The 1984-1985 season is about to start, and it’s Mark Hughes, billed as “one of the young hopefuls trying to break into the team at Old Trafford next season” who is the cover star of Shoot.

Shoot gives United a double page spread, saying they have the potential to be England’s biggest box office attraction, due to the number of attacking players in their squad.

Vince Hilare gets a full page profile, after being blasted for leaving Crystal Palace for Luton Town, citing the lure of top flight football and Luton’s attacking style of play as the reason for his move.

Another player on the move is Mick Mills, who has left Ipswich for Southampton. At the age of 36, he feels this is his last chance to win the title, having gone close with Ipswich in 1981 and 1982.

European draws have thrown up trips behind the Iron Curtain for Liverpool and Aberdeen in the European Cup, as well as a Northern Ireland v Republic Of Ireland clash between Linfield and Shamrock Rovers.

The UEFA Table is used to allocate UEFA Cup places based on results, with England top ahead of Italy and USSR.

Shoot does a double page feature on new Barcelona manager Terry Venables, where he describes the job as the biggest test of his career.

Venables old club QPR are getting used to life without him, but Terry Fenwick predicts a title challenge under new manager Alan Mullery.

Charlie Nicholas reveals in his column that Kenny Sansom fancies himself as an impressionist, with Norman Wisdom, Frank Spencer and Prince Charles his favourites.

Shoot looks at he the lack of job security for managers in Scotland, with 20 of the 38 league clubs changing manager between the summers of 1983 and 1984.

Mike Hazard gets a full page feature, having overcome an addiction to chocolate and hamburgers to get a place in the England squad.

Kenny Dalglish writes about his excitement of the forthcoming season, as Liverpool face Everton in the Charity Shield at Wembley. The two sides had met earlier in the year in the League Cup Final, which Liverpool won the replay 1-0 at Maine Road, though Dalglish incorrectly says the game was at Old Trafford.

In news, West Ham are looking to replace Frank Lampard Snr with Colin Gibson from Aston Villa, Liverpool have been told that Celtic won’t sell Paul McStay to them, and Billy Bingham says he have to rethink his tactics for away games after Northern Ireland’s defeat to Finland in their opening World Cup Qualifier.

Steve Foster is this week’s “Focus On ….” subject, where he reveals he likes all music, except Boy George.


World Cup fever is in full swing as this week’s edition of Shoot comes with a free wallchart.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page spread of the marksmen leading the line for each team, with Kenny Dalglish being the player profiled for Scotland.

Ray Clemence uses his column to express his desire to play against Scotland – as it was his mistake in 1976 that won the game for Scotland the last time England played at Hampden Park.

With all the coverage of England and Scotland, Wales fans weren’t ignored, as their team got a full page poster.

The rise of Nottingham Forest from a hopeless second tier team under Brian Clough to league champions gets four pages, including a centre page poster.

A combination of big spending on transfers and ground improvements has seen season ticket prices at Manchester United for 1978-1979 would cost you a whopping £45.

Love was in the air for Blackpool’s Brian Wilson, who got engaged to Anne Nolan, of popular singing group The Nolan Sisters.

One of the teams he found face that summer would be Cliftonville, who had announced a short tour of England to face Blackpool and Southport.

Derek Dougan made a visit to his native Belfast to present Linfield’s Jimmy Martin with the Footballer Of The Year Award.

Though the World Cup is close, the qualifying for Euro 1980 was closer, as Republic Of Ireland are in Copenhagen for their opening qualifier. Shoot gives this a full page preview.

Shoot goes big on Scotland, with various adverts for World Cup related merchandise including the replica kit, and a special Shoot edition solely focusing on Scotland, previewing their games in Argentina.


The cliche about waiting ages for a bus then two come along at once could be applied to Linfield wins at Solitude. Quite apt, seeing as Linfield fans spend most of their pre-match waiting for a bus.

Suspended last week, Jimmy Callacher and Paul Smyth returned to the Linfield team. By full-time, Linfield fans were thankful they did.

Like in the Irish Cup tie two weeks ago, the opening minute saw Linfield having a shaky moment in defence, conceding a soft corner due to a defensive mix-up. Thankfully, the corner didn’t come to much.

Both teams were getting in a lot of crosses in the early moments, Linfield’s causing more concern that Cliftonvilles, which were usually missing everyone and going to the far post.

The first real attacking moment came when Sean Ward had a shot cleared off the line.

Cliftonville’s first attempt on goal saw Jude Winchester hit the net. The side of it rather than the back of it thankfully.

There wasn’t a lot happening in the first-half, until Linfield came into it in the later stages. Mark Haughey looked like he was going to score when he reached for a header, only for the ball to go across goal.

Paul Smyth ran at Cliftonville’s defence, creating enough space to get a shot at goal, forcing Cliftonville’s goalkeeper Peter Burke into a save.

Like in the second-half two weeks ago, you could see the fear in Cliftonville’s defenders every time he got the ball.

Even when he didn’t have the ball, and was running onto a pass, you could see the fear they had.

Cliftonville’s defenders tried to kick him, he defiantly stood his ground. They couldn’t kick him out of the game, they would need to find another way to stop him. They couldn’t think of another way to stop him.

Soon afterwards, it looked like Haughey was going to score this time but his goalbound header was tipped onto the post, only to fall to Jimmy Callacher to finish from a few yards out.

Soon after, Ross Gaynor had a shot saved from a wide position after nice link-up play from Jamie Mulgrew.

At the start of the second-half, the much anticipated Cliftonville onslaught didn’t metrialise. It was all relatively comfortable for Linfield. It would have been more comfortable if they could get a second goal.

That almost came when a defence splitting pass from Sean Ward set up Reece Glendinning to cross for Paul Smyth, who hit the side netting.

Chris Curran had a half chance for Cliftonville, a reminded for Linfield that they needed a second goal to be sure of the points.

Linfield had more attacking purpose than their hosts, and almost doubled their lead when Paul Smyth ran at Cliftonville’s defence, got enough space for a shot, only to hit the post.

Agonisingly, the rebound hit Andrew Waterworth straight in the face and went over.

The reprieve for Cliftonville was brief, as Paul Smyth went on another run and made it 2-0 with a shot before making use of a sterile area at the side of the pitch to do a somersault after asking his team-mates to give him space to do so. Linfield’s players were as accommodating as Cliftonville’s defence.

Linfield were able to see the game out, with Cliftonville never looking like scoring. Even if they did pull a goal back, it would have been an inconvenience for Linfield rather than a cause to panic.

Cliftonville are finding out the hard way, like Linfield did when Peter Thompson began to suffer injury problems, that goalscorers are hard to replace.

That result saw Linfield go eight points clear of Cliftonville. Realistically, that should rule Cliftonville out of the race for automatic European football. Glenavon got a late winner to jump over them, six points behind Linfield.

It’s a good lead over them, but it would be nice to get further ahead of them to be sure.

Linfield remain five points behind Crusaders, who play their game in hand against Carrick on Tuesday night, a game they should win, meaning Linfield need to recover eight points in seven games.

With the two sides playing each other, Linfield need to win all their games and hope Crusaders draw one and lose one. Not inconceivable.

Glenavon and Cliftonville’s position swap will be of interest in the context of post split fixture order. Crusaders need one win from their next three games to be Team 1, with Linfield being Team 2.

According to my basic maths, here’s the provisional schedule :

Apr 9 : Crusaders (1) v Linfield (2)

Apr 16 : Glenavon (3) v Crusaders, Linfield v Coleraine (5)

Apr 19 : Cliftonville (4) v Crusaders, Glentoran (6) v Linfield

Apr 23 : Linfield v Cliftonville, Crusaders v Coleraine

Apr 30 : Glentoran v Crusaders, Glenavon v Linfield

Of course, those provisional positions can change between now and game 33 on 29th March.

Up next for Linfield, is Ballinamallard on Thursday night, a game brought forward to keep the Windsor Park pitch in shape for Northern Ireland v Slovenia on March 28th

If the game is to be brought forward, surely it should have been to Wednesday night, as a lot of people, myself included, will be in Cardiff for Wales v Northern Ireland.

The rearrangement could work in Linfield’s favour, giving them an extra two days rest ahead of the Easter Tuesday trip to Warrenpoint, and two days extra rest for Ballinamallard, who face Crusaders that same night.

Talking of rearrangements, Linfield’s Irish Cup Semi-Final against Lurgan Celtic had been changed from Friday 1st April to Saturday 2nd April. Sadly, the ridiculous ticket prices and ticket purchasing arrangements are still in place, meaning i’ll be giving this game a miss.

Not complaining about the new date, as it means more rest time between games, playing Tuesday-Saturday instead of Tuesday-Friday.

I do feel sorry for supporters of the four Semi-Finalists who’ve had to change plans they’ve put in place to attend based on the original dates.

There’s no reason why both games couldn’t be played on Saturday 2nd April at other grounds.

Windsor Park should only be used in an Irish Cup Semi-final if Glentoran are involved. And even then, that would be dependent on who their opponents are.

Next for me, is Wales v Northern Ireland. I’m basing myself in South-West England and taking in Bristol Rovers v Cambridge as well while i’m over.

Bristol Rovers are currently 3rd in League Two, aiming for successive promotions. They had a good win today, 4-1 away to Newport County, avenging their 4-1 home defeat to Newport earlier in the season.

As you can imagine, not a good day for Warren Feeney. Thankfully, his former club had a good day.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 18.3.2016

1. The 1975 – The Sound
2. Jake Bugg – Gimme The Love
3. James – Nothing But Love
4. The Last Shadow Puppets – Aviation
5. Gwen Stefani – Misery

First of all, apologies for not doing a St Paddy’s Day chart for you last week. I forgot. Too busy doing a Red Hot Chilli Peppers one.

Still, here’s some songs for you to get through your hangover today.


1. Wonder Villains – TV
2. Ash – A Life Less Ordinary
3. The Adventures – Broken Land
4. The Divine Comedy – The Pop Singer’s Fear Of The Pollen Count
5. Baltimora – Tarzan Boy


1. U2 – The Fly
2. Heathers – Remember When
3. Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl
4. The Cranberries – Dream
5. Kodaline – High Hopes

Meanwhile, this week saw the latest Belsonic headliner announced – Chemical Brothers. I love Chemical Brothers, but live dance music doesn’t do it for me. Anyway, i’ll be in France when they are in Belfast.

I saw them live at T In The Park once, so if you are going, you’ll probably have a good night.

Now, if Belsonic could hurry up and get Noel Gallagher, The 1975, Chvrches and Madness to do headline gigs, that would be nice. I’m not asking for much.

Anyway, here’s a Chemical Brothers chart for you.


1. Go
2. Galvanize
3. Do It Again
4. The Test
5. Out Of Control


It’s the tail end of the 1960s, and it’s Jimmy Hill’s Football Weekly, a weekly magazine fronted by the multi talented Jimmy Hill (who died late last year), who was then a pundit for ITV.

You can’t really imagine Andy Townsend’s Football Weekly, can you?

Jimmy Hill uses his column to criticise a BBC reporter who was quick to criticise a recent Chelsea v Arsenal game, likening it to a playground game.

Johnny Morrissey of Everton writes a column and John Robson of Derby County gets a profile.

Ralph Brand, who has played top flight football in England and Scotland, is currently attending a Coaching School with the SFA, and writes a column claiming that Scotland is years behind in terms of coaching tactics.

Bobby Moncur of Newcastle United gets drawn by Ron Davies of Southampton.

There is a full page feature on Fulham, while future Fulham player George Best has a column, where he expresses his frustration at not being able to play for Northern Ireland in their World Cup Qualifier away to Soviet Union as he was playing in a League Cup tie for Manchester United.

Getting in early for the Christmas Market, there is an advert for Jimmy Hill’s Soccer 70, billed as “The best annual on the market”

Alan Birchenall of Chelsea has a column, where he states that footballers in the South of England are just as hard as their counterparts in the North.

There is a book review, of George Best’s Soccer Annual (strange to review a competitor to Jimmy’s own in the annual market) which gets a favourable review, despite the lack of colour photographs.

Ben Arentoft, a Dane playing at Newcastle United gets a profile, where he reveals his favourite meal is Roast Pork.

On the back cover, there was a poster of Brian Kidd of Mancheaster United.


Linfield celebrated their 130th anniversary this week, welcoming Glentoran to Windsor Park, hoping to get a win against their rivals throughout those 130 years.

Glentoran are usually the visitors to Windsor Park for milestone occasions, a 1-0 win for Linfield was the first game at Windsor Park in 1905, while a 2-0 win for Glentoran was the last league game at the venue before the current redevelopment.

This was supposed to be the first game for Linfield fans in the South Stand, but that was delayed, meaning they would be in the North Stand, their home for the last eighteen months, for what will probably be the last time.

Forgetting all the sentiment, today was all about getting three points for Linfield, to help Linfield’s aim of qualifying for Europe next season.

Linfield went straight on the attack, spending the early moments in Glentoran’s half. They almost got an early goal when a cross to Michael McLellan was overhit, but he challenged for the ball, causing Elliott Morris to miss it.

McLellan chased after the ball to set himself up for a shot, before Ross Gaynor took over (he was in a better position to shoot) and had his shot saved by Morris, which was headed home by Andrew Waterworth, only to see the effort ruled out for offside.

McLellan was in for Paul Smyth, who was suspended. Surprisingly perhaps, considering that Guy Bates had been on the bench ahead of McLellan today.

McLellan got into a lot of good positions and had some bright ideas, but it generally didn’t happen for him today.

Waterworth’s disallowed goal was followed by a flurry of Linfield corners, with Glentoran having to get bodies in the way to block when Linfeild players had the ball.

Whenever Glentoran players had the ball, it wasn’t for long, as Linfield players were usually snapping in to win the ball and go straight on the attack. More often than not, it was Jamie Mulgrew winning the ball.

Most of Linfield’s attacking play involved getting the ball to Ross Gaynor as much as possible. A sound idea, as he was winning every battle he was having with Barry Holland.

It was now just a matter of time before Linfield went in front, and it came from the penalty spot after a handball in the box.

With Aaron Burns on the substitutes bench, there was no arguement as to who would take it, Ross Gaynor firing home to put Linfield in front.

Soon after, Andrew Waterworth was able to break free and run towards goal, but Elliott Morris was quickly out to deny him a clear shooting opportunity.

Mark Stafford headed over the bar as Linfield looked for the seond goal that would kill the game.

Many times, during the Coyle/Jeffrey Era, Linfield would be outplaying Glentoran and have a 1-0 lead, yet would somehow let them away with it. Especially if it was a 1-0 half-time lead.

Today, there was never a fear of that happening.

Despite dominating the game, a 1-0 lead is still precious. Linfield were given a warning in the early minutes of the second-half when Fra McCaffrey headed wide from close ranger when he should have scored.

Glentoran had offered more as an attacking force in the early minutes of the second-half than in the whole of the first-half. Thankfully, Linfield were able to ride that out.

Glentoran were trying to pass it out from the back, but not doing it well, all too often starting a Linfield attack with a misplaced pass in their own half, though Linfield were unable to take advantage of these gifts.

Andrew Waterworth managed to get some space in the box before firing straight at Morris, before doing likewise when shooting from a wide angle later on.

Guy Bates, on as a substitute, headed over as Linfield desperately searched for a second goal.

Their task got a bit easier when Calum Birney was sent-off for a second booking.

Eventually, Glentoran’s sloppy passing was punished when Morris only cleared it as far as Aaron Burns, on as a substitute, to fire home.

That was it, the game was won.

David Healy used the opportunity to bring on Stephen Lowry for the final moments as he recovers from injury. Despite not being on the pitch a long time, he had time to set up Ross Gaynor with his second of the game in injury time to make it 3-0.

Inbetween those goals, Chris Morrow hit the bar for Glentoran. It was their only effort on goal of note.

The biggest thing to take from today’s game was that nobody noticed that Linfield were missing Paul Smyth and Jimmy Callacher, both absent through suspension. I’m not sure which team that reflected on the most.

Both will be back for the trip to Solitude next week, and Stephen Lowry setting out on the road to recovery, there’s a lot of options for Linfield to choose from. For the first time in a long time, Linfield now have a strong bench of players who can win a game.

Other results today went in Linfield’s favour. Crusaders were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Ballymena United, the assistance of Agent Jeffrey (The Irish League era of no Coyle, Jeffrey or McFall I wrote about last week only lasted for a whopping two days) being gratefully received. If he fancies taking charge of Carrick Rangers for the next ten days, that would be great.

With games against Cliftonville and Glenavon to come before the split, hopefully Jeffrey can inspire an unbeaten start to his first couple of games at Ballymena.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville were held to a 2-2 draw by Dungannon Swifts. This means Linfield have a five point gap over Cliftonville in the race for Europe. It could be eight next week if Linfield win at Solitude.

Whilst Linfield have ambitions of overtaking Crusaders, it will be nice to launch that attack not having to worry about teams below us.

Crusaders gap has been cut to five points, albeit with a game in hand. That game is against Carrick Rangers (they actually play them away twice in four days) which you would expect them to win.

Though, Carrick have got points against Linfield, Cliftonville and Glenavon, so maybe they are due one against Crusaders.

We can hope. The important thing is, that Linfield help themselves, and put Crusaders under as much pressure as possible.

Elsewhere, the details of the arrangements for the Irish Cup Semi-Finals were confirmed this week. Last week, i’d written about the choice of venues being wrong. Linfield v Lurgan Celtic should be at Mourneview Park while Glenavon v Crusaders should be at The Oval.

Well, the arrangements have just got farcical. The prices for tickets were announced as £15. Yes, you read that right – £15.

In 2013, I was in Glasgow one weekend, and took in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final between Falkirk and Hibs for £15.

£15 is good value for a Scottish Cup Semi-Final. It is not good value for an Irish Cup Semi-Final.

At the moment, i’m going to give the game against Lurgan Celtic a miss. My view may change between now and 1st April, but as it stands, i’ll give this game a miss.

To add insult to injury, tickets will only be on sale via Ticketmaster.

I’ve no issue with Ticketmaster, as long as they are being used as a compliment to, not an alternative to clubs selling tickets themselves.

In fact, some people will prefer Ticketmaster, if they are unable to get to their club’s stadium on a non matchday due to work or personal commitments.

Ticketmaster sell for music venues in Belfast such as Ulster Hall, The Limelight and The Odyssey. Music fans can go to the Venue Box Office and buy the tickets themselves if they wish.

Ticketmaster sell for Ulster Rugby. Rugby fans can go to Ravenhill to buy a ticket if they wish.

Why should football fans be any different? Why aren’t football fans able to go to a Venue (in this case, their club’s shop) Box Office to buy a ticket?

A statement made by Crusaders states that the four clubs have been offered 500 tickets to sell themselves. Not enough for Linfield, Crusaders or Glenavon fans. More than likely not enough for Lurgan Celtic, who will experience a spike in interest due to playing in their first ever Irish Cup Semi-final.

This will also put off neutrals, who may have been tempted to attend one or both games, especially as they will now be able to buy a ticket without having to travel to Belfast or Lurgan.

Both Semi-Finals have a good narrative. Rejuvinated Linfield v Giantkillers who caused Europe’s longest serving manager to resign and 2014 Cup Winners v 2015 League Champions.

Those in power should be making it easier for fans to attend these games.

This comes after the farce over Euro 2016 ticket allocations, supporters buying a ticket being charged a £6 delivery fee for Wales tickets.

For a £6 delivery fee, i’d expect the tickets to be personally hand delivered by Kyle Lafferty.

2016 was always going to be a memorable year for football in Northern Ireland. Sadly, it’s going to be remembered as the year football fans were continually ripped-off.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 11.3.2016

1. Ladyhawke – A Love Song
2. Stereophonics – White Lies
3. James – Nothing But Love
4. Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend
5. Lukas Graham – 7 Years

So, the rumours are true, Red Hot Chili Peppers will be coming to Belfast in August for Tennent’s Vital. The tickets go on sale this morning. Sorry to sound smug, but i’ve already got a ticket in the pre-sale.

To get you in the mood, here’s a RHCP Top Five.


1. The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie
2. Cabron
3. Snow
4. Zephyr Song
5. Dani California


A shirtless Brett Anderson is the cover star of Q in early 1993, accompanied by the headline “The band of 1993”

Oliver Reed feels the wrath of Q’s “Who The Hell Does …..” column a few pages in.

In news, Later With Jools Holland has got a new series and an earlier timeslot, now going out at 10pm on a Friday. Nicky Wire got into trouble after yelling “I hope Michael Stipe goes the same way as Freddie Mercury” at a gig, prompting some fans to give him a mouthful after the gig.

Meanwhile, The Edge’s dog ran away from home.

In other news, the tree that Marc Bolan hit when he died has shown signs of decay and might have to be chopped down. Factory records has collapsed under £2m of debt

The Levellers, having had a successful year, are the subject of a three page feature.

1992 gets a 12 page review, looking back at the events of the year, a year when U2 and Nirvana went big in different ways.

Shane MacGowan gets a five page interview, which stereotypically takes place in a wine bar.

In adverts, British Waterways are advertising Countryside Holidays, promoting the value of water based activities.

Bryan Ferry is on the comeback trail and doing his first interview in five years, and doesn’t react well to jibes about him being a country gent, saying “I lived in the country for a bit but I was never a fully paid-up Land Rover driver, though I have Wellington boots, both green and black”

Q gives four pages to cover stars Suede, stating that they are doing for Haywards Heath what Paul Weller has done for Woking, describing Suede as “Britain’s sexiest band, bringing back glamour not seen since Roxy Music”, nicely linking in with Bryan Ferry’s interview a few pages earlier.

There is then a double page feature on how the music scene in 1993 resembles the scene in 1973, while jokingly pointing out that some of 1973’s biggest stars are still going strong in terms of album sales in 1993.

In reviews, Ian McShane has brought out an album. Yes, that Ian McShane, Lovejoy. Or Deadwood, if you prefer. Q only gave him one star.

Riding high in the album charts this month were Cher, Erasure, Michael Bolton, Gloria Estefan, Genesis and Simple Minds.

After Neil Young went on the warpath against digital music the previous month, John Bauldie meets musicians who still record using analogue.


It was all about the Irish Cup today as Linfield arrived at Solitude looking to get their first win at the North Belfast venue since 2012, the last time they won the Irish Cup.

The tie of the round, we almost got a dramatic early goal in the first minute when Davy McDaid flicked the ball over Mark Haughey to get himself into a shooting position, but Gareth Deane was quick off his line to save the shot.

Deane was in the team due to Ross Glendinning being suspended following his red card last week. It’s a lazy cliche that pundits use that a goalkeeper coming into a team needs a good touch. This was a good touch for him, but one Linfield would rather he not be having.

Linfield were nervous in defence, conceding cheap possession in their own defensive third. Thankfully, Cliftonville weren’t able to capitalise on it.

Gradually, Linfield got more into it. Their first shot at goal came when Matthew Clarke fired a free kick over the bar.

A corner kick then evaded everybody and fell to Andrew Waterworth. That wasn’t the plan, but it almost worked, but unfortunately, his shot was tipped over the bar by Conor Devlin.

Linfield then had a flurry of corner kicks, with Jimmy Callacher being a menace in the Cliftonville box, having a header which needed headed behind (it was goalwards but probably would have hit the post) and then heading just over.

Jay Donnelly, who scored the winner when the sides last met in November, forced Deane into a save. It was the sort of save that you would expect a competent goalkeeper to make.

Despite the fact that Cliftonville’s attacking players were more involved in the game than Linfield’s, there didn’t appear to any immediate threat of a goal from Cliftonville.

Gareth Deane didn’t have a lot to do, but what he did have to do, he did well.

It wasn’t the best game of football, and Linfield hadn’t played well, but they were more than in game, and would have 45 minutes attacking their own fans.

Without having a shot on goal, Linfield made a better start to the second-half, having more possession in Cliftonville’s half and looking more cohesive going forward.

On 55 minutes, they got the breakthrough, when the ball was flicked through to Ross Gaynor, who had enough space on the edge of the box to toepoke it past Conor Devlin.

This was the sort of game where getting the first goal would be so important. Linfield had it, and were now ready to make the most of it.

Cliftonville had their chances at 1-0, Johnny Flynn heading at Deane while McDaid dragged a shot wide of the post. Linfield supporters at the other end thought the ball was going in for 1-1.

Despite that, there was never a time when I thought Cliftonville would score, even allowing for a combination of my natural pessimism and Linfield’s awful run of form in this fixture of the last couple of years.

However, 1-0 is a dangerous lead, and Linfield needed a 2nd just to be sure.

On 75 minutes, they got it when Kirk Millar, on as a substitute for Aaron Burns, played a ball to Andrew Waterworth who got just enough space behind his man to fire home.

Being 2-0 up against Cliftonville has been problematic for Linfield in recent years, blowing that lead twice in 2015 to draw league matches. That was never going to happen today.

In those two previously mentioned games, Linfield had their 2-0 lead at half-time. It might sound stupid, but it’s easier to make a comeback at half-time rather than after 75 minutes. You have 15 minutes to plan how to do it nad get your point across. It’s not so easy to do the same ingame.

There’s another factor to take in, Linfield are now a better team than they were in February 2015 and October 2015.

Cliftonville didn’t appear to have anybody who knew how to get them out of this mess. Their fans knew it, and they began to head for the exits before the game had restarted.

In both of those games, Cliftonville had made their comeback by goals in quick succession, so the game wasn’t won for Linfield yet. Cliftonville looked devoid of attacking ideas. As each minute passed, Linfield fans knew the job was done.

In fact, it was Linfield who looked most likely to score, with Mark Stafford heading against the bar from a corner.

After a quiet first-half, Paul Smyth was more involved as an attacking force in the second-half. His presence alone put fear in Cliftonville’s players, with them chasing the game playing right into his hands.

In injury time, he got an opportunity to run at Cliftonville’s defence, getting past his man before being fouled by Conor Devlin for a penalty.

Linfield fans wanted a red card, that was never going to happen, as just a yellow card given.

With Aaron Burns substituted, there was going to be no repeat of last week’s battle for the ball, as Ross Gaynor fired home to make it 3-0.

The red card for Conor Devlin that Linfield fans had wanted for the penalty came after the penalty, when he got a second yellow card for kicking the ball at Gaynor during his celebration.

It was the second successive Linfield match that had a red card for a goalkeeper. Like last week, the team who had the goalkeeper sent-off didn’t have a replacement on the bench, so an outfield player had to go into goal – in this case Johnny Flynn.

There was still time for another red card, with Caoimhin Bonner getting a second yellow for a foul on Guy Bates.

The only downpoint of the afternoon for Linfield fans was that Cliftonville’s implosion didn’t come 10 minutes earlier.

The draw for the Semi-Finals saw Linfield paired with Lurgan Celtic, who beat Portadown 3-2, a result that saw Ronnie McFall resign after the game after 29 (TWENTY-NINE) years in charge.

It’s hard to imagine an Irish League without Ronnie McFall, Roy Coyle and David Jeffrey on the touchline, but that’s where we are. Football waits for nobody and the game continues regardless.

That game will be played on Friday 1st April at Windsor Park. Can’t say i’m particularly keen on both date and venue. It should be a Saturday 3pm game at Mourneview Park with Crusaders v Glenavon being at The Oval on the same day.

Without sounding arrogant, but it’s a game that Linfield should win. There’s still a lot to play for in the season. The title might be ultimately too much to ask for this season, but it’s important to finish the season strongly and set down a marker for next season.

At some point during the split, Linfield fans will be able to use the South Stand for the first time. Hopefully, they’ll be getting to use it on May 7th.

Photo Album