NORTH STREET ART EXTRA/DUKE OF YORK

A few weeks ago, you may have seen me blog about Street Art in North Street as part of Culture Night.

There were some pieces that weren’t finished, but now they are. So here’s a tidy up definitively showing all the Street Art in North Street.

Not just North Street, but surrounding streets, and some work in the car park of the Sunflower Pub.

Meanwhile, there is a new work in the garden of the Duke Of York pub is a new piece depicting a row of houses in Belfast, with the best and worst stereotypes of the city, and the various sort of people who live in Belfast.

Further information on the work at Duke Of York can be found on Extramual Activity.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-3 CLIFTONVILLE 18.10.2014

Having taken 12 games to get to the top of the league, Linfield faced an immediate test as Cliftonville came to Windsor Park.

Three points behind Linfield at kick-off, Cliftonville knew a win would take them above Linfield, while Linfield could go six points clear of Cliftonville, a significant lead, even at this stage of the season.

Three times last season Linfield went into games against Cliftonville with decisive leads. Three times Linfield lost and allowed Cliftonvile to close the game or overtake Linfield at the top. It was ultimately what decided the title.

In the opening minutes, both teams, to use a pundits cliche, “felt each other out” before Linfield took control, creating openings, or having openings created for them by Cliftonville, who looked defensive suspect when put under pressure.

Linfield got the lead on 14 minutes when Lowry and Carvill tried to pass through Cliftonville’s defence before the ball bounced to Aaron Burns, whose soft header to Andrew Waterworth, who volleyed home.

It was Waterworth’s third goal in four games. It looks as though his season is finally kickstarting.

In the four league games last season, Linfield didn’t take the lead against Cliftonville.

More chances came for Linfield, Michael Carvill unable to head home from a cross, and Ivan Sproule firing over from close range when he should have scored.

It was Sproule’s only involvement in the first-half, mainly due to most of Linfield’s play coming through Ross Clarke.

Towards the end of the half, Cliftonville came more into the game, but didn’t create much of note.

On 43 minutes, they got an equaliser, when short passing set up Jude Winchester to fire home from close range.

Seconds earlier, a free-kick was cleared out wide. From that position, you shouldn’t really been conceding.

Even more frustrating, when other half-time scores came through (Crusaders and Portadown losing) and were all in Linfield’s favour.

An excellent first-half performance ruined by conceding right at the end. Time to start again.

Except, that Linfield didn’t start at all in the second-half, with Cliftonville going 2-1 up in the opening minutes when David McDaid fired home from close range.

Looking around in the immediate aftermath of the goal, it was disturbing to see the number of players with their heads down, and nobody trying the gee them up or raise spirits.

It’s not as if it was the first time Linfield had gone behind this season, or even, in recent weeks.

Most damming was the lack of options on the bench, showing how much of a miss Peter Thompson is, and how vital it was to get another striker before the transfer deadline.

Kirk Millar, a player I am a big fan of, came on for Ivan Sproule, and was awful.

Sammy Morrow. The polite thing I can say is, he’s not very good. Seeing him coming off the bench is hardly going to install fear in any Irish League team.

It might be time for Warren Feeney to stick on the boots again? It’s noticeable that his only appearances came when he was Linfield’s only fit striker. It’s clear he’s reluctant to play himself.

He has held his own when played, but just can’t sustain 90 minute apparances. A better option than Morrow from the bench until Peter Thompson returns.

From there, Cliftonville strangled Linfield and made it 3-1 with 20 minutes to go.

Like when it went to 2-1, the body language of the players was disturbing. Heads down or head in hands. Nobody taking the lead to lift spirits.

They played like a beaten team for the rest of the game. Glenavon got 2 late goals to get a 3-3 draw with Cliftonville earlier this season. If they got 1, they could get another.

Got to have a sense of perspective, though not top, Linfield are level on points with the team at the top (Portadown) of the league, and there are 25 games to go.

The congestion at the top of the table remains, with five teams separated by two points. A chance to break up some of that congestion was missed. Another chance comes next week, with fifth place Crusaders heading to Windsor Park, in a game that could see Linfield go five points clear of them,

Interesting to note, that Linfield’s 3 defeats have come the against the other teams in the Top 4.

Overall, the breakdown is :

v Top half P 6 W 1 D 2 L 3

v Bottom half P 7 W 6 D 1 L 0

Need to get wins against teams in the top half in order to half a serious title challenge. Linfield had a similar record in the first half of the 2010-2011 season, before turning it around with 7 wins out of 7 against Cliftonville/Glentoran/Crusaders.

That record needs to improve immediately, with games against Crusaders and Glenavon coming up. Linfield could be cut adrift from the top of the league before mid November.

In Redevelopment news, the South Stand is almost gone. There is very little remaining of it. I’m hoping to do a Photo Diary of the Redevelopment, with a Slide Show when it is complete.

I’ve set one up on a website called Slidely for anyone interested. Planning on doing monthly updates. If anyone can suggest other good online slideshows, do get in touch.

Within weeks, the South Stand will be reduced to rubble. Hopefully, Linfield’s season won’t be in the coming weeks.

Photo Album

GEORGE EZRA – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 14.10.2014

The act that is currently Number 1 in the UK Album Chart was in Belfast this week. It wasn’t The Odyssey, Waterfront or even Ulster Hall that was hosting this, but The Limelight that secured this coup.

It shouldn’t perhaps have been that much of a surprise, as at the start of the year, George Ezra was nominated for the BBC’s Sound Of 2014.

The hype is worth it, as Ezra has recorded three of the best and catchiest songs of the year – Cassy O, Budapest and Blame It On Me.

He was supported by Rae Morris, whose current single “Closer” is well worth listening to.

Ezra casually walked on stage, sipping a cup of tea, prompting someone beside me to remark “He’s drinking tea ……. how cute” before issuing a mission statement, “My name is George and i’m here to play some songs” and jumping straight into Cassy O. The crowd sang along.

A newcomer, Ezra has already picked up some pop star ettiquette, perfecting the “This song is from my new album” line, beaming with pride at being able to say it, with this current tour being his first since his debut

He trolled the crowd with the cliched anecdotes about his time in the city he’s playing, before revealing that his only experience of Belfast was visiting Nando’s, but didn’t clarify if it was the Victoria Square branch or the Ormeau Avenue one.

Ezra’s album, Wanted On Voyage, was mostly written about his experiences while inter-railing around Europe and encountering what he described as “Odd people”

He played two songs about cities – Barcelona (not a Freddie Mercury/Monserrat Caballe cover) and Budapest, the final song of the set. Well, until the encore.

For the encore, he appeared wearing his own merchandise, a t-shirt saying “Good girls go to Heaven, Bad girls go to Budapest”

Quite what Hungary’s Tourism Minister makes of that, is unknown.

During the encore, fans were treated to a cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Girls, and Boys, in The Limelight, certainly had fun.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 3-1 INSTITUTE 13.10.2014

48 hours after Northern Ireland had beaten Faroe Islands in the European Championships, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Institute.

There might have been a lot of differences between the two games, but there was one big similarity – the home side were looking for a win that would take them to the top of the table with their respective campaigns almost at the 1/3 stage.

A Monday night game against Institute isn’t going to attract the biggest crowd, but the low crowd I saw walking from the bridge made me suspicious that something was up. The fact that the North Stand was in darkness gave the game away.

As I enter the grounds of Windsor Park, supporters awaited to be admitted, as a floodlight failure had put the game in doubt.

Eventually, the problem was fixed, resulting in a delayed kick-off (by 30 minutes) of 8.15pm, which seemed ambitious, as supporters were eventually admitted at around 8pm.

The delayed kick-off was delayed further to about 8.20pm

Amazingly, in my football watching life, it wasn’t my first floodlight failure (Fulham v Manchester United in 2013), latest kick-off (When I went to see Barcelona, they kicked-off at 10pm) or even longest delay (Aston Villa v Leeds in Dublin in 2003 was delayed by over an hour as Villa’s plane was diverted to Shannon)

Curiously, unless my mind is playing tricks, Institute’s last league visit was also a delayed kick-off, but only by 15 minutes.

Linfield kicked-off eager to make up for lost time, going straight on the attack and putting Institute under pressure, winning a corner. A short routine between Ross Clarke and Aaron Burns saw Chris Hegarty head home a cross from close range.

It was no exaggeration to suggest Linfield could have been 3-0 or 4-0 up after 10 minutes, creating chances through neat passing moves, but just coming short.

The actual score, after 10 minutes, though was 1-1, as a quick Institute free-kick resulted in a cross to be headed home by Stephen O’Flynn.

A few weeks earlier, a quick free-kick played out left also resulted in a goal, for Crusaders. A worrying trend.

You got the feeling with Institute’s defence that they were always liable to gift Linfield a chance. Linfield did have chances, but couldn’t convert.

As the half neared the end, Linfield played some neat stuff but with no end product. If it was still 1-0, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but as it was 1-1, it was a frustrating evening.

In injury time, a quick free-kick from Sean Ward to Ivan Sproule saw Sproule pull it back for Andrew Waterworth to fire home, to see Linfield lead at the end of a half that lasted 50 minutes due to stoppages for two Institute injuries. It felt we were never going to get home before Tuesday morning.

Linfield made a slow start to the second-half, and were almost punished when Institute missed a glorious chance with a free header from six yards out.

The 3rd goal that Linfield craved came with 20 minutes to go, when Stephen Lowry fired home from the edge of the box, or so he thought, as the goal was disallowed by the linesman for offside (two players were following up) before the referee overruled him.

Institute manager Paul Kee was sent-off for dissent as the game threatened to boil over.

Interesting to note, that all three of Linfield’s goals came from free-kicks that had short passes rather than firing the ball into the box.

With the points secured, Warren Feeney looked to his bench, bringing on Sammy Morrow. It would be polite to say “It didn’t really happen for him”

Kirk Millar was brought on and looked lively. I’m a big fan of him and would have him starting, but to be fair, Ivan Sproule has improved a lot over the last couple of games.

Millar came on for Sproule. I’d have had him on for Clarke, purely as Clarke was on a yellow card tightrope, which thankfully, he didn’t fall off.

One final sub, was Seanan Clucas. I’d have brought on Jamie Mulgrew to give him game time. That side, Clucas, has hardly had much game time this season.

Having struggled to score but keep clean sheets, it has now reversed for Linfield, with 0 clean sheets in 5 league games, but 11 goals scored in the last 4.

Despite that last statistic, you get the feeling Linfield could still be more deadly up front.

Thankfully, players in defence and midfield have done their bit for the goalscoring cause.

As the final whistle blew, supporters were treated to The Smiths on the tannoy – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Somebody had a sense of humour.

Of all The Smiths songs to sum up a game, rather that than Panic or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.

There’s a long time to go before a certain Queen song gets blasted out over the tannoys.

You get the feeling there’s a big performance to come from this team. Saturday would be a good start.

Photo Album

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : OCT 10 – OCT 16

The first birthday this week, is Midge Ure, of various acts.

It means nothing to me.

Anyway, this song, which kept it off Number 1, is far better.

Meanwhile, Kirsty MacColl would have been 55 this week.

Meanwhile, both the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet have birthdays this week, which must be great if you’re a miserly relative or family friend, just get their presents in a 2 for 1 offer.

ITV gave them their own show this week.

Not even joking, I was in Bristol recently, and there’s a Jewellers called Kemp Brothers. Was so tempted to walk in and as for Gold.

It’s five years this week, since Stephen Gateley died.

Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates (He’s Hall) turned 68 this week. Here’s Paul Young covering him.

(WARNING : CLIP INTRODUCED BY JONATHAN KING)

From one rock god with flowing blonde locks to another, it’s Rick Parfitt’s birthday this week, so put on your best Double Denim and get ready to rock (with only three chords)

This week, Shaznay from All Saints nudged closer to 40.

I think this week needs some Chilli Peppers

And finally, an All Saints/Chilli Peppers link

NORTHERN IRELAND 2-0 FAROE ISLANDS 11.10.2014

For the first time in 13 months, Northern Ireland were playing at Windsor Park, in their only home game of 2014.

A lot has happened since that game against Portugal, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. From the step forwards of beating Russia and heroic defeat against Portugal, to the lows of defeats in Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, before going back to the high of last month’s win in Hungary.

Of all the teams to face after that, i’m not sure Faroe Islands would be top of the list. It would be such a Northern Ireland thing to drop points against the Faroes after a win in Hungary.

Past results against the Faroes (1-1, 5-0, 1-1, 4-0) suggested it could go one of two ways. Northern Ireland don’t do expectation very well.

Windsor Park was full. Well, sort of. All the seats that could be sold were sold, with the South and Railway Stands out of use. Foundation work is well underway for the Railway Stand, while the South Stand is halfway demolished.

Northern Ireland kicked-off and went straight on the attack, putting the Faroes under pressure and forcing them into a goal line clearance from a Gareth McAuley header. McAuley was injured making the header and in discomfort. It briefly looked like he might have to be subbed.

Thankfully, he wasn’t, and fired home from close range after a header fell to him within minutes of coming back on. It was the dream start Northern Ireland wanted.

Though, the last time Faroe Islands visited Windsor Park, Northern Ireland got an early goal, before a nervous display for the rest of the half, with a second-half flurry of goals giving the deceptive impression of a 4-0 romp.

This was different, the attacking was relentless. Everytime Northern Ireland had the ball, there was a player always available for a pass or a cross. Everytime Faroe Islands had the ball, they didn’t know what to do, often losing it and giving Northern Ireland the chance to build another attack.

More attempts on goal followed, with Northern Ireland getting closer and closer, before eventually making it 2-0 when Kyle Lafferty flicked home a cross from the left.

More attempts followed, but as the half neared it’s end, it was Faroe Islands who had the next big opportunity when they were awarded a penalty. Thankfully, Roy Carroll saved the penalty and Northern Ireland survived, then picked up where they left off.

As the second-half started, Northern Ireland needed a 3rd just to be sure, despite the fact that Faroe Islands had offered nothing in open play.

The second-half was a bit of a non event as Northern Ireland tried to get a 3rd goal (they had enough chances) but saving themselves for the game against Greece on Tuesday.

Not only did Northern Ireland win tonight, they had two other wins, in the shape of both other group games finishing draws.

Not sure what to make of Greece drawing in Finland tonight. When the draw was made, I had them as runaway group winners, with everybody else bar Faroe Islands playing for 2nd and 3rd.

You could look at it as Greece are maybe not as good as I thought, or they are just waiting to explode into life. Hopefully, the former.

Regardless of what happens, i’m planning on being in France for the finals. Benn planning this ever since France were awarded hosting rights. June 2015 flights went on sale this week so I did a little dry run regarding prices.

Hopefully, Northern Ireland will be there, but there’s a long way to go.

I’d happily take two draws from the away games in Greece and Romania, ahead of Finland’s visit to Windsor Park in March. I might just get shouted down for being too negative.

Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands August 2011

Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands August 2011 Photo album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 10.10.2014

1. Charli XCX – London Queen
2. McBusted – Air Guitar
3. Hozier – Take Me To Church
4. George Ezra – Blame It On Me
5. Future Islands – Seasons

Last Saturday night saw some inspired scheduling on BBC 2, with a whole night of programmes dedicated to Genesis. I haven’t got round to watching the documentary yet, but I have seen the Top Of The Pops 2 special.

In, um, celebration of this, here’s a Genesis Top Five

FIVE SONGS BY GENESIS

1. Land Of Confusion
2. Congo
3. Turn It On Again
4. That’s All
5. Invisible Touch

And as a bonus, how about a Genesis related Top Five?

FIVE GENESIS RELATED SONGS

1. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
2. Mike and the Mechanics – Over My Shoulder
3. Mike and the Mechanics – Word Of Mouth
4. Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
5. Phil Collins – Sussudio

50 YEARS OF TOP OF THE POPS : OCT 3 – OCT 9

This week’s first birthday, is Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac officially becoming an OAP. In 1988, he sold his house, Buckingham Palace, to the British Royal Family for £20m and a signed copy of Rumours.

Unfortunately, there’s not much Mac in the archives, so here’s The Corrs.

It was Gwen Stefani’s birthday this week, of which there is No Doubt.

As yet, Danny from The Script isn’t in the TOTP Hall OF Fame.

Also blowing out candles this week is Chris Lowe, writer of Ian Wright’s 1992 classic Do The Wright Thing , 55 this week.

Remember when Tatu scandalised the nation (well, Richard and Judy) back in 2003?

Bob Geldof, caught in a Rat Trap.

Who wants to see Madness cover The Kinks?

Nicola from Girls Aloud edged another year closer to 30 this week.

And from Girls Aloud, we go to Radiohead ……

Two sadly missed Johns now, to end this week’s round-up.

John Lennon would have been 74 this week.

And a Legs and Co tribute. It’s what he would have wanted.

John Entwhistle would have been 70 this week.

LINFIELD 3-2 BALLYMENA UNITED 4.10.2014

The 11th game of the season, and the point when everybody has played each other, a perfect opportunity to assess how things have gone so far, as 3rd placed Ballymena travelled to Windsor Park to take on Linfield, both teams level on points, 1 behind morning leaders Crusaders.

Linfield had the first real chance of the game when a soft Andrew Waterworth shot was cleared off the line after a scramble, but it was Ballymena who took the lead, with a Johnny Taylor header inside the first ten minutes.

With the defeat to Glenavon still a recent memory, you started to fear that this season could be defined by poor home form.

After that goal, Linfield really struggled when attacking, never really looking like scoring in open play. It took a corner for the equaliser to come, when Chris Hegarty headed home after Ballymena’s keeper Dwayne Nelson went to claim the ball and got nowhere near it.

Linfield, now had their tails up, having cancelled out Ballymena’s advantage, and managed to make the most of it, taking the lead, with another Chris Hegarty header, after a Niall Quinn free-kick hit the bar, then bounced in off his head.

You could say it was a lucky goal, but if you get into scoring positions to chase up in case there’s a rebound, you make your own luck.

As the half neared it’s end, Aaron Burns was played in on the edge of the box into a great position for a low cross into the “Corridor of uncertainty”

Thankfully, he ignored my advice, went past his opponent, and fired into the back of the net.

So, 3-1 at half-time, looking like a nice routine win in the sunshine.

When you’re 2 goals up at half-time, the important thing is to start the second-half strong and don’t the opposition a sniff at getting a goal back.

Linfield did that, and had a few chances, most notably Ivan Sproule firing over in the first minute of the half.

Unfortunately, the 4th goal didn’t come, and Ballymena came more into it, having a few situations where Chris Hegarty was being forced to make last ditch interceptions.

There is only so many times you can get away with that, and Ballymena got back into the game when Johnny Taylor headed home.

Now, Linfield looked nervous. Worst thing was, a lot of it was self inflicted. The corner for Taylor’s second goal came after Burns and Lowry lost possession when a simple pass would have done, and the resultant shot from Ballymena forced a corner.

Too many times, Linfield gave away cheap possession, giving Ballymena more opportunities top get forward. Most of it, was caused by misplaced ambitious passes, when a simple one would have done.

If it wasn’t possession being given away, it was poor communication at the back. conceding corners, or heading the ball back into open play, when it could have been left for the goalkeeper, or allowed to go out for a goal kick.

As each minute passed, the game was going to go one of two ways – (a) Linfield were going to just about hold on. Not win, just hold on (b) It was going to be a repeat of the Ards game in January, with the opposition going level too late to go 4-3 up.

Like in the Ards game, there was no activity regarding substitutions, when fresh blood was needed. Eventually, that did happen, in the shape of Kirk Millar and Jamie Mulgrew.

Thankfully, Linfield just about saw the game out, which had a curious end to it, with Warren Feeney (in suit, not named in the 16 today) being sent off, having to make the journey from what was the South Stand, to the dressing rooms at the corner of The Kop and North Stand.

Would it be cruel to say it’s the fastest he’s moved all season? (Just getting in there first before someone else says it)

So, played everybody one, and joint top of the league. Lots of positives, lots of negatives.

A win was particularly important with Linfield not playing next Saturday, giving Portadown to go clear in front.

That’s 2 home wins out of 3, hopefully more to come, as we need to make Windsor Park a fortress over the coming months, especially with Cliftonville, Crusaders and Glentoran all visiting in the next six weeks.

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