CLIFTONVILLE 1-2 LINFIELD 17.2.2018

It was a far different scenario than when Linfield made their second visit of the season to Solitude last season.

Of course, as you will remember, that game in April 2017 saw Linfield needing three points to secure the title. This time around, the three points were needed to put pressure on Glenavon in the race for 3rd, while a defeat would see them drop to 5th.

As recently as last Saturday, Linfield fans didn’t know if or when this match was going to take place. I’ll be touching on that later.

I headed to my usual spot for lunch when I go to Solitude. Every time I go there, we win. Well, apart from the last time I visited Solitude. I’m blaming it on my trip to The Co-Op afterwards to get a banana for jinxing us.

It definitely wasn’t us playing defensively and trying to hold onto a lead and giving the initiative to Cliftonville.

I had to take a carry-out lunch as there were two Linfield players (not in the matchday squad) hogging a table. Shameful behaviour that brings the game into disrepute. Okay, it’s not quite stealing a taxi, but still.

Linfield got off to a good start, putting Cliftonville on the back foot, with Andrew Waterworth flicking the ball over a defender only to see his shot saved. Kurtis Byrne then had instinctive close range shot saved.

Jay Donnelly then had Cliftonville’s first shot, but it was easily saved.

Achille Campion, recalled to the starting eleven, was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks, making life uncomfortable for Cliftonville’s defenders, as was Niall Quinn, with most of Linfield’s attacks coming down their left.

Campion fired over from inside the penalty area after the ball came to him after a Kirk Millar shot was blocked.

Gareth Deane was then forced into his first real save when he made himself big to deny Chris Curran after the ball fell to him.

Cliftonville were then denied when Jamie Harney hit the bar after a header from a free-kick.

Both sides had reason to feel aggrieved that it was still 0-0.

It was becoming clear that this was a game where the first goal would be vital. Five minutes before the break, Linfield got it when a Kirk Millar corner was headed home by Jimmy Callacher

It was the second time he has scored for Linfield at Solitude, having scored there, and at the same end in March 2016.

Paul Smyth made it 2-0 and secured the points that day. He did the same yesterday, but unfortunateley for Linfield fans, it was at Loftus Road, setting up Matt Smith to give QPR a 2-0 win over Bolton.

The opening minutes of the second-half saw some desperate defending from Linfield, with Mark Stafford blocking a shot on the line, and then blocking a shot from outside the box.

Kurtis Byrne then had a shot saved by Brian Neeson as Linfield looked for the second goal that they needed.

Byrne then made way soon afterwards, replaced by Ryan Strain.

At the same time, Cliftonville made a change, bringing on Rory Donnelly for Joe Gormley, the second successive match against Linfield that Gormley had been substituted just after the hour mark.

With fifteen minutes to go, Linfield got the two goal lead they needed when a Niall Quinn free-kick went in. It wasn’t Quinn who scored it, somebody got a touch to put the ball in. Who? That is up for debate.

I was stood to the left of the goal and thought it was headed in by Achille Campion. He celebrated like he scored it. Some media outlets have given the goal as a Tomas Cosgrove own goal. The TV footage is inconclusive.

It will probably go to the Dubious Goals Committe, which in the Irish League is if the attacking player shouts loud enough for it to be awarded to him.

What’s the French for “Oi! That’s my goal?”

2-0 up and coasting, Linfield fans started taking the piss out of Cliftonville goalkeeper Brian Neeson. He responded by offering one of them out, and it wasn’t for a date.

He even managed to do his own Conor Devlin tribute by booting the ball away (like for his red card in the Irish Cup tie in 2016) as Linfield had a corner. He managed to get a yellow card.

It was hilarious to see a goalkeeper getting so wound up and distracted so easily. This is something our players should be looking to exploit in two weeks time. It’s a pity we won’t have fans in the Railway End for that game.

Just when everything seemed to be going smoothly, Cliftonville pulled a goal back on 81 minutes from a low Jay Donnelly shot. It looked a goalkeeping mistake from where I was stood. On looking at the TV replay, it looks like a small deflection off a Linfield player which took the ball over Deane.

Gareth Deane has made some errors earlier in the season but there’s been absolutely no complaints about his performances since he came into the team against Coleraine in late January. Don’t forget, he made a vital save from Chris Curran when the score was 0-0.

The goal also ruined his own personal record against Cliftonville. Prior to this game, he had faced them three times, won every match (by an aggregate of 10-0) and obviously kept three clean sheets.

Four clean sheets in a row was gone, but he was still on course for four wins out of four.

It was around this point in the game that Cliftonville began their comeback in September.

At that game, you could feel a bad vibe at what was going to happen next.

At this game, it was more of an inconvenience.

Cliftonville fired a lot of crosses in, but that it what Linfield had to deal with. Both of their Donnellys had headers, but they went well wide of goal. Gareth Deane wasn’t troubled, and neither were Linfield.

Special mention to new signing Joe Crowe who was solid and reliable and kept it simple. He already looks like a decent acquisition to the squad.

However, David Healy appeared not to learn the lessons of September by bringing on Josh Robinson for Achille Campion. You could argue that Andrew Mitchell would have been a better choice. The real answer was, Stephen Fallon or Brandon Adams. Going defensive to hold on to a lead doesn’t work. It’s bitten us on the arse too many times in recent seasons.

Linfield were able to see the game out and get the win. There was no real danger of points being dropped, as Cliftonville couldn’t get hold of the ball in injury time.

Thankfully. Having been at the Ulster match the night before, I wasn’t in the mood for last minute heartbreak on two successive days.

This match was originally scheduled for the Friday night but was played on the Saturday afternoon. The confusion regarding arrangements for this game has been utterly farcical.

When the fixture list is done in June, the games I look out for are International Weekends and the NIFL Cup Final for possible postponements. The further that Cliftonville advanced in the competition, the more this game was in doubt.

Linfield also had another motive for monitoring Cliftonville’s cup progress as we could have used any potential free weekend to play their oustanding (Postponed from 7th October due to International Call-Ups and also Linfield playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup) League match against Glenavon.

Cliftonville’s NIFL Cup Semi-Final against Ballymena United was postponed three times. That was unfortunate. The fact they were having the third go just ten days before the Final was stupidity on behalf of NIFL.

There were three spare midweeks between week commencing 10th December and week commencing 5th February that weren’t used.

I can understand clubs being reluctant to play on week commencing 17th December as it led into two successive Saturday-Tuesday double headers.

There was a free midweek on week commencing 8th January. Clubs might have been reluctant to play that midweek having played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, but Linfield played Carrick Rangers on Tuesday 9th January.

If it was good enough for Linfield and Carrick Rangers, it should have been good enough for Cliftonville and Ballymena United.

The third midweek not used was week commencing 29th January.

On Monday 29th January, Cliftonville played Glenavon in a game that was broadcast on Sky Sports, having been postponed on it’s original date of Saturday 9th December 2017.

It is worth noting that Cliftonville v Glenavon on Saturday 9th December was not to have been broadcast on Sky Sports.

Sky Sports schedule their Irish League games on either International Weeks, Midweek Premier League Fixture Lists, European Weeks or FA Cup Weekends as their have no games to show, or don’t have the rights to broadcast games.

We are now in peak season in terms of knockout European football. There are plenty of midweeks in the next month where Cliftonville v Glenavon could have been scheduled for broadcast.

Why was a competition that is timebound for late March (So that 33 games can be played before the split) given priority over a competition that is timebound to be completed for mid February?

Why was Ballymena United v Cliftonville not scheduled for week commencing 29th January 2018 just as Dungannon Swifts v Crusaders was?

The knock on effect was that Linfield fans didn’t know if their team would be playing until 5pm last Saturday.

It wasn’t just any normal game. It is a game where we have to buy tickets and be bussed in. This all had to be arranged in a week.

Linfield fans were expected to purchase tickets during the working week. Thankfully, the club was open late on Tuesday evening for supporters. I was able to take advantage of this but others might not be able to.

The club deserves credit for making this option available to fans.

Linfield fans have all sorts of lifestyles and arrangements and should be given more than one week’s notice as to wether a match is on or off, and what day of the week it is taking place on, so that they can make arrangements to go to the game if they wish, and if they have anything that needs arranged in order for them to do so.

Ballymena United v Cliftonville being postponed three times was unlucky, but the point stands that three spare midweeks were not used to schedule this game into. Linfield fans have been inconvenience by utter incompetence by fixture schedulers.

As a result of Ballymena United v Cliftonville being played last Saturday, Cliftonville’s League game against Warrenpoint Town was postponed to Tuesday, and Cliftonville and Warrenpoint’s Friday games were put back to Saturday, presumably, to allow for more recovery time.

If I was Glentoran and Ards, i’d be asking questions as to why they were expected to play Tuesday and Friday, but other clubs were allowed to play Tuesday and Friday.

Upon heading home from this game, I watched the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts on Sky Sports. Well, flicking between that and the United match on BT Sport.

I was tempted to go to the NIFL Cup Final as a neutral but I was never going to make it from Solitude in time.

I’ve already said in a previous blog that Windsor Park was a poor choice for the Final due to it being too big. It was a lazy choice because they were backed into a corner because they had to choose a venue without knowing who the finalists are.

It was even more hilarious that the link for tickets was being advertised on my Social Media feeds, despite the fact that my own team was playing earlier that day.

Now it has been established (Well, it was established in 2012 when two League games were played at the same time as the Final) that League games can be played on the same day as the League Cup Final, hopefully, this will put an end to Friday night games on this weekend in future years.

Regular readers will know that I go to Edinburgh every August for the Festival, but I also like to take in a match while i’m there.

Last August, I went to see Edinburgh City.

They currently groundshare with Spartans due to the redevelopment of Meadowbank Stadium, which now won’t meet SPFL criteria. I’ll be monitoring this one. Hopefully, it all gets resolved.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to Ards followed by a home double header against Glenavon and then Cliftonville in the Irish Cup.

So that’s the short-term goal for Linfield. Win the next three games and we’ll be (at worst) level with Glenavon and into the Semi-Finals of the Irish Cup.

Linfield’s season began to go awry after the visit to Solitude in September. Hopefully, it will get on course for a strong finish after the visit in February.

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ULSTER 16-17 EDINBURGH 16.2.2018

This was a nice wee freebie for me, I won a competition online to win free tickets for this game. I usually only go to one game a season, usually in Europe, so this was a nice bonus for me having been to the match against Wasps in October.

This was the second successive home game for Ulster, having scored a routine 59-10 win over Southern Kings last week. Edinburgh also won last weekend, but it was a lot harder, securing a Bonus Point 29-24 win over Leinster in the last minute.

Little did we know it would be a warning.

My tickets were in the Grandstand. It was my first time in there since it was rebuilt. I’d always said to myself that i’d want to see what it was like there for a change.

I was seated towards The Aquinas End and I had a slightly obstructed view when the ball was at the other end of the field. If I was to go seated at Ravenhill again, i’d like to try behind one of the goals. Hey, the tickets were free, I shouldn’t be complaining.

Ulster made a positive start to the game and had Edinburgh pinned into their own half in the opening minutes. It was no surprise when Ulster took the lead through a John Cooney try, which was then converted to give Ulster a 7-0 lead.

You know when you’re watching a football match, and the home team scores in the opening minutes and you expect them to storm to victory but they don’t?

Yep, this was the Rugby equivalent.

Ulster couldn’t build on it, and never really looked like adding to their try count. It was very dull for long periods.

Edinburgh were the better team, and it was no surprise when Edinburgh got a try from Jason Harries, which was converted to make it 7-7, which stayed the score at half-time.

Early in the second-half, Ulster went 10-7 up through a John Cooney penalty. So early in fact, that I missed it as I was making my way back to my seat.

Another Cooney penalty made it 13-7, and it looked like Ulster now had the foundation for victory.

With only a six point lead, Ulster knew that a converted try would put Edinburgh into the lead.

Their fears were confirmed when a Lewis Carmichael try was converted to put Edinburgh 14-13 in front.

Soon after, Ulster were back in front, Cooney again, another penalty. 16-14. There was no margin for error now.

Ulster couldn’t get any further scores that could give them more breathing space. Even a drop goal or a penalty would have meant Edinburgh would need a converted try to win the game.

Unable to kill off Edinburgh, Ulster were now hanging on. The aim now was to hold on to the ball until the clock hit 80 minutes.

The crowd at Ravenhill had been quiet and subdued for most of the game. In the final minutes, they burst into life, trying to cheer their side to see them through the final minutes.

Edinburgh were able to get upfield for one last attack.

Ulster just couldn’t get the ball away, they just couldn’t get the ball to kick it out of play.

As Edinburgh, were attacking The Aquinas End, I had a perfect view of it all. You could see what was going to happen.

Edinburgh were able to get possession in a shooting position, as Duncan Weir was able to hit a drop goal to win the game 17-16 in injury time.

That was it, game over. Ravenhill fell silent.

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PAUL WELLER – LIVE AT ULSTER HALL 15.2.2018

Earlier in the day, Paul Weller’s Social Media channels pointed out that it was exactly 41 years to the day since he signed his first record deal, as a member of The Jam.

Four decades and one year later, he is still strutting his stuff, and did so in Belfast, the city getting it’s turn after he had spent the previous three evenings performing in Dublin.

Support came from a band called Tights. No wait, it’s Touts. It’s just the accent. These Derry boys were so loud, they’d probably be banned by Sister Michael, though I doubt they’ll be getting booked to perform at any of Jennie Joyce’s house parties.

It seems as though Touts are the support band at every concert in Belfast, having supported Blossoms, Kasabian (Well, or so they thought until Kasabian pulled out at the last minute) and ASIWYFA in the past year.

If you like The Jam, The Strypes and/or The Undertones, this is the band for you.

A lot of support bands bore the life out of you, but not these guys. They were acting as if it was their own headline show.

The setlist was described by Weller as “Some old, and some new” a few songs in, as he introduced From The Floorboards Up, describing it as an old song, though considering it was released in 2005, it’s not as old as some of the other songs that made an appearance in this setlist.

Weller wasn’t slow in exploring all areas of his back catalogue, having a short section dedicated to The Style Council, playing Have You Ever had It Blue? and My Ever Changing Moods back to back. The latter brought about a very serious outbreak of Dad Dancing in the crowd.

We were treated to Weller showcasing his piano skills by playing his classic hit You Do Something To Me and Wo Se Mama, the standout track from his current album A Kind Revolution.

Naturally, he delved into The Jam’s hits, dedicating Eton Rifles to “Theresa May and her fucking mob” to loud cheers. For clarity, if it was needed, I don’t think it was a tribute.

The bigger solo hits also got an outing, songs such as Friday Street and Peacock Suit. I would have loved to have heard The Changingman, as it was the song that got me into Weller.

Back to The Jam, he played Start, where he was joined on stage by a young fan, who jammed with Steve Craddock, before Weller left the stage.

I know, he has a song called Start and plays it at the end.

Except, it wasn’t. After what seemed like an eternity, Weller returned to the stage to do an acoustic set.

It didn’t really work. It was a Thursday night and we were all in the mood for the weekend. If he was going to go acoustic, we wanted hits to sing along to.

We eventually got that in the shape of That’s Entertainment and Wild Wood.

He left the stage again and returned for a second encore, signing off with Town Called Malice.

I’d previously seen him at Waterfront Hall in November 2015, when he was a bit iffy and off form.

This was not the case at Ulster Hall.

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Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall November 2015

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 21.6.1986

Action from the opening game of Mexico 86 between Bulgaria and Italy is on the cover of Shoot, as they bring you the latest news from the ongoing World Cup.

England are hoping to win it for the first time since 1966, and their winning captain that day, Bobby Moore, is now a columnist for Shoot, and he lists the players that have impressed him in the opening games, such as Socrates, Maradona, Platini, Papin, Boniek, as well as Randy Regan and Bruce Wilson of Canada.

Bryan Robson is hoping to emulate his fellow Shoot columnist by lifting the trophy, but it hasn’t got off to the best of starts, as he writes of his frustration of England failing to win their first two games, but predicts England will reach the knock out stages. Beside his column is an advert for New Balance, which he endorses.

There is a double page interview with Jim Leighton, where he reveals that he didn’t want to be a goalkeeper.

News from Mexico includes that Fenerbache made approached Franz Beckenbauer to quit West Germany and become manager of Fenerbache, while in Italy, there is a potential match fixing scandal about to blow open.

Italy’s group opponents Bulgaria haven’t made many friends, by holding training behind closed doors and having armed guards outside their training facilities.

Shoot’s man in Mexico, Bill Day brands England’s performances “A disgrace”, while being complimentary about Northern Ireland, despite losing 2-1 to Spain.

Ray Daly from County Offaly writes to Jimmy Greaves to suggest that when Ron Atkinson’s inevitable departure as Manchester United manager is confirmed, the job should go to United legend Lou Macari.

There is a round-up of results from the 1985-1986 Scottish League seasons, with Steve Cowan of Hibs being top scorer, 2 ahead of Brian McClair. Both men would go on to win league titles outside their native country, Cowan with Portadown and McClair with Manchester United.

Outside of the World Cup, Republic Of Ireland are making progress under Jack Charlton, already lifting a trophy by winning a triangular tournament in Iceland against the hosts and Czechoslovakia.

Steve Hodge gets a full page profile having broken into the England squad in time to head to Mexico. A potential Aston Villa team-mate of Hodge’s is John Hewitt, in a contract dispute with Aberdeen, which gets a full page feature. Discussions are on hold at the moment, due to Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson being in Mexico in his role as Scotland manager.

Nigel Winterburn of Wimbledon, looking forward to playing in the top flight for the first time, gets a full page interview, where he credits his former manager at Birmingham, Jim Smith, with saving his career.

There is also a full page profile of League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers.

In club news, Alex Ferguson spoke of his dislike for agents after Eric Black moved to Metz, while Liam Brady was leaving unsubtle hints for Arsenal to buy him back.

LINFIELD 0-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 10.2.2018

You ever have a feeling when you watch a football match and you know early on that it is going to finish 0-0? This was one of those games.

Before the match, there was a presentation made to Jamie Mulgrew in recognition of him making his 500th appearance for Linfield, against Warrenpoint Town on Tuesday, making him just the 513 appearances behind Noel Bailie.

Match number 501 would end prematurely, and wouldn’t be one that would be stored in the memory bank.

In the opening minutes of the game, Dungannon were unable to get out of their own half. Unfortunately for Linfield, Dungannon weren’t really pinned into their own penalty area.

The best that Linfield could offer during this period was a speculative long range shot from Mark Stafford, which had to be palmed around the post by Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis.

It was blatantly obvious that this was a game that Linfield needed an early goal, or this was going to be a long afternoon. They didn’t get it, and it turned out to be a long afternoon.

They didn’t help themselves by getting offside at nearly every attack, Jordan Stewart being a serial offender.

There were goals in this game for Linfield as Dungannon’s defence looked shaky when they had possession. The problem was, Linfield weren’t getting the bodies forward. This was typified by a Louis Rooney cross that was asking to be finished, but nobody was on the end of it.

A Dungannon break saw Jarlath O’Rourke hit the bar after being teed up. Throughout the attack, Dungannon players always looked as though they were one step ahead of Linfield’s players.

A few minutes later, Jimmy Callacher lost possession to Daniel Hughes, who was too wide to shoot directly, so tried a chip which was saved by Gareth Deane, before Jamie Mulgrew cleared the danger.

It wasn’t the first time that Callacher lost possession when on the ball. In fact, Linfield’s defence looked every bit as shaky as Dungannon’s when they were in possession of the ball.

Niall Quinn had a free-kick saved in Linfield’s only attack of note of the half.

It was a half that saw Jordan Stewart leave the pitch later than the other 21 players, as he received treatment for an injury following the tackle. The fact he took his top off as he headed down the tunnel was a massive clue that he wouldn’t be making an appearance in the second-half. That, and the fact that Kurtis Byrne spent the interval getting warmed up.

That was the change that happened at half-time.

Byrne had a low shot turned around for a corner. Linfield had numerous corners in the second-half. Every single one of them was headed clear by David Armstrong. Unchallenged.

It looked like Louis Rooney got in behind Dungannon’s defence and had to options, to shoot or cross, either would have brought a goal. He did neither dragging the ball across goal out for a goal kick.

Rooney was then replaced, making way for Achille Campion, who got past a defender and shot straight at the keeper when a pass to Kurtis Byrne looked the best option.

A ball in behind Dungannon’s defence looked to have set up Andrew Waterworth, but he fired at Addis from close range, when a glancing header over the keeper would have brought a goal.

It was then time for a third substitution, Stephen Fallon. It wasn’t the obvious decision of Kirk Millar making way, but the hobbling Jamie Mulgrew.

Fallon almost accidentally set up a winner when his tackle was almost instinctively headed home by Mark Stafford, but it went just wide. You just knew it was going to be one of those days.

It almost got worse for Linfield when debutant Joe Crowe had to make a block when it looked like Dungannon were going to score. The move came about after possession was cheaply given away by two different defenders in the final third.

And that was that, the first time this season that Linfield failed to score in the League this season. They never looked like scoring. There was no urgency or drive, summed up by a bout of sideways passing three minutes into four minutes of injury time.

The truth was, Dungannon’s chances, not as many as Linfield, were better chances. Linfield had to do more to stop Dungannon scoring than Dungannon had to do to stop Linfield scoring.

With Glenavon drawing, this was a missed opportunity to catch up ground on them, especially as they will be inactive next weekend.

The only positive was that Linfield kept their first clean sheet in four League matches.

Elsewhere, Ballymena beat Cliftonville in the long awaited League Cup Semi-Final, meaning that Linfield will definitely have a match next weekend. I can’t contain my excitement after today’s display.

So, Linfield fans will have to take time out during the working week if they want to go to Solitude.

This could have all been avoided if the NIFL had arranged the Cliftonville v Ballymena Semi-Final for either week commencing 8th January or week commencing 29th January, giving the club more time to arrange selling tickets.

It’s a lot of effort to go to just to watch a 0-0 draw. Sorry, i’m just being cynical and negative about this game, but it does have 0-0 written all over it.

It’s a game we need to win, not just for our League position. It’s not about laying down a marker for the Irish Cup tie on March 3rd. We can’t just turn it off and on and save ourselves for the Irish Cup. We need to start building momentum in all games.

We’ve barely turned it on all season, whatever “it” is.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 9.2.2018

1. Kylie Minogue – Dancing
2. Ash – Buzzkill
3. Desperate Journalist – It Gets Better
4. Shed Seven – The Heroes
5. Cast – Flying

Didn’t get tickets for U2 last week, so going to try again this morning. Wish me luck.

Forgot to mention, Madness are playing Galway International Arts Festival. Always been looking for an excuse to visit Galway.

Some new additions to the Biggest Weekend line-up this week. Going to try and get tickets for both days.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS PERFORMING AT BIGGEST WEEKEND BELFAST

1. The Breeders – Cannonball
2. Beck – Blue Moon
3. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
4. Ash – Oh Yeah
5. Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To?

Next Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, so if you’re feeling all loved up, here’s a chart for you.

FIVE SONGS WITH LOVE IN THE TITLE

1. Bananarama – Love In The First Degree
2. Erasure – I Love To Hate You
3. Oasis – She Is Love
4. The Feeling – Love It When You Call
5. Lulu – Love Loves to Love

WARRENPOINT TOWN 1-3 LINFIELD 6.2.2018

Linfield went into this game on a run of two wins in their last eight League games. That run began with a 3-3 draw at home to Warrenpoint in December. They were hoping that a game against Warrenpoint would be the springboard for a run of form in the opposite direction.

Linfield had fond memories of the last time they visited Warrenpoint back in September. A 4-1 win that night put Linfield top of the League. They were knocked off the top the following day and haven’t been back since. I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that it will be until next season at least that they will return there.

This was supposed to be the first match at the newly renamed Q Radio Arena in January before it was postponed. Thankfully, this match survived the weather second time around.

It was to be a milestone night for Jamie Mulgrew, who made his 500th appearance for Linfield. There’s another milestone awaiting in the coming weeks as he is due to be fouled for the 5,000th time as a Linfield player.

He would have reached that milestone the weekend before, but a rainstorm caused the abandonment of a game against Cliftonville in 2008, and the appearance doesn’t count. He also lost a goal as well, struck from the record.

The early moments saw Linfield struggling to get into the game. I just had a bad vibe that this might be the night Warrenpoint get their first win over Linfield.

Linfield were having “Nearly chances” with through balls just about being intercepted by Warrenpoint’s defenders. Linfield just needed to get one of them right.

Involved in most of these attacks was Louis Rooney, a surprise inclusion but was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks, having his best performance in a long time.

Despite Linfield’s possession, it was Warrenpoint who were making the most of it every time they got the ball, with Gareth Deane being forced to save from Alan Davidson, before Davidson put Warrenpoint 1-0 up after a Deane save from Lorcan Forde.

You couldn’t deny that Warrenpoint didn’t deserve it.

The goal sparked Linfield into life, with Warrenpoint unable to get out of their own half.

It only took five minutes for Linfield to be rewarded, when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a corner to make it 1-1.

Louis Rooney got in behind Warrenpoint’s defence before dragging his shot wide. If it was September, it probably would have been a goal.

It looked like a matter of time before Linfield made it 2-1, but Warrenpoint were able to hold out and go in at half-time level.

The second-half continued the theme of Linfield pressure with Andrew Waterworth heading against the top of the bar in the opening minutes.

Jordan Stewart, who would often frustrate by trying to beat one more man, delivered a cross for Louis Rooney who headed over. In September, that probably would have hit the back of the net.

Lorcan Forde hit the post for Warrenpoint. I could hear it hitting the post from the other end of the ground, such was the power in the shot.

On 74 minutes, Linfield got the breakthrough when a Jimmy Callacher’s header ended up in the back of the net. To me, it looked like an own goal from a Warrenpoint defender trying to clear it.

As there is no Dubious Goals Committee in the Irish League, so if an attacking player shouts loud enough, he will be awarded the goal.

A few minutes later, Callacher had a header cleared off the line. If that had went in, he definitely would have been claiming the second goal.

With five minutes to go, Mark Haughey got his obligatory goal against Warrenpoint to make it 3-1 and secure the points, ending any possibility of a third successive 2-2 away draw.

It was a win that moved Linfield up to 4th, with games against Dungannon and Cliftonville to come.

Well, that second bit is definitely true as we play them in the Irish Cup in a few weeks time. Playing them in the League? Well, that is a bit up in the air.

On the same night this match was played, the second League Cup Semi-Final between Ballymena and Cliftonville was postponed, causing a bit of a problem with the League Cup Final scheduled for February 17th.

If this was to be on the midweek of wc February 12th, that would give fans of the winning team only a few days to get a ticket.

That’s why Windsor Park was chosen as the venue, as it was a lazy one size fits all option that could accommodate any combination of Semi-Final winners.

This game was scheduled for this coming Saturday, meaning that Ballymena and Cliftonville’s League games are postponed, which especially royally shits on Warrenpoint, who miss out on a home gate as they were scheduled to face Cliftonville.

The most obvious solution would have been to play Ballymena v Cliftonville on Saturday 17th February at 5.30pm and have it live on Sky Sports instead of the NIFL Cup Final, with Sky showing the Final on Saturday 17th March.

Why Saturday 17th March?

That is the date of the FA Cup Quarter-Finals. Let’s not kid ourselves, Sky are only using that date and that slot because they don’t have an FA Cup game to show.

It would also give the competition organisers five weeks to organise the Final and choose a venue. Linfield are scheduled to be at home that day, so that could provide a logistical problem if the Final was at Windsor Park.

How are Linfield fans caught up in all this mess?

Well, Linfield are scheduled to play Cliftonville away on Friday night.

If Ballymena win on Saturday, the match goes ahead.

That means Linfield fans will have no home games, and no Saturday games, only a couple of working days to purchase tickets.

Now, you could say that Linfield could make plans to sell tickets at 5pm after the Dungannon match, but what if Ballymena v Cliftonville goes to extra-time?

Are we supposed to sit about in the Car Park at Windsor Park listening to the radio to see if Ballymena win and queue for tickets that might not actually be going on sale?

What a farce.

One plus point if it does go ahead next weekend will be that it will take place on Saturday 17th February, possibly with a 5.30pm kick-off if Ballymena v Cliftonville is postponed again, taking the Sky Sports slot.

That is because Warrenpoint v Cliftonville has been postponed to Tuesday, with both sides weekend games moved from Friday to Saturday.

Strange that Linfield had to play Tuesday and Friday in September, but Warrenpoint and Cliftonville can get an extra day’s rest to accommodate midweek matches in February.

Questions have to be asked why Ballymena v Cliftonville wasn’t played on week commencing 29th January. Should this game not have taken precedence over a rearranged League match?

One of those Semi-Finals could have taken the Sky Sports slot that Cliftonville v Glenavon occupied that midweek.

It is important to note that when Cliftonville v Glenavon was originally scheduled for December, it wasn’t selected for TV broadcast.

I was considering getting a neutral ticket for the NIFL Cup Final. I’m glad that I didn’t now it looks like Linfield might be playing that day.

The longer this farce has dragged on, we could have made the most of a potentially free weekend to play our outstanding League game at home to Glenavon. That option has now long gone.

Got to feel for Cliftonville fans. They know their team has a match next weekend, but they don’t know where, when or who against.

It remains to be seen if Dungannon are playing at Windsor Park next weekend. They’ll definitely be playing at Windsor Park this weekend.

Hopefully they’ll be going home empty handed. We’ll just have to wait and see who Linfield and Dungannon are playing, if at all, next weekend.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 10.5.1986

The 1985-1986 season is nearing it’s end, and Malcolm Shotton of Oxford United is the cover star of Shoot, with the club having won their first major piece of silverware, the League Cup, after a 3-0 win over QPR.

Mark Hughes talks about his transfer from Manchester United to Barcelona, admitting that he should have done what Kevin Keegan did when leaving Liverpool, announce his plans to leave at the start of the season, as the protracted move turned out to be a distraction.

Hughes signed an 8 year contract with Barcelona, and he says this will be his only club on the continent. As it turned out, he did emulate Kevin Keegan, by playing in Germany, joining Bayern Munich on loan, before returning to Old Trafford in 1988. He never played for a club on the continent in the final 14 years of his career.

In adverts, there’s an advert for the following week’s edition, which has a free World Cup stickerbook, as well as previews of the FA and Scottish Cup Finals.

Bryan Robson uses his column to sing the praises of Paul McGrath, stating that he wishes he was English as he’d walk into their defence. He comments on his top 11 players of the season.

Shoot previews the three European Finals, singing the praises of Terry Venables, who Shoot believes is set to become Barcelona’s first European Cup winning manager, totally dismissing the chances of their opponents Steaua Bucharest.

Shoot does a double page photo collage of the recent League Cup Final, where Oxford beat QPR 3-0.

Peter Reid writes in his column that Everton have the grit to win the title.

Reid is also complimentary of West Ham, whose young defender George Parris gets profiled, described as “A new Billy Bonds”

Andy Goram, a recent debutant for Scotland, despite being born in England, tells Shoot he wants to join a club in Scotland.

Football in Sheffield gets a double page spread, as both clubs yo-yo between divisions, with Shoot pointing out that there hasn’t been a top flight Derby between United and Wednesday in 18 years.

Bruce Rioch gets interviewed after just being appointed manager of Middlesbrough, talking about what he has learnt from managers in his career, especially Tommy Docherty.

Iraq get a preview ahead of Mexico 86, with their style of play moulded by the influx of British managers in the Middle East in the late 70s, and the current Brazilian manager they have, Edu (not the ex Arsenal player), who is Zico’s brother.

Davie Cooper is interviewed, stating that the appointment of Graeme Souness as manager was a “Bombshell”, but is a top class appointment.

Dual nationality Vince Mennie of Dundee is interviewed, stating that he wants a call-up to the Scotland team, and turned down an Under 21 call-up for West Germany in order to achieve his dream.

Ron Saunders has responded to West Brom’s relegation by having a clear-out of his squad.

Staying in the West Midlands, Birmingham City manager John Bond has appealed to local businesses for help to secure funding to bring Trevor Francis back to St Andrews.

The magazine ends with a double page profile of Sandy Jardine, aiming to win the Scottish League and Scottish Cup with Hearts, 14 years after winning the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup with Rangers.

SHED SEVEN – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 3.2.2017

Well this was an unexpected bonus.

Shed Seven headed out on tour in late 2017 but sadly, Belfast was left off the list. However, a bout of illness was to work in Belfast’s favour.

A throat infection saw a couple of concerts scheduled for November have to be postponed. One of those concerts was Dublin. When new dates for these concerts were announced, an extra Belfast gig was slotted in alongside the Dublin one, to the delight of Northern Ireland fans.

Curiously, Erasure had to cancel a couple of Dublin concerts this week. Their tour also left out Belfast, so hopefully they’ll be following Shed Seven’s lead.

Appropriately, they entered the stage to the theme tune to The Return Of The Magnificent Seven. Shed Seven are now the only band who can use that now that Madness are now a six piece.

They were backed by a brass section, one of whom was wearing a Shed Zeppelin t-shirt from the concert at Royal Albert Hall on November 31st last year where they formed a supergroup with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and performed each others hits.

Oh wait, that was an April Fool’s joke.

They went straight into Room In My House, from their most recent album Instant Pleasures. It was instantly pleasurable, and there wasn’t a lot of room in this house.

Instant Pleasures was their first new album in sixteen years, with Rick Witter stating that the album only actually took three years, they were just lazy bastards for the thirteen years prior to that.

I got into Shed Seven after seeing the video for She Left Me On Friday on The Chart Show in 1998. I’d heard nothing like it. I also loved other singles from that album Let It Ride such as The Heroes, Devil in Your Shoes and Chasing Rainbows.

The following year, they released a Singles Compilation/Greatest Hits album titled Going For Gold, named after one of their earlier hits, promoted with the footstomping single Disco Down.

It was just wall to wall tunes. I listened to that album a lot, on repeat.

I remember purchasing their next proper album Truth Be Told, and that was it, they disappeared and never released an album until 2017.

One song in, Rick Witter addressed what he described as “The elephant in the room”, namely the cut above his left eye.

He said there was ten of them and one of him, but he floored them all, before admitting what happened was the slightly heroic and less rock n roll truth that he fell over at 10am one morning.

Witter interacted with the crowd like a Gameshow Host, with one person coming from Kendal for this gig, and another coming from Leeds (he was booed when he revealed he was from Leeds. Tough crowd), prompting Witter to ask if there was anyone in the venue actually from Belfast. A big roar went up.

All the hits were there, songs such as Disco Down, Going For Gold, She Left Me On Friday, On Standby, Dolphin, High Hopes and Devil In Your Shoes.

Meanwhile, for Chasing Rainbows, the lighting flashed all the colours of the rainbow.

Overall, the night was a pot of gold. Well, that’s what Shed Seven were going for.

Photo Album