There was a lot of strangeness around Windsor Park today. It wasn’t just the fact the game was taking place on a Sunday, Northern Ireland’s first home game on this day of the week, it was the fact that Northern Ireland went into a game at this stage with fans expecting victory, a victory that would keep them in a qualifying position. Not something that happens too often.

The much expected and publicised protests, which the media had been foaming at the mouth over since the date for this game was confirmed in February 2014, never materialised. There were a few people handing out leaflets, a normal occurrence at certain Irish League grounds on Saturdays anyway.

It was Finland who made the better start, having a lot of possession in Northern Ireland’s half. Northern Ireland’s best moment in the opening stages came when an Oliver Norwood cross was whipped into a dangerous position, but there as nobody there to get on the end of it.

Finland had the first real chances when a shot had to be turned behind by Roy Carroll, and Niall McGinn had to clear off his line from a corner.

Within minutes, Northern Ireland had the ball on the net, but the goal was disallowed.

I’d love to say if it should have been a goal, but I missed it due to a latecomer telling me I was in his seat, but the stupid idiot was in the wrong section of the stand. I’m almost relived the goal was disallowed due to me missing it.

The game wasn’t going how Northern Ireland wanted. You could see the frustration from Kyle Lafferty. He was making the runs but not getting the passes.

It wasn’t long before Kyle Lafferty had an impact on the game, fighting for a lost cause to set up Jamie Ward through on goal. It seemed certain that Ward would score but it was saved by Finland’s goalkeeper.
Lafferty’s next impact was to put the ball in the net. A set piece didn’t go as hoped, but it was headed back into the box, straight to Lafferty, who volleyed home.

Within minutes he made it 2-0. Jamie Ward lost his footing when trying to cross, but managed to do enough to get the ball to Conor McLaughlin to cross for Lafferty to score.

Both goals owed a lot to players fighting for the ball and making the most of a bad situation. In previous campaigns, the ball might have went out for a goal kick before it even went to Lafferty.

Despite Niall McGinn being unable to divert a shot going wide into the back of the net, it was Finland who had the better of things at the start of the second-half. Finland didn;t have any clear chances, but they had enough of the ball to cause Northern Ireland concern.

Northern Ireland needed to get a 3rd goal, but they couldn’t get out of their own half. The introduction of Stuart Dallas saw him run at Finland defence, and keeping the ball at that end of the pitch.

With each passing minute, it looked like Northern Ireland were going to see out a 2-0 win. Spoke too soon. As the clock approached 91 minutes, Roy Carroll was unable to hold onto a shot, and the rebound was put in.

The final moments were now going to be a lot nervier than hoped. Especially as Northern Ireland tried to put the ball out for a throw by the corner flag from kick-off, and only succeeded in putting the ball out for a goal kick.

Finland had a lot of possession in Northern Ireland’s half and won a corner. The crowd got nervous. Thankfully, Northern Ireland saw the game out and claimed the 3 points.

Elsewhere in the goup, Romania beat Faroe Islands 1-0 to remain top, 1 point ahead of Northern Ireland. The sides meet in the next matchday in June.

More importantly, Hungary were held to a 0-0 draw by Greece, meaning that Northern Ireland in 2nd place, 4 points clear of the Hungarians. Hopefully, Finland can get a result against Hungary in the next matchday.

The mathematics of qualification is, it’s too early, let’s just take one game at a time.

Before Romania, is Qatar in Crewe. Heading over for that game. The main appeal of that game is to visit a stadium i’ve never been to before, and to spend a day in Liverpool (haven’t been since 2010) afterwards.

So, having been to Glasgow, and got Crewe to come, it’s far too early to dream of my next Northern Ireland trip being of a gallic nature.

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If it wasn’t already, it’s fair to say the 2014-2015 Irish League title race is over after Linfield slumped to a 1-0 defeat at a rejuvinated Glenavon, fighting for a place in next season’s UEFA Cup.

Linfield attacked the Hospital Road end of the ground, where none of their fans were based. No reason or justification was given, you’re just not allowed to stand behind the goal at Mourneview Park any more. Barriers and cordon tape were in place in case you didn’t get the message. One of the best things about Mourneview Park is standing behind that goal when your team is attacking it.

Linfield started the game the stronger team, looking the most likely to score, especially when Aaron Burns headed wide from a few yards out. Most of the play came through Ross Clarke.

Despite this, it was Glenavon who took the lead when a long clearance from their goalkeeper saw Eoin Bradley get in behind the defence to fire home first time.

Niall Quinn didn’t cover himself in glory, but big question marks over Jonathan Tuffey for failing to see the potential danger, and then staying within his own six yard box, making Bradley’s mind up for him, that he knew if he made good contact first time, he would score.

If Tuffey comes off his line, he makes the goal smaller, forces Bradley into making a split decision. It was such a poor goal to concede after a good start to the game.

It wasn’t the only nervy moment Tuffey had, a few dodgy moments at crosses, and misjudging a ball to going out for a goal kick which almost let Glenavon score.

Glenavon did make it 2-0, or so they thought, when it was disallowed for a foul on Tuffey. I thought it was a foul at the time, but it looks soft having watched a TV replay. If he commanded the situation and caught or cleared it, it wouldn’t be a debate.

Quinn was in the team today in place of the injured Glenn Belezika, with Matthew Clarke moving to right-back. Clarke struggled in that role, as he has no confidence in his right foot. A baffling decision, especially with Reece Glendinning on the bench.

After that Glenavon goal, Linfield were shaky for a while after that. To the point, that you were hoping they would hold out to go in at half-time 1-0 down and rectify the situation in those 15 minutes.

Eventually, Linfield recovered their composure and thought they had a penalty when Andrew Waterworth was fouled in the penalty area, with the referee deciding to play advantage with Linfield having the ball 25 yards from goal, and then not awarding the penalty.

When you think you’ve seen everything in Irish League football, something else just comes along that you didn’t think was possible.

It got worse for the referee when he only yellow carded Mark Patton for a kick at Ross Clarke off the ball. It wasn’t the force you would use for a drop goal, but the rules are there.

This seemed to briefly spur Linfield on, having a strong (it’s all relative) finish to the half, the best moment when a first time Andrew Waterworth shot went wide from a tight angle.

The second-half began with Linfield having posession but not doing much with it. Linfield’s best moment came when a Matthew Clarke free-kick hit the top of the bar.

With each passing minute, you knew it wasn’t going to finish 1-1. It was either going to be 1-0 to Glenavon or 2-1 to Linfield. If Linfield could get an equaliser, they would go on to win the game.

The problem was, they couldn’t get an equaliser, and didn’t look like getting one. Far too often, an attack was ended with an overhit or inaccurate pass seeing the ball go out for a goal kick.

Ivan Sproule had recovered enough from injury to be on the bench. As much as he frustrates me, I would have brought him on to run at Glenavon’s defence and try and make something happen.

The ball was in Glenavon’s box a lot, but the luck was with Glenavon. In truth, Glenavon “Made their own luck” by getting players in the right position to clear or block any danger.

It wasn’t all one way traffic. With Linfield’s desperation for a goal, reverting to a 3-5-2 formation, Glenavon had opportunities on the counter attack, failing to take any of them, keeping Linfield still alive in the game.

Andre Waterworth was seeing most of the ball. He was everywhere. It was quite damming that he was having to set up the attacks that others should be doing.

Chances of the three points going to Windsor Park diminished with each passing minute, especially when Ross Clarke was sent-off for a second yellow card late on.

The referee waved play on, and only made a decision when Glenavon’s bench ran out of their technical area to protest. It was a yellow card foul. Even when making a right decision, the referee managed to be hopeless.

It wasn’t his first delayed decision of the afternoon, having decided that Linfield should have a corner kick after allowing play to continue for long enough that the ball was on the halfway line.

Today we learnt that Linfield need a commanding goalkeeper, need to defend better, need at least one, possibly two strikers who can just put the ball in the net, and need somebody who can take a game by the scruff of the neck when struggling to break through a defence.

Basically, what we’ve known all season.

The season isn’t over yet. The title might be gone, but there’s 15 points to play for, 9 more needed to secure European football. Forget the aspect of European football, we need to finish the season strong to have something to build on next season.

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Northern Ireland made the short trip to Hampden Park for their first match of 2015, a friendly against Scotland.

If 2014 was a year of great progress, Northern Ireland will be hoping 2015 continues in that fashion, which would make 2016 a very enjoyable year.

The lack of an international date in February this year necessitated this game, as both sides wanted to give players game time to ensure they don’t go into vital qualifiers this week “cold”

With Scotland facing Gibraltar at home on Sunday, they obviously chose Hampden Park for this game so they would have two games in Glasgow, and not have the inconvenience of travel withing Scotland.

It marked a departure in policy from the Scottish FA, as recent friendlies (barring England, which would obviously have a high demand for tickets) have been played at Easter Road or Pittodrie.

Either of those venues would have been perfectly suitable for this game. Either venue would have represented a first for me – i’ve never been to Pittodrie, and i’ve never been in the away end at Easter Road.

Northern Ireland were hoping to improve on (relatively) recent results against Scotland, failing to score in their previous three meetings (0-3, 0-0, 0-1)

I’d been to Hampden Park twice before, for Northern Ireland’s last game in Scotland in 2008, and the Scottish Cup Semi-Final in 2013 between Falkirk and Hibs, which took place on a weekend when I was in Glasgow, so I knew how to get there and what the local area was like, which was handy.

Somewhere near Hampden Park I wanted to visit but never got the chance to was Cathkin Park, former ground of Third Lanark, now a public park, with the terracing and pitch still there.

A video from 2011 of the venue can be found here.

Unsurprisingly, both teams made changes from their previous qualifier in November. If the players on the pitch were unfamiliar, the kits they were wearing was just as unfamiliar, with both teams wearing their away kit – Northern Ireland in blue and navy, Scotland in white, pink and yellow.

Northern Ireland had an early attacking moment when a cross was whipped into the box, but it was Scotland who had most of the attacking play and attempts on goal, Michael McGovern saving from a Steven Fletcher early on. Most of Scotland’s attacking play came through Ikechi Anya.

McGovern had a busy night. Curiously enough, Michael McGovern was playing in the lat match at Hampden Park I was at. He was busy that day as well, saving a penalty.

Northern Ireland didn’t help themselves, giving the ball away too easily in defensive positions. Too many Scotland attacks began that way.

Despite that, Northern Ireland looked good when they broke, though their attacks weren’t as frequent as people hoped. The best moment came when Oliver Norwood fired a shot over after a flick on from Josh Magennis.

The second-half saw the inevitible multiple substitutions. Scotland were still on top but didn’t have as many chances as they did in the first-half.

As each minute passed it looked like being a 0-0 draw. As the game neared it’s end, Northern Ireland had some attacks, the best of which saw Josh Magennis fired wide from a wide position. This was followed by a flurry of corners.

With five minutes to go, Scotland won a corner, which was headed home by Christophe Berra. It was a disappointing goal to concede. Even though Scotland were the better team, it was frustrating getting so close to a draw to lose the game.

Once they went 1-0 up, Scotland were able to see the game out, Northern Ireland couldn’t even get a chance to equalise.

Staying in Scottish football, Edinburgh City won the Lowland League, setting up a play-off against the Highland League winners to play-off against the team that finishes bottom of League Two. If they go up, I might go and see them if I go to Edinburgh in August.

So, Northern Ireland’s year is off to a losing start, but this wasn’t a must-win game. Finland on Sunday is. Let’s hope we can do it.

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See also

Scotland v Northern Ireland 2008 Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Scotland 2011

Northern Ireland v Scotland 2011 Photo Album


I was over in Glasgow this week for the Scotland v Northern Ireland match. But the trip wasn’t all about football, as I took the opportunity to explore Glasgow’s Street Art.

I was in Glasgow in April 2013 and got a lot of pictures, so I knew Glasgow had a thing for Street Art. While there this week, I saw some of the Street Art I saw on my last visit, most notably the man hailing a taxi and the girl with the magnifying glass.

Helpfully, the tourist board provides a guide, complete with a map. There is a PDF on their website, but I got the pocket book version from the Tourist Office in the city centre.

It proved to be really handy, with the map clearly detailing where everything is. Glasgow is an easy city to navigate and once you learn street names and landmarks, you can use them as a handy reference point.

Finding the Street Art was easy, photographing it not so much. There usually happened to be something to frustrate me. Be it people standing in my road having a conversation, poor lighting at Cowcaddens Underpass, or cars parked blocking a good shot.

Despite that, it was very enjoyable checking out the art in Glasgow. I didn’t get a chance to check out pieces by the Quay. I was only in the city for 36 hours and didn’t have the time to get lost.

There was also a brilliant indoor mural of iconic music images at a record store under near Central Station called missing.

All bar one of the pieces I saw were in the book, I didn’t get to see anything else. I’m sure it exists, I just didn’t look hard enough.


Photo Album

See Also

Glasgow Street Art April 2013


Rather misleading title this week, as NME brings out a yearbook to look back at 2005, than forward. The cover stars, are a series of stars from the year, such as Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, and Green Day.

The review of the year, unsurprisingly, begins in January, with the year starting off with a feud between The Killers and The Bravery.

The Killers get four pages looking back on their year, and the ten things that made it such a successful year, including the obvious one, “Have more than one good song”

February’s story of the month was the NME Awards. Curiously, with their lead story each month, NME include a selection of choice quotes from various music bloggers.

Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs gets four pages talking about the big news stories of 2005, including the return of Doctor Who, which he approved of, but not the choice of doctor.

“I would have went for someone a bit more leftfield, like Harry Hill. Or Eddie Izzard”

In March, the Feud Of The Month was within Snow Patrol, as Bassist Mark McClelland was sacked.

Meanwhile, Bono declared himself a fan of The Futureheads.

By May, Make Poverty History wristbands were the Fashion Item Of The Month, while the feud between The Killers and The Bravery escalated to be Feud Of The Month for May.

But the big news, was that The Darkness lost “Their only cool member” with the departure of Frankie Poullain.

Piers Morgan gets four pages, where he reviews the stories that filled the biggest amount of column inches in the tabloids.

A series of stars get Q and A’d about their year. The best thing someone said to Richard Archer from Hard-Fi was when somebody informed him that Brentford had went top of the league.

Coldplay get six pages, most of it photos, as they present their favourite photos from their year, which saw them release their third album.

Oasis gig at City Of Manchester Stadium, their first at the venue since it opened in 2003 was Gig Of The Month for July, but it was another gig, Live 8, which was the Story Of The Month.

Kasabian get a two page feature where they list their Top Ten gigs they attended in 2005, with The Prodigy at V Festival being the best.

Across the page, they list their Top Five gigs played, with Glastonbury coming out on top.

Four pages get dedicated to lyrics, as acts such as Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Razorlight discuss the lyrical content of some of their big hits from the year.

Where in 2005 could you find the coolest bands on the planet? Yorkshire.

Yorkshire was so cool in 2005, that NME did a full page on how cool it was.

Like Coldplay, Bloc Party get a four page photo diary, looking back at their year.

By October, The Killers had moved on from The Bravery, and were now feuding with Fall Out Boy.

2005. The year of The Killers having feuds.

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 20.3.2015

1. Coasts – Modern Love
2. Modest Mouse – Lampshades On Fire
3. Muse – Psycho
4. Florence and the Machine – What Kind Of Man
5. Angry Anderson – Suddenly

For some reason, I totally forgot about it being St Patrick’s Day coming up and thus, forgot to do a chart. Consider that corrected, and a bonus chart


1. Starfish
2. Sharpin (more commonly known as Pat Sharp)
3. Stewart
4. Swayze
5. Duffy


1. Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
2. Wonder Villains – TV
3. Duke Special – Freewheel
4. Ash – Envy
5. Briana Corrigan – Love Me Now


1. Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl
2. U2 – The Fly
3. Hozier – Take Me To Church
4. Kodaline – Honest
5. The Strypes – Blue Collar Jane

The line-up for Belsonic 2015 was announced last night. Stereophonics and Paloma Faith are the ones that appeal to me. Here’s five songs to look out for in August


1. Stereophonics – Dakota
2. Bastille – Pompeii
3. Stereophonics – Indian Summer
4. Rudimental – Free (ft Emeli Sande)
5. Paloma Faith – Thirty Minute Love Affair

And finally, The Charlatans have been announced to be coming to Belfast in May as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. So, Charlatans Top Five anyone?


1. Love Is The Key
2. Blackened Blue Eyes
3. Forever
4. The Only One I Know
5. North Country Boy


Mick Jagger, having just brought out a solo album, is the cover star, as Q celebrates it’s 1st birthday.

It “celebrates” by unleashing it’s wrath on Clive James, making him the subject of their “Who the hell does …….” column.

Taylor Hackford, currently working on a biopic of Ritchie Valens, gets interviewed about the project, about how he tracked down Valens mother and tried to gain her trust and support of the project. The movie featured a cameo appearance by the band Los Lobos, who had a massive hit that year covering La Bamba.

ABC, making a comeback get a feature, with Martin Fry asking Q to pass on a message to his fans …. “Just tell the motherfuckers we are back”

Q does a feature on the current trend of album launch parties, complete of a picture of Sigue Sigue Sputnik partying with Leo Sayer, breaking down the guestlist rankings that PR companies use.

A-Listers include David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Roger Moore and Freddie Mercury.

B-Listers include Ringo Starr, George Michael, Samantha Fox and Anita Dobson.

Dropping down to C-List, it includes Bananarama, Bruno Brookes, Gary Glitter and Andrew Ridgeley.

If you can only attract D-Listers, you could be partying with Sinitta or Kim Wilde.

Chrissie Hynde gets interview about her concert memories, that Rolling Stones were the first band she say play live, and she drive 100 miles to see The Kinks when she was 18.

With Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bringing out solo albums, Mick describes it as a “Trial Separation”, amid rumours of a Rolling Stones split.


Two new pieces of Street Art have appeared in Belfast in recent weeks at opposite ends of the city, one in the East and one in the West.

In West Belfast, in one of the streets facing the Kennedy Centre, there is a mural of Leonard Nimoy, who died recently, in his famous guise as Spock from Star Trek, but in a Hip-Hop style.

In the East of the city, there is a resurrection of an old favourite, as the Teenage Dreams mural, painted as a tribute to John Peel, which was removed in 2013 to accommodate renovation work.

However, as reported on Newsline last night, the new work has no mention of John Peel. You may also notice it has a different colour scheme from the original.

Of course, if you’re in Belfast and want to see a tribute to John Peel. You can always find one in the Cathedral Quarter.


Orginal Teenage Kicks Mural (Pictured in 2007)

Revived Teenage Kicks Mural


As the split approaches, Linfield arrived at Drumahoe looking for three points to try and keep the pressure on Crusaders at the top of the table. Institute were desperate for points in order to ensure they would be playing Linfield and Crusaders in the league next season. An interesting afternoon awaited.

Linfield’s previous visit to Drumahoe in August feels a long way off. Both teams had made promising starts three games in and had high hopes for the season ahead. The seven months since probably hasn’t went how either team has hoped. In both team’s situation, the season was still retrievable.

The game started slow, but then Linfield began to dominate possession and had some attempts on goal. They were usually fired wide or over, or an easy save for Institute’s goalkeeper.

The tempo seemed to drift from on extreme to the other, with Linfield having lots of pressure, to Linfield not doing much with the ball.

Institute were set up to counter attack, and that’s where their best moments came from.

Most of Linfield’s play came from Ross Clarke, looking for him to run and defenders and get crosses in.

Ironically, for all Linfiled’s build-up play, it looked like they were going to take the lead from Stephen Lowry running on to the ball from his own tackle. That was, until Andrew Waterworth showed a striker’s instinct to get the ball and finish. Unfortunately, he was in an offside position when doing so.

With half-time approaching, Linfield built down their left, with an overhit pass looking like it was going out for a goal kick, before Matthew Clarke didn’t give up on it and won a corner

The resulting corner was headed home by Aaron Burns. It was a goal that Linfield needed just to settle the nerves.

The start of the second-half mirrored the first-half, with Linfield having a lot of possession in Institute’s half. Again, most of the play came through Ross Clarke.

Linfield were desperate for a second goal but just couldn’t get it. Sammy Morrow was the most frustrated of all, having a shot blocked over the bar, a header go over, then a shot save by Institute’s goalkeeper.

Institute have some play in Linfield’s half, but it didn’t amount to much. Their best moment was a free-kik easily saved by Tuffey. They had some crosses easily cleared. They didn’t really look like scoring, but this is a Linfield team that can concede a goal at any time. That thought was always in the back of your head.

If Linfield had kept a lot more clean sheets this season, you would have felt a lot more confident with a 1-0 lead going into the final minutes. Especially as the game had taken on a similar pattern to the game in August with Linfield failing to kill Institute off when 1-0 up, and being made to pay for it with a late equaliser.

No such problems for Linfield, as they held out for the win. Unfortunately, they walked off the pitch in the same situation as they walked onto it, six points behind Crusaders, after Crusaders won 3-1 at Ballymena.

Below Linfield, results went for Linfield with both Portadown and Cliftonville dropping points, meaning that Linfield are ten points clear of a guaranteed place in Europe next season.

That race has suddenly taken a twist, with Glenavon and Glentoran now having a sniff of 4th place, which could be enough for a UEFA Cup place, dependent on the results of the Irish Cup Semi-Finals next weekend.

It’s Glenavon next for Linfield, in two weeks time. No match next week, we only have ourselves to blame for that.

Mourneview Park has been a kind ground to Linfield. It has to remain that way in a fortnight if Linfield are going to have something to battle for when Crusaders come to Windsor Park

You never know, Coleraine might do us a favour in two weeks time. Favours are what we’re hoping for over the coming weeks. The important thing is, that we help ourselves.

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