.
The goal had been coming.
Eventually, Linfield made some changes, a bit late, you could say, bringing on every striker they could find.
As a result, Linfield had no shape, and were basically just hitting and hoping.
In fact, it was Crusaders who looked most likely to score when they countered.
For the second successive season, Linfield threw away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Seaview.
This was three points thrown away, against a side who was there for the taking, before the match and during the game.
Crusaders had went into this game without a win in three, including losing their last two games, exiting two cup competitions.
We could have killed off their season, now it has breathed new life into it.
Two defeats already and a game in hand to play, Linfield are having to make up a lot of lost ground.
It’s not an impossible task though.
Hopefully, a traffic jam at the top will distract Linfield’s rivals and present an opportunity to blast through it.
Although getting into the Top 6 would be a start, as they sit in 7th.
Win the game in hand and it’s up to 4th, only four points off the top.
When Linfield lost at Seaview last season, Cliftonville had threatened to pull away as they did in the Winter of 2012-2013.
Linfield beat them the following week, reeled them back in, and used it as a launchpad for a run of results that sent them top for the first time in the season, where they (apart from a few weeks in February) stayed there.
It’s not Cliftonville they need to overhaul, it’s Glentoran. There’ll be an opportunity to reel them in a few weeks time, we’ve got two opportunities to get points on the board by then,
That game will be Linfield’s first home match in nearly two months. We’ll be needing directions to Windsor Park by then.
Should have been at home to Larne on the Tuesday after this, but it was postponed due to International Call-Ups, having been originally postponed due to clashing with Linfield’s European games.
Then the match at home to Cliftonville the weekend after this, but that match has been postponed due to both clubs playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup.
Unfortunately, i’ll be going to Northern Ireland v Kosovo so will miss Linfield’s trip to Buckie Thistle.
Plus, it’s an absolute nightmare to get to, the logistics might have defeated me anyway.
Fingers crossed we get a win and a favourable draw in the next round.
This is now the second of three away defeats in the League.
We’d better sort out the away form, as we’re slap bang in the middle of nine away games in a row in all competitions.
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