THE fact Oran Kearney left Windsor Park disappointed at only taking a point tells you everything you need to know about Saturday’s clash.
All the talk beforehand was that the Bannsiders would be hit with a Linfield backlash following their 2-0 defeat at Ballymena United on the opening day of the season.
One pundit even said he felt sorry for Kearney’s men having to go into tohe lion’s den, but he needn’t have worried.
The Bannsiders proved their worth taking the game to the champions and on another day, with a bit more luck could have walked away with all three points as Kearney was quick to point out after the game.
“I thought it was going to be a cagey game,” he said.
“The build-up surrounded Linfield and talk of a ‘backlash’ and things like that, so I knew it would be a cagey affair with nothing in it.
“I think we created more half-chances than we normally do at Windsor Park, but our final ball and decision making at times let us down.
“You can’t come to Windsor with an inferiority complex or you will end up on the losing side.
“It is a hard place to come, and I know what it is like in the other changing room having played here.
“But you have to dispel all those aspects without being over-confident.
“So we were positive without being over-confident coming here. We knew we could get a good result.
“Any point you get here as a visiting team is hard-earned and the heat made it even tougher for the lads. I felt we acquitted ourselves well throughout and more than held our own right up until the final whistle.
“Michael Doherty wasn’t tested much throughout the game. He did palm one away near the end and there was another shot where he made a clean catch, but apart from those I can’t think of any other saves he had to make. There were a few off-target headers from set pieces, but overall we were delighted with how we restricted them. That was the result of a great team effort, from Curtis up front, to the four lads playing in defence. The work-rate all over the park was outstanding.
“It’s always a tough game on the big pitch and I felt we were maybe a bit sloppy with our passing at times, although with the heat and the pace the game was played at, it is understandable. But I can’t argue with anyone’s performance, everyone performed their roles well and although we didn’t get the win, four points from the first two games is a good return.”
Kearney was full of praise for young striker Mark Gillan who came off the bench for his full debut and almost grabbed the winner.
“I was pleased for Mark Gillan who came on for his senior debut and he caused Linfield a few problems,” said Kearney.
“His header almost crept in. That would have been a fantastic start for Mark to score the winner at Windsor on his debut, but it wasn’t to be.
“Mark’s chance was probably the closest either of us came to a goal and there it hit Alan Blayney, rather than him making a save. Had that gone in we would have been in an excellent position to go on and win the game, but anytime you take a point at Windsor Park, you have to be satisfied.
“Both teams had small opportunities were they maybe could have won the game, but overall a draw was probably a fair result.
“You can’t come to a place like this though and show any fear, it was paramount that we went out and went about our business well, thankfully the boys stuck to the game plan and we were able to do that.”