THE FRIDAY FIVE – 12.1.2018

1. Anteros – Bonnie
2. Susie Q – Home
3. Manic Street Preachers – International Blue
4. Prince – The Whole Of The Moon
5. David Bowie – Starman

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CARRICK RANGERS 0-1 LINFIELD 9.1.2018

I headed to Carrick on Tuesday night for what was belatedly my first football match of 2018, following the postponement of the New Year’s Day game against Coleraine, and giving the Irish Cup tie at home to Glebe Rangers a miss.

On a belated theme, this was a match that should have taken place exactly a month earlier, having been postponed on it’s original date.

Back then, Linfield had come off the back of wins against the top two and we’re looking to set themselves up for a title charge. Eight points dropped in the month since then has forced them to reassess their ambitions. The three points on offer at Carrick were now to leapfrog Cliftonville into 4th.

There were a couple of shocks for Linfield fans as they entered the ground.

The first was that Achille Campion, Kurtis Byrne and Andrew Waterworth were all in the starting line-up together, when most would have expected two from three. Byrne would be deployed in a wide position throughout the game.

The second, was to see their team line up in all blue. I get that a change of socks could be required, but there was no shorts clash. I wouldn’t mind a season in all blue, we do look rather good in it.

Linfield fans were hoping that would be the end of the shocks. We simply couldn’t afford to have another one on the pitch.

Saturday was a rather good day for Linfield. As well as progressing in the Irish Cup and getting a home tie to Championship opponents in the next round, their two opponents this week, Carrick and Warrenpoint, both had to play extra-time with ten men.

Carrick’s match on Saturday was against Glenavon, who Linfield face the week after next, though if Glenavon players are still knackered two weeks later, they should really have a word with themselves.

The new boys, Byrne and Campion were involved in a lot of Linfield’s attacking play in the first-half. Campion was conceding a lot of free-kicks for minimal physical contact where there was no need to make it. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to learn quickly that this is a Defender’s League.

Andrew Waterworth was playing in a deeper role at times, which he did well, but it was taking him away from the areas of the pitch where he was needed most.

As well as battling a side facing relegation, Linfield were facing the elements as well, playing against the wind and struggling to do so.

What few attacks Linfield were having were falling short.

Denver Gage had Carrick’s two best moments in the first-half, heading over from an inswinging corner and firing a low shot straight at Roy Carroll after a free-kick found him free a few yards out. Even allowing for the fact he’s a Defender, he should have scored. You could say that Linfield got a long overdue lucky break.

Kurtis Byrne was Linfield’s man to be denied in the first-half, having a low shot tipped round the post by Harry Doherty. I was behind the goal and thought it was going in.

Later in the half, Doherty was beaten by Byrne only for a Carrick Defender to block it on the line.

It was 0-0 at half-time. Even though the weather was against them, it was poor from Linfield, they weren’t getting the basics right.

Part of me was hoping for a floodlight failure, match abandoned, and we’ll try again on a later date, and we can all be home in time to watch Inside Number 9.

Linfield were having more attacks in the second-half now that the weather was in their favour. Carrick’s big leveller had gone, and Linfield knew it. There was no clear chances, but lots of pressure on the Carrick goal.

The problem was, there didn’t appear to be any urgency or drive from Linfield, nobody taking the game by the scruff of the neck. There were too many Hollywood Passes on a night when the wind either made them too short or too long. They had to just keep it simple.

They weren’t helped by the fact that Carrick were given licence to timewaste at will at goal kicks and throws. Roy Carroll would get booked in injury time for taking too long at a goal kick, the second time this season that it has happened. I can barely remember an opposition goalkeeper getting booked against Linfield this season.

If these rules are to be enforced, I’ve no problem with that, as long as it’s enforced consistently. If they are, it will be of no detriment to Linfield. If anything, it will be to our benefit, as most weeks we will be facing opponents who have had their Goalkeeper sent-off for two yellow cards.

Carroll almost gifted Carrick the lead when he passed a clearance to a Carrick Striker, but was able to recover the situation. Carrick fans were celebrating when a cross went over Carroll and hit the back of the netting, promting those at the opposite end to mistakingly believe it had hit the back of the net. Scundered for ye.

More Linfield pressure followed, with Josh Robinson heading against the side netting, to no cheers from fans at the opposite end of the ground.

It was clear that Linfield were crying out for subs to be introduced, especially with players such as Ryan Strain and Stephen Fallon ready to be introduce. They didn’t come, and neither did the Linfield goal.

Bad finishing or bad luck, the ball was staying out of the Carrick net. It was looking set to be a frustrating and costly 0-0 draw.

Eventually, Ryan Strain was introduced for Kirk Millar. Surprising to me, as Fallon would have been the obvious replacement if taking Millar off. It was a change that would work.

Strain was able to create space on the left, and cross to an unmarked Kurtis Byrne, who volleyed home from close range. It was a moment of quality not in keeping with the overall game. It didn’t matter, Linfield had the lead with 10 minutes to go.

They weren’t just going to sit on it, they went for a second but couldn’t get it. They didn’t need it, Carrick never looked like they were going to respond.

It was a win that saw Linfield leapfrog Cliftonville into 4th, with a trip to Warrenpoint coming up on Saturday, in the first game at the newly renamed Q Radio Arena. Yep, The Q Radio Arena.

Coleraine and Crusaders have winnable fixtures but Glenavon face Cliftonville, meaning that if we win, we’ll get closer to Glenavon or pull further away from Cliftonville. Small steps.

While we were making use of not having a game on New Year’s Day, we were all acting like proud parents (with a dash of envy) as Paul Smyth scored the winner for QPR against Cardiff, being interviewed by Colin Murray on Channel 5’s highlights programme that night, and then being the cover star of the following Saturday’s QPR matchday programme.

Anybody who has watched Linfield the last three years isn’t one bit shocked. We’ll be seeing him at Windsor Park again soon, but it will be in a green shirt. Thankfully, not for Glentoran on St Patrick’s Day.

That programme he was a cover star for was an FA Cup defeat. I’m in London on the FA Cup 4th Round weekend.

There’s not a lot of choice matches wise : Millwall v Rochdale or Leyton Orient v Aldershot in the National League.

I’ve been to Leyton Orient before, four years ago when they were chasing promotion to The Championship. Now, they are trying to avoid relegation to National League South. I’m probably banned for jinxing them.

The draw for the Irish Cup sees Linfield at home to Newry. It would have been more appealing as a spectator if we were away. I haven’t been to Newry since 2010.

Can’t say I miss the traffic in Newry City Centre. Hopefully, a Linfield win at Warrenpoint will make that experience more bearable on Saturday teatime.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 6.2.1971

Action from a match between Stoke City and Manchester City is the cover image as the the 1970-1971 season approaches it’s final stages, with Shoot asking if Leeds or Arsenal will be Champions.

Shoot does a double page spread where they interview players such as Nobby Stiles, Glyn Pardoe, John Sissons, Bobby Gould and Mark Lazarus about what it is like to score at Wembley.

Even though he is a defender, Bobby Moore uses his column to declare that matches are won in midfield, and commenting on who his favourite midfieldes are.

Joe McBride of Dunfermline Athletic answers questions submitted by Shoot readers, with Shoot giving a list of upcoming interviewees, including Peter Shilton, Johnny Giles and Steve Perryman.

Peter Shilton gets given a full page by Shoot to explain how he manages to kick the ball so far up the field.

There is a poster of Sunderland defender Colin Todd.

Scotland are in action against Belgium in a European Championship Qualifier, with Shoot noting that history was on Scotland’s side, as they had a better record in head to head meetings between the two sides.

Belgium won the match 3-0. Scotland and Belgium would see a lot of each other over the next 16 years, being paired together in Qualification for 1980, 1984 and 1988, as well as 1972.

England were also in European Championship action, away to Malta, with Shoot’s preview pointing out that Malta have the ability to hold out against England. England won the match 1-0.

Shoot previews the title run-in between Leeds and Arsenal, listing their remaining fixtures but sitting on the fence with regards to who will win it.

Arsenal won the league that season, finishing 1 point clear of 2nd place Leeds, and then added the FA Cup, becoming the 2nd side in the 20th Century to win the League and FA Cup double.

John Hollins is interviewed, stating that he studies Bobby Charltopn and Billy Bremner in an attempt to be a better player, stating that he wants to be part of England’s squad for the 1974 World Cup.

Dick Staite of Clyde is interviewed, and he states that the person he would like to meet most is Alexander Dubcek, former Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia.

Alan Ball uses his column to state that stay away fans are affecting team morales, as players find it difficult to play in front of empty stands.

Peter Simpson previews Arsenal’s trip to Anfield, claiming that his side feel unbeatable.

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 5.1.2018

1. Anteros – Bonnie
2. Manic Street Preachers – International Blue
3. Vic and Bob – Trousers
4. Simple Minds – Magic
5. U2 – What’s Going On?

It’s cold, it’s wet, people are moaning about FA Cup ties not being shown on TV and grief junkieing over David Bowie. That can only mean one thing ……… it’s January.

At this time of year, there is one question we all ask, and this year, the answer is once again yes. If you haven’t worked it out yet, BBC Four’s Top Of The Pops repeats will continue into 1985.

You will be glad to know that The Story Of 1985 will be on BBC Four at 9pm. It’ll be a lot more entertaining that Liverpool 0-0 Everton on BBC 1.

To commemorate this, here’s a 1985 chart for you

FIVE SONGS FROM 1985

1. A-Ha – Take On Me
2. Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
3. Stephen Duffy – Kiss Me
4. Kate Bush – Cloudbusting
5. Baltimora – Tarzan Boy

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 27.12.1980

Santa Claus of North Pole United in the cover star of Shoot, as the first Christmas of the 1980s approaches.

Except, that it’s not Santa Claus, it’s a footballer dressed up as him. All will be revealed on page 2.

Out mystery Santa is someone who enjoys dressing up in red and white, Tony Woodcock of Arsenal.

Shoot gets in the Christmas spirit by suggesting presents for various football personalities, with a razor for bearded Aston Villa player Dennis Mortimer, while Watford chairman Elton John is suggested a piano with a TV screen so that he can watch Watford matches while he is on tour. I’m not sure that has actually been invented. I might just try and copyright that.

Shoot reviews the first-half of the English league season, with Liverpool and Aston Villa level on points at the top, with Liverpool looking to become the first team since the 1930s to win 3 titles in a row, while Aston Villa are looking for their first title in 71 years.

Eamonn McCabe, Sports Photographer Of The Year, gets a double page spread showing his favourite photos from 1980, while there is a competition to win a camera.

Ray Clemence uses his column to look back at the year, with the high of Liverpool winning the league and a low of England’s group exit at the European Championship.

There is a double page photo collage of Wales and England’s recent World Cup Qualifiers, with the headline “Spain – Here We Come”.

Wales didn’t make it to Spain, and England just about qualified.

Liverpool’s reserve team gets a full page feature, asking four of their players – Ian Rush, Howard Gayle, Steve Ogrizovic and Richard Money – what it’s like to play for Liverpool’s reserves.

Liverpool’s title rivals Aston Villa are featured on the next page, looking at their “Dunfermline connection”, as two players from the Fife town, Allan Evans and Ken McNaught, playing their part in Villa’s title bid.

In news, Graham Gooch is training with West Ham to keep himself fit during Cricket’s off-season.

Shoot does a feature on “Forgotten Heroes”, the players who are struggling to get first team action in 1980.

Dundee get a team poster while Phil Neal gets a player profile. His favourite music is Michael Jackson, Gerry Rafferty and ELO.

There is a joint interview with Peter McCloy (Rangers) and Pat Bonner (Celtic) about what it’s like to play in goal for an Old Firm team.

Staying in Scotland, Gordon McQueen uses his column to look back at 1980, and reveals that a clairvoyant that a great 1981 has been predicted for him.

Aston Villa travel to Brighton over Christmas, and John Gregory of Brighton, a former Villa player, tells Shoot that the club deserves success.

In South America, Uruguay were hosting a tournament to celebrate 50 years since the first World Cup, involving all former winners. England declined the option as it would have involved postponing league games over Christmas. Meanwhile, Shoot does a joint interview with Diego Maradona and Alfredo Di Stefano.

Clive Allen uses his column to state that he is looking forward to Crystal Palace’s trip to Southampton, mainly for the opportunity to meet Kevin Keegan.

John Chiedozie of Leyton Orient is profiled, with his manager describing his as “England’s best winger”

Unfortunately for Ron Greenwood, he was already declared himself for Nigeria.

Andy Gray writes in his column about how injuries have benefitted Wolves, as it has presented first-team opportunities to some of their promising youngsters.

Manchester United get featured, with Shoot focusing on the fanaticism of their fans, suggesting that girls born in Manchester are likely to be called Louise (after Lou Macari) or Samantha (after Sammy McIlroy)

Shoot does a double page spread on players they predict to be “England’s Superstars Of The 1980s”, listing players such as Craig Johnston, Gary Shaw, Steve McMahon, Remi Moses, Sammy Lee, Gary Mabbutt, Peter Beardsley and Adrian Heath to make an impact in the upcoming decade.

There is a photo compilation of the biggest footballing moments of 1980, while there is a calendar for 1981.

With 18 months to go, the countdown to the 1982 World Cup is already underway, with Spanish clubs spending a combined £50m modernising their stadiums to host games, with Shoot giving a club by club breakdown.

Peter Shilton uses his column to champion Terry Butcher’s cause for a place in the England team, and reveals he’s always been a fan of Tottenham due to the way they played football in the 60s.

Derek Johnston’s column recalls Andy Cameron’s stand-up routine at the Player Of The Year Awards where he made fun of players of every club, including his beloved Rangers.

There is also a feature on managers such as Dave Sexton, Brian Clough, Ron Saunders and Lawrie McMenemy who have all went on to bigger things despite experiencing the sack early in their career.

FOOTBALL IN 2018

At this time of year, I usually write about my footballing hopes for the year ahead. In truth, you never really know what is going to happen, but i’ll give it a try.

LINFIELD

Where do you start with this? First half of the year good, second half of the year not so good. Can we go more than four matches unbeaten? That would be a good start. Winning the League is looking a bit much, but at least have a strong finish to the season and win the Irish Cup. Please.

Talking of the Irish Cup, you’d like to think we will beat Glebe Rangers next Saturday. If we do, an away game against a lower league team in the next round would be great, but not too far as i’m going to Shed Seven that night. PSNI would be perfect as it would be a lunchtime kick-off.

The worst thing about our current poor form is that we might not even qualify for the Scottish Challenge Cup, although I have a hunch they might expand the competition to accommodate us.

If we don’t qualify for Europe, that will give us a lot of free dates in pre-season. Even if we do reach Europe (hopefully we do), we’ll still have some dates free. So here’s the pre-season wishlist, away games against any of Dundela, HW Welders, Moyola Park, Barn United, Brantwood, PSNI, Knockbreda.

Basically, a ground I haven’t been to or haven’t been to in a while.

If we qualify for the Scottish Challenge Cup or a pre-season game, hopefully, Ayr United, Queen of the South or Stranraer. Stranraer being one i’d love to see happen.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Top 4 finish and win one of the two cups we’re still in. Not asking for much. I’m hoping to do another European group game in late 2018, hopefully in the European Cup. It’s a legacy of the David Moyes era that I even have to include the word “if”.

Also, another pre-season friendly in Dublin again, but on a Saturday.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Was hoping for a friendly away to Scotland or a neutral game at a random EFL ground, but they’ve decided to do a tour of North America instead.

UEFA Nationas League draw in late January. Hopefully, avoid Republic of Ireland but get Wales. I’d be very tempted by a trip to Cardiff in late 2018.

LEAGUE OF IRELAND

Doing an overnight in Dublin when i’m off for the July Holidays on Friday 13th July. Two matches that night, Bohs v Sligo and Shelbourne v Drogheda. Tempted by the Shelbourne match as it would give me one last chance to visit Tolka Park, with the future of the ground looking uncertain.

LONDON

Doing a weekend in London at the end of January. It’s not for football, but it would be rude not to take in a game while i’m there. It’s the weekend of the FA Cup 4th Round, so i’m not sure what matches are on, although Brentford, Millwall and Leyton Orient are at home, the first two games dependent on FA Cup ties.

SCOTLAND

I’m hoping to go to the Edinburgh Festival in August. I usually take in a game when i’m over and hope to do the same.

WORLD CUP

I’m not going, but if I see a competition anywhere to win a trip, you can bet i’ll be entering. Wish me luck.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2017

My football watching for 2017 is over, so it’s time for a statistical look back at the year.

Games : 56

Goals Seen : 154

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include 1 red card after the final whistle)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 5

Hat-Tricks : 3

Andrew Waterworth (Cliftonville v Linfield)
Andrew Waterworth (Linfield v Coleraine)
Jordan Stewart (Linfield v Ballinamallard United)

Teams Seen : 31

AFC Bournemouth(1st time), Ards, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers, Celtic, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crystal Palace, Crusaders, Czech Republic, Dundela, Dungannon Swifts, Edinburgh City (1st time), Germany, Glenavon, Glentoran, Heart of Midlothian, Hull City, Institute, La Fiorita (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Montrose (1st time), Northern Ireland, Norway, Portadown, Sampdoria (1st time), Spartans (1st time), Switzerland, Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 16

Ainslie Park (1st time), Ballymena Showgrounds, Clandeboye Park, Coleraine Showgrounds, Drumahoe, Ferney Park, Lansdowne Road, Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue, The Oval, Wilgar Park, Windsor Park

Competitions : 9

County Antrim Shield, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, NIFL Cup, Scottish Challenge Cup, Scottish League Two (1st time), World Cup Qualifying,

MEDIAWATCH : THOSE WE DIDN’T LOSE IN 2017

Usually at this time of year, news outlets will run pieces looking back and mourning the celebrities who have died in the year just past.

Let’s do something different. Let’s look back and celebrate the celebrities who are still alive …….. despite the fact that National Enquirer said they were on the verge of death during 2017.

Val Kilmer

Cher

Angelina Jolie

Yoko Ono

Kurt Russell

William Shatner

Terence Stamp

Kirstie Alley

Lisa Marie Presley

Melanie Griffith

Betty White

MEDIAWATCH : CHER THE IMMORTAL

National Enquirer are obsessed with Cher, more specifically, with Cher dying.

As in, Cher actually dying, and not people mistakingly thinking she was dead, when it was Thatcher and not that Cher who was dead.

So, let’s look back at all the times in 2017 that National Enquirer said that Cher was dying.

January – Broke, dying and accused of $5m swindle

February – Says her goodbyes after a killer virus.

March – Brought back from the dead. Just like that guy, you know, Dirty Den from Eastenders.

May – Live saving liver transplant.

June – Relapses after Gregg Allman dies.

October – Deathbed confession that she lost five babies.

October – Dying and desperate for quick cash.

November – Sick, frail, loveless, flat broke and wanting to die.

At time of going to publish, Cher is still alive, and was slagging off Donald Trump on Twitter eleven hours ago.

LINFIELD 1-2 CRUSADERS 30.12.2017

After defeat at The Oval on Boxing Day, David Healy said that Linfield were out of the title race. Wether he actually believed that though, is another matter.

They might have kicked off fifteen points behind morning leaders Coleraine, but with two games in hand, that gap could be reduced to nine points, the gap that Linfield clawed back from February onwards last season. Obviously, points in the bag are better to have than games in hand.

However, defeat at home to Crusaders would surely have put them out of the title race, and they would have to believe it.

It seems to be a tradition in recent years that Linfield and Crusaders meet after Boxing Day, this being the fourth successive season that the two sides have met on New Year’s Day or the last Saturday in December.

Linfield fans will have had fond memories of the last time they faced Crusaders after a Boxing Day defeat at The Oval, a 5-0 win at Windsor Park on 29th December 2007. A repeat scoreline would have been wishful thinking.

As I arrived at Windsor Park, Disappear by INXS was on the stereo. I’m not sure if that song was in relation to Linfield’s title fans, as they looked to Baby Don’t Cry over a team that has continued to Mystify this season.

They were hoping that Ryan Strain being brought into the team would be a New Sensation.

Results against Crusaders this season have been disappointing so far. That would be an understatement. Two games where we surrendered to them by playing 4-5-1, and then a third decided by a horrendous refereeing decision to send off Mark Stafford for being fouled when the game was in the balance.

Those games have seen Linfield gift goals to the opposition.

Linfield made a positive start to this game and were straight on the attack, winning a free-kick which was headed home by Josh Robinson just as sixty seconds appeared on the clock. It was the perfect start, and the first time this season that Linfield had led against Crusaders.

Linfield continued the positive start, Stephen Fallon having a shot saved after Sean O’Neill rushed out to deny Ryan Strain. There were groans that he didn’t get height on it, he really needed to in order to scored. The problem was, getting the right amount of height, so he gambled and hit it low. It didn’t pay off.

Strain and Fallon were getting a lot of joy against Crusaders defence, as was Matthew Clarke. The start was similar to the County Antrim Shield Final. Except, that Linfield couldn’t get a second goal when they were on top.

Crusaders then had chances. Jordan Owens hit the bar from a header after a soft free-kick given for a foul on Paul Heatley. For a player renowned for going down at the slightest touch, Linfield players were giving him too many excuses to go down, and the officials were buying it.

In the opening minutes, it appeared that someone had given Arnold Hunter a rulebook for Christmas as he was actually awarding free-kicks and punishing Crusaders tactical fouling.

He might have had a rulebook, but it appeared he didn’t get a yellow card for Christmas.

That was until midway through the half when his yellow card appeared frequently but his rule book seemed to disappear.

Well, not for Howard Beverland, who seemed to be able to foul without consequence throughout the first-half.

A big second-half performance was needed from Linfield, but they couldn’t get the early goal like last week against Cliftonville.

Just before the hour, Crusaders equalised when Billy Joe Burns fired home from long range. As good as the goal will look on TV, questions have to be asked of Linfield’s defending.

It came from a clearance from Matthew Clarke clearing it inside across the pitch rather than the way he was playing.

It’s literally schoolboy stuff, the first thing you learn when learning to play football.

Yes, Matthew Clarke was under pressure, but he had options. He could have won a cheap foul or gone safety first and just conceded a throw.

By clearing the ball across the pitch, he put his own team under pressure that they didn’t need to be under. Even so, questions have to be asked why Billy Joe Burns was allowed so much freedom to run with the ball, especially when it was so glaringly obvious what he was going to do.

Even more worrying, was the body language of the Linfield players after the goal. They looked like they didn’t believe they could go 2-1 in front, they looked like a beaten team when the score was 1-1.

David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Robert Garrett and Ross Clarke for Jamie Mulgrew and Stephen Fallon. I’m not sure if Jordan Stewart is injured, but if he’s not, he should be in the matchday squad.

He had an awful game on his last appearance against Warrenpoint, and no player should be an automatic selection, but surely he should be on the bench. Boxing Day and today were crying out for him when the score was 1-1.

Crusaders then hit the bar twice, albeit the top of it. They were getting too close for Linfield’s liking.

On 80 minutes, came a goal that summed up Linfield’s season, as a long ball was allowed to bounce, Robert Garrett and Josh Robinson tackled each other, before Garrett stands on the ball when trying to win it back, while Robinson backs off Gavin Whyte, allowing him to shoot into the bottom corner via a deflection.

If you are Alan Hansen, this is porn for you.

We’re not even losing to good goals. We’re losing to the absolute worst in Pub League goals.

You don’t to single players out but that’s the second goal this week we’ve conceded that you look at Robert Garrett and think “Hmmmmm”. He’s not the worst offender this season or in recent weeks. Josh Robinson’s contribution in this goal is also questionable.

Worst thing was, it was game over. You just looked at the players and they believed it was game over. It was like the worst games between 2008 and 2010, when Linfield went three years without winning a League game from behind. It was like the worst games in David Jeffrey’s final years, when we used to bend over for Cliftonville for fun. Not our fun, might I add.

Cameron Stewart came on for Ryan Strain. It was a substitution that had seemed obvious for about ten minutes before. It should have been proactive rather than reactive.

Colin Coates did have to head over on his own goal line when it looked like Andrew Waterworth was going to head home. It was the only thing that Linfield could offer rather than being the start of the siege.

There was nobody taking the game by the scruff of the neck for Linfield, nobody looking like they were going to make something happen, to offer something different.

Crusaders were able to see out the final ten minutes, aided by Sean O’Neill timewasting at goal kicks, the referee being too stupid to do anything about it. Naturally, the time wasn’t added on at the end of the game.

Linfield players looked too defeated to protest. I’m not sure how many times i have to mention it, but the players should be making an issue of it, putting teams under pressure when taking their own throws and goal kicks, getting players on yellow card tightropes, to have it in the referee’s head that the appropriate amount of injury time needs to be added when Linfield need a goal.

We can’t continue to allow ourselves to be outsmarted by stupid teams, because opposition teams aren’t slow in raising it if a Linfield player looks at them funny.

Yes, Linfield are missing Paul Smyth, but there’s no point in having Paul Smyth when you concede the goals we concede. Basic stuff. Do they even practice defending at training?

Jay Donnelly not being tracked, Jamie McGonigle being allowed a free run in the last minute, Curtis Allen allowed to roam the penalty area unmarked, take your pick from the Crusaders match in October, take your pick from the Warrenpoint game a few weeks back.

Teams don’t have to do a lot in order to score against us.

It seems to be a perfect storm, as the goals aren’t going in at the other end, which seems to be a strange thing to say about the only team in the League to have scored in every game this season.

We’re not killing teams off when we’re in front, and not seeing the game out when we need to.

We have options up front, but nobody seems to be making the most of the opportunity when they get a game or a run of games.

Brandon Adams has been scoring for fun in the Reserves but has been anonymous when he’s made a first team appearance. Louis Rooney needs a goal but hasn’t looked like getting one.

We’ve conceded last minute winners to Cliftonville, Coleraine and Glentoran. They were all games we never looked like losing. Even those three points could give us a glimmer of hope.

We’ve thrown away leads against Cliftonville, Ballymena, Glentoran and Crusaders. We led at half-time in three of those games (the other was a late first-half goal) and never looked like losing when we went in at half-time in any of those games.

We wouldn’t be top with those twelve points, but we’d be in a far better position.

Where has all the self-belief gone? Where has the concentration in the final minutes of games gone? All the bad habits from David Jeffrey’s final years have returned. Why are we not turning up in big games?

For the second successive matchday, Coleraine have dropped points and we haven’t taken advantage. Now we’re eying up Glenavon instead, hoping to finish 3rd to possibly secure European Football.

We can’t let heads go down and for the season just to drift. If Cliftonville in 2014 were our reference point last season, Cliftonville in 2015 have to be our reference point for how not to do things, they let the season drift once the title had gone, finishing 5th and have never recovered.

Up next, is a trip to Coleraine on Monday afternoon (Or, New Year’s Day, if you prefer), starting 2018 at the venue of my favourite football match in 2017 (The one in April, not October, in case you hadn’t worked it out)

Before the match, I purchased the addendum to Every Other Saturday, to include last season’s three trophies.

I’d held off purchasing it in case Santa got it for me. He didn’t.

I’m hoping the players got a copy and read it on the long journey to Coleraine. They could do with the inspiration, and a reminder that they are a far better team than results and league position suggests.

Photo Album