LINFIELD 2-1 COLERAINE 18.11.2017

The last time Coleraine visited Windsor Park was for the Irish Cup Final in May. Saturday wasn’t a cup final, thought it might have felt like it. There wouldn’t be a trophy presented today, but defeat would surely have seen the League trophy slip away from Linfield’s hands.

Linfield were Back In Blue after a Highway To Hell which brought two away defeats which left them Thunderstruck.

Last week’s defeat at Ballymena was a missed opportunity for Linfield with Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders all inactive in the League. Coleraine kicked-off eleven points clear of Linfield. Victory would put them fourteen clear of Linfield. Even at this relatively early stage, that would be too much.

Victory for Linfield cuts the gap to eight points. Tough, but doable.

October and November have been rotten months for Linfield in the last few years. 2017 was no different, as Linfield have suffered seven defeats in the last ten games.

It’s been a perfect storm. Bad finishing, bad defending, bad luck, bad decision making (by officials and Linfield players). Sometimes, it’s been all four in the same game.

Coleraine made a good start in the opening minutes, having a lot of the ball in Linfield’s half, even though they didn’t really do a lot with it.

Linfield then had their own moments on top, making more of the ball when they had it. Chris Casement had a free-kick tipped over while Mark Stafford heading wide.

Jordan Stewart was Linfield’s main threat, getting into good positions but failing with the final ball.

Cameron Stewart was troubling Coleraine’s defence by just being a general nuisance.

Andrew Waterworth broke into Coleraine’s penalty area and was fouled. Penalty to Linfield. Finally, a break. Well, so we thought, we’d probably miss.

Thankfully not, as Andrew Waterworth slotted the ball home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Coleraine were now nervous in defence. Linfield were almsot getting in behind them. A poor pass or a lucky leg stuck out saving Coleraine. It was going to be a matter of time before Linfield got it right. They had to. They simply had to take advantage while they were playing well.

A quick free-kick saw Niall Quinn get in behind Coleraine’s defence, and cross for Mark Stafford to run in and head home from close range. It was similar to Ivan Perisic’s goal for Croatia against Greece in the World Cup Play-Offs recently. For Linfield fans, it was just as vital.

On Wednesday night, it didn’t look like Stafford would be playing in this match. We’ll get to that later.

Linfield needed a third goal while they were on top. They couldn’t get it. They had to make do with just the two goals.

In the final minute of the first-half, Coleraine had their only real chance of the first-half when Jamie McGonigle was played through on goal.

Just like when he ran through on goal in the last minute of the meeting between the sides last month, Roy Carroll saved his effort. This time, it went out for a corner. It was definitely over the line. No dispute this time. No cost to Linfield this time.

The opening fifteen minutes of the second-half would be massive. If Coleraine could get a goal, they would fancy their chances of getting something from this game.

Coleraine had a lot of the ball and a lot of pressure, but Linfield held firm. However, if the pressure continued, it would only be a matter of time before Coleraine scored.

Linfield’s rare forays into Coleraine’s half saw them lose possession quickly. They couldn’t even win a corner.

Linfield couldn’t get to the hour with a clean sheet. Just before that milestone, a well worked move saw Darren McCAuley fire home for Coleraine. It was game on.

You felt like it was now going to be a case of Goal The Winner. 3-1 would secure the game for Linfield. 2-2, and it would be hard to see Coleraine not winning.

David Healy responed by bringing on Kirk Millar and Aaron Burns.

Millar played well, holding on to the ball when he had it, and always making himself an option when another Linfield player had it.

Niall Quinn got into a good position but just headed wide from a cross. The final minutes were unsurprisingly nervous. Coleraine had a header just wide. It looked like a goal from where I was sat at the other end.

When you’re on a run as bad as Linfield, you always expect the worst. Adam Mullan had a header saved by Roy Carroll. It just hit him. The luck was now all with Linfield.

Deep into injury time, a Coleraine corner was headed goalward. I was at the other end, and couldn’t see what happened, with so many players in the crowded penalty area.

I knew there two things I couldn’t see. The netting moving, and Coleraine players celebrating. I knew it was ok. The final whistle blew immediately and Linfield had the win.

Linfield players got the blocks when it mattered. In recent weeks, it was opposition players who were doing that. Linfield scored when they were in top. In recent weeks, it was the opposition scoring when they were on top.

It is only one win, but every success begins with one win.

It was also a first win of the season against a top half team of note. Sorry, Glentoran.

It is worth pointing out, that this time last year, Linfield had won only one of eight matches against Coleraine, Glenavon, Crusaders and Cliftonville. They remedied that in spectacular style in the second-half of the season.

It makes the defeat against Ballymena even worse, as the gap would only be five points and things would be very interesting indeed. No point crying about it, the Ballymena game is gone. The title, is not.

Next up, is a trip to Mourneview Park on Friday night. Friday night isn’t ideal, especially when there is a Record Fair in Lurgan that could have made next Saturday a double trip, but we might as well make the most of it and get the three points to cut the gap on Glenavon and put pressure on Coleraine and Crusaders, who play each other.

There will be points dropped above us next weekend, we simply have to take advantage.

Without sounding arrogant, there are a run of games against bottom half teams in December, which represents an opportunity to get a winning run of form ahead of Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine in succession over Christmas/New Year.

If we can kick on from this, it would make the early months of 2018 very interesting indeed.

Since I last wrote, Northern Ireland have been eliminated from the World Cup after a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Switzerland.

Two days later, Republic of Ireland went out after a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Denmark.

Predictably, Wednesday’s media was covering “Calls” for a combined football team.

“Calls”. Anybody can call for anything, that doesn’t make it newsworthy. Look at who is calling for it. Politicians and Journalists. That tells you all you need it to know. There are no calls, no demands, just people using their influence or “Fame” to pursue an agenda through the media.

Why were there no calls at 7.49pm on Tuesday night?

Let’s address this “Issue”.

The famed Ireland Rugby team gets mentioned in this type of nonsense. “Why don’t we have one team like in Rugby?” they cry.

Surely if this was going to be happen, would people not want them to be successful and decent, unlike the Rugby team.

But yes, if we’re using the Rugby model, why not have a Britain and Ireland football team? You know, like the Lions?

What’s that? I’m using sport to push a political agenda and deny people the chance to see their national team compete in international competition? Sorry about that.

When you see Lithuania, Latvia, Armenia and Ukraine fail to Qualify, wouldn’t it be amazing if all the former Soviet states formed a combined team with Russia?

What’s that? Trying to have countries that no longer exist compete in international football is just silly. Sorry about that.

I guess your idea is brilliant and mine are stupid. Fair enough.

The big mistake people who support this idea make, is that they think Northern Ireland fans have to justify their team’s existence. We don’t. We have never had to, and we will never have to.

It is up to those who want this to happen to convince us that it should happen.

Nobody has made a suggestion that is even remotely acceptable to us. Not even close.

First question, what would this team be called? It sounds simple, but what would it be called. You can’t call it “Ireland” as that is the brand name the FAI use for their representative team, and that would not be acceptable for Northern Ireland fans.

Who would be their sponsors? Neither Vauxhall or 3 would accept anything less than prominent position on training gear.

Who would be their kit supplier? Both teams have different contracts that would have to be cancelled and a new one negotiated?

Who is the manager? Who is the coaching, support and admin staff? You can’t have two sets. Somebody will miss out.

Where will they be in the FIFA Rankings? As a new team, they would have to start on 0 and be in Pot 6 for qualifying competitions. Being in Pot 6 will make qualifying for tournaments very difficult.

Where would they play their home matches? Northern Ireland fans would not accept feeding off scraps of home games against teams seeded five and six.

So, we have a team in Pot 6 with no staff and sponsors. This doesn’t sound very appealing.

I wish there was some sort of recent political event where people demanded something without taking into account the consequences.

To quote the great political thinker Joe Quimby, are they getting louder or stupider?

Tuesday’s result was not a shock. Republic of Ireland rarely win big games at home. Germany and Bosnia were exceptions.

In the past 16 years, Russia x 2, Switzerland x 2, France x 2, Israel, Germany x 2, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Monetnegro, Slovakia, Sweden, Austria x 2, Scotland, Poland, Wales, Serbia and Denmark have come home from competitive games in Dublin unbeaten.

Northern Ireland have had some awful results, but we haven’t conceded five in a competitive match at Windsor Park since 1979. Republic of Ireland have done it twice in the last five years.

Perhaps they should look at their own failings rather than trying to use us to deflect attention away from them.

I’m quite confident that I speak on behalf of Northern Ireland fans by politely declining the offer.

We can address it again when journalists report on “Calls” for this when Republic of Ireland get eliminated from Euro 2020.

This week, saw France confirmed as hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Very tempted to do a football/rugby trip. Nice is a host city. A return visit sounds very tempting. It’s still six years away so there is no rush.

And now, Mark Stafford’s red card on Wednesday. A red card for being fouled. I’m surprised a goal for Coleraine wasn’t awarded when he scored today.

It cost us the game. We had most of the possession in the second-half. Most of the possession, against ten men, attacking our own fans. I’m fancying our chances here.

That’s two games in the past month that we have been cost due to refereeing incompetence.

The referee bottled it in the face of an angry mob of Crusaders players. We need to start standing up for ourselves on the pitch. We can’t continue to allow ourselves to be outsmarted by stupid teams.

It’s not just Linfield who have suffered in the face of incompetent refereeing. Just ask Warrenpoint Town fans about the last day of the 2015-2016 season.

So, up next for Linfield is a trip to Mourneview Park. Linfield at Mourneview Park in November is usually interesting.

2014 saw four red cards. 2015 saw a five goal thriller. 2016 saw a two goal comeback with nine men, one of whom was a defender in nets.

I’ll happily take a boring 1-0 win in 2017.

Photo Album

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WALK THIS WAY, WALK THAT WAY, WALK THE OTHER WAY

A round-up of recent Street Art events in Belfast. In short – Two new pieces appeared, and one got moved. Here’s the details.

You remember that mural of Carl Cox I reported on in August? It’s gone, but it has been replaced at the same location by one of Run DMC. It is by the same artist, Glen Molloy. If you’re looking for it, it is beside Thompson’s. Ironically, on the same spot in early 2015, the words “WALK THIS WAY” were painted on that spot.

There was also a new piece painted on the side of a wall at the Car Park in Gresham Street, where there is a new Apache shop, and there is also art on the shutters. It is of pigeons, and I got some photos earlier in the week when it was a work in progress.

There is a note at the top of it, which says “Sorry Inkie”.

That is because it was painted over a piece done by Inkie.

Do you remember the Hill Street Wall Of Fame from June?

Well, the building work that it was hiding is no finished, but don’t worry, The Duke of York have found a new home for it.

So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed this round-up. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any more developments in and around Belfast.

Pigeons Mural Photo Album

Run DMC Mural Photo Album

THE KILLERS – LIVE AT THE ODYSSEY 17.11.2017

Somebody told me that The Killers were in Belfast for a concert at The Odyssey. Well sort of, only half of them were there, singer Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr, due with bassist Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning deciding to sit out this tour.

They might only been at half strength, but they were at full power, though Flowers commented during the set “Look at how we’ve grown”, referring to the number of Support Musicians and Backing Singers on stage.

Talking of Ronnie Vannucci Jr, is it me, or does he look like Earl Hickey? Once you see it, it cannot be unseen.

Flowers also commented that it had been a while since The Killers were last in Belfast. It was only three years ago, not that long, relatively speaking. That night, at Tennent’s Vital, they were flogging a Greatest Hits album

It is the gap between Killers albums that has contributed to their absences from Belfast. Their current release, Wonderful Wonderful is their first album since 2012 and only their second since 2008.

During that time, Brandon Flowers has juggled Killers commitments inbetween releasing and touring (but he never played Belfast) two solo albums, like a modern day Phil Collins, but more listenable and with better hair.

Their last indoor concert in Belfast was at The Odyssey in 2013.

Flowers was the last person the enter the stage, having built up the tension, as the band went straight into the title track from their current album Wonderful Wonderful.

That was then followed by the lead single from that album, The Man, as a synth/keyboard in the shape of the male logo and pink confetti shot out into the crowd.

The Man is a dancing bouncing tune full of swagger, albeit sounding like Reflektor by Arcade Fire. The funky guitars on the live version sounded like a cross between Fame by David Bowie and Big Time by Peter Gabriel. Whatever it sounded like, it sounded fantastic.

This was then followed by their breakthrough hit Somebody Told Me, before the standout track from Wonderful Wonderful, Run For Cover, which was originally written for the Day and Age album, and does sound a lot like Spaceman, which was incidentally also on the setlist.

Other classic hits included Smile Like You Mean It and For Reasons Unknown.

Belfast got a treat in the shape of a cover of Teenage Kicks (previously done in Belfast), local to Northern Ireland but not to Belfast obviously. The crowd loved it. They might have just screamed out of control if Brandon had sang “I’m Norman Whiteside” on Mr Brightside. Sadly, he didn’t.

Current single Rut got an airing, The Killers were in anything but a rut.

There were more classic hits to follow in the shape of Human, Runaways, Read My Mind and All These Things I’ve Done, with a cover of Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits sandwiched inbetween.

For the encore, Flowers strutted onto the stage in a gold suit, more channeling Mr MacPhisto (Bono’s alter ego from the Zoo TV Tour) than Martin Fry from ABC.

The encore included classic hits When You Were Young and Mr Brightside.

To quote their biggest hit from their current album, The Killers still have plenty of gas in the tank. Belfast was in agreement that they were Wonderful Wonderful.

Photo Album

The Killers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields 2014

The Killers live at The Odyssey 2013

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 17.11.2017

1. The Killers – Run For Cover
2. Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Fort Knox
4. Roy Orbison and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – I Drove All Night
5. Yazoo – Only You (2017 Version)

This Sunday is International Men’s Day. So, prepare yourself for some manly charts. Grrrr!!!

If you’re celebrating, enjoy yourself. That’s cool. If it’s just another day to you, enjoy yourself. That’s cool.

Just don’t be a self hating dick about it. Seriously, nobody wants to hear an attention seeker desperate for attention by sticking the boot into people to show how wonderful they are to people who hate them.

SONGS BY MALE SINGERS

1. Prince – Gold
2. John Parr – St Elmo’s Fire
3. Peter Gabriel – Big Time
4. Holly Johnson – Love Train
5. Seal – Kiss From A Rose

SONGS WITH MALE NAMES IN THE TITLE

1. Oasis – Little James
2. Bat For Lashes – Daniel
3. REM – What’s The Frequency Kenneth?
4. Joshua Kaddison – Jesse
5. Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe

SONGS WITH MAN IN THE TITLE

1. Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror
2. Hall and Oates – Family Man
3. Human League – One Man In My Heart
4. The Verve – Lucky Man
5. David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 3.9.1994

Jurgen Klinsmann is the cover star of this edition of Shoot, after making a goalscoring start to his career in England, denying claims that he’s past it.

In news, new Middlesbrough player/manager Bryan Robson has revealed that his lets his assistant Viv Anderson do half-time team-talks in matches that he is playing in.

In ads, there is an advert for a band called Oasis, as they have just released their debut album, Definitely Maybe. Meanwhile, Chris Sutton is advertising Patrick, having just made a British Record move to Blackburn Rovers.

England are playing USA in a friendly at Wembley, and this match gets a double page preview, focusing on Milwall goalkeeper Kasey Keller who is desperate to play in this game.

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-1 LINFIELD 10.11.2017

With Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders not in League action this weekend, the trip to Ballymena was a must win game which presented them with an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table. Defeat means that next Saturdays game against Coleraine at Windsor Park is more about staying in the title race rather than becoming actively involved in it.

There were two enforced changes from the starting eleven against Ballinamallard the previous week with Roy Carroll (International Duty) and Josh Robinson (Suspension) being replaced by Gareth Deane and Mark Stafford.

It didn’t take long for Linfield to take the lead in this game. Just three minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Robert Garrett who fired home low from outside the box to put Linfield 1-0 up.

It looked like it was going to be the first of many for Linfield as Ballymena looked nervous in defence, panicking and needlessly conceding cheap throws and corners. They looked like they were going to gift Linfield a goal at any time.

More Linfield pressure followed. Stephen Lowry had a shot cleared off the line and Kirk Millar fired over from a similar position to which Garrett scored.

Garrett tried his luck again from outside the box, but it was turned around the post by Ross Glendenning.

Inbetween that, there was a brief flurry from Ballymena. The best effort was a free-kick that Gareth Deane dropped it out for a corner when he should have held it. The resulting corner was headed over, reminding Linfield that this game was far from won.

Linfield led 1-0 at half-time and it could have been more. The game was far from won. A second goal should have been enough.

Linfield never got going at all at the start of the second-half, and it was no surprise when Conor McCloskey equalised from a long range free-kick.

The response was immediate, and Josh Rooney had a chance, but he toepoked wide, the finish of a player who is struggling for goals.

On the hour, Ballymena took the lead when a goal kick was flicked on for Johnny McMurray to spectacularly score from long range.

There’s no doubt it was a world class finish, and a video of the goal has been doing the rounds all over the internet.

However, from the defending team’s point of view, there have to be questions about the goalkeeper’s position (from an opposition goal kick) and why a defender close to him wasn’t immediately putting him under pressure as soon as he got the ball.

Linfield had their chances to equalise. Jordan Stewart fired over from inside the box just after Ballymena scored. He really should have scored.

Aaron Burns came on for Louis Rooney as Linfield searched for a comeback win. They closest they came was when a Mark Stafford header was saved by Glendenning.

That was the problem. Ross Glendenning was making saves, but he wasn’t making top class saves. They were just saves. Saves that you would expect any goalkeeper to make.

Linfield couldn’t get any momentum going.

Brandon Adams was brought on for Chris Casement. The Killers might not be in Belfast until the following Friday. Linfield fans were hoping that this would be the Friday night for Brandon to shine.

Kirk Millar fired wide on his left foot when he should have hit the target.

The problem when you miss the target at Ballymena is that it takes and age to get the ball back. Ballymena weren’t slow in slowing the game down, as Ballboys seemed to be reluctant to distribute the ball to restart the game.

Once again, another referee made a mug of. A referee who gave Andrew Waterworth a talking to for scoring when he was flagged offside, but stood and did nothing when Ballymena players were slowing the game down.

We need to get smart to this. We need to be getting in officials faces and making sure they act on it and stop giving teams a chance to kill games. Opposition players aren’t slow in letting the ref know if a Linfield player looks at them funny.

If Linfield could get an equaliser, they would surely go on and win the game. The problem was, getting that equaliser.

With each passing minute, Linfield’s ambitions were being downgraded to wanting an equaliser to be the springboard to winning the game, to just getting an equaliser to salvage something from the game.

That wasn’t helped when Robert Garrett got sent-off for a second yellow card in the final minutes.

Those final minutes saw five minutes of injury time. It could easily have been six.

There were plenty of stoppages in those five minutes, but only an extra five seconds were played. The game ended as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

The League table doesn’t make good reading as Linfield have now dropped to 5th after Cliftonville’s win over Ballinamallard. The ambition this weekend was to get closer to the top, not fall further behind.

It’s hard to explain. Linfield had enough chances to win. It sounds simple, but we need to take our chances and concentrate throughout the entire game.

There’s a November 2015 vibe about this current run. Games are being decided by small margins. This one was decided by two freakish top class goals.

The damming truth was, that when Ballymena went 2-1 up, we were hoping Linfield would get back into the game rather than expecting it.

Up next in the League is Coleraine and Glenavon. They were already must win, they are even more so now. It was a scrappy 1-0 win over Coleraine that got us out of a rut in the Winter of 2015 and kickstarted a run of form. We just need something to go our way.

With this win, Ballymena moved up to 7th, creating a damming statistic that 8th placed Dungannon are the highest ranked team that Linfield have beaten away from home in the League this season.

There’s a good starting point. How to fix it though?

It is in contrast to last season’s away form, where they last failed to win in November 2016, winning 16 successive games in all competitions. That statistic doesn’t include 2 games on neutral venues.

The big fear is, that this result might see a return of 451 in forthcoming matches.

Elsehwere, i’m in Manchester on the midweek of FA Cup 2nd Round Replays (I’m seeing United v Bournemouth on the Wednesday) and the draw has given Rochdale, Crewe and Wigan away games. Hoping for one of them to draw and play on the Tuesday night.

It is interesting to note that Crusaders Scottish Challenge Cup Semi-Final will be on 17th or 18th February. The NIFL Cup Final is scheduled for 17th February. There could be a major storm brewing if Crusaders reach the final of it.

Linfield could do the NIFL a massive favour by beating Crusaders on Wednesday night in the Quarter-Final.

They could give themselves a big one as well.

Photo Album

NORTHERN IRELAND 0-1 SWITZERLAND 9.11.2017

It was the night Belfast had been waiting for since the 1980s. It was the hottest ticket in town. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a ticket to see Bananarama at The Odyssey, so I had to make do with Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off First Leg against Switzerland, as Michael O’Neill’s side aimed to avoid 2018 being a Cruel Summer.

When the draw was being done, everyone wanted to avoid Italy. Those that believe in omens will have wanted Italy, due to the fact that the only time they failed to qualify for the World Cup, it was Northern Ireland who eliminated them. Realistically, when the draw was done back in the summer of 2015, the Runner-Up of the group containing Spain and Italy was the one to avoid.

That didn’t mean that any of the three other teams would be easy. Switzerland can call on players from Juventus, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Benfica. They are clearly a decent team.

There were nine groups in Europe, Switzerland’s tally of 27 points out of 30 would have been good enough to win five of them.

Their group was realistically a shoot-out between them and Portugal, with 2-0 wins for the home team, Portugal beating Switzerland in the final group game, and Portugal going through on goal difference.

Switzerland had fallen into the Play-Offs, while Northern Ireland had been aiming and preparing for them as soon as the draw was done in the Summer of 2015, even though they could have been in the race for automatic qualification if they had beaten Germany.

Northern Ireland were hoping this would give them an advantage.

The teams walked out, with Northern Ireland fans showing Love In The First Degree for their side. They were led out by Steven Davis, winning his 100th cap.

Davis won his 1st cap in a Friendly at home to Canada in 2005. Northern Ireland lost 1-0. Canada played 70 minutes with ten men. That was where we were at. It wasn’t even Northern Ireland’s worst result this century, and that’s Really Saying Something.

When he left the pitch that night, I doubt he would have imagined he would win 99 more caps, and lead his side out in a World Cup Play-Off.

Both sides have a bit of previous in World Cup Qualifying, being in the same group for the 1966 tournament. Both games were home wins, 1-0 for Northern Ireland and 2-1 for Switzerland. That combination of results would be enough for Northern Ireland to qualify for Russia.

I was there the last time Switzerland visited Windsor Park, a 1-0 win for Northern Ireland in a Friendly in 1998 with a goal from Darren Patterson.

That night, it was two wins out of two under new manager Lawrie McMenemy. We all thought we were on our way to better things. It was Aaron Hughes first two games for Northern Ireland. The teenager from Newcastle United must have thought international football was easy.

Hughes has seen a lot in almost 20 years as an international footballer, but he would be seeing this from the sidelines, as he was ruled out through injury.

The last time Northern Ireland faced Switzerland was in a friendly in 2004 which finished 0-0. It was a forgettable game, except for Chris Brunt, who made his international debut that night. When he left the pitch that night ……

It was another player on the left hand side for Northern Ireland, Stuart Dallas, who was involved in the first main talking point of the game, when he was fouled by Fabian Schar. It was dangerous, reckless and nowhere near the ball. The referee only awarded a yellow card. It should have been a red card.

On 24 minutes, it’s a red card. On 34 minutes, it’s a red card. 4 minutes in, the referee bottled it, afraid of putting himself under pressure and in the spotlight, so he went for the easy decision, and the wrong one. He bottled it.

For the first time in a long time, Northern Ireland looked nervous.

Switzerland, by contrast, were comfortable on the ball. Xherdan Shaqiri was the focal point of Switzerland’s attacks, getting the ball Wherever Whenever he wanted.

Granit Xhaka had Switzerland’s first attempt on goal, firing just over from the edge of the box.

There were similarities with the Linfield v Celtic match in July, with the away team having all of the possession.

Unlike Linfield, Northern Ireland were able to hold out for the first 20 minutes. If they didn’t, it looked like being a longer evening than it already was.

Switzerland’s first chance came when Haris Seferovic got a foot on a cross from Shaqiri.

I was behind the goal and thought it was going in. It was going in, but Michael McGovern got a hand on it. He always gets a hand on it. We were all thankful that he did.

Despite all their possession, it took a lump upfield and a stretched leg to have an attempt on goal. A case of It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It, and it almost brought results.

Northern Ireland finished the half strongly, having pressure on Switzerland’s goal. If they were going to make the most of a set piece, they would have to be clever about it, due to the referee being fussy about any physical contact in aerial tussles.

Having survived the first-half, Northern Ireland couldn’t relax in the second, with Shaqiri narrowly curling a shot wide less than 30 seconds into the half.

A dangerous cross saw Seferovic unable to get a leg on it as he did in the first-half. If he did, he would have scored.

The pressure continued, it looked like it was only a matter of time before Switzerland scored.

It came just before the hour, in controversial fashion, when a shot hit Corry Evans on the shoulder with his back to goal. A penalty was awarded.

I didn’t get a clear view at the game. Firstly, because I was at the other end, and secondly, because some manchild in front of me were waving flags that were left on seats prior to kick-off. Seriously, why do we give these people toys to play with? It’s not Eurovision for crying out loud.

And don’t even start me on people who spend the match passing beach balls around.

Just like fans of Martina Hingis, we were all desperate to see a Swiss Miss. We were to be disappointed as Ricardo Rodriguez put Switzerland 1-0 up.

Switzerland had been given a massive Help.

Northern Ireland had a late flurry when Josh Magennis headed wide from a free-kick. He should have been hitting the target from there. If he did, he would have scored.

Chris Brunt had a free-kick from outside the box just go wide.

There was then a penalty box scramble where a Northern Ireland player couldn’t get a clear shooting position. They couldn’t even get enough space to even speculatively toepoke it towards goal.

Switzerland held out for the 1-0 win. Disappointing. Northern Ireland are up against it but not out of it.

99.99999% of winning scorelines will be good enough in Basle. The only one that won’t sent them through is 1-0, but it won’t put them out.

We’ll have to get a performance like those done by Billy Bingham’s sides in the 1980s.

There was an advert around that time for IDB, the forerunner for Invest NI.

The words of that advert are apt, over 30 years on.

So come on Northern Ireland, come on. There’s a whole lot of work to be done. You can make it in the end, with a little help from your friends. So come on Northern Ireland, come on.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MELODY MAKER – 17.11.1999

Nina Persson of The Cardigans, or Nina Cardigan as she has been dubbed, is the cover star of this week’s edition of Melody Maker, having been dubbed “The Sexiest Woman In Rock”

In other news, Ian Brown has made a comeback gig at Conway Hall in London, performing a cover of Billie Jean by Michael Jackson during the encore.

Oasis and Blur are also in news, with Blur subject to a South Bank Show special, while Oasis have announced Andy Bell of Hurricane #1 as a new member.

Blur were among the winners at the MTV Awards in Dublin, an event which gets covered by Melody Maker.

Skin from Skunk Anansie gets asked about the forthcoming new Oasis album, and she describes herself as being “intersted” in hearing it.

Making a comeback is 1980s TV show The Tube, with Donna Air and Chris Moyles presenting alongside original presenters Jools Holland and Paula Yates.

Mark McKeever won the letter of the week for e-mailing in to complain about how crap the music scene in Belfast is.

Cover star Nina Persson gets a double page interview, stating that the majority of her fans are female.

There are two pages dedicated to 1993, as Melody Maker looks back at the 90s, during the decade’s final days.

Brian Molko gets interviewed as Placebo are busy recording their third album.

Jonathan Davis of Korn talks about his five obsessions, one of which is playing a bagpipe.

In reviews, Melody Maker went to see Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Badly Drawn Boy in concert, though not at the same time.

Rick Witter of Shed Seven is subject to a Q and A, revealing that he would watch a public execution if it was broadcast on TV.

If you wanted, there was a lyrics sheet for So Low, Ocean Colour Scene’s new single.

In gigs, James (with support from Cast), Ian Brown and Shed Seven were going on tour in the coming weeks.

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 0-6 LINFIELD 4.11.2017

Linfield were looking to bounce back after ……

Wait a minute, that was last week’s script. After returning to winning ways against Ards last weekend, Linfield returned to losing ways 48 hours later, against Ards in the County Antrim Shield.

It kinda took the Shheeeeeyyyyyyinnnnne off the evening, when I saw the final score inbetween songs at the Liam Gallagher concert.

Once again, Linfield were looking to bounce back after losing their last game. Ballinamallard have doing that all season. 11 defeats out of 13 suggests they haven’t done it very well.

Linfield fans will have been glad to wake up on Wednesday morning to discover that it was no longer October. It’s been an awful month in recent years, which has all been noted here. A stat as to how grim it is appeared on Twitter regarding the number of points lost and cup competitions exited.

Things are so bad for Linfield at the moment, they arrived in Fermanagh and weren’t met by the usual sunshine that greets them when they play at Ballinamallard.

Both teams were in a similar situation. They may have points to make up on those immediately above them, but the situation is retrievable. Neither side could let the gap get any bigger.

There was one ray of sunshine for Linfield fans arriving at Ferney Park, not in the sky but on the teamsheet, as Linfield lined-up 442 and with only two centre midfielders. Finally, the unsuccessful and restrictive 451/433 had been binned.

It was immediately effective, with Linfield straight on the attack and putting pressure on the Ballinamallard goal. Crosses were coming in and players were almost getting on the end of it. You could tell that a goal was coming.

That goal did come when a quick free-kick saw Jordan Stewart and Matthew Clarke going up against one Ballinamallard full-back, with Clarke being played in to cross for Mark Haughey to head home from close range. Linfield had the early goal they desired.

The two previous meetings between the two sides this season have seen 4-0 and 3-0 wins for Linfield. However, the half-time score in both those games have been 1-0 and 0-0. Linfield have had to wait until the second-half to secure the win. They needed to get a second goal.

The pressure on the Ballinamallard goal continued, and the second goal came when Kirk Millar’s header from a Jordan Stewart cross looped in. I was behind the goal and muttered “Unlucky” to myself, as I thought it was going over.

There were more chances for Linfield, and a third goal came when Andrew Waterworth headed home from close range after a Josh Robinson shot was saved.

It was to be Robinson’s last involvement in the game as he was sent-off for kicking out in a melee in the goal caused by Jason McCartney rugby tackled him on the goalline. Robinson could have no complaints, McCartney was very lucky to only receive a yellow card.

No matter how the game has gone so far, when an opposition player is sent-off, you always fancy your chances of getting something.

Ballinamallard had a chance from close range that went over as the half neared it’s end. Linfield were able to see out the half and go in at 3-0 up.

David Healy reacted to the red card by bringing on Andrew Mitchell for Louis Rooney.

I know i’ve complained about Healy being too defensive in recent weeks, but the situation justified it. Linfield didn’t needed to score and they didn’t want to concede an early second-half goal and give Ballinamallard any encouragement that they could get something from this game.

In truth, Mitchell probably did more in the first-half than when he was on the pitch in the second-half.

Linfield started the second-half on the attack, you wouldn’t have noticed they were down to ten men.

Just like in the first-half, there was an early header from Mark Haughey, this time to make it 4-0. If there was any doubt about the result, it had now gone, the points were going to Windsor Park, Linfield’s first away win since September 22nd, and (specific statistic alert) first away League win on a Saturday since August 19th.

By now, Linfield fans were huddled into the Vilage Stand, or any other form of shelter they could find as the rain became torrential. There was never any danger of the match being abandoned as the pitch was holding up well. The match, metaphorically, was already over.

Chris Casement and Mark Stafford were both denied as Linfield looked to make it 5-0. Mark Haughey slid in while trying to get on the end of a low cross. He ended up in the back of the net. The ball did not. Today would not be his day for a hat-trick.

Jordan Stewart would be the man to make it 5-0, firing home from close range after a Kirk Millar cross.

That would be his last involvement in the game, as he was substituted, with Brandon Adams coming on.

By this point, Jamie Mulgrew had already been replaced by Stephen Lowry as a precaution.

Roy Carroll made a save from a Ciaran Martyn header as Linfield aimed to secure a first ever winning clean sheet in the League at Ballinamallard.

After recent defensive calamities, it was important to start keeping clean sheets. It is the first part of the recovery process of Linfield’s season.

There was time for one more goal for Linfield as Andrew Waterworth made it 6-0. Today was his first League goals of the season. Hopefully, the first and second of many. We’ll need it to be.

As well as the thee points, this was also a timely boost for Linfield’s goal difference. Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders have a goal difference of 22 in comparison to Linfield’s 19. The priority is clawing back the points deficit, but having goal difference as a back-up won’t hurt.

Elsewhere today, Cliftonville won, so they are still breathing down our necks, while Crusaders won, meaning they are just slightly above us.

There was points droppage further ahead as Glenavon and Coleraine drew with each other.

As a result, Linfield are now 11 points off the top but with a game in hand, and only 3 points behind Glenavon.

Next weekend, Coleraine and Crusaders aren’t in League action. The following Saturday, Coleraine travel to Windsor Park. The incentive is there, win the next two League matches and the gap from the top is only five points. There would still be a lot of work to do, but suddenly Coleraine would be feeling a lot of pressure.

Elsewhere, in the Steel and Sons Cup, Linfield Swifts advanced to Semi-Finals. I’m slightly worried we might get to the final, on Christmas Day.

I’m keeping an eye on FA Cup 1st Round games this weekend. Why? 2nd Round replays are scheduled for the Tuesday night I am in Manchester to see United take on Bournemouth on the Wednesday.

Of the North-West/Greater Manchester teams, Nantwich and Oldham went out while Rochdale, Crewe and Wigan went through. Bury play tomorrow. I’m hoping for away draws for North-West teams and they go to a replay.

Next up for me, is Northern Ireland v Switzerland, and hopefully a mood of national celebration by the time Linfield head to Ballymena on Friday night.

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