It was a match every bit as slippery and uncomfortable as the weather, but Linfield got the job done, which is all you ask for in cup competitions, especially with cup defeats to Ballyclare Comrades and Queen’s University still a recent memory.
As it turned out, this would be a night of shocks, but not at Wilgar Park.
Usually a pre-season fixture, this was certainly more competitive than those games.
The last time I went to Wilgar Park, I had a gun pointed at me. Relax, it was only a Temperature Gun.
That match I was at, was a County Antrim Shield match between Dundela and Queen’s University in October 2020.
I hadn’t been to a football match in seven months. It felt great to be back.
Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s starting eleven saw some changes with some players being rested in the middle of a busy run of fixtures.
There was a pleasant surprise on the bench, as I spotted Chris Johns making his way to the bench.
I was unaware that he had won his appeal against his red card against Dungannon earlier in the day.
All that effort just to sit on the bench. It’s the principle that matters.
Chris McKee had the first shot of the game but his effort from a wide angle on the edge of the box was saved and held low by Dundela’s keeper.
Worth a hit on a wet night.
Ethan Devine then had a volley saved from the edge of the box.
It wasn’t all one way traffic, Dundela weren’t slow in having a go, with David Walsh being forced into some saves.
Midway through the half, Linfield start to ramp up the pressure, and it looked like it was only a matter of time before they scored.
Dundela were able to see that out.
The fickle nature of football fans was played out when Tony Kane argued with the Linesman, and somebody from the crowd shouted back in response “SHUT YOU UP KANE, HE’S DOING A GREAT JOB!!!”. Under thirty seconds later, that same person was screaming “YOU HAVEN’T A CLUE WHAT YOU’RE DOING!!!” when he flagged for a free-kick to Dundela.
Eetu Vertainen was next to be frustrated when his low shot from the edge of the box was sell saved in slippery conditions.
Stephen Fallon and Andrew Clarke came on as Linfield searched for an opener.
They had a lot of the ball but no chances
Even at this early stage, it was crying out for Joel Cooper to come on.
Especially as Benny Igheon cut inside and had his shot well saved when it looked like he was going to score.
From early on, it was clear that this had the potential to be a very uncomfortable night for Linfield if they went 1-0 down.
Joel Cooper and Robbie McDaid were summoned from the bench as Linfield looked to win this inside the regulation 90 minutes.
Immediately, there was a greater attacking intensity to Linfield’s play.
It is a bit worrying how reliant Linfield are on Cooper. If he was to get injured or suffer a loss of form, they could be in real trouble.
There was no loss of form from him in this game as he got straight to work trying to get an opener for Linfield.
That came very quickly, when his crossed was flicked back by Andrew Clarke for Robbie McDaid to fire home from close range.
It was Linfield’s first real attacking moment of quality, and it resulted in a goal. This football lark is easy.
There was almost a second assist for Cooper when his cross fell to Andrew Clarke in a similar position to where McDaid scored his goal, but Dundela’s keeper was able to make a save.
The way that Dundela had played, Linfield were never going to see the game out comfortably.
There was still time for one last Dundela chance, with Tony Kane having a low effort saved by David Walsh.
Linfield did hold out for a hard fought win in difficult conditions.
It was great to get an opportunity to visit a ground I only ever to see Linfield play friendlies in.
Time to dry off and wait for the draw for the next round.
Dundela v Queen’s University 2020
Dundela v Linfield Swifts 2016
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