It was far too early to be described as must-win, but it was certainly do not lose. Where do you even start with this shitshow?
After ten away matches in a row, Linfield finally had a home match.
Their last match, that match against RFS that shall never be spoken of again.
They were, however, defending a perfect home record in the League. A statistic skewed because they had only played one match, against Portadown in August.
Going back even further, they were unbeaten at home in the League in front of a crowd since August 2019.
Yes, you can use Lockdown to manipulate statistics to your own advantage.
Glentoran also head a decent record at Windsor Park of their own, unbeaten in their last four visits, three draws and one win.
Linfield’s starting eleven showed that they were continuing with 4-5-1 despite it not working at Coleraine the previous week, with Chris Shields coming in for Jamie Mulgrew.
Inside the first minute, Kyle McClean got a yellow card a few minutes later.
A few minutes later, Shay McCartan went into the book for a dive.
From where I was sat (at the opposite end) it looked like a clear dive, and TV replays backed me up. There was a brief scare when the Referee whistled and pointed so quickly, I thought he had given a penalty.
The fact that Glentoran players didn’t protest eased my worries. They knew that their man had been scooped.
Matthew Clarke also got a yellow card in the opening ten minutes.
It was becoming obvious that this Referee was card happy.
That made it so important to remain disciplined and not get cheap yellow cards.
It’s easy to say after the event, but inside the first five to ten minutes, it was obvious that one or both of the teams weren’t going to finish with their full compliment of eleven.
Linfield had to make sure they weren’t that team.
With their first attack of note, Linfield had a glorious chance to take the lead when a free-kick fell to Kyle McClean a few yards out but Aaron McCarey made himself big to deny him.
It was one of those that had to be hit first time, but if he had put it to the keeper’s right, Linfield would have been 1-0 up.
For all their possession, Glentoran were really just firing crosses into the box. Linfield needed to start creating chances and take them when they came.
It was Glentoran who had the next chance of the game when Patrick McClean hit the top of the crossbar after flicking on a free-kick.
Jay Donnelly was then frustrated when his shot was blocked by Sam Roscoe. Linfield really needed to start wakening up.
Especially when the game swung massively in Glentoran’s favour after Mike Newberry got a second yellow card.
That came for a foul on Ruairi Donnelly.
A very harsh second yellow, he couldn’t get out of the road, and wasn’t given the same level of leniency that David Cushley got when on a yellow card in the game at Carrick in August.
The real stupidity was the first yellow card for pulling back Jay Donnelly when he was nowhere near goal and had defensive cover backing him up.
When it was so obvious that the ref was card happy, to get a cheap yellow and put yourself in a situation where one mistimed tackle could get you sent-off was absolute stupidity.
Even though there was the option of bringing Jimmy Callacher off the bench, it was decided that Chris Shields would be moved back into defence from midfield.
Linfield were up against it now, but it was not a new situation, a far too regular occurrence in recent weeks, but they have come out the other side with a win.
First was against Buckie Thistle at 0-0, then they went 1-0 down and came back to win 2-1.
Then against Dungannon (A red card which was eventually rescinded), they had a 1-0 lead which they held onto.
Even though it is an adversity they have come through in recent weeks, it’s not a habit you want to get into.
One thing was certain, Linfield had to improve their ball retention. Even with eleven men on the pitch, they were making it hard for themselves with far too many sloppy passes. The red card came from a sloppy pass.
Just a few minutes earlier, it looked like the game was going to swing in Linfield’s favour when Joel Cooper lined up a shot on the edge of the penalty area only to be denied by the crossbar.
Despite Glentoran’s possession, it was Linfield who had the two best attacking moments of the half so far.
With only ten men on the pitch, it was important for Linfield to see out the half 0-0, regroup and get ready to manage the second-half.
They almost didn’t manage that, when a long ball saw Conor McMenamin get in behind the defence and Chris Johns came out to meet him, but it was Matthew Clarke who denied him, getting back to block his goalward shot from a wide angle.
Whatever Linfield’s plans for the second-half were, it fell to pieces inside two minutes at the start of the second-half when a shot from Bobby Burns took a massive deflection and went in to put Glentoran 1-0 up.
I was sat at the opposite end and knew straight away it was going in when I saw the deflection.
From the replay, it looked like it wasn’t going in, either going well wide or easily saved by Chris Johns.
It was already looking like one of those nights where everything that could go wrong was going wrong.
And there was more to follow when Stephen Fallon went off injured, replaced by Jamie Mulgrew.
Linfield needed a new approach, because the current one wasn’t working.
There was no attacking threat.
This wasn’t due to being down to ten men, this had been the theme for a number of recent matches. The attacking set-up isn’t right, there’s never enough numbers up front when you need it.
Three in midfield has it’s merits. but there comes a time when you have to cut loose from it.
Glentoran were never put under pressure, there was no intensity to Linfield’s attacks.
Any chance that Linfield had of getting something from the game soon disappeared on 77 minutes when Danny Purkis headed home from a corner, getting to the ball before Chris Johns.
As much as Johns didn’t cover himself in glory, there were plenty of outfield players in the penalty area that could have put in a challenge for the ball.
In injury time, it got worse when Danny Purkis made if 3-0. Linfield’s defence was all over the place.
Suddenly, we had some Linfield attacks, the best of which was a Joel Cooper shot which needed tipped over the bar.
A bit too late, 90 or even 45 minutes too late.
It was a night where anything that could go wrong did go wrong, but it was going wrong before the red card.
Not creating many chances, not taking those that came their way.
Lack of goals is a worry. Christy Manzinga was the only Linfield player to get double figures last season.
It’s almost as if Linfield have too many options in midfield, and David Healy is trying to fit them all in, to the detriment of the shape of the team.
I can understand going three in midfield in some games, but there comes a point when you have to go for it.
If we went for it in Coleraine, wave after wave of attack in front of our own fans, they would have got that vital goal.
Coleraine were comfortable and just had to avoid doing something stupid and hope for some luck at the other end.
One against Crusaders, one against Dungannon, one against Dundela, none against Coleraine, none against Glentoran.
You’re not going to win many matches if you don’t score more than one goal.
Even when games were going against them, it was a case of bringing on as many strikers as possible and hoping for the best.
Too late in the case of Eetu Vertainen. I’m not sure what he can do in under ten minutes.
It’s time to get back to basics. Learn to keep the ball, make it work for us.
A lot of the key moments in the game came from Linfield giving the ball away. Their own worst enemy.
Even work on set pieces. When down to ten men, they became so key.
Over the past few games, possibly even longer, they’ve never looked like scoring.
Even when there is pinball in the box, there never seems to be a Linfield player getting there first.
All is not lost, we came back from a similar situation to win the League in 2017.
Glentoran had three defeats at this stage last season and went on to win the Top In February Cup.
Maybe not recreate their form afterwards.
I actually think a traffic jam above us will benefit Linfield, put a bit of pressure on the other teams.
Going on a winning run would probably be a bit more beneficial to be honest.
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