Wind and rain in mid January away to tricky opposition. One of those cliched games that title challenges live or die by.
The result of this match was never going to decide Linfield’s title destiny, but failure to win would have seen them once again return to the point of no return in term of dropped points.
They did win, quite easily, against opposition they struggled against at home twice this season. It was certainly a scoreline that nobody saw coming at half-time.
Linfield were handed a boost on Friday night with the news that Cliftonville were held to a draw by Carrick Rangers.
That meant a win would see them partly reduce the damaged caused by the defeat to Cliftonville on Tuesday night, meaning they would only gain one less point than them over the two games this week.
I’m writing about what I was able to see, most of the game I saw my view blocked by people waddling about the stand, turning up late or walking back and forth to the pub every ten minutes.
It is my sad duty to report that Mourneview Park has been downgraded to a shite away day due to no longer being able to stand behind the goal due to a training pitch being built.
I’d seen it on TV but this was my first time seeing it in the flesh. I’d assumed it was being built on the grass bank but there would still be a small area to stand behind the goal.
The early minutes saw a lot of Linfield pressure.
The first attacking moment of note saw an inswinging free-kick from Kyle McClean (Why not in this weather?) being saved.
Joel Cooper then had a shot tipped over the bar.
From the resulting corner, a bit of a scramble saw the ball fall perfectly for Andrew Clarke to fire home low.
Having struggled (but ultimately) won twice against Glenavon this season, an early lead was most welcome.
The pressure continued as Linfield searched for a second.
Daniel Finlayson had a header saved while Andrew Clarke had a header go just wide.
The next goal of the game, would come for Glenavon, when Conor McCloskey volleyed home low after a lovely cross.
As with Cliftonville’s winner a few days previously, it was a goal that came out of nowhere.
Linfield’s good start had been undone.
There wasn’t quite the same attacking intensity from Linfield after the goal despite spending a lot of time in Glenavon’s half, going in at half-time level.
With Cliftonville drawing the previous night, this was already a big game for Linfield, especially with Glentoran and Larne playing each other. That game was 0-0 at half-time.
It was shaping up to be a great day for Crusaders as things stood.
To be honest, with the cold and the rain, I was thinking at half-time that I would have been happy enough if the Referee abandoned the game, we’ll all go home and try again at a later date.
Eetu Vertainen had Linfield’s first chance of the second-half when he fired wide after a cross.
Not long after that, Sam Roscoe created space for himself to finish with his left foot, creating a niche for himself as a scorer of important goals in tight games in Mid Ulster.
The floodgates opened, ironically as the rain died down.
Within a few minutes, Eetu Vertainen finished from close range after a cross, and Linfield were now in control. Not quite three points in the bag, but they could only blow them from here.
Daniel Finlayson looked like he was going to make it 4-1 when he was played through on goal in a wide position before being taken down.
Linfield fans were screaming for a penalty, it was a clear penalty, but there was a delayed reaction from the Referee. Eventually, a penalty was awarded.
Chris Shields stepped up to make it 4-1.
It was now safe to say that the points were in the bag.
David Healy turned to his bench, resting a few players and giving much needed minutes to others, such as Chris McKee and Jordan Stewart.
Linfield fans were now in a party mood. That mood was almost boosted further when Jordan Stewart spectacularly tried his luck from long range, narrowly missing.
There weren’t many opportunities for Glenavon. The did offer a set piece that cause Linfield problems, but there was always enough bodies in the way to block the danger.
Linfield then got another penalty, the same outcome as the previous time, with Chris Shields making it 5-1, and Linfield were now set for their biggest win at Mourneview Park since David Jeffrey was in charge.
For the last time in fact, a 5-2 win in April 2014.
Max Haygarth then came on for his debut and scored with his first touch. All downhill from there.
A lovely clean sidefoot finish from inside the penalty area. One of those where you knew the ball was going to go in before it went to him.
His second touch was a miskick that went wide. Rubbish. Sell him.
Glenavon had to endure two minutes of injury time. There was no sympathy from the Referee like when they lost 7-0 at Windsor Park in 2019 and got two seconds.
They managed to keep a clean sheet for what was left of the game, which finished 6-1 to Linfield, a score that not many saw coming at half-time.
Suddenly, I was quite glad that the abandonment that was secretly hoping for at half-time didn’t happen.
It was a productive day for Linfield, on a weekend where Glentoran and Cliftonville dropped points, as they aim to keep chipping away at the gap at the top, where they aim to be in may.
Onto Seaview for the County Antrim Shield Final.