BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1-2 LINFIELD

Matchday 33 is one of the milestone points in the Irish League season. Everybody has played each other three times, and now top and bottom are ready to breakaway, as the final five games of the season approach.

For Linfield, the fixture computer dealt them a repeat of the opening day of the season, an away trip to Ballinamallard.

As well as the fixture being the same as the opening day of the season, we even got August weather. The picnic area at Ferney Park would have been perfect if it had a view of the pitch, although the fact it didn’t would have been definite plus point in the opening 45 minutes.

It wasn’t a day for picnics and sunbathing in the Fermanagh sunshine, it was a day for three points. Vital at any time of the season, especially at this time of year.

Linfield began the game on the attack, Paul Smyth causing problems for Ballinamallard. When Ballinamallard had their first attack, they were more effective, with Ryan Mayse forcing Gareth Deane into a save. Dean was deputising for Roy Carroll, who has been called-up to the Northern Ireland squad for the match against Norway. Shane McGinty also forced him into a save, as Ballinamallard set about reminding Linfield that this was not going to be a stroll in the sunshine for them.

Kirk Millar had Linfield’s first attempt on goal, but his volley from inside the penalty area went over.

Linfield fans went into panic when Gareth Deane went walkabout, losing possession to Ryan Mayse in the left back position, his goalward shot only hitting the side netting.

Jimmt Callacher had a header saved as Linfield looked to find an end product that their pressure and possession had so far failed to provide.

Ballinamallard took the lead when Ryan Curran got enough space to fire a shot past Dean from just outside the penalty area. It had been coming. It was the first time that Ballinamallard had ever led Linfield at Ferney PArk. What a time for it to happen, at both ends of the table.

Linfield responded. They had to. Andrew Waterworth broke into the penalty area and had his shot saved. Mark Haughey had a penalty appeal turned down, before heading over.

Niall Quinn was next to have a header over as Linfield started to play, thirty minutes later than they should have. He was then followed by Kirk Millar. Both should have forced the keeper into a save.

A careless pass set up Ryan Mayse to have another shot. Ballinamallard were making the most of the ball when they attacked, Linfield weren’t. Linfield were relieved to go in at half-time only 1-0 down.

As the left the pitch, news emerged that Crusaders were trailing 1-0 at Coleraine.

It brought back memories of April 1999 (Glentoran 1-1 Cliftonville, Linfield 1-1 Coelraine) and April 2009 (Glentoran 3-3 Lisburn Distillery, Linfield 2-2 Cliftonville), when Linfield had been chasing Glentoran for most of those seasons, waiting for them to slip up, and when they did, being unable to take advantage.

Linfield fans had been marking this game in the fixture list as a potential Crusaders slip-up, and when it came, their side wasn’t taking advantage of it.

David Healy turned to his bench at half-time, bringing on Aaron Burns for Paul Smyth. A bit surprising that Smyth left the field, though it was later revealed by Stephen Lowry that he was feeling ill at half-time.

It was no surprise that Burns would be brought on, perhaps a bit earlier than some would have expected.

The second-half had a flurry of Linfield pressure, the ball was mostly in Ballinamallard’s half.

Linfield got their reward when Andrew Waterworth chased down a through ball and managed to get a cross from the byline, missed by a Ballinamallard defender and fell perfectly for Aaron Burns to finish from close range.

Waterworth giving a lesson as to why you should always chase a “lost cause” and that, if you do, you make your own luck.

Waterworth had a flick saved while Niall Quinn had an effort cleared off the line, as Linfield chased the lead.

David Healy again turned to his bench, bringing on Josh Carson for Kirk Millar. Not that surprising to see Carson come on, I thought it would be for Niall Quinn.

With ten minutes to go, there was almost a dramatic winner …… for Ballinamallard. Mark Stafford left a kick upfield for Gareth Deane, unaware that Jason McCartney was behind him. There might have been twenty-two players on the pitch and hundreds in attendance, but now, there was only two people in Ferney Park, Jason McCartney and Gareth Deane.

Time stood still. McCartney lobbed Deane, but the ball hit the bar. Linfield fans were relieved to see the ball go over.

The incident only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity for both sets of fans.

The game was now at the “goal the winner stage”. If Ballinamallard had scored, there would surely have been no way back for Linfield.

It was surely going to be Linfield day now. There was no way a team could survive a moment like that and not come away with three points.

With just six minutes left, Linfield got the breakthrough. A cross was headed clear, falling to Stephen Lowry on the edge of the box. I screamed for him to keep his shot low, but he fired it high, and into the back of the net. Once again, it was proved that I know nothing about football.

Some people got so excited, they ran onto the pitch to celebrate. They thought it was over, but it wasn’t quite.

You can never settle on a one goal lead, but Ballinamallard never looked like getting an equaliser, as Linfield saw the game out.

As they left the pitch, the full-time whistle blew at Coleraine where the home side beat Crusaders 1-0 to reduce the gap at the top of the table to four points. It was the breakthrough that Linfield had spent months waiting for.

Crusaders are Linfield’s next League opponents on April 8th at Windsor Park, with Linfield knowing that a win will reduce the gap to one point, and really put the pressure on Crusaders.

Linfield will have nothing to fear. They’ve won three and drawn two of the five games against Crusaders. It really should be five out of five.

The remaining fixtures are :

April 15th : Ballymena v Linfield, Cliftonville v Crusaders

April 18th : Linfield v Glenavon, Crusaders v Coleraine

April 22nd : Ballymena v Crusaders, Coleraine v Linfield.

April 29th : Crusaders v Glenavon, Cliftonville v Linfield.

These games were arranged before the split. Using the formula to devise the fixtures, Crusaders should have been facing Coleraine rather than Cliftonville on April 15th.

Call me a cynic, but it seems odd that Crusaders avoid facing in-form Coleraine the week after facing Linfield, but instead will face out of sorts Cliftonville. Odd. Very odd.

Linfield will take a break from League action to face Dungannon Swifts in an Irish Cup Semi-Final at Mourneview Park.

Football is a numbers game. The numbers this morning were seven (points off the top at kick-off) and four (point off the top at full-time). The numbers this evening were seven (hopefully the number of games remaining this season) and three (the number of trophies Linfield hope to win this season)

Linfield still don’t have the title destiny in their own hands, they still have to win and hope. What they are hoping for, is a lot less than it was this morning.

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 24.3.2017

1. Kasabian – You’re In Love With A Psycho
2. Blondie – Long Time
3. The Music Gang – How Can I Compete?
4. Chuck Berry- Johnny B Goode
5. Saint Etienne – Heather

So, some gig news. Got myself a ticket to see Amy MacDonald at Custom House Square in August. Her last Belfast gig was so long ago (feel free to correct me if i’m wrong) that it was in Auntie Annie’s. She’s actually supporting Foy Vance. I’m not that fussed on Foy Vance, so i’ll be going to see her instead.

It won’t be the first time i’ve went to a concert just for the support band, having seen The Charlatans at Falls Park in 2013 while not being fussed about Happy Mondays. Also, in 2011, I left an outdoor Laura Marling concert early because it was a monsoon. I had a free ticket so it was no loss to me. Worst thing was, the next evening was beautiful sunshine.

That concert seems to be part of a series of concerts known as CHSQ, which as any abbreviations expert will tell you stands for Switzerland Squared.

I hope Switzerland Squared becomes my favourite music festival in Belfast.

Talking of festivals in Belfast, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is due to publish it’s programme soon. I had a dream Birdy was doing a concert there. I don’t think that has any merit or value, but I just thought i’d share it.

Shed Seven (with support from Cast) announced some extra tour dates. No Belfast date. Fuck sake.

Martin Garrix announced as the last Belsonic headline. At least they had the decency to tease that it would be an EDM (that’s Electronic Dance Music for all you old farts out there) “superstar” on social media, so I knew it was going to be shite.

Kasabian announced some gigs for (relatively) smaller venues in April. They did the same in 2014, so hopes up for an Odyseey gig later in the year.

Anyone fancy taking me to Electric Picnic to see Duran Duran and Madness?

Would love to see Duran Duran. The closest i’ve got was John Taylor doing a Q and A with fans at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013.

Also, i’m still looking for a Ryan Adams ticket for September.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WORLD SOCCER – JULY 2001

Rivaldo is the cover star of World Soccer, as the 2001 Copa America approaches. One international tournament that has already taken place, was the Confederations Cup, which was won by France, and gets a double page feature.

Sepp Blatter is under pressure following recent scandals, most notably players using false passports, and doping.

Didier Deschamps announced his retirement, and was immediately appointed manager of Monaco, while Owen Hargreaves got a two year extension on his Bayern Munich contract.

Pele, in his capacity as a columnist, suggests that you write Brazil off at your peril, ahead of the 2001 Cop America in Colombia. It turns out it would have been wise to write off Brazil, as they were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by Honduras, 2-0.

They did manage to improve over the next twelve months to win the World Cup.

World Soccer gives a page to each team, previewing their chances in Colombia, apart from Brazil, who get two pages.

Roma’s Scudetto success gets a double page spread, while in Spain, Hector Cuper leaves Valencia on a low, missing out on the last Champions League place to Barcelona, and losing to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final.

One of the club’s who qualified for the 2001-2002 Champions League, was Cuper’s former club Mallorca, who get a feature.

In Germany, the focus is on Bayern Munich’s signings of brothers Niko and Robert Kovac.

In England, the national side has been rejuvinated under new manager Sven Goran Eriksson, winning his first five games in charge. Sir Alex Ferguson has been given a pay rise ahead of his final season in charge before retirement, which he decided to delay for another eleven years.

In Northern Ireland, there is very little transfer activity, with Roy Hamill signing for Coleraine, while Linfield have released John Easton and Stephen Beatty.

Across the border, Roddy Collins has parted company with Bohemians after failing to show up for contract talks.

17 year old Arjen Robben is profiled, as the hottest prospect in Dutch football, having already agreed to sign for PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2002.

Another promising youngster profiled is Bosko Balaban, Croatia’s new goal king, already linked with moves to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Marseille and Fiorentina. He signed for Aston Villa that year, and was barely seen in England.

THE DANCER

Some new Street Art spotted in Belfast recently, a Dancer on Fountain Street on a door sandwiched between Lunn’s and New Look. Enjoy.

The reason why there is a chair in some photos and not in others (if you click on the Photo Album) is because the photos are a week apart. I waited to see if anything would be added to it before putting pictures online, to make sure I was covering the finished piece

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LINFIELD 5-1 ARDS 18.3.2017

Having scored ten goals in their two previous home games against Ards this season, Linfield were hoping to add to that when the North Down side visited Windsor Park this afternoon.

It didn’t matter how many Linfield scored, as long as it was at least one more than Ards, it’s that time of year. The two magic numbers today were three and four. Three points to cut Crusaders lead at the top.

Despite the previous head to heads this season, today wasn’t going to be straightforward. Gareth Tommons had a half-chance in the opening minutes that Linfield were just about able to clear.

Within the first five minutes, Linfield got the early goal they craved when Cameron Stewart headed home from a corner, his first at Windsor Park, ending a drought in front of goal going back to the County Antrim Shield Final.

In the two big home wins this season (4-0 and 6-1) Linfield got a flurry of early goals and had the game won inside the first twenty minutes.

Ards were not prepared to let history repeat itself. Stephen Lowry was forced into an interception after a neat passing move threatened to bring an equaliser.

Andrew Waterworth looked set to score but his header was excellently saved by Ards goalkeeper.

Soon after, Ards got an equaliser when a low cross was finished by Guillaume Keke to make it 1-1. It wasn’t against the run of play.

During the move that led to the goal, Cameron Stewart went down injured and had to be replaced. Kirk Millar came on from the bench for him. Surprisingly for me, when Aaron Burns seemed the logical choice.

The change meant a slight reshuffle for Linfield, with Millar going to his right hand side position and Paul Smyth moving to a central role.

The change brought rewards for Linfield with Smyth thriving in is new central, with his cross after breaking in behind Ards defence eventually falling to Kirk Millar to fire home from close range.

Credit must go to Niall Quinn who shielded the ball away from an Ards defender to give Millar the opportunity to score.

Having lost the lead once, it was not going to happen again, as Linfield sought to increase their lead.

Andrew Waterworth got in behind Ards defence but was let down by a poor first touch while Paul Smyth had a shot go just wide.

As the half neared it’s end, four minutes injury time meant that there was time for Linfield to push for a third.

That came when Paul Smyth crossed for what looked like Matthew Clarke to score, only for Andrew Waterworth to control the ball and finish himself, his 100th goal for the club.

Having taken a goal from one left sided player, Waterworth still had time in the first-half to set up Niall Quinn, but his powerful shot was well saved.

Despite a comfortable lead at half-time, the title momentum swinging 3-3 draw at home to Ards in 2014 was still a recent memory for Linfield fans that they felt another goal for their side was needed, a game that Linfield led 3-1.

Linfield set out at the start of the second-half to get that fourth goal, but couldn’t quite get it. Kirk Millar with a volley and Mark Haughey heading over were the best chances.

Naturally, there was frustration amongst the crowd, especially when Linfield began to have a wobbly spell, Ards getting encouragement to try and get a second goal.

It only lasted for a short time, and Stephen Lowry fired home from close range after a header was saved. It was a third successive game in which he had scored in, securing the points for Linfield.

This lead gave Linfield a chance to give minutes to Aaron Burns and Josh Carson from the bench. Burns had a header over the bar as Linfield searched for a fifth.

That search got a little bit easier when Johnny Taylor achieved the unique feat of being sent-off at Windsor PArk for two different clubs.

Eventually, Linfield got their fifth when a shot fell perfectly for Aaron Burns to fire home.

It maintains Linfield’s impressive record against Ards, an unbeaten run going back twenty years and includes Linfield wins by 5-1, 4-0, 5-0, 4-0, 7-0, 7-2, 5-0, 4-0 and 6-1 margins. I’m sure there’s more that i’ve missed.

Those two second-half goals weren’t vital in the context of the game, but they could be by the end of the season. It means that Linfield’s Goal Difference is 50 to Crusaders 43.

For the title to be decided on Goal Difference, Crusaders would need to draw two games and lose win while Linfield win three in that run.

If Linfield win their last six games, Crusaders win four, draw two and lose one, both teams would be level on points.

Even if those six games were won by one goal, Linfield’s goal difference would be 56. Crusaders would have 42, and would need need to claw back fourteen goals over those four wins. At least.

For every point Crusaders drop, the Goal Difference advantage that Linfield have will put more and more pressure on Crusaders.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to Ballinamallard. Everytime i’ve been there, Linfield have won. The two competitive meetings I haven’t been to, they haven’t won.

I’ll be there even if I have to be stretchered there. I’m going to sacrifice myself for us to get three points if I have to. It’s that time of year.

Other results of interest went Linfield’s way today. Coleraine winning and jumping into 3rd, potentially gaining an automatic UEFA Cup place. They play Crusaders next Saturday. Let’s hope their winning run continues, but ends on April 22nd.

Carrick beat Portadown to put pressure on Ballinamallard ahead on Monday night’s game.

Also next week, Northern Ireland face Norway in a World Cup Qualifier. Next week’s fixture list offers a chance for groundhopping for Norwegian visitors. Glentoran v Carrick on Friday (in the away end), game on Saturday, and then the international match on Sunday.

There are matches on Saturday in Belfast, but i’m sure if you got in touch with a LSC, they’d be more than willing to take some Norwegian visitors.

And how did Crusaders do today? They weren’t playing, as their match at home to Ballinamallard has been moved to Monday for Sky.

I might watch it and cheer on Ballinamallard, but then again, Travel Man is on Channel 4 at 8.30pm, then a choice at 9pm between a documentary about King’s Cross (Yes, I like documentaries about train stations. You probably watch Nolan, so you can’t judge me) and the new series of Family Guy on ITV2.

Hopefully by the time the final whistle blows at Seaview on Monday night, it will be Linfield fans who will be feeling giggidy about their team’s title chances.

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THE FIRIDAY FIVE – 17.3.2017

1. Erasure – Love You To The Sky
2. John Hassall and the April Rainers – Intercity 125
3. Amy MacDonald – Automatic
4. Sister Sledge – Frankie
5. Sheppard – Keep Me Crazy

You may have noticed that today is St Patrick’s Day. So, i’m doing a couple of themed charts. One for Northern Ireland, one for Republic Of Ireland, and one for the musical Patricks (and Paddys and Pats) out there.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM NORTHERN IRELAND

1. Wonder Villains – TV
2. Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
3. Silhouette – Can’t Keep Up
4. Snow Patrol – Signal Fire
5. Two Door Cinema Club – What You Know

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

1. U2 – The Fly
2. Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl
3. Heathers – Remember When
4. Sinead Lohan – Whatever It Takes
5. Kodaline – High Hopes

FIVE SONGS BY BANDS WITH SOMEONE CALLED PAT, PATRICK OR PADDY

1. Prefab Sprout – King Of Rock n Roll
2. Train – Drops Of Jupiter
3. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia
4. Hue and Cry – Labour Of Love
5. Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Going Down

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 4.4.1981

Liam Brady, sipping from a bottle of water (a glass bottle as well, no health and safety in them days), is the cover star of Shoot, as he adjusts to life in Italy.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page spread on Brady, who has so far been a resounding success at Juventus.

In a bid to improve their style of play, Coventry City have banned their players from passing the ball back to their goalkeeper, while the National Hairdressers Federation have voted Lawrie McMenemy as Head Of The Year, alongside Felicity Kendall.

Derek Johnstone uses his column to comment on how Rangers have missed European football in 1980-1981, and are desperate for it to return to Ibrox in 1981-1982, as he reflects on his favourite memories taking on continental opposition.

Another Scotsman with a column is Andy Gray, who states that he is baffled by Wolves recent poor form.

The recent PFA Awards get covered, as John Wark wins Player Of The Year, and Gary Shaw wings Young Player Of The Year.

Ray Clemence’s column analyses the recent League Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham, which finished 1-1, with a replay due to be played at Villa Park this week. That match gets profiled a few pages over.

Shoot profiles two former England players trying to have success as a manager, Larry Lloyd of Wigan and Norman Hunter of Barnsley, while new Bristol City goalkeeper Jan Moller says he wants to be as good as Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper at the opposition end of the pitch in the 1979 European Cup Final.

Another foreigner in England getting profiled is Bosco Jankovic of Middlesbrough, whose contract is expiring, and he has decide wether to stay in England or return to Yugoslavia.

Diego Maradona gets a profile after becoming the world’s first £4m player when he moved from Argentinos to Boca Juniors.

Gordon McQueen uses his column to write about three young strikers at Manchester United he believes will be big stars in the future – Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes and Scott McGarvey. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Four footballing figures get interviewed on how to improve the game. West Bromwich Albion manager Ron Atkinson is not in favour of Sunday football, but is in favour of three points for a win.

The magazine ends with a profile of Steve Moran of Southampton, who reveals that his favourite music is Mike Oldfield and Diana Ross.

LINFIELD 2-0 CLIFTONVILLE 13.3.2017

In their last league matchday, Linfield reduced Crusaders lead at the top to seven points. They kicked-off against Cliftonville, a side they have lost twice to this season in the league, looking to keep that lead at seven points following Crusaders expected win over Carrick Rangers on Saturday.

The reason why Linfield were playing two days later than Crusaders was that this match was moved for live broadcast on Sky Sports, though with the counter attraction of Chelsea v Manchester United on the BBC, there were probably more people in the ground watching it than watching it on TV.

It’s great that the Irish League is getting this exposure, and we know it’s to fill gaps on FA Cup and International weekends, but Sky should have held off until the FA Cup TV games were confirmed before scheduling this.

It never stood a chance against Chelsea v United, it might have done better when slotted against Brighton v Derby on the Friday.

No doubt there were quite a lot of people in both stands keeping an eye on events at Stamford Bridge. I overheard someone behind me saying that United would take a replay, obviously unaware that FA Cup Quarter-Finals are played to a finish from this season onwards, when Ander Herrera was sent-off.

Even if supporters had an eye on Chelsea v United, Linfield players had to focus on the task in front of them, getting three points to keep the pressure on Crusaders, against a Cliftonville team in a rotten run of form. They were there for the taking, Linfield had to go out and take them.

February and March have been defining months for Cliftonville in recent years, winning runs setting up title successes in 2013 and 2014, while poor runs of form have caused damage to them in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

From the outside, it appears their players have given up following their Irish Cup exit and are fulfilling fixtures ahead of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, just like last season. The worrying thing for them is, they exited the Irish Cup two rounds earlier this season.

However, Cliftonville’s concerns are not my concerns.

For most of the season, Linfield have been in a sandwich – trying to keep up with Crusaders in front while trying to keep clear of Cliftonville behind them. An eleven point lead at kick-off meant that Linfield had stopped worrying about Cliftonville overtaking them a long time ago,

I arrived at Windsor Park, as I do for most weeknight matches, in a totally shitty mood, after navigating the street from hell known as Elgantine Avenue.

This is a street where the residents have just enough brain power to order a taxi, but not enough to be ready when the taxi comes, meaning that taxis are just parked in the middle of the street, and you have to go around them to get past.When you get to the end of the street, there are the never ending red lights.

The residents and taxi drivers can collectively just fuck right off. Fuck the fucking lot of them.

I arrived at Windsor Park to see signing in the South Stand depicting Linfield glory days past and more recent, such as the County Antrim Shield win last month, the expectant crowd hoping that more glorious images will be added over the coming months,

Cliftonville began the match like a team on a rotten run of form, being defensively nervous and giving away cheap possession when under no or little pressure.

Gradually, Linfield took control of the game, the first chance coming when a low Jamie Mulgrew shot was saved by Jason Mooney, while Mark Haughey got in front of Mooney from a cross but couldn’t direct his header in.

Some Linfield fans, dependent on their view, thought it had gone in and began celebrating. Cliftonville fans ironically cheered the premature celebrations. It was the only cheer they had all night.

Recent meetings between the two sides suggested that the first goal would be vital. You have to go back to September 2012 for the last time a team came from behind (Cliftonville at Windsor Park) to win, while Linfield’s last come from behind win was January 2011. You have to go back to April 2005 for the last time Linfield came from 1-0 down to beat Cliftonville.

For clarification, those stats refer to League matches, Linfield came from 1-0 down to beat Cliftonville in a County Antrim Shield match in October 2015.

Linfield got the breakthrough midway through the first-half when a penalty was awarded for a handball by Chris Ramsey. Stephen Lowry stepped up to make it four penalties out of four in the past month and a bit to put Linfield 1-0 up.

That lead almost disappeared soon afterwards when Mark Haughey got caught in possession in his own penalty area to concede a penalty.

Jay Donnelly put the ball wide from the resulting spot kick.

Linfield were in the mood to make Cliftonville pay for their generousity. Cameron Stewart almost made it 2-0 but his shot hit the post.

As the half neared it’s end, Linfield made it 2-0 when Jason Mooney dropped a cross and, after a bit of a scramble, Andrew Waterworth fired home from close range.

Now, i’ve seen Cliftonville fans online complaining about Mooney’s performances, but it really needs to be seen in the flesh how bad he is. He was actually much worse than they said he was.

At one corner, he caught the ball unchallenged, then held it and dropped it. It’s a pity no Linfield players were alert enough to take advantage. They really should have been, considering how bad he was playing.

He even manage to drop kick the ball out for a throw-in on the halfway line. Linfield fans were running low on sympathy for him.

This performance from October is truly astounding. It would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact it gifted Crusaders three points.

Cliftonville started the second-half having a lot of the ball but not doing much with it. Despite that, Linfield were giving them too much encouragement and needed to quickly improve.

It soon became clear that Cliftonville never looked like scoring no matter how much of the ball they had. Linfield’s full-backs were their most worked defensive players, and that was juts shepherding the ball out for a throw or a goal kick.

Despite recent memories of blowing two goal leads to draw against Cliftonville, Linfield fans were relaxed at 2-0 up. Despite that, they would have preferred their team to make it 3-0.

Mark Stafford thought he did it, but his header hit the post, before a spectacular effort went wide later of.

Mark Haughey had a goal disallowed. There was a bit of confusion as to why. It was either offside against Andrew Waterworth who crossed it, or the ball went out of play before he crossed it. I haven’t seen a TV replay of it yet.

Paul Smyth was running the show for Linfield, and it was no surprise when he was announced as the Man Of The Match.

Up next is a home match against Ards. If we win that, the gap is cut to four, and an opportunity to put pressure on Crusaders before they play on Sky next Monday against Ballinamallard.

If we win all our games, we only need Crusaders to slip up twice. It’s not that inconceivable.

Meanwhile, I got myself a ticket for the Irish Cup Semi-Final against Dungannon on April 1st. Having Ticketmaster is handy, but it should never be the only option. It’s good that the club are able to sell tickets as well to compliment this.

I decided to be a hero and get mine at Monday lunchtime as I work in the City Centre, leaving Windsor Park tickets for those who find it more convenient to get from there, instead of getting one at this match.

Staying at Windsor Park, a new Education and Heritage Centre was opened last week. It’s a Museum. Let’s just call it what it is. I’m hoping to get a chance to visit this soon, though it won’t be immediately soon.

Roy Carroll has been called-up to the Northern Ireland squad for the match against Norway. Hopefully, a deal can be done to allow him to play against Ballinamallard the day before. We only win at Ballinamallard when i’m there, and i’m not sure if I could get to a midweek match.

And finally, the post split fixtures have been confirmed. For Linfield, it is :

H Crusaders (8th April)
A Ballymena United (15th April)
H Glenavon (18th April)
A Coleraine (22nd April)
A Cliftonville (29th April)

Going to be some fun trying to get a ticket if the title race goes to the last day. On the plus side, if Cliftonville’s slide continues, there may be plenty of spaces in the home end that day.

Despite a seven point deficit to make up, things are looking up for Linfield fans. And it just gets better, up next is a Saturday 3pm match at home.

Remember when Linfield played home matches at 3pm on a Saturday? Don’t blame you if you don’t, it’s only our second of 2017.

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BLOSSOMS – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 8.3.2017

In life, people’s paths briefly cross before they head in different directions. That happened in February last year when Blossoms (not to be confused with the 90s TV show starring her from The Big Bang Theory) played a gig at The Limelight.

Since that gig, they’ve went on to have endless success. The band who supported them that night, Viola Beach, died the week afterwards in a vehicular accident in Sweden. Blossoms have paid numerous tributes to them throughout that year.

That gig at The Limelight was originally supposed to be in Voodoo, but was moved to The Limelight due to demand. This was six months before the release of their debut album.

Even at this point, the band were no strangers to Belfast, having already supported Paul Weller at Waterfront Hall on his Winter 2015 tour, a concert that I attended. I remember being excited by this news, thinking to myself “That’s the band that does that song Charlemagne that I love”.

In the early months of 2015, they also supported The Charlatans on their UK Tour. Both bands will be supporting The Courteeners at their massive headline gig at Old Trafford in Manchester this summer. The cricket ground, by the way.

And just recently, they’ve been announced as support for The Kooks when they tour Mainland Europe in May.

It isn’t all supporting slots, they’ve even got their own massive headline gig at Castlefield Bowl in July as part of Sounds Of The City, Manchester’s version of Belsonic. Mancsonic, if you will.

Over the last few years, they’ve been bigged up by Tim Burgess on Twitter. They’ve also been bigged up by this blog, making regular appearances on The Friday Five and Charlemagne being declared The Song Of 2015.

As mentioned earlier, Blossoms have had a lot of success over the past twelve months. Take your pick. An NME cover, Number 1 album, an appearance on the New Year’s Eve edition of Top Of The Pops, and a Brit Award nomination.

This week, you may have seen them on The Premier League Show on BBC 2.

This gig would be a brief stop off in Northern Ireland, before three Republic Of Ireland gigs in Galway, Limerick and Dublin. A hand warm-up for their NME tour later this month.

This was my first gig of 2017. I’d hoped it would have been The Pigeon Detectives at HMV last Friday night. It was advertised as an instore gig, but they just showed up, signed a few autographs and then left.

Support for this gig came from a band from Derry called Touts. They were pure Derry every time they opened their mouths. Or rather, they were Peeeyuuurrreee Deeeee-errrrry hai everytime they opened their mouths.

Their singer was a massive Wellend. He probably gets drunk on Football Special.

Fronted by a Wellend from Derry, it was no surprise they were heavily influence by The Jam and The Undertones, with also a nod to The Strypes. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably enjoy these guys.

They clarified that, despite the name, they’re not actually touts. The only informing they’ll do to The Police will be to inform them that they think Sting is a cunt. Probably.

The band appeared on stage, jumping straight into At Most A Kiss before playing favourites from their debut album such as Getaway, Blown Rose and Honey Sweet.

The most obvious observation is that Josh Dewhurst looks like Dimitar Berbatov and Tom Ogden looks like Steve McManaman, but with longer hair. In both cases. Once it is seen, it cannot be unseen.

It’s hard to describe the music of Blossoms. It’s a little bit Disco, a little bit Synth Pop and a little bit Indie, fusing all three to perfection, even managing to do an instrumental cover of Gimme Gimme Gimme by ABBA.

Further covers appeared when Tom Ogden (That’s a proper Greater Manchester name that. Probably related to Hilda) did a solo acoustic session, performing excerps from You’re Georgeous by Babybird and Half The World Away by Oasis.

Before this, Ogden appealed to the crowd for someone who had just been dumped. There were a lot of responses. Eventually, the winning member of the audience was a woman called Orla (Awwwwwww, poor Orla) who had been dumped. Twice (Awwww, poor Orla).

The most recent was by someone called Ryan, who got roundly booed. If you’re reading Ryan, BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

The encore include Charlemagne, the winner of Best Song Of 2015, still sounding good in 2017.

Leaving the stage, the band stated they hoped to see Belfast again soon. Knowing the way the music industry works, hopefully a Belsonic announcement is being embargoed until the Irish tour is over.

There’s still a long way to go to match the success of fellow Stockportonians 10CC. To paraphrase one of 10CCs biggest hits, Belfast didn’t like Blossoms. They loved them.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 10.3.2017

1. Rose Elinor Dougall – All At Once
2. John Hassall and the April Rainers – Intercity 125
3. Rory Lavelle – When The Crazies Come Out
4. Pale Waves – There’s A Honey
5. Coldplay – Something Just Like This

In gig news, Erasure have hinted that they’ll be doing a UK tour in 2018. At least that’s something to gt hopeful about.

Hoped to see The Pigeon Detectives doing an instore gig at HMV Belfast last Friday but it was a meet and greet rather than an instore gig, which was a bit rubbish.

The announcement of the full CQAF line-up is near, but The Divine Comedy and Rich Hall (not a singer, but a bloody hilarious comedian) are definitely worth getting excited about.

Culture Night Belfast has been confirmed for Friday 22nd September this year. Slightly annoyed, as I wanted it to be on that weekend last year. I missed the 2016 night as I was in Liverpool and was desperately hoping they would make it the weekend after. Missing it last year makes me look forward to this even more. A half day has already been applied for.

Oh, and i’m still on the lookout for a Ryan Adams ticket.