The last time Linfield met Warrenpoint Town was in September. Linfield won 4-1 and went to the top of the League. The following day, they were knocked off the top by Coleraine, who have stayed their since. Linfield haven’t been close to toppling Coleraine since.
Three months on, Warrenpoint came to Windsor Park in a must-win game for Linfield, especially as two of the sides above them faced each other. With guaranteed point droppage above them, Linfield had to take advantage if they wanted to have serious ambitions of winning a second successive title.
It was Warrenpoint who had the first chance of the game from the break down the right was fired over from close range. It was a warning that Linfield didn’t heed.
Linfield were slow and sluggish, especially when going forward. Warrenpoint were finding it far too easy to defend. It would be easy to say that the postponement of last weeks’ game away to Carrick Rangers caused Linfield to lose some momentum. The truth is, they were continuing on with the poor performance against Dungannon two weeks ago.
Warrenpoint took the lead when a corner from Conor McMenamin evaded everybody and went straight in, to the shock of everybody. The scoreline may have been a shock, but Warrenpoint deserved.
Linfield’s response wasn’t immediate, but it came whenever a cross was headed home by Andrew Waterworth to make it 1-1. It was his fifth goal in six games. Belatedly, due to injury, his goalscoring run looks like it is getting going.
A few minutes later, a corner fell to Kirk Millar, whose cross was handled. Some may have been surprised by the Andrew who was to take the penalty. Andrew Waterworth tooke Linfield’s last penalty, against Coleraine in mid November, but Andrew Mitchell had scored two in August, and as he was on the pitch this time, he did the honours and put Linfield 2-1 up. It looked like normality had been restored.
Warrenpoint were not to be downhearted by going 2-1 down, and went about getting an equaliser, and had a shout for a penalty when Chris Casement and Stephen Murray came together in the box.
Warrenpoint’s players were incensed with the non award of the penalty, and seemed to lose their discipline for a few minutes. Darren Murray was booked for dissent, and was looking set to emulate his sending off at The Oval in September when he got two quick bookings for dissent, until this time, his team-mates were able to bundle him away from the scene.
It is incidents like that which show why he is playing for Warrenpoint rather than a Top 6 team. The talent is there, there’s no doubt about that. We would get a glimpse of that before the half was out.
Roy Carroll punched a free-kick only as far as Darren Murray at the edge of the box, who was able to get his feet into position to shoot goalwards, his shot being deflected and looping into the net.
Questions have to be asked of Carroll’s positioning after punching the ball away, He was way too far off his line when Murray was lining up his shot. There was no need for him to be on the penalty spot.
Mark Stafford tried to head the ball away but was restricted in what he can do as he couldn’t handle it. A goalkeeper in that position would have caught the ball or at worse tipped the ball over.
With ten seconds, literally, ten seconds of the half remaining, it was a ridiculous goal to concede. Despite not playing well, Linfield had fought back to get into a winning position. Now they would have to do it again.
Jordan Stewart fired just wide for Linfield, but it was Sean Mackle of Warrenpoint who came the closest when he returned a poor kick from Roy Carroll goalwards, which needed to be cleared off the line.
There would then be a lengthy hold up as Roy Carroll suffered a leg injury. With no goalkeeper on the bench, he was going to have to tough it out. While this break was ongoing, Linfield made a sub when Cameron Stewart coming on for Jordan Stewart.
There could be a case for Cameron Stewart coming on, but this was far too early for it. If Linfield were to make an attacking sub, it had to be Ryan Strain, considering the impact he made coming off the bench against Dungannon two weeks previously.
Chris Casement had a low shot saved, before Strain was eventually introduced, coming on for Andrew Mitchell.
Linfield didn’t help themselves with poor crossing all afternoon. Sometimes, they weren’t even getting that far, taking an extra touch they didn’t need when the crossing opportunity was there, the extra touch meant it was gone.
Stephen Fallon came on for Niall Quinn as Linfield made their final sub in search of the win.
Fallon looked like he would win the game for Linfield when he fired home from close range after Andrew Waterworth ran goalwards and crossed to him.
There were two Linfield players in the six yard box but thankfully Waterworth saw the run of Fallon.
Warrenpoint shot from kick-off, to try and see how injured Roy Carroll was. He seemed to be struggling to get across, but thankfully, the shot went well wide.
Soon after, Warrenpoint would be getting to test Carroll from twelve yards when Ryan Strain tried to win possession after his miscontrol and conceded a penalty. Martin Murray made no mistake. Any injury to Carroll didn’t affect the penalty, he didn’t get close to it.
Due to the stoppage for Carroll to receive treatement, six minutes on injury time was signalled. It wouldn’t have mattered if there were six hours, Linfield didn’t look like getting a winner.
After eleven defeats out of eleven to Linfield, Warrenpoint could argue that they were due a result. On the basis of the game, they could justifiably say they deserved a result.
However, to concede goals so late in both halves, and to throw away a winning position twice was unacceptable. This was two points thrown away. All three goals were bad goals to concede. They were gifts. It’s become a recurring them this season that Linfield are gifting points and goals to opponents.
Elsewhere, Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville all won. Linfield are in the same situation they were in after the win over Glenavon three weeks ago. They’re undone the good work they did in late November when they beat Coleraine and Glenavon back to back.
Cliftonville visit Windsor Park next Saturday, and Linfield know a win will see them overtake Cliftonville into 4th.
Curiously, Linfield’s last four games have seen two brilliant performances against the top two, while putting poor performances against bottom six teams.
If we played today as we did against Coleraine and Glenavon, we would have won comfortably.
If we play against Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coeleraine as we did today, we’ll be lucky to win a throw-in.
Linfield’s title ambitions aren’t over, but they’re hanging on for life. Four wins between now and New Year’s Day will breathe new life into the season ahead of the defence of the Irish Cup.
Last week’s postponement against Carrick denied me the opportunity to post my wishlist. Regular readers will know that I always want a lower league team away from home.
I got that, but the tie against Glebe Rangers has been switched to Windsor Park. Very disappointing, as looking at pictures online, the ground looks more than capable of staging the tie.
Without sounding arrogant, it’s a tie you would expect Linfield to win.
If they do, the next round offers some potentially decent away days such as Knockbreda/Institute, QUB/Dundela, Loughgall/PSNI and Newry/PSNI. Nowhere too far, as i’m going to Shed Seven that night.
In midweek, both League Cup Semi-Finals were postponed, and rescheduled for mid January. It’s an awful shame they weren’t rearranged for this midweek, even though it is the fair thing to do, it would have put a strain on teams facing Linfield in coming weeks.
It does inconvenience Linfield in a way.
If Cliftonville win their game, that will mean Linfield will have a free weekend on the weekend of the Final, just as Glenavon would, with both teams having an outstanding game against each other to arrange, we’ll have to wait a month to find out if we can do that.
And then there is the matter of getting the game against Carrick that was postponed last weekend slotted in somewhere.
Some international football news, Brussels has withdrawn from hosting Euro 2020 and has been replaced by London. It has been paired with Glasgow. Dublin, if I go to a game there, will host Group E games. The London venue will be Wembley, which will host the Semi-Finals and Final.
If London was to host group games, it might have made more sense to keep Wembley for the final games and have group games at The Emirates or Spurs new ground just to save Wembley for those final games.
I’ll wait to see what the tournament schedule is like before making arrangements to attend games.
Before that, is the draw for the UEFA Nations League, and the seedings have been confirmed as Pot 3 in League B and can draw Wales (yes please) and Republic Of Ireland (No thanks)
I’m no Mathematician, but the rankings make no sense. Holland have failed to reach the last two tournaments but are in League A. Republic Of Ireland are seeded below two teams they beat and finished above in the World Cup Qualifiers, and above the team that beat them 5-1 in the Play-Offs.
Meanwhile, the team who won their group is in League C. Hmmmm.
League of Ireland fixture announcement is on Tuesday, i’ll be keeping an eye out for a possible day trip or weekend to Dublin and take in a game amongst other touristy stuff.
Euro 2020 can wait, it’s 2018 that matters. Hopefully, Linfield can recreate last season and use a draw at home to a team at the bottom end of the table as a springboard to a winning run.