DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-1 LINFIELD 31.10.2015

Since his appointment as Linfield manager, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster for David Healy, going from Everything Is Awful (Ballinamallard) to Everything is Brilliant (Warrenpoint) back to Everything Is Awful (Carrick) then back to Everything Is Brilliant (Cliftonville)

He’s soon learning, if he didn’t know already, that everything at Windsor Park is magnified.

Today, he took his side to Stangmore Park, where Linfield lose every three years on average (2007, 2010, 2013), so that was a good omen, as they’re not due to lose there until next year.

However, they do draw there every three years (2009, 2012), so would that be his fate today?

Linfield began the game with a lot of posession but not doing a lot with it. Their first shot on goal was a Niall Quinn free-kick fired over.

Dungannon were a lot more productive with their possession, with Paul McElroy, who recently scored a long range goal against Cliftonville, trying his luck again, only to be denied by Ross Glendinning, while Glendinnign was in the right place to easily catch an Ally Teggart flick from a cross.

It took 30 minutes for Linfield to get a clear view of goal, Andrew Waterworth firing a shot agonisingly wide after creating some space in the penalty area.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield were pegging Dungannon in their own penalty area from set pieces, Jimmy Callacher having a header cleared off the line, while Mark Haughey and Guy Bates had headers stay out in the same scramble.

0-0 at half-time, not a new scenario for Linfield, their two visits to Dungannon last season had been 0-0 at half-time, before going on to win the game.

At half-time, my glasses snapped when I was cleaning them, which made the second-half an awkward prosepect. Stood at the end where Linfield were attacking, my view wasn’t too bad when Linfield were attacking, though not so great when the ball was at the other end. Hopefully, the ball wouldn’t be up there too much.

At that moment, I was so grateful that Linfield’s away kit was a bright shade of orange.

Linfield started the second-half better, and took the lead when a stray header back to Dungannon goalkeeper Andy Coleman was intercepted by Ivan Sproule, who knocked it away from Coleman, then fired it into the empty net.

Linfield were unable to get that second goal they needed, with both Waterworth and Burns hitting the side netting.

With only one goal in it, it was natural that Dungannon were going to feel a point was there for the taking, with Linfield having some nervy moments in the final minutes.

At least that’s what it looked like. Remember, I had no glasses, Linfield could have been totally outplaying Dungannon for all I know.

In other results, Cliftonville and Coleraine drew, while Crusaders won, meaning that Linfield and Crusaders (level on points) are pulling away from Cliftonville and Coelraine, five and six points clear respectively.

Such is the topsy turvy nature of this season’s title race, Linfield actually dropped a place on goal difference due to Crusaders beating Portadown 3-1.

You’ll never guess what, Linfield play Crusaders and Cliftonville in their next two games, both at Windsor Park.

What a massive prize on offer, knowing that if they win their next two games, they’ll be top of the league and at least eight points clear of Cliftonville.

We all know league titles aren’t won or lost in November, but if Linfield can get six points from the next two games, it would be a massive statement of intent.

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LINFIELD 1-1 CARRICK RANGERS 24.10.2015

It’s fair to say that David Healy’s honeymoon period as Linfield manager came to an abrupt end today with a 1-1 draw at home to Carrick Rangers.

The result saw Crusaders go level with Linfield at the top of the table, both sides level on points and goal difference, only seperated by six goals in Linfield’s favour. Coleraine and Cliftonville drew and missed the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table, as Linfield continued their rotten form in October (one win in five), which still has two more games to play.

Linfield had some early attacks, but it was always a case of playing the wrong ball. At times they were trying to walk the ball into the net, they just needed someone to take the initiative and go for goal.

Carrick had their share of attacks as well, but nothing that worried Linfield. They didn’t manage a shot on goal as Linfield were able to snuff out Carrick’s quick attacks.

Throughout the first-half, Linfield were slow with their attacking. It was easy for Carrick to defend against. There wasn’t a moment when you thought a goal for Linfield was imminent. Linfield didn’t help themselves with their passing.

Aaron Burns had Linfield’s first real chance of the game when his header from a Guy Bates cross was saved by Brian Neeson.

Most of Linfield’s play came through Jamie Mulgrew running with the ball from midfield. Unfortunately, he didn’t play many defence splitting balls. That was because he was usually cynicaly hacked down before he got the chance.

The cycnical foul to yellow card ratio was ridiculously low.

The one time Mulgrew got a clear run, he set up Andrew Waterworth in the penalty area, who was fouled for a penalty.

Aaron Burns stepped up, and his shot was saved by Brian Neeson, out for a corner.

The miss seemed to briefly gee up Linfield, as they had a flurry of corners soon after. That was it though, a flurry of corners.

The teams went in at half-time 0-0, just like at Taylor’s Avenue in August. In that game, Linfield were unlucky to go in 0-0, due to a combination of bad luck, bad finishing and good goalkeeping. They could say no such thing today.

Like last week, this was a game that Linfield needed to go 1-0 up, take control and kill the game. Getting 1-0 up was the problem, especially when glorious chances such as penalty kicks were being wasted.

On 56 minutes, David Healy had seen enough, and replaced Kirk Millar with Ivan Sproule in an attempt to inject some pace, literally and metaphorically into Linfield’s attack.

Stephen Lowry had Linfield’s first attacking moment in the second-half, when he fired wide from a tight angle when he perhaps should have crossed.

Like for most of the first-half, Linfield were restricted to speculative long-range shots, none of which troubled Neeson, or even looked like troubling him.

It was Carrick who had the first goalbound shot of the second-half, when a poor punch out by Ross Glendinning was returned towards the empty goal by Joe McNeill, but his shot hit the top of the crossbar. Most in Windsor Parj thought it was going in.

Adam Salley came on for Guy Bates. Bates is usuually the man who makes things happen for Linfield. Apart from setting up Aaron Burns for a header that was saved, it didn’t really happen for Bates today.

Within minutes, the opening goal came, but it was for Carrick, who were awarded a penalty when Miguel Chines was fouled in the penalty area when the ball bounced in his direction.

After surviving penalties in recent weeks against Cliftonville and Warrenpoint, to hope Linfield would get away with it for a third time was asking too much, as Chines fired home to give Carrick the lead.

Carrick almost went 2-0 in front when Conor McCloskey fired wide after a fumble by Glendinning. It was an uncomfortable afternoon for Glendinning, who made a number of fumbles that presented goalscoring opportunities to Carrick.

Carrick had men behind the ball to defend their lead. Everytime the ball bounced, it bounced to a Carrick player, such was their positional play. Linfield didn’t help themselves with no movement off the ball. It was all too easy for Carrick.

On 84 minutes, Linfield got an equaliser when Aaron Burns swam against the tide of the performance by running in behind Carrick’s defence, and a defence splitting pass from Stephen Lowry left him through on goal with, and all he had to do was slip it past the keeper.

There was still six minutes for Linfield to push on and get a winner.

It was Carrick who had the next chance, when Glendinning fumbled a free-kick which was diverted goalwards, but Sean Ward was in position on the line to block the ball and deny Carrick a certain goal.

Linfield thought they had won it in injury time when Adam Salley attempted a Mark Hughes style volley in the air, but it just went over. If it did go in, it would have been a winning goal out of character with the performance.

As the clock ticked down, Carrick weren’t slow in slowing the game down, kicking the ball away at dead ball situations and taking an age.

Neeson was booked for moving the ball to the other side of the quadrant to take a goal kick in injury time. The referee wasted even more time running over to booked him. Carrick really paid for that when the referee added a whopping eleven seconds at the end of injury time for this stoppage.

This result meant that Linfield were now joint top with Crusaders on goals scored, Cliftonville and Coleraine a further three and four points behind. This is potentially the closest title race in years.

Maybe in April, this could be one point gained rather than two lost.

This current run of form mirrored last October, which was recovered with a winning run in November and December. The less said of January and February, the better.

Up next, is Cliftonville in the County Antrim Shield. It’s a competition i’m not that bothered about, but recent results make this a bigger game than it should be, as one win in six and out of two cup competitions is not a good narrative to have going into a busy November and December period.

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NORTH STREET (AND SURROUNDING AREAS) STREET ART – OCTOBER 2015

Ok, one last post relating to Culture Night, I promise. It was one month ago and I should probably let it go.

Street Art I missed in my previous blogs keep getting brought to my attention, so here is the last two pieces.

The first piece is by an artist called Irony, and appears on Berry Street, in the sidestreet as you walk from Tesco Metro to Mourne Seafood, if you know Belfast City Centre.

The second piece is by Friz and appears on William Street (to the side of Royal Aveneue, opposite Central Library), beside previous Culture Night pieces, which are also still there.

I think that’s every piece of Culture Night covered. Hope you enjoyed it.

Only eleven more months until Culture Night 2015, when i’ll be out with my camera in North Street again. Can’t wait.

North Street Art Part 1

North Street Art Part 2

WARRENPOINT TOWN 0-3 LINFIELD 17.10.2015

David Healy’s reign as Linfield manager got off to a winning, but not convincing, start with a 3-0 win at Warrenpoint.

The result saw Linfield got two points clear at the top of the table, and all is well with the world, after an apocalyptic three game run that saw them knocked off the top of the table and eliminated from the League Cup. There’s no middling emotions at Windsor Park.

The performance wasn’t great, Healy admitted it himself on Radio Ulster, but it’s a start, and a winning start.

The transition between managers wasn’t particularly smooth, which was surprising. I thought that it would have been business as usual until a permanent manager was appointed. I’d no objections with Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie taking charge, but it’s fair to say that didn’t work in the games against Glentoran and Ballinamallard.

I’d missed the opening minutes of Healy’s reign, due to traffic getting out of Newry. There wasn’t really much missed as Linfield struggled for long periods in the first-half.

In fact, it was Warrenpoint who looked the most likely to score.

Liam Bagnall fired a shot wide from a cross, while Daniel Hughes was put away and had the choice of shooting of passing to Nathan Murray or going for goal himself. He passed to Murray, but Ross Glendinning was able to rush out and make the save.

Hughes was in behind Linfield’s defence but was forced wide and had to cross. His cross was fired goalwards, albeit softly, by Stephen Moan, but was cleared off the line by Mark Stafford.

Like last Saturday against Glentoran, Linfield took the lead with their first real moment of quality. Again, it was Guy Bates who started it, when he found some space to cross for Adam Salley, coming into the team in place of the injured Andrew Waterworth.

The cross was cleared, but from the resulting phase of play, Kirk Millar’s low cross missed everybody in the middle, but landed straight to Aaron Burns at the far post to fire home.

It was undeserved, but Linfield were more than glad to take it.

Towards the end of the half, Salley had Linfield’s next chance, but his header was easily saved by Aaron Shanahan.

Linfield’s two previous visits to Warrenpoint had been uncomfortable and nervy, and this was no different, as Daniel Hughes had a shot saved by Glendinning.

Hughes was to get an even better chance to score when Warrenpoint were awarded a penalty. Hughes struck the penalty well, but struck it against the bar.

Linfield had a lucky escape, and they knew it.

Soon afterwards, they made the most of it, when a loose header back to Shanahan was intercepted by Guy Bates who got a slight touch on it, enough to see it into the back of the net.

There was always a fear that Warrenpoint might get one, they were never going to get two.

With the game won, Linfield now began to play better than they had, all their shackles were gone. A shot from Jamie Mulgrew fell to Guy Bates, who was fouled before he could get a shot in by Jordan Dane. The referee awarded a penalty and sent off Dane.

Aaron Burns fired it home to give the scoreline a more convincing look than the performance suggested.

It wasn’t all positive, as Terry Hayes found himself as busy in the second-half and Ross Glendinning was in the first-half, with players being brought off injured, or being subbed to avoid further injury.

Thankfully, the next match is seven days away, plenty of time to recover.

The fixture list has been kind to Healy, with games against Carrick and Dungannon coming up. Without sounding arrogant, that’s a run of games that maximum points should be gained from, ahead of a November schedule of Crusaders, Cliftonville, Glenavon and Portadown.

Crusaders 1-1 draw at Ballinamallard today saw Linfield go clear outright of a league table which is very congested at the top, with four points separating 1st place Linfield and 4th Coleraine.

Next Saturday’s fixture list is quite tasty, with Coleraine (4th) taking on Cliftonville (3rd) and Crusaders (2nd) facing Glenavon (5th, only 8 points off the top of the table)

You wouldn’t expect Linfield’s home match against Carrick to feature prominently in the build-up to the weekend’s games, hopefully that’ll be the case when the Sunday papers are reviewing the previous day’s actions, as a home defeat would grab all the headlines.

Teams around Linfield will drop points next weekend, that’s not for us to worry about, the concentration should only be on beating Carrick. You can only help yourself, everything else will take care of itself.

It wasn’t the best of performances today by Linfield, but you have to consider that David Healy only had one training session in preparation for this game. He’ll be glad to get it out of the way, have three points on the board, and have a full week to prepare for a game and get his ideas across in training.

The last two weeks have been a circus, one big distraction, between the uncertainty of Warren Feeney’s future, Warren Feeney leaving, speculation of Feeney’s successor, and then the appointment of David Healy.

As said earlier, I was surprised the transition between managers wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be.

That circus is now gone, it’s now a case of getting down to work.

One trophy may be gone, but there are still three to play for. Time to put the disruption behind us and start playing for them.

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STROKE CITY STREET ART

Was up in Stroke City recently for work, but it wasn’t all work. Mind you, there wasn’t much play.

Was out on my lunch on one of those days, and spotted some Street Art, so investigated further, and saw some more.

I don’t know exactly where it was, but the one of the bird was at the entrance to Victoria Market. If you’re more familiar with the city than me, you’ll know what i’m talking about. I also spotted a colourful piece at the opposite end of the Peace Bridge from Foyle Street.

Going into the city, I saw a great peace on Glendermott Street. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a photo due to it being too far away to walk to on my lunch.

If you are up there and have some spare time on your hands, it is well worth checking out.

I didn’t go out on my lunch in search of Street Art, but I stumbled upon it, and it would have been rude not to get some photos.

Maybe some day i’ll take the plunge and head up for a day on my own time to go in search for Street Art/Londonstreet Art in Stroke City.

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LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 10.10.2015

The post Warren Feenry era began for Linfield in disappointing and frustrating manner, as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Glentoran, and knocked off the top of the Irish League.

It had been four days since Warren Feeney resigned to become Assistant Manager at Newport County. It was disappointing to see Feeney leave, but when given the footballing, financial and personal reasons for doing so, you can’t really begrudge him for doing so.

Having had a manager for 17 years, it feels strange to be on a lookout for a new manager after 17 months. It’s not a situation Linfield fans are used to. If you are a Linfield supporter in your late 30s, Warren Feeney would have been only the 5th Linfield manager in your lifetime, never mind match going lifetime.

It’s not ideal, but that’s the situation we are in, with Andy Todd and Alfie Wylie in charge on an interim basis.

It’s an appointment i’m not unhappy with. Our manager left because he was headhunted for another job. He wasn’t sacked because the team was struggling. We aren’t looking for a new manager to come in and shake things up and stamp his authority.

Unscientific, but seen as he wrote the programme notes, it’s safe to assume that Andy Todd is the “Manager” in this arrangement.

Todd’s first team selection saw three changes from the side that started at Solitude. That might sound drastic, but it wasn’t really. One of the changes was enforced, and the other two were ones that Warren Feeney might possibly have made if he was still manager.

Reece Glendinning came in for the suspended Sean Ward, while Kirk Millar, left out at Solitude for tactical reasons, replaced Jamie Mulgrew (It would have been for him or Stephen Lowry) and Aaron Burns, a goalscoring substitute last week, came in for Niall Quinn (It was either him or Matthew Clarke making way, and it would have been harsh on whoever was left out)

Linfield started the match slowly, and never got any faster.

Curtis Allen was Glentoran’s figurehead up front. He too, was impeded by the lack of support from teammates coming to join him.

Stephen Lowry had Linfield’s first meaningful attempt on goal when his snapshot in the box went over. A lot of Linfield shots went over, due to them being restricted to speculative long range shots.

None of them even hit the target, never mind looking like scoring.

Glentoran’s best attacking moment came when a Curtis Allen cross/shot was unable to be finished by Fra McCaffrey.

Allen had a second sight at goal when his shot after a sloppy pass by Aaron Burns was easily saved by Ross Glendinning.

There wasn’t one Linfield player who was winning their individual battle. Even when they managed to get past their man, they didn’t get a clear sight on goal, or passed it right into traffic.

One the rare moments they got a clear crossing position, the ball would go straight into the stand, a trend that continued in the second-half.

The first-half was summed up in one moment when a promising attack ended when Andrew Waterworth and Guy Bates left the ball for each other, and Glentoran were able to clear.

Linfield’s best attacking moment came when a cross came to Kirk Millar at the far post. He was too wide to score and headed it across the penalty box. Not one Linfield player was there to fire home. The fact that was Linfield’s bets moment says it all.

Todd’s first half-time team talk didn’t have the desired effect, as the performance wasn’t much better. In fact, it was Glentoran who were the most likely going forward.

The game came into life with a good old fashioned squaring up to each other, or “handbags”, as it’s known in modern football punditry, sparked by an incident off the ball between Curtis Allen and a Linfield player (I couldn’t see who)

This fired up the crowd.

Within minutes, Linfield were 1-0 up with their first moment of quality, as Guy Bates defence splitting ball put David Kee through on goal. All he had to do was hit it low and keep it on target. He did that, and Linfield were 1-0 up.

That should have been enough for Linfield to gain some momentum and kill the game off. They thought they did that when Andrew Waterworth headed home, but his effort was ruled out for offside, making it 1-1 in terms of offside goals, with Curtis Allen having a strike ruled out early in the second-half.

Ivan Sproule came on for Kirk Millar as Linfield aimed to get that second goal that would kill the game.

They were given a reminder that the game wasn’t over when Glentoran fired a free-kick over from the edge of the box, and Curtis Allen fired wide after being put through.

Glentoran had one last attack in injury time, which resulted in Stephen Lowry conceding a soft free-kick by making a tackle he didn’t need to make. The resulting play saw Glentoran get a corner kick, which saw Curtis Allen fire home from close range.

The goal was three minutes and twenty seconds into three minutes injury time. No point complaining, Linfield should have had enough to see the game out.

The result saw Crusaders overtake them on goal difference at the top.

A late 1-1 draw at home as a result of a stupid free-kick conceded in injury time, allowing Crusaders to overtake them at the top. It was 3rd January 2015 all over again. Linfield never recovered from that last season, and allowed Crusaders to run away with the league.

Linfield have a generous run of games (Warrenpoint, Carrick, Dungannon) where they can get themselves back on track ahead of a tasty run of games in November – Crusaders, Cliftonville, Portadown, Glenavon.

Stunned by the late goal conceded, there was an even more subdued atmosphere as supporters left the ground via Donegall Avenue, rerouted from the current exit on Olympia Parade due to what was described on the tannoy as a “Medical Emergency”

I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I did witness commotion underneath me in the bottom tier of the North Stand, with St John Ambulance volunteers, officials from Glentoran, and some of Linfield’s Medical Staff all rushing to the scene, it was obvious that something wasn’t right.

It later emerged that the supporter in question sadly died.

In the space of 48 hours, Windsor Park has hosted the best and worst of footballing emotions.

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CAST – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 9.10.2015

The band The La’s could’ve been arrived in Belfast when Cast arrived in town for a gig at The Limelight, transforming South Belfast into mid 90s Liverpool for one night only.

It had been a long time since Cast were last in Belfast, said singer John Power during a set where he sweated so much his navy shirt became and even darker shade of navy, if such a colour was possible.

It might have been the heat in The Limelight, but more likely, his dancing throughout, textbook bad guitarist dancing. Think George Michael in the video for Faith, and you get the idea.

The show was packed with hits. It’s easy to forget how many hits Cast had during their 90s heyday. Seven of their first ten singles went Top Ten, and all ten of those went Top Twenty. Six of those seven Top Ten hits were in succession.

That’s quite an impressive ratio for a band who weren’t a Pop band or even marketed as such.

All of those hits were on the setlist – Finetime, Sandstorm, I’m So Lonely, Flying, Guiding Star, Live The Dream and Walk Away.

Beat Mama, one of my own personal favorites, wasn’t on the setlist, but I can live with that.

The show ended with a drum solo by Keith O’Neill, finishing when the other band members had left the stage.

Except, it wasn’t quite over yet, as John Power came back onstage for the encore, performing an acoustic cover of Working Class Hero, on what would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday, before performing Free Me and Alright.

It wasn’t all classics, as they performed a new song, Baby Blue Eyes, a song which Power said gave them the impetus to record an as yet untitled new album, due in March 2016.

When it is released, hopefully a return visit to Belfast will be on the agenda.

Photo Album