Linfield endured a nightmare start to a busy December schedule this evening as The Blues suffered a bitterly disappointing defeat at the hands of rivals Glentoran in the ‘Big Two’ derby at The Oval.
Performance-wise, The Blues were a million miles from their capabilities and they made a very slow start to the match which they paid the full price for as Glentoran found themselves two goals up inside ten minutes. Warren Feeney’s men took the lead inside three minutes as Niall McGinn’s cross from the left split the Linfield defence and Shay McCartan guided it into the corner from a central position.
The Glens then doubled their lead on nine minutes as Cameron Palmer passed to Niall McGinn down the left, and he pulled the ball back to the penalty spot where Daire O’Connor was waiting to slot the ball home.
Linfield’s only real chance to pull a goal back in the first half came for Kirk Millar, who was found by a good cross from Chris Shields, but the winger headed wide from inside the box.
The Blues were fortunate not to be three down midway through the first half as Niall McGinn’s piledriver from distance drew a wonderful reflex save from Chris Johns. Soon after, the in-form McGinn switched the ball to put Daire O’Connor through on goal, but he fired straight at Chris Johns.
The third goal was coming, however, as Glentoran scored again just before the break. It was more slack defending from a Linfield viewpoint, as a long throw-in into the box from Johnny Russell founds its way through to the back post where Niall McGinn who was all alone and he hammered in a confident finish to round off a damaging first-half from the experienced international.
In a half where Linfield looked very unlike their usual selves, it was almost 4-0 at the break as a Glentoran corner in additional time wasn’t dealt with and it fell for Shay McCartan, whose shot was saved at close range by Chris Johns.
HT: Glentoran 3-0 Linfield
The Blues wanted a bright start in the second half to try and get themselves back in the match, but it wasn’t forthcoming, and individual mistakes weren’t helping their cause. A misplaced backpass allowed Niall McGinn in on goal – he went past Chris Johns, but from a tight enough angle he struck the side netting.
Glentoran then did add a fourth and final goal, on 64 minutes and it was another goal which was very much avoidable from a Linfield viewpoint. A hopeful diagonal ball which Matthew Clarke was favourite for ended up with the defender having his pocket picked by Daire O’Connor who nipped in to score his second of the night.
Linfield’s only shot on target came through an ambitious strike from Euan East from the guts of 30 yards, though there was also a good chance for a consolation goal for Rhys Annett from a pinpoint Kirk Millar cross, but the young forward headed wide from a good position late in the match.
David Healy had made changes with 20 minutes to go, with the score at 4-0 and several players struggling in their individual performances. He introduced youthful trio Aodhan Doherty, Josh Archer and Darragh McBrien – they showed fight and determination even though the game was over as a contest.
It was a night to forget and David Healy will expect a reaction in Tuesday night’s League Cup tie away to Larne – a game in which the Blues will need to show a massive improvement from tonight’s showing, otherwise the holders will lose the trophy.
FT: Glentoran 4-0 Linfield.