DUNGANNON SWIFTS 1-4 LINFIELD 28.1.2017

Four as very much the number that mattered today as Linfield began the first of four games on the road, hoping that results would go their way and the gap at the top of the table would be reduced to four points. The got four goals, but the gap remained at seven.

It was Dungannon who had the better of the play in the opening minutes, causing Linfield more problems with their attacks than Linfield were causing them, a couple of corners having to be cleared and Ryan Harper firing a shot just wide.

However, it was Linfield who took the lead with their first attack when Mark Haughey headed a Stephen Lowry freekick into the net. As soon as it left his head it was going in, Dungannon’s keeper didn’t stand a chance.

Haughey had put Linfield 1-0 up when the teams met in August, but Linfield put in a disjointed performance and only managed a 1-1 draw. Their performance today prior to the goal mirrored the performance that day. They were hoping this time they would kick on and put in a performance similar to their visit to Dungannon in November.

Unfortunately, we got a repeat of the performance in August, the biggest moment of worry coming when a misplaced Jimmy Callacher pass almost presented Dungannon with an opportunity.

Linfield were dealt a blow just after the half hour when Aaron Burns came off with a shoulder injury. Surprisingly, it was Cameron Stewart who got the nod to play upfront ahead of Kevin Amuneke.

A few minutes later, they were dealt and even bigger blow when Dungannon equalised after Ally Teggart scored from close range. It was too easy for Dungannon, from playing it out from the left-back position, to getting the ball crossed from a right wing position. It was deserved for Dungannon.

The only positive for Linfield was, that this situation came in the first-half when they could do something about it at half-time, instead of in the second-half when there was no chance to rectify the situation, as when the sides met in August.

Linfield had their chances to go in at half-time in front when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot blocked behind by a Dungannon defender, but for some reason a goal kick was awarded.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s performance improved at the start of the second-half, with Andrew Waterworth volleying over in the penalty area, before getting on the end of a Stephen Fallon cross to fire home from close range to put Linfield back in front.

Within a minute, Cameron Stewart took advantage of a mix-up in Dungannon’s defence to head home from close range to make it 3-1.

That was the game almost won for Linfield. They had to make sure they did nothing stupid in defence to make the final moments more exciting than they should be.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Jimmy Callacher finished from close range to make it 4-1. That definitely was the game won for Linfield.

The game became a non event in the final minutes, as Linfield ran out 4-1 winners.

Wins for Crusaders and Cliftonville meant hat nothing changed at the top of the table, Linfield sit 7 points off top and are 6 points clear of 3rd.

Next week (for everyone barring Ards and Carrick) the league takes a break. Linfield face the bottom five in five of their next six games. That is an opportunity to go on a winning run and gather some momentum. If we don’t, we don’t deserve to win the league.

All we can do is keep winning and hoping. The title race is far from over.

Next Saturday, is Institute away in the Irish Cup.

For me, there is a midweek trip to England to see Manchester United take on Hull on Wednesday night. I’ll be there from Tuesday to Thursday. I’d planned on going to Wigan v Norwich on Tuesday night but that has been postponed, but now i’m toying with the idea of Burnley v Leicester. Still undecided.

I know what you’re thinking, BURNLEY CAN FUCK OFF.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 16.11.1985

Pat Jennings is the cover star of Shoot, as he gets ready to face England at Wembley in a World Cup Qualifier knowing that a point will be enough for Northern Ireland to go to their second successive finals.

Going into this game, England Under 21 manager Dave Sexton suggests that Terry Fenwick is the man senior manager Bobby Robson should turn to should Kenny Sansom get injured.

Should Northern Ireland reach Mexico, Martin O’Neill is planning to undergo surgery in a bid to be fit for it, having previously considered retirement due to his injury problems.

Wales are going in to their Euro 88 campaign minus Mark Hughes for three matches due to a red card he got playing in an underage international in 1983, and have launched an appeal to get this quashed.

Betty Westmancoat (Walsall) and John Westmancoat (West Bromwich Albion) made history by being the first husband and wife duo to be Club Secretary at two different clubs.

Ahead of the big game at Wembley, Bryan Robson uses his column to declare that England won’t make it easy for Northern Ireland, as Northern Ireland aim to reach Mexico.

Pat Jennings gets a double page feature, as he becomes the world’s joint most capped goalkeeper, and announced he will retire at Wembley regardless of the result.

In this feature, it is revealed that England manager Bobby Robson tried to bring him to Ipswich Town in 1977, but lost out to Arsenal.

Jennings retirement sees Shoot look at the goalkeeper options for the future, which Shoot narrows down to Eric McManus, Jim Platt and George Dunlop.

Republic Of Ireland are out of Mexico 86, but are defending a 13 year unbeaten home record in competitive internationals as they face Denmark at Lansdowne Road.

Eoin Hand has already announced his departure as manager, and Shoot has linked John Giles, Liam Touhy, and Jim McLaughlin, having ruled out Jack Charlton and Bob Paisley due to the FAI being unlikely to appoint a non Irish manager.

Shoot asks four foreign stars to assess England’s chances in Mexico, with Paolo Rossi saying they can win it, while Michel Platini, Jose Camacho and Manuel Bento saying that they can’t.

Glenn Hoddle is this week’s “Focus On …..” where he reveals that his favourite music was The Eagles, but it is now Don Henley and Phil Collins. He loves his singing drummers.

A future team-mate of Hoddle could be Gordon Durie, with Tottenham joining Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for his signature, with Hibs placing a £300,000 price tag on him.

Alan Sinclair of Glasgow writes to Jimmy Greaves to complain about Andy Goram’s call-up to the Scotland squad, as he was born in England, while Andrea Pepper in Carrick says that Northern Ireland won’t need any favours in the forthcoming World Cup Qualifier.

Reading get a profile, while Peter Reid uses his column to reveal he fears missing out on a World Cup place as his injury gives others a chance to stake a claim in the team.

Alan Davies gets a profile, telling Shoot that he is enjoying playing for Newcastle United every week.

WINTER IS COMING

Spotted this on Twitter so decided to go out and get some photos of it, a new mural in Belfast City Centre of Jon Snow.

It’s not the guy from Channel 4 News, but the guy from Game Of Thrones, apparantly. Gonna let you in on a little secret, i’ve never seen Game Of Thrones and i’ve no real desire to. It’s just not something that interests me.

I’m probably the only person in Northern Ireland who hasn’t seen Game Of Thrones. I should probably be a tourist attraction in my own right.

If you’re looking for it, you can find it on Lower Garfield Street, opposite Aether and Echo.

The piece was painted by an artist known as Visual Waste, his work is a familiar sight in Belfast.

He has a video on his Youtube channel showing how he painted it.

Enjoy.

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LEIA

Another week, another mural in Belfast paying tribute to a recently deceased celebrity. This time it is Carrie Fisher, who died in the final days of 2016.

This is in the East of the city in Loopland Park, just off the Cregagh Road. If you’re unfamiliar with the Cregagh Road and/or East Belfast, just head to Wyse Byse, cross the road and you can’t miss it.

Unsurprisingly, the mural is of her in the role that made her famous, of Princess Leia in Star Wars.

If she was painted holding a gun, the artist might have been able to get funding from a government department by claiming it was a community project.

I became aware of this mural when somebody RT’ed this post onto my timeline on Twitter.

The next night, I headed over to investigate and take a look. The problem with this time of year is that there is no natural light in the evenings, making it hard to get decent photos. Having a day job means I can’t get out during the day to have a look.

I returned the following Sunday to have a look but it was still a work in progress. The artist left a note to say so.

I kept coming back over the next few nights to check on the progress. By the Wednesday night, the note saying “Work in progress” had now changed to “Almost there”

And who was the artist? Glen Molloy.

Does that name sound familiar? Yes, he’s been featured regularly on this blog over the past few months, doing the “Wall Of Legends” near the Royal Mail, a mural on Great Victoria Street highlighting the plight of homeless people, and a tribute in Botanic to Prince and George Michael.

Where will he strike next?

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LINFIELD 2-0 BALLYMENA UNITED 21.1.2017

After two Saturdays on the road, Linfield returned to Windsor Park hoping to rectify poor home form which has contributed to them kicking off seven points behind Crusaders. Today was the first Saturday game at Windsor Park since December 17th 2016, five weeks ago, when Ballymena united, incidentally, were the visitors to Windsor Park.

Linfield’s dramatic win that day saw them be five points behind Crusaders. Poor home results since then against Glentoran and Coleraine have seen the gap increase to seven points.

Linfield got off to a slow start, with Joe McKinney having the first shot on goal for Ballymena when his shot was saved by Roy Carroll.

Eventually, Linfield got more into the game and the pressure began to build. Aaron Burns had a head just wide from close range and he couldn’t get an opportunity to adjust his body.

That pressure was soon rewarded when Alan Blayney could only palm out a Ross Gaynor free-kick, and Stephen Lowry was first to the loose ball, creating enough space to drill the ball across, landing at Mark Stafford who guided the ball into the net via a Ballymena defender. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as his goal against Ballymena last month, but it was just as important.

Aaron Burns got a header goalwards from the next set piece, but a better execution didn’t bring a better result, as he was denied by a Ballymena defencer heading away.

The next time the ball was cleared off the line came at the other end of the pitch when Conor McCloskey was denied, before Johnny McMurray had a volley saved by Carroll, reminding Linfield that this game was far from won.

Sandwiched inbetween, Andrew Waterworth was able to pull away from Ballymena’s defence, but his low drive was saved by Alan Blayney.

Linfield went in search of a second goal that would clinch the game at the start of the second-half that would more than likely clinch the game.

Aaron Burns was played through but was on his right foot. The delay in setting himself onto this left foot allowed Jim Ervin to get a block in and deflect the ball over.

Burns was soon to get the feeling that today was not to be his day when he got in behind Ballymena’s defence, lobbed the ball over Blayney, only to see the ball hit the bar.

Linfield fans were soon feeling similar. That’s the sort of chance you rue when you drop two points.

As Linfield chased the clinching goal, David Healy turned to his bench, with Kirk Millar coming on for Stephen Fallon, while Cameron Stewart came on for Ross Gaynor.

That goal became even more essential as Linfield were soon reminded of the perils of a one goal lead when Conor McCloskey fired just wide from a good position.

Cameron Stewart’s first involvement in the game came when he got a yellow card for kicking the ball away at a free-kick. No complaints about that. However, a Ballymena player did the same thing in the first-half and wasn’t booked.

That’s the sort of consistency we all love from Irish League referees.

Finally, Linfield got the goal they needed, when Andrew Waterworth got in behind Ballymena’s defence, took his time, and then took some more time, before eventually putting the ball in the net.

Ballymena might have been able to score one, they were never going to score two. The game was won for Linfield.

The atmosphere soon reflected that around Windsor Park, as Linfield fans began to feel more relaxed.

Stewart created space for himself in the box, and decided to set up Matthew Clarke rather than going for goal himself, the shot going just wide.

It was now time for Kevin Amuneke to make his Linfield debut. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get many chances due to the level of attacking not being as intense when you lead 2-0 with less then ten minutes to go. He did get into some good positions when the ball was out wide, the delivery not quite going to him

Ballymena tried to make the final moments nervous for Linfield, with Roy Carroll once agains denying Johnny McMurray, as Linfield got a long awaited clean sheet, their first since the match against Ards on December 10th.

Sandwiched inbetween Crusaders and Cliftonville, there was always going to be a result going Linfield’s way at Seaview when the sides met.

A 1-0 win for Crusaders meant that Linfield pulled six points clear of Cliftonville but still remain seven points behind Crusaders.

However, fixtures over the coming weeks before the split (yes, it’s the time of year when we can actually start talking about the split) offer Linfield a chance to gather some winning momentum.

That’s not arrogance, Dungannon-Carrick-Portadown-Glentoran-Cliftonville-Ards-Ballinamallard is a run of games Linfield should be getting maxiumum points from going into the split.

Crusaders meanwhile, have games against Glenavon and Ballymena coming up, as well as a trip to Coleraine in March. Just a pity that game against Coleraine wasn’t sooner, given the run of form they are on.

That match against Ballymena is the week before the League Cup Final. Half assed saving themselves or highly motivated with cup final places up for grabs? Hopefully the latter.

Meanwhile, tickets for the County Antrim Shield Final went on sale, Linfield’s last home match before that game. Not sure why it needs to be ticketed when Linfield have never been ticketed at Ballymena for a League game.

Carrick Rangers have announced that Linfield’s visit there in February will be all ticket. Logically, that would suggest it will be all ticket for Linfield fans.

If it is, there are no home games for Linfield between now and then. You’d think they would have known about this and made tickets available for Linfield fans earlier, especially as Linfield’s visit there in August 2015 (at eleven days notice) was ticketed. I wasn’t at the game in September 2016 so I don’t know if that was ticketed.

Talk about making it difficult for people to attend.

Oh, and I finally got round to purchasing Every Other Saturday. Looking forward to getting stuck into this.

Up next, a trip to Dungannon, and hopefully the start of the charge.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 20.1.2017

1. Amy MacDonald – Dream On
2. Gotye ft Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know In The 80s
3. Biffy Clyro – Flammable
4. David Bowie – Killing A Little Time
5. Iggy Pop – Gold

Next Thursday, sees Australia Day. Any excuse for a chart. Here’s some Australian songs for you.

FIVE SONGS BY AUSTRALIAN ACTS

1. Steffan Dennis – Don’t It Make You Feel Good
2. Kylie Minogue – Better Than Today
3. INXS – Baby Don’t Cry
4. The Temper Trap – Fall Together
5. Angry Anderson – Suddenly

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 12.10.1985

Norman Whiteside, still only twenty years old, is this week’s cover star, as Shoot reveals what he is really like.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page article called Tottenham Scotspur, focusing on the lack of Scottish talent at White Hart Lane, with only youngster Ally Dick being on the books.

Dick is described as a name for tomorrow, but his tomorrow would be outside the UK, most notably at Ajax, where he was a substitute in the 1988 European Cup Winners Cup Final.

Shoot suggests Scottish talent who Spurs should sign, such as Paul McStay, Maurice Malpas, Jim Leighton (who would end up across North London at Arsenal for a short loan spell in 1991) and Richard Gough, who would sign for Spurs the following summer.

In news, Kevin Keegan has quit England to live in Spain so he can play Golf all year round.

Ian Rush uses his column to reveal that new Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is much tougher than his predecessors Joe Fagin and Bob Paisley.

The FAI invoked a UEFA rule to stop RTE showing live coverage of top flight games in England on a Saturday afternoon, to stop viewers in Northern Ireland watching it instead of attending games at Irish League clubs. Their own domestic league, League Of Ireland, would have been unaffected due to playing on Sundays.

Having suggested possible signings for Spurs earlier, Shoot report that Spurs are looking at signing either Alvin Martin or Steve Bruce.

Bryan Robson uses his column to appeal to referees to stop allowing goalkeepers to move before a penalty kick is taken.

Charlie Nicholas recent goal against Coventry gets a double page photo collage.

Cover star Norman Whiteside gets a double page spread, where he is described as a tough guy with a soft centre, and reveals that he misses Gordon McQueen in the dressing room, who he describes as almost as funny as Jimmy Cricket.

Shoot goes behind the scenes at Aberdeen, where manager Alex Ferguson says the basis of their success (prophetically, considering his future success at Manchester United) is young players brought through the club. He also describes cook Belle Morrison as his bets signing.

When this magazine went to print, there was no coverage of English football on TV (contradicting the earlier story about RTE) meaning no games were filmed. The impact was felt abroad, as Scandinavian fans were now deserting English clubs for Italian and West German sides, with both league now being broadcast there instead.

Brian Clough uses his column to reveal that he’ll miss recently departed Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy supplying him with strawberries whenever his side visits The Dell, and expresses his opposition to the idea of groundsharing in England.

Lee Chapman of Sheffield Wednesday has a simple ambition for this season, to get more goals than stitches.

Tommy Cannon, described as “The suave half of Cannon and Ball”, gets a full page feature having just joined the board at Rochdale. The story is accompanied by a picture of him posing in a Rochdale kit.

Frank McGarvey, enjoying a successful second spell at St Mirren, tells Shoot he regrets not staying at Liverpool longer.

Steve Hodge, a recent Aston Villa signing, tells Shoot he has joined “A team of the future”. Aston Villa were relegated in 1987, by which point Hodge had left to sign for Tottenham Hotspur.

Charlton Athletic get a feature, as they are forced to moved out of The Valley due to it not being considered safe, and are playing their first match at Selhurst Park. Charlton wouldn’t play at The Valley again until 1992.

GLENAVON 1-2 LINFIELD 14.1.2016

After the Irish Cup last week, it was back to League action for Linfield and a trip to Mourneview Park, a ground that was once kind to them but they have now struggled at – their last meaningful win (they did win on the last day of last season, but it was two reserve teams with nothing to play for) there coming in November 2014 – as they aimed to keep pace with Crusaders at the top of the table.

Glenavon have blown hot and cold this season. Even if they were 4-0 up in stoppage time, you’d still be expecting Linfield to get something. Linfield fans have already seen Glenavon’s ridiculousness this season first hand, blowing a 2-0 lead against nine man (for 80 minutes) Linfield in November.

After that game, Linfield trailed Crusaders by four points. At kick-off, it was seven. It simply couldn’t get any bigger.

Sean Ward came in for the suspended Jamie Mulgrew, while Kirk Millar and Ross Gaynor were rewarded for their substitute appearances at The Oval last week with a start today.

Linfield made a good start to the game, and I don’t mean by going through the first ten minutes without a red card.

Ross Gaynor forced Jonathan Tuffey to tip his cross over the bar, just as Aaron Burns was ready to pounce. Andrew Waterworth had a snapshot from the edge of the box, similar to his goal at Mourneview Park in November 2014, but this time, it was turned around the post for a corner.

Aaron Burns and Mark Haughey both had headers wide from close range as Linfield’s pressure continued without reward.

They did eventually get their reward when an Andrew Waterworth flick played Aaron Burns through on goal. As he ran through, there was no doubt that he was going to score. I thought he was going to fire it across goal, instead he just blasted it in at the near post. Linfield fans didn’t care, their team had got the goal their play deserved.

With the half-time whistle approaching, Linfield searched for the second goal that would change the dynamic of the half-time team talk. They thought they had it when Mark Stafford finished from close range, but it was ruled out belatedly for a handball in the build up.

It looked like a handball by a Linfield player from where I was sat, the only issue was that the referee waited so long to make a decision instead of blowing his whistle instantly, especially as Stafford had taken his time to compose himself and score.

Having failed to make their superiority count in the first-half, Linfield were hoping not to pay for it in the second-half as they chased the second goal that would surely have secured the three points.

The pressure continued with Andrew Waterworth firing just wide, and Aaron Burns having an instinctive close range shot saved.

With there being only one goal in it, it was only natural that Glenavon would start to feel that a point would be there for the taking.

Despite having an increase in possession, Glenavon didn’t look like scoring. They got an opportunity from a soft penalty awarded for a handball by Mark Stafford, as he slid in to block a cross. Andy McGrory made no mistake from the spot to make it 1-1.

Naturally, Glenavon had their heads up. They had a few attacking situations but nothing that looked like getting a goal. Having ridden out the storm, Linfield now set their sights on getting a winner.

The game soon switched in Linfield’s favour when Ciaran Martyn got a second yellow card, the forth successive league match where there had been a player sent-off.

David Healy turned to his bench to try and take advantage of the extra man. It looked set for the introduction of former Nigeria international Kevin Amuneke. Instead it was Cameron Stewart, coming on for Kirk Millar, who was as bad and infuriating today as he was good last week. There’s a footballer there, it’s trying to get him on the pitch every week that’s the problem.

Stewart’s introduction saw Aaron Burns moved out wide. It was Stewart’s best performance in all of his brief cameo appearances for Linfield so far.

On 75 minutes, Linfield took the lead again when a through ball found it’s way to Andrew Waterworth who fired home via the help of a deflection.

You sensed there would be no way back for Glenavon, this late, and with ten men.

With only one goal in it, Linfield couldn’t get complacent in the final moments. As the game neared it’s end, it was Linfield who looked like getting the next goal, with Ross Gaynor having a free-kick just wide, while Sean Ward forced Tuffey into a save, which just about went out for a corner.

2 minutes and 40 seconds into 3 minutes injury time, it probably would have been better if Ward had fired it high, wide and out of the ground. It didn’t matter, as Linfield saw the game out in the final 20 seconds to record a 2-1 win with an Andrew Waterworth winner for the third successive Saturday.

So that’s where Linfield went wrong against Coleraine, it was on the wrong day of the week.

It made no difference in terms of the league table as all of the top four won. Linfield remain seven points off the top and three points clear of Cliftonville in third. There’ll be a chance to increase that lead next week when Cliftonville lie down for Crusaders at Seaview. It won’t be easy as Linfield welcome Ballymena United to Windsor Park, but having beaten them twice this season, there’s nothing to fear.

Most of the other football news this week has been dominated by cup competitions. It might have been a generous FA Cup draw for United (Wigan at home), but it means Wigan’s match against Norwich on 31st January has been postponed, meaning it’s unlikely i’ll get to see two games when i’m over for the Hull match on 1st February as there’s no other games in Greater Manchester on that night.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that from 2026, the World Cup will increase to 48 teams. There’s not enough facepalms to describe this idea. 32 teams was the right number and a simple format. 16 groups of 3 will lead to more negative football and more dead rubber games on matchday 3, as well as more potential Austria v West Germany type games if a team has suffered a heavy defeat in matchday 1 faces a team who won on matchday 1. That is despite the slight improvement in Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying, with Europe now having 16 teams from the current number of 13.

Though there will be the same amount of games as a 32 team tournament, the increased amount of teams will reduce the number of countries who can possibly host the tournament due to the increased infrastructure required.

Meanwhile, the venue for the final of the County Antrim Shield was decided this week as being Ballymena Showgrounds on 7th February. It should have been The Oval, but the venue holds good memories for Linfield fans, as it was where Linfield beat Crusaders in the 2014 Final.

There could be a potential symmetry to this. as the 2014 win was David Jeffrey’s last trophy as Linfield manager. This will represent an opportunity for David Healy to get his first trophy as Linfield manager. It could even be the springboard for a second or third in a few months time.

The venue of the end of one era could potentially host the start of a new one.

It was a bumper week for cup final venue announcements, with Seaview being confirmed as the venue for the League Cup Final. Tempted to try and get a ticket for the Carrick end. I bring them good luck when I see them in big games.

Next week, sees Linfield return to Windsor Park for the first time since that defeat to Coleraine. A lot has been written about Linfield’s poor home form this season. The truth is, it’s no worse than any other time over the past four seasons.

There was always going to be teething issues when the Windsor Park redevelopment was complete. It was always going to be a case of trial and error. Unfortunately, there seems to be more errors than expected.

For me, i’d like to see TVs into the new Viewing Lounge. Part of my matchday ritual was to check half-time scores from England and Scotland, and then rewatch what I have just witnessed on Final Score NI.

I even miss the social awkwardness of people waiting and looking at the bar staff, hoping that someone plucks up the courage to ask “Can you put on 101 please?”

I’d also like to see supporters be allowed to view the game from the balconies.

It is also worth trialling for a few games having Linfield fans having the option of being in the Railway Stand. It will take minimum effort and changes in terms of matchday operation, and will give the team a boost at matches seeing their fans behind on of the goals.

We’ve all seen it at away games when Linfield are chasing a goal and have fans behind the goal urging them on. It’s an advantage we’ve given away teams over the past three seasons, why are we denying ourselves this?

After Ballymena sees a run of games on the road over the next few weeks – Dungannon, Institue, Ballymena (to face Crusaders) and Carrick.

The last thing you do before going on a road trip is make sure everything is fine before you leave home. No better way to prepare for a series of road trips than to make a start in remedying poor home form.

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