Better, Much much better.
After a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Dungannon Swifts the previous Saturday, Linfield responded with an 8-1 win over Glenavon.
Going into this match, Glenavon had won three of the previous four meetings with Linfield, including a 4-0 win. The aggregate score over those four games? 7-7. That is absolute Peak Glenavon.
Linfield began with the starting eleven that should have started the previous week, though they would be making one change regardless of the formation, as Andrew Mitchell being sold to Larne.
For me, that is a mistake that I fear will be very costly.
Mitchell’s place in the starting eleven was taken by Kirk Millar, as Linfield reverted to 4-2-3-1 that served them so well last season.
Inside the first ten seconds of this game, we saw an improvement from Linfield, straight on the attack deep in Glenavon’s half, and demanding that Ballboys get the ball so they can restart the game, not giving Glenavon any chance to get comfortable when defending.
It didn’t take long for Linfield to take the lead from a counter attack. I was screaming for the ball to go left, it went right, to Shayne Lavery, an attempt interception from a Glenavon defender fell perfectly for Stephen Fallon to put Linfield 1-0 up inside five minutes.
You could say there was an element of luck to the goal, but if Fallon doesn’t make the run, he doesn’t get the goal. Linfield had the start their needed.
They were in search of a second goal as soon as they got their first, and almost got it, but Ethan Boyle missed a headed opportunity.
Calum Birney was lucky not to see a red card after a wild and reckless tackle on Josh Robinson. Birney, who has had previous red cards against Linfield in the past, was lucky not to add to his tally.
Within a few minutes, it was Glenavon who were moaning at the Referee when Linfield were awarded a penalty for a foul on Stephen Fallon.
I was sat at that end, and the foul was on the line, but not inside the box.
Who was going to take it? That was the big question.
Andrew Mitchell took Linfield’s last penalty, against Cliftonville earlier in the month, but he has since been sold.
Andrew Waterworth wasn’t on the pitch. Jordan Stewart, Shayne Lavery and Joel Cooper all missed their last penalties.
It turned out to be Kirk Millar. I wasn’t exactly full of confidence that the ball would be hitting the back of the net, especially with the refereeing decision being so generous.
I don’t know why I was worried, as Kirk Millar fired it home to make it 2-0 and give Linfield a significant lead.
Within minutes, that lead got bigger as Joel Cooper cut inside and curled the ball in to make it 3-0.
Just like in the 7-0 win over Glenavon in September, Linfield had an early 3-0 lead, and there was a serious danger that this match could go the same way.
That became even more of a possibility when Robert Garrett got sent-off for something he said to the Referee. Linfield fans will have been used to seeing Garrett getting sent-off, six times across his two spells at the club. However, this time, they weren’t unhappy to see it.
Having scored a hat-trick when the sides met in September, Shayne Lavery wanted in on the act, and did when when he headed home from a corner to make it 4-0.
Soon after, it was 5-0 when a run from Joel Cooper saw his pull back to Matthew Clarke to finish from close range. Glenavon claimed the ball went out before Cooper pulled it back. To be honest, it happened too quick for me to see, and TV replays were inconclusive.
The first-half wasn’t all perfect for Linfield, as Glenavon split Linfield’s defence open for the first time, and were awarded a penalty when Ethan Boyle fouled a Glenavon player after a coming together.
The narrative, should have been that Sammy Clingan would miss it, but he made no mistake to make it 5-1 and start the comeback for Glenavon.
Jordan Stewart had an effort saved in the final minutes of the half as Linfield had to make do with just the five goals in the first-half.
Even someone as cautious as me knew the points were in the bag. It’s a great feeling watching a football match, midway through the first and knowing that the points are in the bag,
Linfield were in a privileged position. You don’t often get to choose how much you win a football match by, but Linfield could. With goal difference as tight as points, they could substantially add to their tally.
With the points in the bag, Linfield could also make the substitutions they wanted. Niall Quinn made a welcome to the match day squad after injury and could be eased in. Kyle McClean needed games as well after signing, while it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce new loan signing Rory Currie.
Shayne Lavery got in behind Glenavon’s defence, initially believing he was offside, before bursting through when he realised he wasn’t, only to see his shot saved.
There wasn’t long to wait for another goal, with Jordan Stewart scoring a penalty after a handball was awarded. For a while after that decision, Glenavon players lost their discipline in spectacular fashion.
Unfortunately, that resulted in Jamie Mulgrew leaving the game early after a late tackle from a Glenavon player, with Kyle McClean, who would have been expected to come on anyway, coming on earlier than expected.
Linfield fans were hoping that Mulgrew’s exit was only a precaution. As it turned out, it was an injury that would keep him out of the match against Larne the following Tuesday.
The Glenavon player in question got booked. Not for the foul, but for booting the ball at a team mate’s balls.
Glenavon’s lack of discipline was such, that Andrew Doyle, already on a yellow card, had to be substituted to stop him from getting a second yellow he was only minutes away from getting.
Linfield used their substantial lead to introduce two substitutes, two not unexpected substitutions, as Niall Quinn and Kyle McClean joined the action.
Joel Cooper then cut inside and fired home to make it 7-1, Linfield scoring seven for the third time this season.
With two goals to his name, it was surprising later on when Cooper burst clear only to pass to Kyle McClean who dithered and saw the opportunity to go begging.
To be fair, passing to McClean was the best option, but with a hat-trick for the taking, he was entitled to shoot.
In the game between the sides in September, the Referee took pity on Glenavon by only playing seconds of injury time. In this match, we got two minutes.
As the clock hit 91:30, Linfield went on the counter attack, just 30 seconds to score a goal.
Joel Cooper was played through, a hat-trick awaiting him, he surprisingly set up Jimmy Callacher who was running through to make it 8-1 with the final kick of the game.
A satisfactory afternoon for Linfield, with results elsewhere being a mixed bag.
Crusaders were drawing 0-0 with Ballymena United at half-time but ended up winning 2-1. In the teatime game, Larne beat Glentoran 2-1, a result that was greatfully received by Linfield fans as they tucked into their dinners.
The Monday night game saw Coleraine beat Cliftonville 1-0. A draw would have been perfect, but you could live with their being a winner.
That combination of results meant Linfield had the opportunity to go top of the League when they would play the first of their two games in hand.
Due to being busy and having a backlog of articles to write, I didn’t get this published in time before the trip to Larne.
Spoiler Alert – This match did not kickstart Linfield’s season.