Late comeback gives Linfield edge over Glentoran
Glentoran 1 Linfield 2: In the past number of years, The Oval has been the venue for many a dramatic encounter at the business end of the season and Saturday's latest instalment of ‘Belclasico’ was right up there with the best of them.
Remember Michael Halliday's last-gasp goal in 2009? Or Morgan Day?
Well Michael Carvill ensured he, too, will be remembered in much the same vein, with a late winner to help Linfield plunder an unlikely 2-1 victory against their fierce rivals Glentoran.
However, thinking back, what was it that you can remember most about such occasions?
The huge crowd would surely rank highly and unfortunately nowhere near enough people were there on Saturday — or, to be more accurate, were allowed to be there — particularly from a Linfield perspective.
Apparently ‘essential’ maintenance work had to be carried out on the terracing behind the goal, cutting a huge swathe into the travelling support, who under normal circumstances would have been shoehorned into the City End.
Meanwhile, the Glens had less of an excuse for their lower numbers — aside maybe from empathy emanating from an ultimately disappointing season.
It wouldn't be outlandish to suggest that the fact that the first few rows of seats in the main stand are no longer allowed to be in use — therefore severely diminishing the atmosphere in the old ground — is putting people off attending.
And so a superb finale was witnessed by very few, by Big Two standards.
The reasoning for the work being carried out and the constant stream of restrictions that clubs have had to deal with all season? Our friends at Health & Safety. Following Saturday's game, completely unprompted, Linfield manager David Jeffrey hit out at the men in high-vis jackets who he feels are “killing the game here”.
“I am sick sore and tired of Health and Safety killing the game, absolutely killing the game,” he said.
“When Glentoran scored there was a muted response. I thought Glentoran fans didn't realise they had scored.
“They are absolutely murdering the game, they really are.
“In these days of austerity and financial downsizing, the last thing we need are people who are killing the game. We obviously want people to be safe but we don't want to put them in at-risk situations. Really to goodness, that was as flat a Big Two game as I can remember.
“There were big open spaces and a lack of people being here or being allowed to be here.”
On the game itself, it was another one of those days when Linfield showed their
They were poor for the most part but still came away with the victory right at the death when Carvill bundled in in the 94th minute — after Paul Munster had cancelled out Daryl Fordyce's first half opener with just a few minutes of normal time remaining.
Linfield fans sang “that's why we're champions” and it was there for all to see. When they are playing poorly, there's one thing Jeffrey's side don't lack and that's guts and determination and it was a quality that both Jeffrey and his opposite number Scott Young pointed to following Saturday's game.
“The quality of football . . . certainly we know ourselves we didn't play as well as
we did last week, we didn't play as well as we did against Crusaders, we didn't play as well as we did against Portadown but what they have in abundance is desire and character and commitment and for that I thought they deserved a lot of praise,” said Jeffery.
And opposite number Scott Young, though clearly devastated afterwards, agreed. “You have players in the away changing rooms who know what it takes to win championships,” he said.
“They keep grinding out and plugging away and they keep wanting to get on the ball and make things happen and we are a long way from that.
“Naivete has played a massive part in Glentoran's season.”