The weather might have been inconsistent and unpredictable, but Linfield weren’t, as they strolled to victory in the sun, rain and everything inbetween in Tyrone.
It was Linfield’s third successive win of the season, third clean sheet, and to keep on a trilogical theme, results elsewhere meant that the five clubs with perfect starts at kick-off were now a top three, with Linfield sandwiched inbetween Glenavon and Coleraine, all on nine points.
For the early part of the game, the ball was in midfield a lot, neither side creating a noteworthy effort. Linfield’s best effort came from a speculative long range effort from Jordan Stewart.
Linfield weren’t helping themselves with numerous stray passes.
That was until Linfield’s first real attack of note was started and finished by Paul Smyth, who headed home after Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis missed a cross.
Within minutes, Dungannon had a clear shot on goal saved by Roy Carroll, a reminder that the game was far from won.
It took a free-kick for Linfield to get their second when a tee-up saw Niall Quinn fire a spectacular effort into the top of the net. It was a goal that deserved Alan Partridge commentary, it was that good. For Quinn, it was a case of Play Your Cards Right, and didn’t he do well.
The final minutes of the half saw Linfield get a third when a corner was headed in. From where I was, it looked like Mark Haughey who scored, but video replays showed that it was headed into his own net by Seanan Clucas.
For the third successive match, the three points were secured by half-time. People should only be charged £6.50 into Linfield matches at this rate. I guess those who set admission prices would disagree and say that The Price Is Right.
I was hoping Linfield would rack up a lot of goals in the second-half, mainly due to the awful Now That’s What I Call Shit Dance Music 1999 CD that Dungannon were playing on the PA System.
Unsurprisingly, the second-half was a non event, with Linfield utilising their subs bench and allowing Aaron Burns, Stephen Lowry and Matthew Clarke to get some game time.
In the final minutes of the game, Linfield got a penalty for a push on Mark Stafford. Linfield fans celebrated the award, until they realised it would probably be missed.
At 3-0 up against a Dungannon side coming to terms with the loss of Andrew Mitchell to Glenavon, it was perhaps a bit cruel of Linfield to get their own Andrew Mitchell to take the penalty.
He stepped up, and Addis got a hand on it. Before the crowd could utter “Oh for crying out loud …” at another miss, the ball hit the back of the net and it was 4-0.
An even bigger relief was to finish the game with 11, due to the card happy nature of the refereeing for both sides.
Goals are coming throughout the team for Linfield, which is handy considering Andrew Waterworth’s absence through injury. It will be great to get him back fit, but it’s just as great that others are stepping up to the mark in terms of goalscoring.
Elsewhere, Glentoran couldn’t make the most of a generous run of games with a 1-1 draw at home to Carrick. They’re so bad these days, they can’t even give their fans false hope.
Also drawing 1-1 were Cliftonville at Ballinamallard, and they are now five points behind Linfield. I never viewed them as title challengers despite the return of Joe Gormley (Remember, he scored 40+ goals in his last season at the club, and they finished 5th)
They’ve become a team who draw at Ballinamallard. Teams in the bottom six view them as a team they can get points against. It’s something that is hard to shake off. Yesterday’s results will only give those sides confidence when facing them.
Crusaders lost 2-1 at home to Coleraine. For once Crusaders got a last minute goal, and it didn’t matter. It was perhaps apt that it was a player called Forsythe who scored.
Meanwhile, Glenavon won 6-1 at Ballymena. Not going to lie, Ballymena’s poor start is making me nervous ahead of their visit to Windsor Park next Saturday.
That means Glenavon, Linfield and Coleraine are the top three, with three wins out of three. Though Linfield might be second, they cut the gap in goal difference to the top of the League from four goals to three goals.
After the Ballymena game, Linfield won’t have a League match until September 9th. That means if we can win on Saturday, the worst that will happen while we are inactive (in League terms) on 2nd September is that we would be three points off the top with a game in hand.
Next Saturday also sees Cliftonville play Crusaders, meaning they can pull further clear of one or both of them.
That inactivity is due to the trip to Crusaders on 6th September being postponed due to international call-ups. There’s positives and negatives to this.
September will be a busy month and this will ease the fixture congestion.
However, when you see Matchday 3 results and the fact Crusaders will be coming off the back of a North Belfast Derby, they would be there for the taking.
No point moaning about it. It is what it is, might as well get on with it.
Linfield won’t be playing in the League on 2nd September because they are scheduled to be playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup, the draw taking place last week.
The draw was convenient in terms that it gave Linfield an away tie in the Central Belt, but inconvenient in the fact that we don’t know who we are playing.
Linfield were drawn away to Albion Rovers or Spartans. Albion beat Spartans but are being investigated for fielding an ineligible player.
After spending years writing about wanting to go to Ainslie Park, I could be going there twice in the space of a month, having seen Edinburgh City play there two weeks ago.
It would be a nice novelty to be in Edinburgh and not to have flyers shoved in my face.
It would be hilarious if Albion were thrown out, seeing as Crusaders had to replay Livingson last season after Livingston fielded in ineligible player.
It doesn’t really leave much time for this resolved, with the next round scheduled for two weeks time.
My hunch is that Albion and Spartans will replay on 2nd September, and Linfield’s tie being played between then and the next round date on 8th October.
I think Linfield’s tie will be two to three weeks after to give Linfield a chance to make arrangements and supporters to do likewise.
Linfield have home games scheduled on 9th (Glentoran) and 16th (Ballinamallard) and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was played on one of those weekends, with the League game postponed, possibly the 16th.
That’s just a hunch, I have no inside info. This is Scottish football we are talking about, so anything could happen.
If that is the case, we will be two games behind schedule, making it important to keep picking up wins.
As supporters exited Stangmore Park, the music improved, with Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis coming on the stereo.
Linfield fans won’t be looking back on this game in anger, just as a job done.