LINFIELD 2-1 BALLYMENA UNITED 31.1.2015

After a three week absence due to postponements, rearrangements and not being able to get out of work, I was back football watching as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United in the Irish League.

It was my first match at Windsor Park in four weeks. Since my last visit, significant progress has been made on the redevelopment of the stadium, with a the early stages of a link between Railway Stand and South Stand starting to take shape.

There has been rebuilding on the pitch as well in those four weeks, with Grant McCann and Glenn Belezika making their home debuts after playing at Ballinamallard in midweek.

That match at Ballinamallard, a 1-1 draw, represented two dropped points for Linfield, taking the title destiny out of their own hands. Today represented a chance to get back to winning ways as poor results and Linfield inactivity allowed Crusaders a chance to turn a four point defecit into a six point lead, albeit, having played a game more.

Once again, Linfield’s inability to keep a clean sheet cost them dear. It wasn’t much a problem in November and December when scoring 2+ every game. Inevitably, the goals would dry up, meaning Linfield would need to start grinding out 1-0 wins. Those games against Coleraine and Ballinamallard, Linfield should have been able to grind out a 1-0 win.

The defence received a boost before kick-off with the return to action of Mark Haughey. Very timely, especially with a game against Warrenpoint (he likes scoring against them) coming up soon.

Glenn Belezika got caught out from kick-off, misjudging a pass and allowing a Ballymena player to get a run at goal. The rectified the situation immediately, by winning the ball back. He had a few dodgy moments early on, but got better as the game went on.

Grant McCann partnered Jamie Mulgrew today, having partnered Stephen Lowry on Tuesday night, and showed why he had spent most of his career playing at a higher level. He kept it simple a lot of the time, and was often found starting and stopping attacks (at the right end, thankfully) during the game.

Ballymena’s defending during the League Cup Final last week was generous, and they started today in similar fashion, when a poor clearance gifted an opportunity to Peter Thompson, who fired over. It looked a bad miss watching in the stadium, but viewing the replay, I was a bit harsh, as it was a half-chance which would only be hit immediately, under pressure from a defender.

However, it was Ballymena who took the lead on 18 minutes, when a quick free-kick gave David Cushley room to shoot, albeit from long range, and he did, into the back of the net.

As good a finish as it was, it was poor to switch off defensively and allow him the opportunity to shoot.

The goal briefly woke Linfield up as they immediately went on the attack and had a succession of corners, but couldn’t do anything with it.

For the rest of the half, Linfield had a lot of possession but couldn’t make it count. There always seemed to be a block, or the ball getting stuck between the attacker’s legs, or just something.

Watching the game, you knew Ballymena weren’t going to be keeping a clean sheet today. Linfield just had to stick at it, and a reward would come their way.

Sean Ward had a chance when he fired a curling shot just wide from the edge of the box. He probably should have passed to Andrew Waterworth, but from the position he was in, you couldn’t blame him for shooting. The wait for his first Linfield goal goes on.

Just before half-time, Linfield got an equaliser, and it came from a first time scorer. It wasn’t Sean Ward though, it was Grant McCann, winning a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and firing home. It was in the goal in a flash. It showed why he has been playing in England and for his country for most of his career.

It changed the momentum of the game, though if Linfield went in 1-0 down, you wouldn’t have been too alarmed.

Linfield finished the half strong and Andrew Waterworth headed wide from a corner. Half-time cam at a bad time with Linfield on top and looking likely to score.

The half-time whistle was blown at exactly 46 minutes on the clock. Laughable, considering the amount of timewasting Ballymena did in the half. Another game where a referee has been made a mug of by this.

Linfield began the second-half with an Andrew Waterworth goal disallowed for offside. Again, Linfield had possession but couldn’t create that goal that would give them the lead. It was one of those games where they just needed one moment of brilliance to take the lead.

That moment looked like coming when Grant McCann had a free-kick in shooting position, but his shot hit the top of the net rather than the back of it.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead on 75 minutes, when some interpassing saw Ross Clarke create a shooting position for himself, firing the ball into the back of the net.

Surprisingly, for a player involved in most of Linfield’s attacking play, it was his first goal of the season.

There was only to be one winner, as Ballymena never looked like getting an equaliser. There was a natural nervousness due to late equalisers conceded against Coleraine and Glentoran at home being a recent memory. In reality, there was no danger of this being repeated as Linfield comfortably saw the game out.

It was a big win, both in the context of recovering from three bad results and lifting the mood around the club, and the fact that three other results went in our favour, with Crusaders, Cliftonville and Portadown all drawing.

Linfield are now four points behind Crusaders and three points ahead of Portadown (with a game in hand) and eight ahead of Cliftonville.

Linfield’s next league match is at home to Cliftonville on Tuesday week. To say this is a big game is an understarement. Linfield had three chances to kill off Cliftonville last season, and didn’t. Linfield had the chance to open up a gap in October, and didn’t.

To change that trend would put a massive dent in Cliftonville’s title hopes, pull Linfield further clear of Portadown and start to breathe right down Crusaders necks.

Those ten days are a long way away, especially as Linfield have a game inbetween, in the Irish Cup against Warrenpoint. One game at a time.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 30.1.2014

1. Rae Morris – Under The Shadows
2. Kaiser Chiefs – Falling Awake
3. U2 – Every Breaking Wave
4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Ballad Of The Mighty I
5. Marina and the Diamonds – I’m A Ruin

It was Australia Day last week, so as is tradition of this blog, a musical chart in celebration of Australia.

FIVE SONGS BY AUSTRALIAN ACTS

1. Stefan Dennis – Don’t It Make You Feel Good
2. Savage Garden – To The Moon And Back
3. INXS – Need You Tonight
4. Angry Anderson – Suddenly
5. Mental As Anything – Live It Up

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 8.9.1979

Joe Jordan of Manchester United is the cover star of Shoot, which had free Team Tabs of England’s 3rd and 4th divisions, which completed the set, enabling you to track teams progress during the 1979-1980 season.

There is a full page dedicated to the qualifiers for Euro 1980, resuming after a summer break. The headline, listed all the group leaders.

They got one spectacularly wrong, having proclaimed Portugal as on their way to Italy. It was Belgium, lying 4th out of 5th, 3 points behind the Portugese (in the era of 2 points for a win) who had a late surge to win the group. Belgium went on the reach the final in Italy.

Ray Clemence’s column sees him talk about veterans he admires, picking out Alan Ball, a World Cup winner in 1966, still playing in the top flight (for Southampton) as the 1980s approached.

In competitions, readers had the opportunity to win a “Referee’s Watch”, if you were that way inclined.

There was a colour photo (A lot of the printing in 1979 was in black/white) dedicated to top flight footballers such as Gordon Hill, Gary Owen, Brian Talbot and Mick Channon taking part in Footballers v Athletes episode of Superstars

There is a profle of West Ham goalkeeper Phil Parkes. If you’re interested, his favourite singers are Johnny Mathis, Rita Coolidge and Bee Gees.

In adverts, Bob Paisley advertises Gola trainers with the headline “Having talent is only half the story”

In posters, there was a colour poster of Charlton Athletic.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SELECT – JUNE 1992

Kylie Minogue and Bobby Gillespie, an unlikely pair, are the cover stars of Select in the early summer of 1992.

In news, Morrissey is the subject of an autobiography, which he hates, despite the fact he hasn’t read it.

Saint Etienne are subject to an interview as they visit a waxwork museum and get photographed with their favourite pop stars. Bob Stanley announces that the band were looking to get their album finished by June, mainly so he could take time off to watch Euro 92 and Wimbledon.

In competitions, you could win tickets to see James, Sisters Of Mercy t-shirts, or a book about REM.

Reviews that month included The Charlatans in Manchester and Suede in Tunbridge Wells.

U2 take out an full page ad for an anti Sellafield concert in Manchester that they were headlining.

Select sets up an interview between Kylie Minogue and Bobby Gillespie. Kylie shies away when Bobby asks her about the 1992 UK General Election, saying she only cares about the environment.

Kylie gets asked about U2, stating “To be honest, i’ve never thought to myself that U2 are sexy”

Bobby then asks Kylie when she is going to do a Primal Scream cover, and suggesting they could be the “Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood of the 90s”

The magazine ends with Richard Fairbrass of Right Said Fred being interviewed, stating that Hardcore Techno isn’t finished, Sarah Ferguson would be suited to Donald Trump, they met Faith No More in America, who told them that Right Said Fred were their favourite band, and had talked to their record company about supporting them on tour.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 15.9.1979

The 1970s are almost over, but the focus is already on the first international tournament of the 1980s, Euro 80 in Italy, as Kevin Keegan, in action for England against Denmark, is the cover star of Shoot, ahead of the return qualifier between the two at Wembley.

England manager Ron Greenwood vows his side will attack Denmark, complimenting the Danes as England’s main rivals for qualification (only the group winners went to Italy), a point echoed by Northern Ireland manager Danny Blanchflower, whose side were also in the group.

Trevor Brooking was also wary of Denmark, stating that “Denmark’s breaks and power shooting a worry”

Newly appointed Denmark manager Sepp Piontek is interviewed for the game, stating that Denmark are aiming to use these qualifiers to boost their ranking for the 1982 World Cup Qualifiers, stating that Kevin Keegan was “World Class”, that he had a lot of knowledge of the England team, especially the two West Germany based players, Kevin Keegan and David Watson.

England won the match 1-0 and qualified for Euro 1980, going out in the group stage, while Denmark finished bottom of their qualifying group.

Denmark would have their revenge four years later when they would qualify for Euro 84 at the expense of England.

England were the only home nation in competitive action as Scotland and Wales had friendlies.

Scotland faced Peru, a side who had beaten them 3-1 in the previous year’s World Cup. Teofilio Cubillas, Peru’s talisman predicts a win for Scotland, as Peru had declined since the previous summer. Cubillas wasn’t able to confirm if he would be appearing at Hampden Park due to commitments with his club Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

Wales were in action in a friendly against Republic Of Ireland at Vetch Field, only the second meeting between the two sides, with Wales buoyed by Robbie James and Peter Nicholas scoring their first international goals that summer. Wales won the game 2-1.

Viv Anderson, now a columnist for Shoot, talks about the secret of Nottingham Forest’s success, having just been crowned European Champions. The secret, was Brian Clough’s man management. We probably knew that anyway.

In ads, there is an advert for a new football magazine called Top Soccer, with the headline “At last! Super NEW mag for young soccer fans” with Kevin Keegan on the cover of the first edition.

There is literally nothing about this magazine online, but i’d presume it was an IPC publication, seeing as it had been given an advertising platform in Shoot.

There was a free pull-out in this edition of Shoot, part of a series called “The Captains”, profiling captains of clubs in England and Scotland.

In letters, Ray Wilkins recent transfer to Manchester United has divided opinion, with Joseph Stanger wishing him good luck at Old Trafford, while David Ash from Catford expresses his disappointment that he didn’t stay to help Chelsea get promoted to Division One, pointing out that Trevor Brooking’s England career hasn’t suffered as a result of playing in the Second Tier.

Gregory Watts from Winkworth wants football matches extended to 120 minutes, while William Cook from Hoylake bemoans the fact that Liverpool have had their shirts sponsored by Hitachi.

Shoot give a double page spread to Rodney March’s retirement and the uncertainty as to where George Best’s next club will be.

Brighton, newly promoted to Division One get a club profile, where club Chairman Mike Bamber is dreaming of European football coming to Sussex.

Despite having made improvements to the Goldstone Ground, Bamber is planning to move the club away from the Goldstone Ground to a new stadium at a site in Waterhall at an estimated cost of £7m

It took 32 years for Brighton to get a new stadium, in Falmer, after a spell at an athletics stadium in Withdean, and a 2 year exile in Gillingham.

In international news, Shoot catches up with Lawrie Cunningham, recently signed for Real Madrid who face Valencia in their opening game. It was Valencia who face West Bromwich Albion in Europe the previous season , where Cunningham caught the eye of Real Madrid.

Meanwhile in Brazil, Garrincha has recently had a spell in hospital with health problems.

In Hertfordshire, Graham Taylor is trying to manage expectations of Watford, newly promoted to Division Two, after successive promotions, and the presence of a pop star chairman, in the shape of Elton John.

Panini took out an advert to announce that Football 1980 stickers would be given away by Shoot in January.

Danny McGrain writes that Celtic are going into the unknown ahead of their European Cup tie against Tirana. McGrain also argues that managers should have a transfer fee, following a rejected approach by Athletic Bilbao for Ipswich manager Bobby Robson.

On the back cover, was a team photo of Burnley.

TOBERMORE UNITED 0-2 LINFIELD 10.1.2015

For the first time in a long time, Linfield had an away tie in the Irish Cup to a lower league team. It certainly made a difference from previous years, with home games against lower league teams which are of little interest.

A bonus, was that it was an opportunity to visit a ground i’d never been to. It wasn’t a new ground for Linfield, having played there in the cup in 2003, and a friendly in 2011.

It wasn’t my first time seeing Tobermore play. The only other time i’d seen Tobermore play, they got relegated, with a 1-0 defeat at Bangor in May 2013.

It was Warren Feeney’s first attempt at winning the Irish Cup. He used the game to make some changes, to freshen things up after a busy Christmas/New Year period. However, if Linfield were playing a league game, I don’t think today’s line-up would have started, as Mulgrew, Lowry, Morrow and Quinn were all left out, with rare starting opportunities for Seanan Clucas, Matthew Clarke and Michael Carvill.

Having come a cropper making changes to his side at Ballyclare in the League Cup in August, Warren Feeney was hoping to avoid a repeat by going out at the first stage of the Irish Cup.

With Irish Cup Replays now being abolished to history, Linfield needed to win this in 90 minutes, rather than adopting a “Sure, we’ll win it in the replay” attitude that is sometimes tempting in these ties.

In order to do that, Linfield needed an early goal to settle nerves.

It was Tobermore who had the first attacking moment of note in the game, when a dangerous cross flashed across the box, with thankfully, nobody there to finish.

Linfield eventually got control of possession, but couldn’t get that breakthrough. It looked like it was going to come when Andrew Waterworth was played through, in Linfield’s first real quality piece of play.

Waterworth was taken down. From where I was stood, it looked like it was in the penalty. The referee gave a free-kick outside the box. As close to the penalty as you can get without being in the penalty area. It looked like a straight red card to me, the referee only gave a yellow card.

The resulting free-kick hit the wall and was cleared down the pitch. From the play that resulted from that throw, justice was belatedly done, when Linfield went 1-0 up.

A cross came in for Andrew Waterworth, who hit the bar from a few yards out, and the resulting scramble saw the ball go in. Some media outlets have given the goal to Waterworth, and some have given it as an own goal by Tobermore defender Andrew Neill.

There is no such thing as a Dubious Goals Committee in the Irish League, so Waterworth will probably be credited with it as he’ll shout loudest that it is his.

The important thing was, Linfield were 1-0 up.

The nervousness at 0-0 was gone. Though Linfield had most of the possession, they couldn’t get a 2nd goal to make life easier. There was never a moment where a 2nd goal was imminent.

In fact, Tobermore had an opportunity to equalise just after Linfield went 1-0 up, but a weak shot was easily cleared off the line after Ross Glendinning was rounded.

Despite being cold, the first-half was played in sunshine. The second-half began with a rainstorm. Tobermore offered more of an attacking threat in the second-half, but it was mostly free-kicks and corners. Ross Glendinning wasn’t forced into many dramatic saves, but still had to be on his game.

Eventually, Linfield regained control of possession and began to force more pressure on Tobermore, with Burns and Waterworth having chances to make it 2-0.

Linfield got a lot of joy when running at Tobermore’s defence, especially Aaron Burns and Ross Clarke.

With just over ten minutes to go, Linfield secured the game when a miscued clearance fell to Andrew Waterworth, who fired home his first, or second goal of the game, depending on who you credit for the first goal.

Soon after, a snowstorm started. It didn’t lie on the pitch, so there was never a chance of the game being abandoned.

Nobody played awful, nobody played brilliant. Linfield were the better team and did enough to win. Despite the win, far better performances will be required over the coming weeks.

The draw for the next round saw Linfield drawn at home to Warrenpoint Town. Without sounding arrogant, Linfield should be winning that tie. Potential quarter-final opponents could be Larne/Carrick/Institute or Ballyclare/Dungannon. That would not be a bad draw.

But that is March, and a long way away. The only match that matters is the next one, that is Ballinamallard away next Saturday. Three points is a must.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : NO 1 – 13.9.1986

Owen Paul, remember him? No? Had a hit in 1986, his brother was in Simple Minds. No? This cover seemed a good idea at the time I guess.

On the inside cover is a picture of Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS,who they predict for big things, having supported Queen on tour at the personal request of Roger Taylor.

They were so popular in their native Australia according to No 1, that Michael Hutchence beat Mel Gibson in a poll for Most Popular Male.

Cover star Owen Paul gets a double page spread about his career, while Cutting Crew get a full page profile as a band to watch, clarifying “We’re not a black Hip-Hop group” in case you were confused because they had “Crew” in their name.

The Lover Speaks get a full page feature, ahead of the release of their new single, “No More I Love Yous”, which took nine years to be a hit, and when it was, it was a cover by Annie Lennox.

In adverts, Dead Or Alive had a full page advert for their new single “Brand New Lover”

No, I don’t remember it either.

Lyrics in this edition included “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, and “Rock & Roll Mercenaries” by Meatloaf with John Parr.

OMD get a double page spread, currently riding high in the US charts after supporting The Power Station and Thompson Twins on tour, and having “Of You Leave” featured in the film Pretty In Pink.

In Reviews, “True Colours” by Cyndi Lauper gets 3 stars out of 5, while “Superman”, the follow-up to “It’s Orrible Being In Love When You’re Eight And A Half” by 80s One-Hit Wonder Claire gets 1 star.

Rod Stewart’s latest single also gets 1 star, purely on the basis that he supports Rangers*

(* yes, i’m as confused as your are)

More lyric sheets, this time for “One Great Thing” by Big Country, and “Forever Live And Die” by OMD.

In TV news, Doctor Who is back, and it’s a debut for the latest Doctor, Colin Baker. This gets a full page with stats about the show, and an address for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

Talking of new, Bucks Fizz have a new member, Shelley Preston, and her new arrival gets a double page spread.

There is an advert for the following week’s edition, which has a massive A-Ha World Tour 1986/1987 poster.

On the back cover, there was a poster of Paul Young. Nice.