After three successive defeats, Linfield hoped to end their Monthus Horribilus, as they say in Latin, with a win, away to Portadown.

The game took place in conditions similar to the Irish Cup tie in February, non stop swirling wind and rain.

The early moments saw Ross Glendinning have a couple of hesitant moments with balls into the penalty area, with defenders having to clear the ball for him when he should have been claiming the ball. On one of those occasions, Darren Murray got to the ball before him, but Glendinning was able to get a hand on it before Murray could shoot.

Murray also had a header go over, giving Linfield a warning that he is a threat that can’t be ignored.

Linfield reverted back to 4-4-2 after playing 4-3-3 last week, with youngster Paul Smyth keeping his place. Smyth had Linfield’s best chance in the first-half, but his left foot shot was saved when it looked like a right foot shot was the best option.

Even allowing for the weather, it wasn’t a good game. A big improvement was needed in the second-half.

Linfield almost got an early goal in the second-half when Paul Smyth pulled back to Andrew Waterworth, whose shot was cleared off the goal line by Ross Redman. Less than a minute later, Redman was able to create too much space for himself in Linfield’s half and play it across to Chris Casement to fire home and put Portadown 1-0 up.

If ever a passage of play summed the past month, that was it.

Like against Cliftonville and Glenavon in the previous two weeks, Linfield responded well to going behind and had chances. Like in those aforementioned two games, they couldn’t take the chances that came their way.

Jimmy Callacher had a shot cleared off the line, Kirk Millar fired straight at the keeper while Andrew Waterworth header over from a cross when he would have scored if he had got it on target.

Everytime the ball bounced in the penalty area, it landed at a Portadown foot. It wasn’t luck, Linfield players weren’t gambling to get into positions.

At both ends of the pitch, Portadown were always first to the second ball.

It wasn’t all Linfield, Portadown were dangerous on the counter attack.

Mark Stafford saw a shot saved while Andrew Waterworth got in behind Portadown’s defence and shot straight at the keeper when he had two passing options that would have resulted in a goal.

As injury time approached, Portadown broke away with Gary Twigg squaring it to Marcio Soares who made it 2-0. As the ball hit the back of the net, a supporter behind me remarked “See! that’s how you do it”

It was as damming as it was true. Equally as damming was the fact that the only attacking player taking the game by the scruff of the neck and trying to make things happen was a teenager with less than ten appearances.

This game also exposed the lack of depth in Linfield’s squad, with no striker on the bench, having to resort to playing a wide man “in the hole” when making an attacking change.

Even looking back to five years ago, you would have had two of Curtis Allen, Paul Munster and Mark McAllister on the bench. Seeing them warming up when chasing a goal would have filled you with confidence. Looking at Linfield’s bench in recent weeks, there hasn’t been anybody warming up that made you think they would change the game.

Once again, Linfield paid for poor decision making at both ends of the pitch. If Linfield had went 1-0 up early in the second-half, they probably would have went on to comfortably win the game. If they had made it 1-1 at any point in the second-half, they probably would have won the game.

If is the biggest word in football, and Linfield fans are saying it far too many times these days.

Suddenly, the County Antrim Shield semi-final against Carrick Rangers (weather permitting, Carrick’s home game today was postponed) is a lot bigger than a minor regional competition should be.

Linfield fans will be glad to know that Tuesday’s date is 1st December, today being the final game of a rotten month.

Hopefully, by the time Linfield fans are opening the sixth window of their advent calendar, they’ll be looking forward to the County Antrim Shield final and celebrating their first league win in four games.

That won’t be easy, as 2nd place Coleraine arrive at Windsor Park next Saturday.

Twelve points off the top, even the most optimistic of supporters will have to concede the title is an uphill task. There is still a lot to play for, with European football to secure, and don’t forget, if we don’t win the league, the Irish Cup will do.

Today’s result was the first time Linfield had lost four successive league games since 1997, when they were struggling under a new manager.

It was a year Glentoran sacked their manager, Windsor Park was getting renovated, Crusaders won the league, TFI Friday was on TV and U2 did a concert in Belfast. This all feels a bit familiar. Thankfully, it did end up having a happier resolution over the next ten years.

A recent trend in recent matches has been a group called Blue Unity, aimed at improving atmosphere at matches. One chant they have introduced is their version of a Slade classic “We are the Linfield boys, you’ll know us by noise, we go wild wild wild”

Sadly, recent events on the field haven’t given them a chance to go wild wild wild.

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As Manchester United fans paid tribute to George Best on the 10th anniversary of his death, it was the current incumbent of the number 7 shirt, Memphis Depay, who was hoping to build on his goal against Watford the previous Saturday, and fire United into the Last 16 of the European Cup.

It was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford, and thus, my first game seeing Adidas United in the flesh. How exciting.

Curiously, the last few years have seen me wait until November to make my first visit to Old Trafford. It’s purely coincidental, and not a conscious move. I had hoped to go to the Sunderland game in September, but that fell through.

United players arrived at Old Trafford knowing that a win would send them through to the next round as they led the tightest group in the competition due to the fact that their draw in Moscow was the only game in the previous four matchdays that wasn’t a home win.

At teatime, the other game in the group took place between CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg, resulting in a 2-0 win for Wolfsburg. The result meant that United wouldn’t win the group with a win, but it did guarantee European football in early 2016. What competition it would be in, was still to be determined.

Even though they played a long ball forward in the first five seconds of the game, PSV had set their stall out to defend. United had a lot of possession but no clear chances. Bastien Schweinsteiger created space for himself in the early minutes and fired a shot straight at PSV’s keeper.

Memphis also managed a shot on goal while Jesse Lingard but through on goal, only to miscontrol the ball.

The highlight, no pun intended, of the early moments, when Old Trafford paid tribute to George Best on the tenth anniversary of his death, as supporters switched on the lights on their phones as a tribute and sang Spirit In The Sky.

I’m not usually a fan of designated minute applause, but this one worked, as a small pocket of fans started, and the numbers got bigger and bigger.

More chances for United came, Morgan Schneiderlin coming the closest when his effort was cleared off the line after a scramble, Martial had a low shot saved when he perhaps should have scored. Wayne Rooney couldn’t get to the ball from the cross when a touch would have put the ball into the empty net. He didn’t have much luck when he chased down PSV’s keeper taking a backpass.

Jesse Lingard glanced a header wide in the early minutes of the second-half.

On the hour, came a double substitution for United, as Young and Fellaini came on as United chased the win, with Juan Mata left sitting on the bench.

The attacks were slow and predictable, only stepping up when prompted by the crowd groaning or shouting “Attack!!! Attack!!! Attack!!!”

When they did step it up, they looked like scoring. They didn’t do it enough, or for a sustained period of time.

PSV naturally came more into it, having a few counter attacks and forcing David De Gea into saves, albeit saves you would expect him to make.

Jess Lingard had United’s best chance when he fired over in the penalty area after a cross.

Lingard was getting into good positions out right, but Wayne Rooney’s attempts to find him with a crossfield “Hollywood Pass” only resulted in landing straight to the head of PSV’s left-back instead of getting in behind him and playing Lingard in.

Marouane Fellaini, brought on to win headers, only succeeded in fouling his opponent whenever the ball went to him. I’ve no problem as such with him being a target man, it would be nice if he was actually good at it.

Another worrying theme throughout the game was Morgan Schneiderlin giving away cheap possession. Thankfully, it wasn’t costly for United.

In the final moments, PSV sensed they could sneak a win and gave United some worrying moments.

With Juan Mata finally on from the bench, United couldn’t do likewise, as the game fizzled out into the 0-0 draw those watching were fearing with each passing minute.

Despite the result, it was good to get my first visit to Old Trafford this season. I’ll be back for the Southampton game in February and hopefully the Bournemouth game in May.

If United get into the Champions League next season (A wonderful hangover from the David Moyes era, referring to next season’s European campaign as “if”) and play a Wednesday night game at home, I might be tempted by that and head over on the Tuesday and see a local Football League side who are at home. Bury and Oldham (both on the Tramline) were both at home on the Tuesday night.

What this means for United, is that they must win their final group game away to Wolfsburg in order to ensure qualification for the next round. Otherwise, they’ll be begging for a favour from CSKA Moscow to avoid defeat away to PSV Eindhoven.

Failing to get qualification sorted out when the opportunity was there is an inconvenience.

Having to play UEFA Cup ties in February will be an even bigger inconvenience.

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I recently travelled to Manchester to see United take on PSV Eindhoven, but armed with a camera and having a lot of spare time, I decided to take in some Street Art as well.

Having some previous knowledge of the city, I knew where to go, and headed to the Northern Quarter to check out the walls which get repainted every few months.

I had hoped to spend Thursday morning walking along Salford Quays and checking out the Street Art there. The hotel I booked was in Salford Quays, but they moved me to another on in the City Centre and I chose to stay in the City Centre before catching my flight.

I’m heading back to Manchester for the Southampton game in January, and staying at the same hotel (unless they move me again) so i’ll plan to do that on the Sunday morning after the game, having got some photos from there when I last had a visit longer than a day, last November.

Unlike previous visits, I managed to get some shots from the University Area, on the street leading into Oxford Road station..

Stay tuned for hopefully some more photos in late January.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 27.11.2015

1. David Bowie – Blackstar
2. James – To My Surprise
3. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia
4. Chvrches – Empty Threat
5. Olly Murs – Kiss Me

This coming Monday, is St Andrew’s Day. It would be rude not to have a musical celebration of all things Scottish, and all things Andrew.


1. Chvrches – Lies
2. Nina Nesbitt – He’s The One I’m Bringing Back
3. Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me
4. Biffy Clyro – The Captain
5. Prides – Messiah


1. Wham! – Freedom
2. Hozier – Take Me To Church
3. Roachford – Cuddly Toy
4. Andrew Gold – Never Let Her Slip Away
5. Andrew WK – Party Hard

GLENAVON 3-2 LINFIELD 21.11.2015

It was a case of history repeating for Linfield at Mourneview Park today, as they arrived in situations similar to both of their visits last season.

In November, they arrived on the back of home defeats to Cliftonville and Crusaders, and ground out a win to kickstart a run of 7 wins in 8 games going into the Christmas/New Year period.

In March, they arrived at Mourneview six points behind Crusaders, lost 1-0, a defeat which ended any slight chances of winning the league.

It’s fair to say that Mourneview Park is a ground that has provided mixed memories to Linfield fans in recent times.

Glenavon were equally in need of a win, kicking off eleven points behind Crusaders, after expectations were raised by last season’s storm to 3rd and a place in the UEFA Cup.

Their current position is explained by the fact that they’ve only amassed two points from five games against Crusaders, Cliftonville and Linfield.

There may be twelve teams in the league, but Glenavon and Linfield’s predicaments at kick-off showed that it’s the games against the teams around you that will dictate your fate.

It seemed all set up for a tense and cautious encounter, it was anything but.

Both teams had promising attacks early on, Eoin Bradley got space behind Linfield’s defence but dragged his shot wide on his left foot when a right foot shot looked the better option.

Linfield were getting a lot of possession out wide, lining up in a 4-3-3 when attacking, with Paul Smyth being given a first start after his cameo appearance off the bench last week.

Smyth got into some good positions and did basic stuff well. He wasn’t brilliant but wasn’t awful. A promising talent.

Glenavon soon took the lead from a counter attack when the ball went out wide to Eoin Bradley and he played a simple pass to give Daniel Kearns enough space to fire home.

There was no danger when Bradley had the ball, but everybody could see the run that Kearns was making. Everybody, except those on the pitch wearing Linfield shirts.

Thankfully, Linfield responded to the setback by going straight on the attack.

Andrew Waterworth looked like he was going to make it 1-1 when Aaron Burns played him through after a run. Unfortunately, Waterworth took a touch when a first time shot would have resulted in a goal, that split second gave Jonathan Tuffey enough time to get out and make the save.

Linfield were soon level when Jamie Mulgrew won possession when he was second favourite, creating enough space for him to shoot from outside the box and score.

Like the previous week, Linfield recovered from an early setback to draw level soon afterwards.

Linfield had a lot of possession and pressure in Glenavon’s half, but couldn’t go in 2-1 up.

They were reminded in the final minutes of the half that Glenavon could punish them at short notice, with Jimmy Callacher and Ross Glendinning forced into close range blocks to deny Glenavon.

Despite some good saves, someone needs to have a word with Glendinning about his quick throw-ins attempting to start a counter attack. On two occasions today, they resulted in Linfield losing possession in their defensive third, putting themselves under unnecessary pressure.

It worked brilliantly in the game against Glenavon in September for Waterworth’s first goal, but if there’s no obvious attack, just hold onto the ball and let attacking players get into position.

Inside the opening ten seconds of the second-half, Paul Smyth got in behind Glenavon’s defence, but his shot was saved by Tuffey, who was able to stick a leg onto it.

Linfield fans, for the first time in a while allowed to stand behind the goal at Mourneview after not being allowed to on health and safety grounds, thought their team were going 2-1 up.

Despite the positive start to the second-half, it was Glenavon who went 2-1 up in the early moments when a Joal Cooper cross went straight in.

Once again, another goal that could easily have been avoided. Daniel Kearns was left unmarked from a cross a minute earlier, and the resulting panic saw Glenavon win a corner, the resulting play resulted in Cooper being in a position to cross.

Like a cross not being stopped from getting to Jordan Owens two weeks ago, or Tomas Cosgrove getting too much space to cross last week, once again, Linfield were the architects of their own downfall.

Like in the first-half, Linfield responded instantly, when Jamie Mulgrew played in Kirk Millar to slot past Tuffey just two minutes later.

Still half an hour to play, Linfield were again level, and had foundations to go on and win the game.

With the score at 2-2, Linfield put Glenavon under pressure, corners and crosses mostly. You got the feeling if they went 3-2 up, they’d be able to go on and get the win.

With 15 minutes to go, it was Glenavon who went 3-2 up. Again, it was a self inflicted blow by Linfield.

Sean Ward misjudged the bounce of a ball and handled on the edge of the box. The resulting free-kick hit the post, rolled across the line, and Joel Cooper was first to react and out the ball into the empty net.

Having come back from 0-1 and 1-2, trying to come back at 2-3 was a goal too far for Linfield. For all their possession, Linfield never looked like getting a third equaliser.

It fact, Glenavon looked more likely to score a 4th on the counter attack.

After being quickest out the blocks, Linfield’s season has now hit a brick wall. A nine point gap from the top of the league has now emerged over the past three games. It won’t be retrieved if they win their next three games. It’s important to remember it’s a 38 game season.

Linfield didn’t win the league in August and didn’t lose it today. They’ve given themselves and uphill task to do so.

Despite playing poorly against Crusaders, Aaron Burns had a chance to equalise in injury time. Linfield deserved something last week, and Guy Bates had a chance to equalise in injury time. Linfield deserved something today but didn’t get it.

Games are decided by small margins. Disappointingly, all six goals conceded over the past fortnight have been poor and easily avoided.

Like last week, if Linfield had better decision making at both ends of the pitch, and scored when they were on top, they would have been celebrating three points.

Next week away to Portadown, is a must win. They all are at the best of times, especially more so with the current defecit.

Portadown are on a wretched run of form, but thankfully their losing run is over. Purely for the fact that I hate playing teams on a losing run. Sod’s Law and all that.

Hopefully, come 5pm next Saturday, Linfield’s losing run will be over.

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ULSTER 9-27 SARACENS 20.11.2015

Friday night saw me make my annual trip to Ravenhill for a European group game, as Ulster kicked-off their campaign against Saracens, a week later than expected, with their opening game away to Oyonnax being postponed last week due to the terror attacks in France.

Ulster fans arrived hoping their side would warm them up inside, with rain, rain and more rain greeting supporters as they entered the ground.

Within the opening five minutes, the game had it’s first talking point, when Michael Rhodes was yellow carded for a wild tackle. There were many who thought it should have been a straight red.

Ruan Pienaar was unable to convert the resulting penalty. Within minutes, Owen Farrell followed suit by missing a penalty.

Ulster would soon find themselves going into a 9-0 lead courtesy of Paddy Jackson, who scored two drop goals and a penalty. Everything seemed well with the world, as Ulster were two tries ahead.

Saracens got one of those tries when Chris Wyles ran through. Owen Farrell’s rotten evening continued when he missed the conversion.

Ulster’s convincing lead had evaporated, the game was up for grabs, as Ulster led 9-5 at the break.

The start to the second-half was tense, as Ulster were forced to defend. A lot.

I was at the end Ulster were attacking. I say “were”, the correct term should probably be “Supposed to be”, as they simply couldn’t get out of their own half.

They were stuck in their half so much, people around me were watching the game on the giant screen beside them instead of watching the game live in order to get a better view.

A try for Saracens was inevitible, and so it proved when David Goode ran through. Owen Farrell had an upturn in fortune when he scored the conversion.

Saracens started to run away with it, and another try making it 17-9. Ulster now needed a converted try to take the lead. They didn’t look like getting one of those, never mind both. The crowd knew it, and the atmosphere became subdued as a result.

Owen Farrell made up for his poor kicking earlier on by making it 20-9, the gap was now getting bigger and bigger for Saracens, before another try was converted to make it 27-9.

22 points without reply in the second-half for Saracens, it was comprehensive. Ulster fans felt as miserable as the weather, as their side have a lot of ground to make up if they want to join the round ball Ulstermen in planning trips to France next Summer.

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U2 – LIVE AT THE ODYSSEY 18.11.2015

U2, Harp Lager Band Of 1978, made a long awaited return to Belfast last week with two gigs at The Odyssey. It had been a while since their last gig in Belfast. So long in fact, that The Odyssey didn’t even exist. 1997 to be precise.

For their last indoor gig in Belfast, you have to go back a further ten years, to 1987 at King’s Hall. Before that, they used to be regulars in Belfast during their early days.

On their current tour, they have downsized, having to make do with large arenas rather than large stadiums. This gave hope to an Odyssey gig, with gigs at similar venues in London (The O2) and Glasgow (The Hydro) being announced earlier this year.

Hopes were raised in early September when The Edge hinted at a Belfast gig. Within days, two Belfast gigs were announced, with a further four in Dublin.

My older brother loves U2, and I caught the bug, to the extent that I was prepared to get up at 7am on a Sunday morning to record a whole day of programming on MTV dedicated to U2. There was no Sky+ in them days. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t know how to set the Video Plus, so I had to get up and do it myself.

I even won a copy of The Best Of 1980-1990 in a newspaper competition by correctly answering what Bono’s real name is. It’s Paul Hewson, since you ask.

There have been two occasions when I have been close to U2. When they played Botanic Gardens in 1997, I was close enough to hear them. In 2002, I was invited to a TV recording at Blackstaff Studios. I was tipped off that a famous Irish band would be peforming. I was told it was U2. It was Westlife.

As I counted down the days to this Odyssey gig, I still had a dark fear that Westlife would be turning up on stage instead.

When arriving at the venue, there were little subtle U2 references. When trying to find a parking space, I was trying to fight the temptation to mutter to myself that I still hadn’t found what i’m looking for. Inside the venue, there were billboards for Clayton Hotel. It’s unknown if Adam was staying there during their time in Belfast.

Getting into the venue was a bit of a farce, with admission by credit card rather than paper ticket holding up people getting in, as well as seperate queues not being signposted.

Now in the venue, I took up position near the very end of the stage, on the line that marked off the area of the floor where Bono would be entering. Fans observed the security staff, on the theory that the busier they got, the closer it was to stage time.

At around half eight, the area was sealed off and surrounded by security. Bono casually walked across the floor onto the stage, and kicked into The Miracle Of Joey Ramone, the velvet rope was now removed, and a pile on to get the best position at the stage took place.

The best view of the venue was at the side of the stage. Unfortunately, those spaces were long taken by the time I arrived just after seven.

Adam Clayton paid his own homage to Belfast by wearing a Stiff Little Fingers t-shirt.

They began by playing songs from their early years, with Bono remarking “You have to visit the past if you don’t want to be stuck there”

The crowd sang along with more recent hit Vertigo, even when Bono sang in erroneous Spanish (The intro goes Uno, Does, Tres, Catorce – or 1, 2, 3, 14) that he refuses to change.

The band then performed Sunday Bloody Sunday and Raised By Wolves. The riot that Jim Rodgers had feared never materialised.

Larry Mullan would soon be inundated with offers to join Orange Bands by looking at home walking along while banging a Fife Drum.

Bono even managed to give a brief rendition of Moondance by Van Morrison while also recalling about how he wrote a song to impress a girl called Alison Stewart, and how he hasn’t quite managed it. For those who don’t know, she’s his wife.

They then performed some songs from the Achtung Baby era while inside a cage behind the LED screen. It didn’t work for me.

Bono then pulled a member of the audience, Teresa from Italy, to dance with him, like Bruce Springsteen in the Dancing In The Dark video.

As we entered the second half of the concert it was time for the big hits – With Or Without You, Where The Streets Have No Name, Elevation, City Of Blinding Lights, Beautiful Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love)

We were even treated to a guitar led version of The Sweetest Thing. The concert ended with One, that Bono dedicated to all those who have helped to make it close to being the first generation of babies born without AIDS. In 1992, when One was released as a single, the proceeds were donated to AIDS charities.

The only surprise was that they didn’t play Stay (Faraway So Close) purely for the cheer when Belfast mentioned in the lyrics. In truth, they didn’t need to engineer fake cheers.

After eighteen years away, there would only be one more day to wait until their next Belfast gig.

Hopefully, after that, it won’t be eighteen years until they return.

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Paul Weller rolled into Belfast on Monday night as he kicked off his Winter 2015 Tour at Waterfront Hall. This was my first time seeing him, despite him being a relatively regular visitor to Belfast.

Last year, I had toyed with the idea of making his concert at Kilmainham Hospital in Dublin my first Weller gig, especially as the support was Tom Odell, but it being a midweek gig and needing to save my Annual Leave, I decided against it.

More tours followed, including a tour in early 2015 of lesser toured towns in the UK, before a full UK tour for Winter, with no Belfast. I was tempted by Manchester (Saturday 27th November) but the football fixtures didn’t go in my favour.

Eventually, I was rewarded when he announced a gig at Waterfront Hall. This year marks 40 years since Weller’s first gig, as a member of The Jam.

I first became a fan of Weller in 1995, when he released The Changingman, discovering his solo work, and then his back catalogue with The Jam and Style Council.

Weller was supported by Blossoms, from Stockport, who are supporting The Charlatans on tour next month, and have had their February gig in Belfast upgraded from Voodoo to The Limelight.

I was already in love with their single Charlemagne, but the rest of their set wasn’t bad.

Weller is a man of few words, not muttering much between songs, apart from the usual rock star pleasantries. In fact, it was Steve Cradock, taking time out from his day job with Ocean Colour Scene, to tour with Weller (he has played on all of Weller’s solo albums, and usually fits Weller duties around OCS duties), who said more between songs, introducing a section of Style Council hits.

The best of those, was Long Hot Summer. Already a brilliant song, the drums and bass get enhanced live at make it sound better.

A new album out this year, Weller performed the two lead singles from Saturn’s Pattern, the title track and Going My Way, both excellent and warmly received.

There were also some of his earlier solo hits such as Into Tomorrow, Friday Street and Peacock Suit, before he finished, rather confusingly, with Start, one of his biggest hits with The Jam.

It takes a strange sense of humour to play a song called Start at the end of a gig.

Technical problems meant there was a delay in his encore, before he did come out. Fans had expected to be hearing the likes of The Changingman, Out Of The Sinking, Mermaids, Sunflower, Wild Wood or You Do Something To Me.

They didn’t get to hear any of them. They didn’t even get A Town Called Malice.

Weller left the crowd wanting more, but not in a good way.

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After last week’s disappointment against Crusaders, Linfield welcomed another North Belfast side, Cliftonville, to Windsor Park

Linfield had some good early play in the opening minutes, but not chances. Once Cliftonville got a foot in the game, they created their first chance and took it, when Jay Donnelly saved a wayward cross going out of play, and from the resulting play, snuck in past Guy Bates who had switched off and won a corner.

From the resulting corner, a handball by Mark Haughey gave Cliftonville a penalty, which was finised, only just, by Davy McDaid.

Linfield’s thankfully didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They didn’t have many chances straight away, but had a lot of possession and build-up. On 20 minutes, Andrew Waterworth fired home the first time he was able to get some space in Cliftonville’s final third to make it 1-1.

Soom afterwards, Guy Bates got some space in Cliftonville’s penalty and his shot was spilled by Conor Devlin. None of Linfield’s attackers took a gamble on a follow-up. If they did, they would have had an open net.

For the rest of the half, Linfield had a lot of possession but weren’t able to convert that into chances.

The second-half continued in the same manner, with an Andrew Waterworth cross causing concern for Cliftonville, but like Guy Bates shot in the first-half, none of Linfield’s attackers gambled when a goal would have resulted if they did.

Linfield were given a warning that Cliftonville still posed an attacking threat when Chris Curran fired wide.

Andrew Waterworth thought he had given Linfield the lead but his header hit the top of the crossbar, but he was flagged offside anyway.

Waterworth was involved again soon afterwards when his shot was going wide, but Kirk Millar was unable to get a foot on it to divert it in.

Linfield were having a lot of possession but not making it count, and were given another warning when Ross Glendinning had to rush out of goal to get to the ball before Jay Donnelly.

Donnelly was soon to get the better of Glendinning when he fired home to put Cliftonville. It was undeserved, but questions have to be asked why two Linfield players on the left hand side failed to cut out the cross.

Linfield responded by bringing on attacking subs in the shape of Aaron Burns and Paul Smyth. Smyth is a young player who made his debut in the County Antrim Shield match against Newington earlier in the season. One of David Healy’s first acts as Linfield manager was to sign him up to be a part of the first team squad.

He didn’t do a lot wrong and showed some nice touches. He saw a lot of the ball as Linfield seem to adopt a policy of always playing the ball along the North Stand. As Linfield were attacking The Kop, the right sided player was always going to see a lot of the ball.

Guy Bates fired over after a scramble, while David Kee fired wide after a stray punch by Conor Devlin. Every time the ball bounced, it seemed to land straight at a Cliftonville player.

The danger of being caught on the counter attack could not be ignored, with Mark Haughey forced to make a last gasp tackle to deny Stephen Garrett, who broke away after Sean Ward lost possession.

In injury time, Guy Bates had Linfield’s last chance, but his header was straight at Devlin. Either side, and it was 2-2.

On such small margins are games decided. A far better performance than last week, but the same outcome. Linfield are now in 3rd, 6 points behind Crusaders and 1 point behind Cliftonville and level with Coleraine.

Even more frustrating, is the fact that at no point did I think Linfield were going to lose the game today, eben when going 0-1 and 1-2 down.

A few weeks earlier last season, Linfield had home defeat to Crusaders and Cliftonville (in the other order) before going to Glenavon and grinding out a win on a horrible day. Players and fans were together as one, and the win was the springboard for 22 points from 24 for the rest of the year.

As fate would have it, the fixture computer has dealt Linfield an away trip to Glenavon next Saturday. A similar run of results now the minimum requirement after these two setbacks.

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