Bryan Robson, in action against Notts County, is the cover star, with the headline “Robbo’s Back”, as he is interviewed in this edition.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature on Wales European Championship Qualifier in Germany, where Wales need a draw to virtually qualify for the finals in Sweden.

Jimmy Greaves assesses the two teams and predicts a win for Germany, and so it proved, with Germany winning 4-1.

Bryan Robson’s interview is part of Shoot’s preview of England’s European Championship Qualifier against Turkey. Turkey had been good opponents for Robson, with 5 goals in his 3 previous appearances against them.

England’s previous game against Turkey saw Robson left out of the squad, and he thought his international career was over at the age of 34, but his recent form for Manchester United saw him earn a recall.

As it turned out, the game against Turkey was Robson’s last cap for England.

Another player making an England comeback was Stuart Pearce, who explains that he was left out of the squad for the recent friendly against Germany as he was serving a domestic suspension.

Elsewhere in the group, Republic Of Ireland face a crunch game in Poland, and Shoot interviews Mick McCarthy in preparation of this.

In news, Charlie Nicholas had all his medals stolen after a burglary at his house, while Celtic have had a bid rejected for Terry Phelan, while Chelsea are planning a move to sign Matt Le Tissier.

Also in Scotland, John Robertson of Hearts gets a double page interview where he says that Hearts are determined to bounce back after defeat against Celtic, their first of the season. Robertson also gives Shoot the lowdown on his Hearts team-mates.

Peter Ndlovu of Coventry City gets interviewed s he adjusts to life in England, telling Shoot that he mostly listens to the radio and watched TV.

Also adjusting to life in a new country is David Platt, who tells Shoot he is enjoying life in Italy, despite Bari not winning a game and their manager resigning.

Talking of English players in Italy, former AC Milan striker Mark Hately rubbishes former Bari striker Paul Rideout’s claim that no English striker has come back from Italy a better player.

I wonder did they discuss the matter a few months later in the dressing room when Rideout signed for Rangers?

Talking of Rangers, a reader writes to Jimmy Greaves to say that Rangers will continue to be minnows on a European stage due to a lack of competition in Scotland, while another reader asks about the possibility of Leeds winning the league, and Greaves says they need Lee Chapman to start scoring in order for that to happen.

In competitions, you could win a pair of Quaser boots, and get to meet Gary Lineker, Matt Le Tisser or Charlie Nicholas at one of their respective team’s home games.

Tony Cottee gets a profile, revealing that if he wasn’t a footballer, he would be a Fireman, or work for his dad as an Insurance Broker.

In ads, there was an advert for a teen mag called Look-In (possibly an IPC publication, I can’t verify) which had Rik Mayall as it’s cover star, talking about his role in Drop Dead Fred.

Alongside that, is an advert for the following week’s edition of Shoot, which comes with free Pro Set cards.

The magazine ends with a double page feature on Scotland’s European Championship Qualifier in Bucharest where a win would virtually guarantee qualification to the finals.

They lost, but other results went their way which meant they made it to Sweden.



Linfield and Glentoran faced each other at Windsor Park with a lot of things in common on St Patrick’s Day.

Both sides were coming off the back of Irish Cup exits in midweek. Despite that, they both still had something to play for in the League, though maybe not quite that they had in mind at the start of the season.

Linfield were only four points off 3rd place, which could potentially be good enough to qualify automatically for the UEFA Cup if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

If Linfield had ambitions of playing in Europe next season, Glentoran’s were more modest and short-term, to play Linfield next month, as they currently occupy the last place in the Top 6 ahead of Ballymena United.

It was Ronnie McFall’s first visit to Windsor Park as a visiting manager since August 2015. Back then, Warren Feeney was in the Linfield dugout. It wasn’t even a dugout, it was a couple of seats in the bottom deck of the North Stand, as it took place halfway throughout the development of Windsor Park.

McFall is the only Irish League manager that David Healy hasn’t beaten. In fact, he hasn’t even managed a point, losing twice to McFall’s Portadown side during the 2015/2016 season.

In fact, McFall has a good recent record against Linfield. Since David Jeffrey stepped down as Linfield manager in 2014, McFall had a record of five wins and a draw in eight matches against Linfield.

It wasn’t just against Linfield that McFall was hoping to continue a decent run, having only lost one of his four games in his second spell as Glentoran manager. I’m not going to laugh at that reappointment, because it will probably come back to haunt me when Linfield reappoint David Jeffrey for the final weeks of the 2033/2034 season.

The cynic could suggest that Glentoran’s recent run of form isn’t as impressive as it looks. They got a win against a team who traditionally struggle at The Oval, followed it up with a win against a team at the bottom whose manager was preoccupied with taking McFall’s old job at Portadown, before throwing away two points in the last minute against a team coming off the back of being on the end of a cup upset and a 6-1 defeat.

The two previous meetings this season had seen one win each, each win bringing back happier memories for the respective fans.

For Linfield, it was their fifth successive win at the start of the season. For Glentoran, the win on Boxing Day was the highlight of their season.

The weather was cold enough to be Boxing Day. As well as the cold, it was so windy, the 2017 Champions flag was flying high. Might as well enjoy that for the next six weeks.

If Linfield were hoping to make a positive start, they didn’t get one. Just seventeen seconds were on the clock when a sloppy pass from Kirk Millar set up a Glentoran attack which resulted in a speculative shot easily saved by Alex Moore.

This wasn’t the positive start that Linfield were hoping for. They did reply with an Andrew Waterworth shot that was easily saved by Elliott Morris, but it was Glentoran who would dominate the opening minutes.

Just two minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Marcus Kane, who fired home from long range past Alex Moore to put Glentoran 1-0.

As spectacular as the goal was, there was still questions to be asked of Linfield’s players. Linfield were yet to get into the game. Glentoran had the better of the game and were full of confidence, and knew that Linfield were sluggish.

If Linfield had started the game strongly, there’s no way Kane would fancied a specultive long rang shot.

Both teams had went out of the Irish Cup in midweek, but the contrast in starts was clear to see. Glentoran were looking to boucne back, while Linfield were feeling sorry for themselves. Too many players were second to too many balls.

Nine minutes in Curtis Allen hit the bar from a free-kick. Linfield were almost out of the game before they had even got into it.

That was the wake=up call that shook Linfield into action. We finally got to see them as an attacking force.

Mark Stafford had a header blocked by Marcus Kane, while Andrew Waterworth had a low shot saved.

The golden opportunity came when a counter attack saw the ball come to Kirk Millar, who set himself up to cross for Kurtis Byrne to head straight at Elliott Morris from six yards out. It was harder to miss, but he managed.

Linfield don’t really help themselves at both ends of the pitch when they miss opportunities like this. No Linfield attacking player can complain that they haven’t had enough opportunities to score this season.

Mark Stafford was next to be denied when his header was cleared off the line. I thought it was over, but the TV footage is hard to tell. No VAR in the Irish League.

Kirk Millar then saw a cross evade everyone as Linfield put more pressure on Glentoran’s goal. You got the feeling that if Linfield could get one, they could go on an win the game quite comfortably.

The problem, as has so often been the case this season, was just getting that one goal.

As soon as they went 1-0 up after 2 minutes, Glentoran were timewasting at every opportunity, kicking the ball away at any free-kick won or conceded.

They were only encouraged to do so by the inactivity of referee Keith Kennedy, whose yellow card remained in his pocket, allowing Glentoran’s players to timewaste at will. There was one incident where Elliott Morris was allowed to hold up a free-kick being taken because he needed to fix his gloves. Yes, really.

Amazingly, there was two minutes of injurty time at the end of the first-half, with the Forth Official actually watching the game rather than doing the standard for the first-half and three minutes for the second-half.

Do you remember a story from 2012 about FC Magdeburg fans standing behind the goal and pointing cardboard arrows in the direction of the goal to assist their struggling team?

I’m very tempted to do this at Linfield matches.

It’s getting so bad, the idea of David Healy coming out of retirement to show the team how it’s done doesn’t sound that silly.

At the start of the second-half, Curtis Allen fired just wide from a cross, to premature cheers from the North Stand. I don’t know why, it never looked close to going in.

Linfield fans responded by mocking their rivals. It was the loudest cheer they had all afternoon.

Linfield fans thought they were cheering a goal a few minutes later when Jimmy Callacher headed over following a corner. It was another opportunity that was wasted.

Eventually, Linfield got the goal their dominance deserved, after Elliott Morris flapped at a cross under pressure from Andrew Waterworth, before Robert Garrett headed into the empty net from a few yards out.

He couldn’t miss. Though there were a few situations in the first-half where you could have said that but they managed to miss.

With forty minutes remaining on the clock, there was still plenty of time for Linfield to go on and win the game.

It was noticeable that this was the first Linfield attack where there were bodies in the box and options for the player crossing.

Kurtis Byrne headed agonisingly across goal, before making way for Achille Campion.

Campion had a chance soon after coming on. It wasn’t a clear chance, but he was in a shooting position. He had to blindly shoot. If he did, he would have been rewarded. He chose to pass, and the opportunity was lost.

Andrew Waterworth thought he was going to head home from a cross, but an outstretched leg from a Glentoran defender denied him.

Stephen Fallon came on as a substitute for the injured Jamie Mulgre as Linfield searched for a winner.

They had five minutes of injury time in which to do so. Well, they were supposed to, but one minute was lost to a Glentoran player being treated for an injury, and only half of it was added on, the game finishing as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

This result was bad enough, it got even worse when results from elsewhere came through. Glenavon drew 0-0 at home to Ballinamallard United, meaning that Linfield missed an opportunity to cut the gap on Glenavon to two points.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville beat Carrick Rangers 1-0. Three weeks ago, they were six points behind Linfield, now they could be just one point behind Linfield if they beat Ballymena United on Tuesday night.

Linfield will be hoping for a favour from Ballymena, just as they got last season. No matter how big or small, favours are always to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, it looks like Cliftonville have the momentum that Glenavon (2016) and Coleraine (2017) had when they stormed to 3rd, ironically at the expense of Cliftonville.

Up next for Linfield, is a trip to Ballinamallard on Friday night, shifted to accommodate Northern Ireland v South Korea on Saturday afternoon.

As stated at the time, there are better timeslots for this, such as Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon.

It might have been worth exploring the possibility of playing it on the same weekend as the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, though I do understand that might not be feasible due to Supporters Clubs already having booked buses for a Friday night game.

I’ve got excess Annual Leave from work that needs used before the end of March, so I was planning to be off on Friday, which is lucky for me.

I had actually planned on going to the Paloma Faith concert at The Odyssey, but it’s all seater, which is wank, so i’m giving that a miss. She’s doing a lot of outdoor concerts in August, so i’ll gamble on her playing CHSQ.

No pressure Linfield, give me a performance that is worth missing Paloma Faith for.

Talking of the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, they will be played on Saturday 31st March, which is Easter Saturday. I didn’t realise this until this week.

What an absolute farce. We have a Bank Holiday Weekend, and only four top flight (Warrenpoint face Dungannon in a rearranged game that day) teams are in action. A lot of floating fans will be lost because of this.

There is absolutely no reason why League games could not be scheduled that day, and Irish Cup Semi-Finals played on Saturday 7th April. That would still give four weeks between the Semi-Final and the Final for arrangements to be made.

Keep an eye out for this, as it’s a real possibility. Cliftonville could be at home to Linfield in the Final of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, a match arranged at three to four days notice. Yep, buses and tickets. At four days. I know they managed it in seven days last month, but three to four days will result in a lot of anger. Watch this space. This is the official home of predicting future farces in Irish League football.

David Healy said in his post-match interview on Final Score that it was a good performance. That is true, from the tenth minute onwards. Linfield’s slow start cost them two points today.

If we keep creating chances, we’ll get our reward. Surely. We’ve been saying that a lot this season. Hopefully the tide will turn in our favour at Ballinamallard on Saturday.

Photo Album


Stereophonics have been around for a bit, thanking their Belfast fans for 20 years of support, during a concert that was two days after the 19th anniversary of their first Number One album, Performance and Cocktails.

Regular visitors to Belfast, this was their first indoor concert in Belfast since November 2013, but they have played Belsonic twice since then.

What you get now is a Greatest Hits set. It’s been that way for at least ten years. Let’s face it, who goes to a concert to watch a band perform obscure B-Sides?

They began with more recent classics such as Cest La Vie, I Wanna Get Lost With You and Caught By The Wind.

Caught By The Wind being the standout single released from most recent album Scream Above The Sounds, alongside All In One Night.

Both singles giving off an atmospheric 80s Den Henley vibe.

Don’t be mocking Don Henley, he’s the acceptable face of singing drummers. If they were sounding like Phil Collins, that would be a different matter.

Four songs in, they returned to their debut album, which Jones noted had been released 20 years ago, playing More Life In A Tramp’s Vest.

While the song played, the large screen behind them a compilation of home videos from the band’s early days, with both Kelly and Richard Jones (no relation) both sporting long hairdos. The much missed Stuart Cable sported the same style throughout his time with the band.

During those days, they were known as Tragic Love Company. They had enough video editing skills in them days to write a caption on the screen. Thankfully, they changed their name, as there is only space for one band called TLC.

They then moved onto a song they wrote in San Francisco called Have A Nice Day, though it sounds like Kelly Jones sings “Have an ass day”. It can’t be unheard.

That was then followed by my favourite Stereophonics song, Superman, performed with all the groove and swagger you heard on record.

It was a different stage from previous Stereophonics concerts. Rather than your traditional rock n roll stage design, this stage extended in the middle across the floor, to where the halfway line on the Ice Hockey pitch would be.

You can tell i’m not an expert in stage design. If you went to see U2 in 2015 or Muse in 2016 at The Odyssey.

I was stood at the end of the stage, meaning I had a decent view when they were there, and a decent view when they were in the more traditional rock n roll stage position.

Stagehands snuck some decorations onto that area as the band moved up there. It was dressed as a lounge, similar to that in the video for Handbags and Gladrags, one of the songs that was performed during this section.

Oh yes, there were plenty of lava lamps.

As the band walked over to their new home, we were treated to an instrumental cover of Sweet Home Alabama.

One of the highlights of this section was an acoustic version of Pick A Part That’s New.

That was one of many songs from the first two albums that were played in succession such as Just Looking, Traffic, A Thousand Trees, The Bartender And The Thief

By now, we were at the encore, which included Local Boy In The Photograph.

It looked like they were going to go through a concert without playing Dakota, as Kelly began playing some wandering notes on his guitar, before slowly singing the words “Made me feel like the one, made me feel like the one”.

Everybody in the venue sang it back at him.

They then burst into the version we all know and love. A fantastic tune, their only Number One. It was a good way to sign off.

Photo Album

Stereophonics live at Titanic Belfast June 2016

Stereophonics live at Custom House Square August 2015

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey November 2013

Stereophonics live at Waterfront Hall March 2013

Stereophonics live at Custom House Square August 2010


Bryan Robson is the cover star of this week’s edition of Shoot, as he aims to lead Manchester United to their first title in 19 years.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature on the decline of Ipswich Town, who have gone from title challengers to fighting against relegation, with stars deserting over the previous three years since Bobby Robson left to become England manager.

In news, Frank McAvennie suggests that John Robertson and/or Gordon Durie could be the next Scottish strikers to move to an English club. One player not moving from Scotland to England is Richard Gough, after Dundee United rejected a bid from Aston Villa to sign him.

Norman Whiteside won Young Player Of The Month, while Manchester United offered new contracts to Arthur Albiston and Remi Moses.

Meanwhile, Trevor Francis hits back at Malcolm MacDonald, who criticised his continued selection for the England team.

Shoot’s editorial pleads for English fans to behave whenever they are abroad, after England had been allowed to enter the qualifiers for Euro 88.

Gary Lineker gets a double page photo story of his recent hat-trick against Turkey, the 34th hat-trick by and England player since World War II.

Another young player doing well is Alan Dickens, who is hoping to break free from the shadows of Trevor Brooking.

You wouldn’t have seen any of Lineker or Dickens goals due to a TV blackout caused by a dispute between the governing body and boradcasters, so Shoot does a double page photo collage of the best goals in that time.

Mickey Thomas hits back at his critics, having just signed for West Brom, and hoping to keep them in Division One.

Argentina’s preparations for the World Cup in Mexico have been rocked by a dispute between manager Carlos Bilardo and players Daniel Passarella and Ubaldo Filol, after Bilardo declared the only player guaranteed a place in the squad was Diego Maradona.

Terry Venables criticises Andoni Goicochea of Athletic Bilbao, after his playacting got a Barcelona player sent-off in a recent game between the sides.

Meanwhile, Michael Laudrup urges his club Juventus to sign his 16 year old brother Brian, who he describes as being better than him.

Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson, hoping to lead the club to a 3rd successive title, states that any team wanting to win the title can’t afford to lose more than four games.

Celtic won the league with six defeats that season with Aberdeen finishing 4th, with Ferguson leaving Aberdeen soon afterwards.

Meanwhile, Watford defender Nigel Callaghan concedes he won’t be going to the World Cup, but wants to be an England player beyond 1986.

Shoot interviews a player from each division to see what life as a footballer is really like, with Frank Lampard of 4th division Southend revealing that the club are considering flying to their away match at Wrexham.

In Scotland, 21 year old Andy Goram has caused a sensation by getting his first international call-up and keeping a clean sheet in the friendly against East Germany, as he provides competition for regular choice Jim Leighton.

Based in the North-West of England, Goram was contacted by Arthur Albiston of Manchester United to offer him a lift to the squad.

Talking of Scottish footballers, Charlie Nicholas uses his column to state that he won’t be signing for Liverpool.

Staying in Scotland, St Mirren get a full page profile.

Jimmy Greaves Star Letter came from Jeremy Butler from Southampton, who complains that teams like Canada devalues the World Cup, but Jimmy disagrees with him.


It’s not often that people are jealous of Loughgall fans, but that was the case on Tuesday night, as they put their feet up while six other teams battled to join them in the Irish Cup Semi-Finals.

Two of sides were Linfield and Cliftonville. Side by side in League mediocrity, it was perhaps inevitable they would be paired together in the Irish Cup at some point, especially having avoided their annual (paired together eight times in the previous ten seasons) County Antrim Shield meeting this season.

Quarter-Finals against Cliftonville had been historically good for Linfield. The three previous meetings at this stage (1992, 1994, 2016) had seen Linfield wins en route to the Final.

Both sides had reason to be optimistic. Linfield had beaten Cliftonville in the League the previous month, while Cliftonville had beaten Crusaders inside sixteen minutes the previous Saturday. The truth was, neither result was relevant. This was a standalone match.

It was Linfield who were straight on the attack, the ball mostly in Cliftonville’s half, the first opportunity came when Kirk Millar’s header looked to be looping in, to everyone’s surprise, only for Cliftonville keeper Brian Neeson to save at the cost of a corner.

Within a few minutes, Cliftonville had their first attack when an inswinging free-kick was punched clear by Linfield’s teenage goalkeeper Alex Moore. It was, as pundits like to say, a good touch for the young keeper.

I’m old enough to remember the closest Linfield match to a current player being born. In the case of Alex Moore, he was born two days before a 4-1 win away to Crusaders. I was at that match. Tommy McDonald scored a screamer.

Not that Moore had lacked big match experience, having played in a Steel and Sons Cup Final, and made his first-team debut at The Oval.

The only shaky moment during the game for him was a sliced clearance that conceded a corner, though it looked to me (I was at the other end) that the defender who passed it back to him and out him under pressure had more questions to answer.

Moore was playing because if an injury to Gareth Deane, who himself was thrown into an Irish Cup Quarter-Final against Cliftonville in 2016.

That’s the second time that Deane has suffered an injury just as he looked set for an extended run in the team. That really is rotten luck.

Cliftonville looked nervous in the opening moments, conceding cheap throws in their own half under no pressure. The opportunity was there for Linfield to capitalise.

Kurtis Byrne was involved in most of Linfield’s attacking play, in creation and being on the end of, having a header saved before being found in space only to see his first time shot saved.

Mark Stafford was next to try his luck, having a header saved, before heading off the bar from a corner. Sandwiched inbetween those was a shot from Mark Haughey (after an advantage played by Arnold Hunter. You read that right, praise for Arnold Hunter) which brought about the corner for Stafford to hit the bar.

Byrne then had a header saved on the line by Neeson, as Linfield failed to get the goal their dominance deserved.

0-0 at half-time but no reason to panic. Same performance again, and Linfield would win.

We didn’t get the same performance from Linfield in the second-half. It was a scrappy affair, but Cliftonville were spending more time in Linfield’s half than they did in the first-half.

It took them until just after the hour to have a chance, Garry Breen heading wide from a free header. It was a warning for Linfield.

Cliftonville were now having their best spell of the game and Linfield were now struggling.

There are two main criticisms of David Healy throughout his reign as Linfield manager so far. One is that he goes too defensive too quickly when holding onto a narrow lead, and the other is that he is reactive rather than proactive with his substitutions when the game is in the balance.

Far too often players have been brought on in response to an opposition goal, rather than to get the goal that Linfield need.

With seven subs allowed in the Irish Cup, the options were there. Mitchell or Lowry for Garrett. Fallon for one of the wide players. Rooney or Strain for Campion. It was obvious that Linfield were crying out for fresh blood.

Eventually, Stephen Lowry came on for Robert Garret. The score was still 0-0, but the change should have been made a lot earlier.

Lowry almost put Linfield in front when he tried to force the ball home after a Niall Quinn header was saved, only the hit the post.

In a game where it looked like there would be only one goal, Linfield had thrown away another opportunity to get it.

It was as if they were doing their own Ken Dodd tribute when they went forward, The Dithermen.

Minutes later, it was Cliftonville who got it when Joe Gormley was played through and made no mistake. There was only one outcome as soon as he got the ball, and it looked like being only one outcome of the match once the ball hit the back of the net.

David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Louis Rooney and Ryan Strain for Matthew Clarke and Achille Campion. Already hampered by the loss of Andrew Waterworth to injury, when Linfield needed a goal, they were relying on a young player yet to score, and a striker low on confidence who hasn’t scored since September.

The chances that were plentiful at 0-0 had now dried up at 0-1. Linfield didn’t take them when they were there, and were made to pay for it.

For all their possession in the final ten minutes, Linfield never looked like equalising. There was one monent that summed it up.

A Cliftonville clearance in injury time went into Linfield’s half and a Linfield defender waited for the ball to come to him, rather than going to the ball and starting another attack. Those few second gave Cliftonville enough time to reorganise their shape and defend the situation. It’s the little things that can make such a big difference.

It was a feast of chances but a famine of goals. A whole season summed up in a match.

It got worse when the draw was made. As Jim Bowen would say, here’s what you could have won – a Semi-Final against Loughgall while Coleraine face Larne in the other Semi-Final.

This result is going to get a lot worse when Cliftonville capitulate to Coleraine in the Final. That’s if they don’t lose to Loughgall.

Cliftonville fans who believe in omens may be cheered by the fact that six of the last seven teams to beat Crusaders in the Irish Cup have gone on to win the trophy. The only one not to though, was Cliftonville in 2013.

Cheering on Coleraine in the Irish Cup Final is something we may have to do if we want to qualify automatically for Europe and avoid the farce of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, though part of me is hoping we finish 5th and win the UEFA Cup Play-Offs purely to laugh at the amount of pantwetting from opposition fans.

To be honest though, I prefer opposition fans to be pantwetting when we win the League.

If Coleraine win the Irish Cup, 3rd place will secure automatic entry to the UEFA Cup. Linfield are only four points off Glenavon, who hold that spot.

They are catchable. To do that, we’ll have to do something we haven’t done since August/ earlySeptember – Go on a winning run.

Elsewhere, three countries have applied to host the UEFA Nations League in June 2019. Portugal and Poland have recently hosted European Championships, which may let Italy in, while all three have hosted European club finals in the last five years.

I’ll keep an eye on that to see if it’s affordable and travelable whoever hosts it.

Next on my footballing agenda is Glentoran’s visit to Windsor Park on Saturday, as David Healy faces the only Irish League manager he hasn’t beaten as Linfield manager in the shape of Ronnie McFall.

McFall’s last visit to Windsor Park was in 2015 to a half built stadium to face a Linfield team managed by Warren Feeney, with Guy Bates pulling the strings. It really feels like a different century.

Hopefully, Glentoran fans will be keeping up one St Patrick’s Day tradition at Windsor Park on Saturday …… of people dressed in green feeling a bit sick at 5pm.

Photo Album


It was the same opponents, scoreline and venue as when Linfield kicked off their domestic season in August. The mood was very much different. A second successive title is long gone, but qualification for European football next season remains open on two fronts.

It was a Linfield team that had four changes, with Alex Moore, Robert Garrett, Mark Haughey and Stephen Fallon all coming in to the Starting eleven. It’s unsure if it was a response to the last game against Glenavon, or if Linfield had one eye on the next match against Cliftonville in the Irish Cup on Tuesday.

For the teenager Alex Moore, it was a second appearance, having played against Glentoran in February 2017. Curiously, that was Linfield’s last game before an Irish Cup Quarter-Final, if you believe in omens.

He did what he had to do. That is the only assessment of his performance. He didn’t have much to do. Not even joking, I could have played in goal for Linfield today and kept a clean sheet.

The game began with a flurry of Linfield chances, as Robert Garrett, Jamie Mulgrew and Niall Quinn all had attemps on goal saved by Carrick keeper Harry Doherty. It was Attack v Defence, with the only way that Carrick could stop Linfield was by cynical fouls.

It looked like being a matter of time until Linfield scored, but Carrick were able to ride out the storm as Linfield struggled to keep up the pressure on the Carrick.

Linfield were looking the most likely to score without actually looking like scoring.

Linfield weren’t helped by the loss of Andrew Waterworth to injury midway through the first-half, having had to receive treatment a few minutes earlier. The one positive was, that he wasn’t hobbling off, so hopefully it was just a precaution ahead of Tuesday night’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville.

Not that Carrick could relax with Waterworth not on the pitch, as Ryan Strain entered the field. It was Strain who came off the bench to provide the cross for Kurtis Byrne’s winning goal when the sides met at Taylor’s Avenue in January.

Carrick had a header easily saved by Alex Moore, before Jimmy Callacher went close with a header in first-half injury time, as Linfield had to make do with a 0-0 scoreline at half-time

In the early minutes of the second-half, Gavin Taggart was lucky not to be sent-off for high feet in a challenge with Jamie Mulgrew. Taggart was substituted soon afterwards.

Also substituted was Achille Campion, who couldn’t mark his birthday with a goal. The closest he had was when he was played in when he was in a position similar to Marcus Rashford for his first goal against Liverpool earlier in the day. Unfortunately, he was unable to cut inside and finish like Marcus Rashford. He was replaced by Kurtis Byrne.

It was Linfield’s other substitute Ryan Strain, who thought he was going to break the deadlock when he created space for himself in the box, but he fired just wide.

On 65 minutes, Linfield got the breakthrough when Mark Stafford headed home from a free-kick. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that is was Stafford who opened this scoring, having scored in three of Carrick’s last four visits to Windsor Park.

With Mark Haughey always scoring against Warrenpoint Town, the two Marks will be keeping an eye on the battle to avoid relegation as their goal tally next season could be severely reduced.

The first thing that came to mind when Stafford scored was a match against Distillery in March 2013 (the fifth anniversary of that match was the day before this one) when Linfield struggled in the rain and eventually took the lead, only to be pegged back to 1-1 immediately. This match had similarities.

With only one goal in the previous eight League games against Linfield since promotion in 2015, there was no form to suggest that Carrick looked like scoring. Never mind stats on paper, the way the match was going, Carrick never looked like scoring.

Any such fears were quickly dispelled when Jamie Mulgrew ran with the ball and finished from outside the box. That was the three points secured.

Mark Stafford had a header well saved and Kurtis Byrne fired just wide as Linfield looked to make it 3-0. 2-0 was enough.

This was the first of three home games in seven days for Linfield, and a timely win for Linfield, their first home win since February 3rd.

Having not been to any of the two home Irish Cup ties this season, it meant that this was Linfield’s first home League win since December 23rd. 2017. Yes, you read that right, Linfield’s first home League win of 2018.

It was a win that breathed some life into Linfield’s League campaign.

Unfortunateley, the goal now is about finishing 3rd. After defeat to Glenavon in their last League outing, that looked a long shot, being six points behind them and having played a game more.

Since then, Glenavon have crashed out of the Irish Cup, lost their game in hand and drew today.

They are now only four points clear and the two sides still have to meet before the season ends. Suddenly, 3rd place is a realistic target for Linfield, one that will secure European football if there is a Coleraine v Linfield Irish Cup Final.

I’m not sure how, but Linfield appear to have somehow put the jinx on Glenavon’s season. Long may it continue.

Reaching the Irish Cup Final, nevermind choosing the opponents, is still a long long way away.

Elsewhere, Linfield remain six points clear of Cliftonville, albeit with a game more played.

That was because Cliftonville beat Crusaders 3-1. I’m not sure how, but Cliftonville have suddenly started showing some balls whenever they play Crusaders. It would be nice if Linfield did likewise when they played Crusaders, like we did so effectively last season.

Of more immediate importance, is that we do so when we play Cliftonville in the Irish Cup Quarter-Final on Tuesday. If we do that, i’d expect us to get the job done, as we have done in the last two meetings.

Curiously, it will be the second successive year we will have played Cliftonville on March 13th. A repeat of the 2-0 win on that date last year will be very welcome.

Also welcome was the news that Ross Clarke scored a hat-trick for Ards against Ballinamallard. Hopefully, his loan spell will give him a run of games to challenge for a first-team position, in the same way that Brian McCaul benefitted from a loan spell at Glenavon in 2012.

There’s a quality player there, that’s why Linfield are prepared to give him every opportunity to improve his fitness, but it will be three years since he was a first-team regular by the time the Summer arrives.

You may remember me saying I was hoping to go to Waterford for a short break in mid March. Well, I farted about for too long and didn’t book it.

My main purpose for visiting would be to see Waterford Walls, but you should know by now that I like to sneak in a football match wherever I travel.

On Monday, Waterford face Bohs, and they are currently sitting second in the table, level on points with Cork City. They’re probably glad i’m not going as they’d probably be bottom of the League.

So, a big week awaits for Linfield. A Cup Semi-Final and three more points is the goal.

Photo Album


Whenever I did my snow blog last December, I didn’t expect to be doing a follow-up so soon afterwards. Certainly not at the start of March.

When it comes to snow, I am such a big kid, and can’t get enough pictures of it.

Unfortunately, I was in work on Thursday, so I had to make the most of what opportunities I had.

So, I got up early on Thursday morning to get some photos of Belfast City Centre before work.

One advantage of it snowing in March, is that the mornings are a lot brighter than in December/January, which you can use to your advantage when taking photos.

I managed to get photos of Belfast City Hall and Victoria Square. Belfast City Hall is one of my “big three” when the snow comes down for getting photos, the others being Ormeau Park and Windsor Park. I would get photos of Ormeau Park on the Saturday. Unfortunately that was at the expense of Windsor Park. The snow had gone by Sunday morning, meaning I couldn’t get the photos I wanted.

Thursday lunchtime was spent at the upstairs part of the Fountain Centre, some of which was closed off, unfortunately, these were the areas I wanted to visit, and try and get some aerial photos.

I was out of work early on Thursday afternoon, but not substantially early to take advantage of it, though I did get some photos of Botanic Gardens on my way home.

By Friday morning, there wasn’t anything additional, and that looked like being that in terms of my snow adventures.

Or so I thought, as I woke up on Saturday morning and Belfast was covered in snow, and it was still coming down.

I headed out to get some photos, starting with Ormeau Park.

When it snowed in December, Ormeau Park offered some fantastic photo opportunities, so I headed out to make the most of it.

As a bonus, Ormeau Park was full of 13/10 doggies, though it is like that all year round.

By this point, Linfield’s match, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, was now postponed, so my snow adventures weren’t timebound any more.

I headed into the City Centre, which was mostly slush, before heading home through Stranmillis/University, which was a lot more photographable.

By Sunday morning, the thaw had arrived, and the opportunity for snow photos had gone.

Apologies for the lateness of this blog, I had some laptop issues to deal with.

I don’t anticipate having to write another snow blog anytime soon, but you never know.

Photo Album – Thursday 1st March 2018

Photo Album – Saturday 3rd March 2018


When Glenavon won at Windsor Park at the end of January, with two games in hand and still to play Crusaders and Coleraine twice, they looked set to be in a position to launch a late title charge.

Draws since then against Warrenpoint Town, Cliftonville and Coleraine have since forced them to reevaluate their ambitions. Now they were looking to get three points to try and secure 3rd place.

They kicked off only three points clear of Linfield, but with a game in hand. With the two sides having to meet twice before the end of the season, Linfield knew they had 3rd place in their own hands.

Finishing 3rd could be so important. If Coleraine win the Irish Cup, it will secure automatic European football, and avoid the farce of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Though, both teams were still in the Irish Cup at kick-off, they had that avenue to qualify automatically.

Linfield had been unbeaten since that defeat to Glenavon the previous month, though the form wasn’t sparkling with four wins and three draws.

This game should have been played last October, but was postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup. It wasn’t ideal to be playing it in the midweek before the Irish Cup Quarter-Finals, but as documented in previous blogs, this was a fallout from the delays of confirming if the away game against Cliftonville was going ahead.

Linfield started well, Achille Campion fired over from close range when he should have scored, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot saved.

The good start was undone when Glenavon took the lead through Josh Daniels, who took out four defenders with one touch before firing home.

Linfield had a brief flurry after that, but it soon died down. They were restricted to half chances. They didn’t help themselves with poor decision making.

They almost gifted Glenavon a goal from one of their own throw-ins whenever Stephen Lowry misread a throw from Joe Crowe, which set up a Glenavon attack, where Stephen Murray was played clean through but his shot was saved.

It was noticeable how quickly Glenavon attacked and how alive they were every time Linfield played a stray pass.

Linfield fans could only enviously look on and wish their team could do the same.

With ten minutes to go, a shot from Marc Griffin went over Gareth Deane to make it 2-0. Windsor Park began to empty, not that it was anywhere near full to begin with.

A few weeks earlier, Linfield made a late comeback to secure a point from 2-0 down against Coleraine. This was never going to happen this time.

A win would have seen Linfield jump level with Glenavon, giving them the opportunity to try and finish the season in 3rd, giving the, two possible avenues for automatic European qualification. Now, they only have one.

That, is the Irish Cup. Their Quarter-Final at home to Cliftonville was postponed due to the weather. Nobody knows the actual reason why.

It’s maybe not a bad thing for it to be postponed. It wasn’t ideal to have this match in he build-up, especially with Cliftonville having the midweek off.

It will be played ten days later than expected, we have to be ready for it.

Photo Album

ARDS 0-3 LINFIELD 24.2.2018

Didn’t we have a lovely time? The day we went to Bangor.

Due to roadworks, I arrived late, a couple of minutes into the game. As I entered the ground, Linfield were on the attack. It would be a theme that would continue throughout the game.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s first chance of note when he outpaced an Ards defender to unleash a first time shot, which was well saved.

The reason he was able to get that chance soon became cleared as the Ards defender he outpaced had to be substituted through injury.

Ards were struggling to handle Waterworth all afternoon, being involved in. It’s of Linfield’s attacks, putting Ards players under pressure to the point they were conceding cheap corners and throws, giving Linfield attacking opportunities where they shouldn’t have.

The same also applied to Achille Campion.

Mark Stafford looked like he was going to put Linfield 1-0 up but he headed wide from close range.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead from the first moment they really cut through Ards defence, when Niall Quinn was played through only to see his shot cleared off the line, but fell perfectly for Achille Campion to fire home from close range.

It was reported in the media that was his first goal for Linfield, so it’s safe to assume that the goal against Cliftonville had been credited to a Tomas Cosgrove own goal.

It was indisputable that this was his goal.

Jamie Mulgrew fired wide from outside the box as Linfield looked to second goal before the break.

It didn’t take long into the second-half for that to arrive, from the penalty spot after Andrew Waterworth was bundled over.

It looked soft, but it was a penalty. Bafflingly, there was a similar incident in the first-half where Linfield didn’t get a penalty.

It was Waterworth’s first penalty (I think) since the last day of last season, and it had the same result, chipping it down the middle and ending up in the back of the net to give Linfield a two goal lead.

I wouldn’t recommend him doing that if he takes a penalty in the near future, as a lot of goalkeepers will have noticed that.

If Linfield were in a commanding situation, they had the game won a few minutes later when Stephen Lowry made it 3-0 , firing in off the post after his attempted pass to Andrew Waterworth was blocked, the rebound falling kindly to him.

Linfield the turned on the style, Kurtis Byrne going close to scoring,

With the game won, Linfield were able to let some of their players have a rest, with Mark Stafford, Jamie Mulgrew and Achille Campion all getting substituted.

Joe Crowe suffered an injury during the game just as Stephen Fallon was coming on for Linfield’s third and final sub, but was able to continued, though he looked pained as he left the pitch at full-time.

Unsurprisingly, the final minutes were uneventful, apart from an Andrew Waterworth effort that just went over, as Linfield comfortably secured the points.

Below Linfield, Cliftonville lost 1-0 to a Glentoran side rejuvenated under their new young and dynamic manager Ronnie McFall, meaning that Linfield now have a six point lead over Cliftonville, and can now start to look upwards in the table.

Above Linfield, Glenavon secured a late win over Carrick to maintain their lead over Linfield. However, Linfield had to face Glenavon twice before the end of the season.

The first of those occasions would be on the Tuesday night following this game. That will be covered elsewhere. It would be a Glenavon side missing the Linfield bound Joel Cooper through suspension after being sent-off.

3rd place is still up for grabs, and Linfield have to grab it if they have ambtitions of securing European football next season. Winning the Irish Cup will see us there without having to rely on others or to win a Play-Off.

It’s not ideal to be playing Glenavon on Tuesday before the Irish Cup Quarter-Final, but that’s where we are. I don’t think Glenavon considered it to be ideal either. As it would turn out, there would be no Irish Cup Quarter-Final on the Saturday.

We had no choice as we were backed into a corner due to the late confirming of games on the weekend of 16th/17th February.

Hopefully, the lessons of that, and the shitstorm that was avoided if Crusaders had reached the NIFL Cup Final have been learnt, and won’t happen again in the future.

That is definitely me finished discussing the matter. I hope.

Talking of fixture scheduling, Northern Ireland have announced a home friendly against Israel in September. A bit underwhelming. I’ve already seen Israel, so there won’t even be a novelty factor for me.

It also makes a mockery of the UEFA Nations League, a competition designed to get rid of international friendlies, if teams arrange friendlies when they don’t have double headers.

Apologies for the lateness of this blog, as I had issues with my laptop battery. Stay tuned for a look at the match which followed this ……. if you want to relive it again.

Photo Album