BALLYMENA UNITED 1-4 LINFIELD 26.10.2013

I was Ballymena bound for the first time in almost two years (January 2012 to be precise) to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

Last week’s 0-0 draw at home to Crusaders ended a winning run, but turned out to be a point gained as other results went in our favour, meaning we turned up at Ballymena four points clear.

Around this time last year, Cliftonville were only a couple of points clear of a crowded pack, then went on a winning run in October/November/December which laid the foundations for their title win. Without being arrogant, the current run of fixtures presents a great opportunity to get a winning run going.

After just one minute, Linfield went on the attack, well defended by Ballymena, which saw Billy Joe Burns trying a speculative long range shot, easily saved by Dwayne Nelson …….. or so he thought.

Nelson fumbled the ball, not into the penalty area or the goal, but just enough to give Matthew Tipton a sniff at goal, which he took.

A potentially tricky away game (Linfield lost 2-0 there on their last league visit) was off to a great start. In challenging for the ball, Nelson got injured and required lengthy treatement.

It was bad enough for the players to be sat idle so soon in the game, but to add insult to injury, the heavens opened, bringing about a monsoon, forcing both teams into an unscheduled training session, passing the ball to each other, just to keep warm an active.

Eventually, the game restarted, and Ballymena had chances, a glaring one being fired over the bar from six yards. It was a miss they would soon regret, as Andrew Waterworth raced through to make it 2-0.

For the rest of the first-half, it was all Linfield, Niall Quinn hitting the angle of post and bar from a free-kick.

The second-half kicked-off with Linfield on course for a routine win ….. or so we thought.

The most important thing about being 2-0 up at half-time is to be wary of the opposition being fired up, and how important it is not to concede an early goal.

Yep, Linfield did just that. For the next 10-15 minutes, Ballymena were in control, having possession in Linfield’s half and forcing Johnny Tuffey into saves.

Thankfully, Linfield rode the storm, taking back control of the game, and going 3-1 after a Billy Joe Burns goal from a Andrew Waterworth cross. It’s not just his goals which are so important.

Soon after, Aaron Burns made it 4-1 to add a bit of gloss to the scoreline. In fact, there were plenty of other chances not taken.

Talking of which, Linfield will need to start racking up some big wins as they have the same Goal Difference as Crusaders, despite being four points clear of them, and less than Portadown, though that was aided by the freak result against Ballinamallard. It’s always nice to have an insurance policy like that.

Glenavon, Crusaders and Portadown won this weekend, so no points have been gained, but the draw between Glentoran and Cliftonville was a great result, as the lead over both clubs has been extended to 6 (Cliftonville) and 7 (Glentoran) respectively.

Next Saturday, Portadown play Crusaders, meaning that at least one of our rivals will drop points, which makes victory over Ards at Windsor Park so important.

The day, was best summed up by the weather. Linfield had to literally and metaphorically ride the storm, and when they did, the game ended literally and metaphorically with sunshine.

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PRIMAL SCREAM – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 24.10.2013

Primal Scream made a long awaited return to Belfast for two gigs at The Limelight, on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th.

Originally just a Thursday gig, a Wednesday night gig was announced soon after when the Thursday gig was sold out.

As soon as the original Thursday gig was announced, I was straight to get a ticket, it had been a long wait for me to see Primal Scream, 11 years in fact, since they headined the Sunday night of the very first Tennent’s Vital.

I was very surprised by the choice of venue, as I thought they would have been able to play a bigger venue.

It was an early show (the band were onstage by 8.15pm), which caught a lot of people by surprise, as they just casually walked on stage, almost unnoticed, as the crowd were slow in the applause for the band they had come to see.

They opened with “2013”, a single from this year’s ‘More Light’ album, instantly recognisable with a distinctive saxophone riff.

The setlist, was rock heavy, focusing on songs from their current album, the highlight of which was “It’s Alright, It’s OK”, which even though it’s a new song, is best described as “Classic Primal Scream”

Big hits followed, such as “Country Girl” and “Rocks”

For the encore, the real classics were saved. Song songs are instantly recognisable within a second, and “Loaded” is one of those songs, with the crowd cheering wildly at the first mention of “Just what is it that you want?”

It was the best song of the night, the drumming was immense. Next up, was “Movin On Up”, with the tender acoustic intro being replaced with a loud electric guitar.

It didn’t matter, the crowd were loving up. Having originally appeared to be aloof and moody on stage during the earlier songs, Bobby Gillespie was now dancing, smiling and blowing kisses to the crowd.

He spoke of his love for Belfast, dedicating a song to David Holmes, who worked with them on their new album

11 years after I last saw them (It was my third time, having also seen them at T In The Park in 2002) and Primal Scream remain a class act.

Hopefully, it won’t be 11 years before I see them again.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 25.10.2013

1. Franz Ferdinand – Evil Eye
2. Arlissa – Into The Light
3. VV Brown – The Apple
4. Lucy Rose – Movin On Up
5. Keane – Won’t Be Broken

And so, X-Factor continues, with yet more vague themes. Last week – Love and Heartbreak.

So, here’s five songs that the performers would have been better off singing.

FIVE LOVE SONGS

1. James – Just Like Fred Astaire
2. Erasue – Always
3. Billie Piper – Day And Night
4. 10CC – The Things We Do For Love
5. The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

FIVE HEARTBREAK SONGS

1. Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
2. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
3. Paloma Faith – New York
4. Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
5. Blink 182 – I Miss You

LINFIELD 0-0 CRUSADERS 19.10.2013

Was at Windsor Park today, where i’m going to be for the next few Saturdays (looking at the fixture list) for the match between Linfield and Crusaders.

In 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, Linfield won 8 out of 10 meetings. Crusaders have won 6 out of 9 meetings since. The table stated it was 1st v 4th, but in reality, it was the meeting between the two form teams in the league, with Linfield having a four point lead over Crusaders.

Not only could Linfield boost themselves with a win, but could hurt Crusaders, especially with a run of games (no diesrespect to them) coming up against Ballymena, Ards, Warrenpoint and Dungannon to come, which is very winnable.

There were several annoyances today :

1. Poor decision making in the final third, though that is a weekly occurrence.

2. The amount of throw-ins conceded.

3. The amount of times when the ball was in the air. Food and drink to Crusaders. Crusaders didn’t look too good when the ball was on the ground.

Crusaders were set up to counter-attack and frustrate. The amount of time taken over dead balls, especially goal kicks, was evidence of this.

Crusaders were at their most dangerous at set pieces. It got to the point when Linfield players were more determined to stop Crusaders players getting near the ball then getting to the ball themselves.

There wasn’t much in the way of clear cut chances, and the second-half started the same.

During the second-half, the heavens opened. With Linfield having more and more possession in and around the Crusaders penalty area, it was hoped that one mistimed Crusaders tackle might give Linfield a penalty.

It was one of those games. Sometimes in a game, you know early on that a game is going to finish 0-0 no matter what. This was one of those games.

Not even the red card of Declan Caddell could change that.

Crusaders had a late header cleared off the line by Billy Joe Burns late on, as the game meandered towards it’s inevitable 0-0 destiny.

If you supported Linfield or Crusaders, and were choosing other results in the league, you would have chosen for Cliftonville, Portadown and Glenavon to drop points.

The real winners today were Glentoran, who are now only five points off the top of the league.

As a result, it’s the half full/half empty theory when analysing this result. Linfield kicked-off three points clear, could have went six points clear, but ended up four points clear. I supposed you could say an increased lead is a positive.

As is four clean sheets in the last five games. Clean sheets win titles (though one of those games was a League Cup tie)

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 18.10.2013

1. Franz Ferdinand – Evil Eye
2. London Grammar – Strong
3. Lorde – Royals
4. Aviici – You Make Me
5. Keane – Higher Than The Sun

The X-Factor live shows are back. Yay! As is tradition, I shall do a Top five, where possible, on the previous week’s theme.

I give it about two weeks before they give up and make up the themes as they go along.

Last weekend, was 80s Week, and there was a disappointing lack of songs from 1979 and 1990 performed.

FIVE SONGS FROM THE 1980s

1. Falco – Rock Me Amadeus
2. Starship – We Built This City
3. Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me
4. Tears For Fears – Sowing The Seeds Of Love
5. Reynolds Girls – I’d Rather Jack

ANYFIN IS POSSIBLE

After being in East Belfast a few weeks ago getting Street Art photos, it was South Belfast today (There are no plans to visit North or West Belfast, but …… you never know) to get photos of something I spotted a few nights ago, but waited until today when there was daylight.

Also got photos of some Street Art near Eglantine Avenue. It’s been a while since i’ve been to that particular spot, so I might already have pictures of it, before finishing off to see the new piece at the intro to the Lagan Towpath.

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LINFIELD 2-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 12.10.2013

A strange day today for a variety of reasons at Windsor Park, but ended with Linfield doing what they’ve been doing since the end of August, winning.

Irish League doesn’t stop for International Weekends, but it still feels strange, especially as Linfield aren’t usually at home on these weekends.

Thanks to the M1 being closed off, kick-off was delayed from 3pm to 3.45pm. Luckily, I found out before I left the house, so delayed my departure.

Still felt strange to be heading towards Windsor Park just after 3pm rather than being in my seat. Thanks to modern technology informing people, I didn’t get the chance to laugh at someone rushing to the ground, thinking they’d missed the kick-off.

Of the game itself, well, i’ve seen better games.

In the first-half, Linfield had lots of possession and didn’t do much with it. When they got into Dungannon’s final third, it would often be the final pass that let them down. Yes, a recurring theme of recent games.

Dungannon only had the one real chance, a shot blasted over from the edge of the box, though they did have a free-kick saved by Tuffet, though it was a save he would be expected to make.

Eventually, Linfield got the goal just before half-time when Andrew Waterworth fired home after an earlier shot from Andrew Waterworth.

Linfield started the second-half well and had a goal disallowed before Waterworth struck again. That goal killed the game, and made it a training exercise from then on in.

Didn’t play well, but didn’t need to. Will need to play well in the coming weeks though.

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ULSTER 22-16 LEICESTER TIGERS 11.10.2013

Went to Ravenhill last night for my annual European Cup tie, as Ulster took on Leicester.

I almost said “The newly refurbished Ravenhill” as it’s not yet complete, but the bits that were complete, were impressive.

There is new turnstiles. The old and drab looking grey wall has been replaced with something more bright, complete with Ulster branding.

There were no operators, but stewards on hand to help, as it was all computerised as you swiped the barcode on your ticket to enter.

There were some problems with people who had printed tickets trying to get their barcode to scan though.

There were no tents for the bar and club shop any more, those now situated underneath the new stand. I’ve always thought that Ravenhill would be a fantastic stadium if it was all seater at four ends.

I was in the West Terrace, at the end where Ulster attacked in the first-half, got myself a position by the Try Line.

There are now two large TV screens as well in two corners of the ground. When the ball was up at the other end of the pitch, people beside me were turning in the opposite direction to watch the action on the screen.

It would have been nice if the digital clock was still there so people could check what stage the game was at.

For the second-half, I got a space in the new stand and watched the game from there, with supporters having the choice of a seat or standing on the terracing.

Of the game itself, Leicester took an early lead with a converted try, but Ulster replied with a converted try soon after wards. From then on, it was all about ticket as Ulster scored two penalties to Leicester’s oone, leading 13-10 at the break, though Leicester levelled just after half-time.

From there, it was all Ulster and they scored three penalties to lead 22-13, knowing that a converted try for Leicester wouldn’t be enough for them to lead.

Leicester scored a penalty late on, but never looked like winning.

An enjoyable night, can’t wait to go to a match at Ravenhill when it’s fully finished.

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