THE FRIDAY FIVE – 30.3.2018

1. Jack White – Over And Over
2. Snow Patrol – Don’t Give In
3. Alice Merton – No Roots
4. Frank Turner – Blackout
5. Ken Dodd – Happiness

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 19.10.1985

Glenn Hoddle of England is the cover star of this edition of Shoot. Or perhaps, not of England, if the headline is anything to go by.

This was also the week in Back To The Future II where Marty McFly visits 2015.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page spread on Steve McMahon, who has just joined Liverpool from Aston Villa, nearly three years after rejecting Liverpool to go to Villa Park.

Meanwhile, there are reports that England’s top clubs could be forming a breakaway Super League.

Cover star Glenn Hoddle is interviewed, finally becoming an England regular, and is confident of returning home from Mexico the following summer with the World Cup.

The cover headline “I’LL QUIT ENGLAND” refers to his club status, as he expresses his desire to play on the continent, which he did in 1987 when he signed for Monaco.

Bryan Robson uses his column to state that Peter Barnes is worthy of a place in the England squad to provide competition for John Barnes and Chris Waddle.

Northern Ireland’s vital World Cup Qualifier away to Romania gets previewed, with manager Billy Bingham confidently predicting that Northern Ireland will finish 2nd in their group and head to Mexico.

Republic Of Ireland also have ambitions of going to Mexico, and have blooded Tony Cascarino into their squad in time for their vital game away to the Soviet Union.

Portsmouth manager Alan Ball gets a photo collage, as he aims to lead the club back to the top flight of English football.

Peter Shilton gets a double page feature as he becomes England’s most capped goalkeeper, complete with a tribute from Gordon Banks, who he replaced at Leicester City, Stoke City and England, with the headline “PETER SHILTON – KING OF KEEPERS”

West Germany manager Franz Beckenabauer feels this season’s European club competitions have been devalued by the absence of English clubs, while Canada have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in their history.

Meanwhile, Napoli failed in their bid to sign Hugo Maradona from Argentinos Juniors, the younger brother of Diego Maradona.

A dispute between the governing body and broadcasters meant that there were no games on TV, so Shoot did a double page photo collage of the best strikes.

In Scotland, there is a full page profile and a poster of Celtic.

In Wales, Mark Hughes was set to miss the opening games of Euro 88 Qualifying, due to a red card in an underage Euro qualifier against Yugoslavia in 1983.

Steve Cowan gets a full page feature, having just signed for Hibs and is hoping to put his injury problems behind him.

Bradford City get featured, as the club tries to recover from the tragic fire at their ground five months earlier.

Peter Reid uses his column to talk about Everton’s problems conceding goals, especially in the early moments of games.

Reid’s Everton team-mate Gary Lineker is happy, having found a Snooker Club near his home in Southport, and has managed to convince Willie Thorne to start supporting Everton.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth are trying to sign Paul Mariner from Arsenal.

The magazine ends with a profile of Davie McPherson of Rangers. His favourite music is Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen.

EAST BELFAST STREET ART – MARCH 2018

If you’ve been in East Belfast recently, and been very observant, you will have noticed some new Street Art appearing.

At the start of March, there was an event planned called Wardrobe Jam, where some new Street Art would be painted. This was scheduled to be part of a bigger event called Belfast Arts Weekender. Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather, it had to be cancelled.

Running alongside this, was the first of three new murals to be painted in East Belfast. The first one was titled Linenopolis and appeared on Tower Street.

It was by a Manchester based duo called Nomad Clan.

If that name sounds familiar, that’s because they did a piece at The Dirty Onion for Hit The North.

Eastside Partnership documented this on their Social Media channels. This is how it looked on 28th February.

This was followed by Friz, regularly featured on this blog, getting to work on a mural on Townsley Street, beside CS Lewis Square. It is of Jadis from The Chronicles Of Narnia, appropriately enough.

Once again, Eastside Partnership documented the progress of this. This is documented on their Social Media feeds. This is how it looked on 7th March, 8th March and 9th March.

Unfortunately, I was in work, and with the evenings not getting lighter yet, I didn’t get a chance to get some photos until the weekend of 10th March, and then again the following weekend.

Eventually, I got photos of Friz’s finished mural on the weekend of 24th March..

Keep an eye out for the mural of CS Lewis on Pansy Street being restored. I got some photos of how it is currently, while out getting.

I got some photos of the mural way back in 2008. You can find a photo of it here.

The clocks have gone forward and Summer is getting closer, which means it’s not too long until Hit The East. There’ll barely be an empty wall in East Belfast at this rate.

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NORTHERN IRELAND 2-1 SOUTH KOREA 24.3.2018

World Cup preparation began on Saturday at Windsor Park. Unfortunately, it was for South Korea and not Northern Ireland.

Could you imagine if Northern Ireland had qualified? All that joy, only to see it taken away as the DUP try to withdraw us from the competition to sock it to Vladimir Putin.

Don’t even try to argue with me, that is exactly the sort of dumbfuck thing they would try to do.

They won’t be going to the World Cup, but Northern Ireland fans will be getting new experiences this year, as their first four opponents of 2018 (South Korea, Panama, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina) are teams they’ve never faced before.

Games against Israel, Austria and Republic of Ireland towards the end of the year ruin that ambiance.

For me, it was the first time i’ve seen a truly properly Asian team in the flesh.

I’ve seen Russia (part of which is in Asia), Azerbaijan (part of which is in Asia), Israel (Asian, but a member of UEFA) and Australia (Not in Asia, but a member of the Asian Football Confederation)

It was also a first for Trevor Carson and Jamal Lewis, both making their international debut. A bit surprising in the case of Carson. He’s been playing regularly at club level for a long time, i’d assumed he’d have had a cap by now.

It was also a first start for Jordan Jones, while Paul Smyth was on the bench, looking to make his debut.

It was also a first outing for the new Northern Ireland away kit (I know, reported to the Kit Police). I’m not sure what colour it is, the closest is sky blue, but it looks nothing like Uruguay, Manchester City, Napoli or Ballymena United. It’s actually a nice kit.

The only other times I can think of Northern Ireland not wearing green at Windsor Park is a friendly against Israel in 2009 (Again, to promote a new away kit), a friendly v Spain in 2002 (not sure why) and a European Championship Qualifier v Republic of Ireland in 1979 (For some reason, the home team wore their away kit in both games)

South Korea were straight on the attack, a ball played across the penalty area causing a lot of concern for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland replied with a run from Jordan Jones, before South Korea took the lead after 6 minutes when Kwon Chang Hoon was played through and finished under Carson.

South Korea already had the better of the play and a goal to show for it. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland managed to hand on in there, having a few attacks of their own, one of which resulted in a disallowed goal.

On 18 minutes, Aaron Hughes left the pitch through injury, the day before the 20th anniversary of his Northern Ireland debut. Those numbers were purely coincidental, this wasn’t a stage managed departure.

Within minutes, Northern Ireland were level. They had a free-kick in a shooting position, to the right of the edge of the penalty area. Everyone expected a shot, but a low pass to Jamie Ward, who made a run, and his low cross was diverted into his own net by Kim Min Jae.

Both sides had chances in an even game. Trevor Carson doing his cause no harm for future contention.

Naturally, substitutions disrupted the flow of the second-half, with Liam Boyce, Conor Washington and Craig Cathcart entering the pitch.

With ten minutes to go, the substitution I personally had waited for.

Alas, it wasn’t Smyth and Jones down the wings, it was Smyth for Jones.

It wasn’t surprising that Paul Smyth’s introduction was relatively late in the game, with this game being sandwiched inbetween two Under 21 games. He was never going to get more than ten minutes. It was still enough time for him to show what he can do.

With just a few minutes remaining, a loose ball fell to him, and with one touch, he took two South Korean defenders out of the game and gave himself enough room to fire home low.

It was all about the first touch.

Northern Ireland fans had a new hero. It’s a bit like when your favourite band becomes big. Oh, you’re only noticing how good he is now?

Northern Ireland held on to get their first win in four games. It wouldn’t have been a cause for concern if they didn’t win this match, but it’s still nice to end a winless run.

Those four games saw Northern Ireland fail to score. I can still remember that run between 2002 and 2004. Still a long way to go to equal that run, but good to put that to bed.

2018 was off to a winning start for Northern Ireland. It won’t be a year that will see them head to Russia, but hopefully, the groundwork will be put in place for a visit to any one of thirteen European countries in the Summer of 2020.

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BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 2-2 LINFIELD 23.3.2018

At this same weekend in 2016 and 2017, Linfield faced Ballinamallard and ground out a tense 2-1 win on each occasion.

Those two times, they were going for the title. This time around, it was 3rd place and possible automatic qualification for the UEFA Cup.

Linfield were aided in the build-up to this on the Tuesday night when Cliftonville lost 2-1 at home to Ballymena, meaning that Linfield had a four point lead over Cliftonville.

This match was supposed to be on the Saturday, but it was brought forward to the Friday night due to Northern Ireland playing South Korea in a friendly.

That has been covered previously on this blog and will be touched on again later.

I had to take some excess carry over Annual Leave and chose this day before this game was rescheduled. I was originally intending to go and see Paloma Faith at The Odyssey. I decided to give that as miss as the concert was all seater, which was a bit wank. She doesn’t do music that you can enjoy sitting down.

So that was the motivation for Linfield, at least be a more entertaining option than Paloma Faith.

There were two changes for Linfield. One was enforced, with Andrew Mitchell coming in for the injured Jamie Mulgrew, and Achille Campion coming in for Kurtis Byrne.

Linfield began putting pressure on the Ballinamallard goal. Achille Campion was played in but couldn’t control the ball, but did enough to set up Niall Quinn, whose shot was blocked by a defender.

Quinn was denied again as he looked to head a cross into an empty net, but a Ballinamallard defender got the ball before him and denied him.

Linfield couldn’t keep the pressure up and Ballinamallard came more into the game. Alex Moore was forced into a save from a long range shot by Stephen O’Flynn.

Moore had a few dodgy moments from goal kicks, going straight out of play, as if he was putting the ball out for a line out. I suppose that’s what happens when you go to a rugby school.

There was also some confusion in defence by not making himself available for backpasses.

There were no complaints about his shotstopping, Linfield were giving him enough opportunities to showcase his shotstopping.

He did manage to hit a Copper on the head with one of his clearances.

It was the only thing of note a Linfield player did in the first-half.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Linfield began to have more attacking cohesion. Niall Quinn went agonisingly wide. Andrew Waterworth put the ball in the back of the net from the rebound. Unfortunately, it was after the ball bounced back into play.

48 minutes, Linfield had finally turned up.

Naturally, the way this season had been going, Ballinamallard were going to score, which they did when a cross was headed in by Ryan Curran.

Linfield responded with some good play down the left which saw a low shot from Matthew Clarke be saved, as Stephen Lowry came off the bench to replace Andrew Mitchell.

The next big moment from a Linfield player came from Alex Moore, as Sean Noble ran through on goal only to see his shot saved by Moore.

Clarke was then replaced by Kurtis Byrne as Linfield went in search of an equaliser.

That came when Mark Stafford headed home from a free-kick to make it 1-1, his first goal against his former club. With twenty minutes to go, there was still time for Linfield to push on and get a winner.

The opportunity for that came soon afterwards when Linfield got a penalty, awarded for a handball by Stephen O’Flynn. It was soft, but we’ll happily take it.

Andrew Waterworth’s last two penalties had been chipped in, Panenka style. This was not really the time for such a thing. Thankfully, he didn’t, blasting it low into the back of the net to put Linfield 2-1 up.

Kurtis Byrne then had a low shot tipped around the post as they looked to make it 3-1 and secure the points, while Jimmy Callacher saw a header bounce over the bar, just as he did against Carrick Rangers a few weeks previously.

Sandwiched inbetween that, was a red card for Ballinamallard substitute Joshua McIlwaine for a late tackle on Niall Quinn just a few minutes after coming on.

Everything was falling into place for Linfield.

Or so we thought, as 91 minutes approached, a sloppy pass from Robert Garrett went to Ryan Curran, who played in Sean Noble, who made it 2-2.

I was at the other end, and it was clear Noble was going to score as soon as he got the ball. One pass was all it took from Ballinamallard, it was yet another bad goal to concede.

You don’t want to single players out, but that’s the third time this season Garrett has lost possession late in the game that has led to a goal.

Points lost to Cliftonville (September), Coleraine (October), Warrenpoint (December), Glentoran (December) and now Ballinamallard to last minute goals.

It can’t be bad luck, it can’t just be coincidence. There’s something wrong this season that Linfield can’t see games out, or push all the way to the end.

To make it worse, Garrett was under no pressure when he had the ball.

There was still time for Linfield to win the game, but Ballinamallard held out. It got even worse when results from elsewhere came through.

Glenavon lost 3-2 to Dungannon Swifts while Cliftonville beat Ards 3-0.

Linfield are now three points behind 3rd place Glenavon and two points ahead of 5th place Cliftonville.

Even though Linfield closed the gap to 3rd, this was two points dropped. Linfield should be comfortably in 3rd the amount of points that Glenavon have dropped in the last two months.

As stated in the Glentoran write-up, it pains me to say that Cliftonville are going to finish 3rd. They have the momentum. Even when they managed to lose to Ballymena on the Tuesday before this, they still ended the week in a better position. It’s all coming up Milhouse for them.

Linfield are five goals better than Cliftonville and five worse than Glenavon in terms of goal difference.

If Linfield beat Glenavon over Easter, they will go level on points with them, and will only need to make up three goals over four games in order to finish 3rd.

If they beat them by three goals, they’ll jump into 3rd.

I don’t think the players realise the importance of getting 3rd, as it could possibly get us automatically into Europe (Irish Cup results dependent) meaning we get to skip the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

That may not be what we wanted at the start of the season, but that’s where we are. Time to focus minds.

There was doubt in the week leading up to this game as to wether this game was going ahead.

On Sunday night, rumours circulated that the game would be postponed to enable Ballinamallard to play Ballymena instead if 6th was still to be decided, to allow Glentoran and Ballymena to play their 33rd game simultaneously, against each other.

This was backed up by Linfield having to put out a statement to clarify the situation on Monday.

The fact that NIFL even considered this option was ridiculous.

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard needing to be rearranged is a fallout from the saga of Ballymena United v Cliftonville in the NIFL Cup. I bet you thought this was long resolved.

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard United was due to be played on Saturday 10th February, but was postponed so that Ballymena could play Cliftonville instead.

The new date for Ballymena v Ballinamallard was Tuesday 13th March, but it was postponed again to accommodate Ballymena’s postponed Irish Cup tie against Larne.

I spotted it at the time, that Ballymena will have to play their 33rd game after the scheduled date. Did nobody at NIFL spot it?

Glentoran and Ballymena United have been scrapping it out for 6th place all season. Did nobody at NIFL not spot that it might need to be decided by their meeting on Matchday 33?

Even more ridiculous, was the expectation that Ballymena would have to get arrangements in place for a home game at three days notice, as well as Ballinamallard players having to change their arrangements from a home match to an away match on a working day.

And lastly, there are the fans of Glentoran, Ballymena United and Ballinamallard United. It’s always the fans who are lastly.

It got even more ridiculous. The proposed date suggested for a potential rearrangement of Ballinamallard United v Linfield was Monday 26th March.

Surely, if it had to be rearranged, they could have used Saturday 31st March as both sides will have a free Saturday due to being out of the Irish Cup.

And on that note, I know the Irish Cup Semi-Finals are on the same weekend as last year, but surely someone would have noticed it was Easter Saturday?

Why could they not be played on Saturday 7th April? It would still leave a four week turnaround between the Semi-Final and Final.

In 2015, the Irish Cup Semi-Finals were moved out of their traditional weekend as it fell on Easter, so it could have been done.

Why are clubs not involved in the Irish Cup not given the opportunity to play their Easter Tuesday games on the Saturday instead?

Warrenpoint are playing Dungannon in a rearranged game, so it could have been done.

Linfield’s post split fixture list is complete, and will be (All in April, Home games in CAPITALS)

04 Glenavon
07 BALLYMENA UNITED
14 Crusaders
21 COLERAINE
28 CLIFTONVILLE

Now that Ballymena finished 6th, they would be going in on a decent run of form, and could do us a favour by getting something against Cliftonville, who will then face Crusaders or Coleraine on April 7th.

We still need to get results to help ourselves.

Ironically, Linfield closed the gap on Glenavon in 3rd. You would have taken that at the start of the night. It was the manner of this result though. We didn’t have many chances, but we took them, only to present Ballinamallard on when they didn’t look like getting back into the game.

How many times this season have we said “We didn’t look like drawing/losing ….” but we did?

There’s ten days until the next match, and this result is going to stink the place out until then.

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FEEDER – LIVE AT THE LIMELIGHT 22.3.2018

It seems that Thursday nights are all about the Welsh. The Thursday before this was Stereophonics. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thursday after this I was seeing Shakin Stevens or Bonnie Tyler.

Feeder were back in Belfast eighteen months after their last visit, back at The Limelight as well, for a Best Of tour. Simple concept really, lots and lots of hits.

The reason for this is that they have a Greatest Hits album currently out, which reached the Top Ten of the Album Chart in late 2017.

Confusingly, a compilation album titled The Singles was released in 2006 and went Top Ten. It’s self explanatory really what is in that album.

If you were going to buy one Feeder compilation, i’d go with the 2006 one. The lead single from that was the superb and underrated Save Us, which was disappointingly not played.

For some reason, standalone singles released to promote a Greatest Hits album don’t get fondly remembered by fans of that act, but this genre has produced some brilliant songs such as Destiny Calling by James, You’re My Star by Stereophonics and Keeps Getting Better by Christina Aguilera.

This was a relatively late purchase for me. This concert fell during an International Week, and I held off in case Northern Ireland had an away trip I could do, or a home game on the Thursday night.

As the band appeared onstage, they jumped straight into Feeling A Moment, backed by lights that were going as furiously and frantically as the guitars.

For the first few songs, the sound appeared to be iffy. I’m no Technician, but it was clear that something wasn’t right. My suspicions were backed up by Grant Nicholas referencing this when speaking to the crowd.

He did say that he wanted to keep chat to a minimum, as the band were on a curfew and wanted to fit in as many songs as possible.

Again, his guitar didn’t work, but the day was saved by a Roadie called Flea providing him with another guitar.

I don’t think it was Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, due to the fact he had his shirt on.

Nearing the end of a long tour, Nicholas apologised for the relative chaos, stating that everything had gone fine so far.

During the rare speaking inbetween songs, Nicholas dedicated a song to Feeder drummer Jon Lee, who died in 2002. This concert was six days before what would have been his 50th birthday.

It was the man filling in Lee’s shoes, Geoff Holroyde, who provided the comedy moment of the night by prematurely starting a song while Grant Nicholas was drinking water. Nicholas told him to calm down. The crowd gave an impromptu rendition of Hey Mickey by Toni Basil to the drumbeat. Grant Nicholas even joined in.

The hits continued – Pushing The Senses, Lost and Found, High, Insomnia, Come Back Around, Just The Way I’m Feeling and Buck Rogers before an encore that included Seven Days In The Sun and Just A Day

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Feeder live at The Limelight October 2016

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 23.3.2018

1. Frank Turner – Blackout
2. Manic Street Preachers – Distant Colours
3. Kylie Minogue – Stop Me From Falling
4. George Ezra – Paradise
5. The Killers – Wonderwall

Firstly, an apology for there being no Friday Five. I was either busy or lazy, depending on how you look at it, and didn’t get a chance to do one.

That meant I didn’t get to do a St Patrick’s Day chart for you. So, either 1 week late or 51 weeks early, here’s some St Patrick’s Day charts for you.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM NORTHERN IRELAND

1. The Adventures – Broken Land
2. Brianna Corrigan – Hold Me Now
3. Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
4. Relish – Rainbow Zephyr
5. Snow Patrol – How To Be Dead

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

1. Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl
2. U2 – The Fly
3. The Strypes – Get Into It
4. Sinead Lohan – Whatever It Takes
5. Kodaline – I’m Ready

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 19.10.1991

Bryan Robson, in action against Notts County, is the cover star, with the headline “Robbo’s Back”, as he is interviewed in this edition.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature on Wales European Championship Qualifier in Germany, where Wales need a draw to virtually qualify for the finals in Sweden.

Jimmy Greaves assesses the two teams and predicts a win for Germany, and so it proved, with Germany winning 4-1.

Bryan Robson’s interview is part of Shoot’s preview of England’s European Championship Qualifier against Turkey. Turkey had been good opponents for Robson, with 5 goals in his 3 previous appearances against them.

England’s previous game against Turkey saw Robson left out of the squad, and he thought his international career was over at the age of 34, but his recent form for Manchester United saw him earn a recall.

As it turned out, the game against Turkey was Robson’s last cap for England.

Another player making an England comeback was Stuart Pearce, who explains that he was left out of the squad for the recent friendly against Germany as he was serving a domestic suspension.

Elsewhere in the group, Republic Of Ireland face a crunch game in Poland, and Shoot interviews Mick McCarthy in preparation of this.

In news, Charlie Nicholas had all his medals stolen after a burglary at his house, while Celtic have had a bid rejected for Terry Phelan, while Chelsea are planning a move to sign Matt Le Tissier.

Also in Scotland, John Robertson of Hearts gets a double page interview where he says that Hearts are determined to bounce back after defeat against Celtic, their first of the season. Robertson also gives Shoot the lowdown on his Hearts team-mates.

Peter Ndlovu of Coventry City gets interviewed s he adjusts to life in England, telling Shoot that he mostly listens to the radio and watched TV.

Also adjusting to life in a new country is David Platt, who tells Shoot he is enjoying life in Italy, despite Bari not winning a game and their manager resigning.

Talking of English players in Italy, former AC Milan striker Mark Hately rubbishes former Bari striker Paul Rideout’s claim that no English striker has come back from Italy a better player.

I wonder did they discuss the matter a few months later in the dressing room when Rideout signed for Rangers?

Talking of Rangers, a reader writes to Jimmy Greaves to say that Rangers will continue to be minnows on a European stage due to a lack of competition in Scotland, while another reader asks about the possibility of Leeds winning the league, and Greaves says they need Lee Chapman to start scoring in order for that to happen.

In competitions, you could win a pair of Quaser boots, and get to meet Gary Lineker, Matt Le Tisser or Charlie Nicholas at one of their respective team’s home games.

Tony Cottee gets a profile, revealing that if he wasn’t a footballer, he would be a Fireman, or work for his dad as an Insurance Broker.

In ads, there was an advert for a teen mag called Look-In (possibly an IPC publication, I can’t verify) which had Rik Mayall as it’s cover star, talking about his role in Drop Dead Fred.

Alongside that, is an advert for the following week’s edition of Shoot, which comes with free Pro Set cards.

The magazine ends with a double page feature on Scotland’s European Championship Qualifier in Bucharest where a win would virtually guarantee qualification to the finals.

They lost, but other results went their way which meant they made it to Sweden.

LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 17.3.2018

Linfield and Glentoran faced each other at Windsor Park with a lot of things in common on St Patrick’s Day.

Both sides were coming off the back of Irish Cup exits in midweek. Despite that, they both still had something to play for in the League, though maybe not quite that they had in mind at the start of the season.

Linfield were only four points off 3rd place, which could potentially be good enough to qualify automatically for the UEFA Cup if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

If Linfield had ambitions of playing in Europe next season, Glentoran’s were more modest and short-term, to play Linfield next month, as they currently occupy the last place in the Top 6 ahead of Ballymena United.

It was Ronnie McFall’s first visit to Windsor Park as a visiting manager since August 2015. Back then, Warren Feeney was in the Linfield dugout. It wasn’t even a dugout, it was a couple of seats in the bottom deck of the North Stand, as it took place halfway throughout the development of Windsor Park.

McFall is the only Irish League manager that David Healy hasn’t beaten. In fact, he hasn’t even managed a point, losing twice to McFall’s Portadown side during the 2015/2016 season.

In fact, McFall has a good recent record against Linfield. Since David Jeffrey stepped down as Linfield manager in 2014, McFall had a record of five wins and a draw in eight matches against Linfield.

It wasn’t just against Linfield that McFall was hoping to continue a decent run, having only lost one of his four games in his second spell as Glentoran manager. I’m not going to laugh at that reappointment, because it will probably come back to haunt me when Linfield reappoint David Jeffrey for the final weeks of the 2033/2034 season.

The cynic could suggest that Glentoran’s recent run of form isn’t as impressive as it looks. They got a win against a team who traditionally struggle at The Oval, followed it up with a win against a team at the bottom whose manager was preoccupied with taking McFall’s old job at Portadown, before throwing away two points in the last minute against a team coming off the back of being on the end of a cup upset and a 6-1 defeat.

The two previous meetings this season had seen one win each, each win bringing back happier memories for the respective fans.

For Linfield, it was their fifth successive win at the start of the season. For Glentoran, the win on Boxing Day was the highlight of their season.

The weather was cold enough to be Boxing Day. As well as the cold, it was so windy, the 2017 Champions flag was flying high. Might as well enjoy that for the next six weeks.

If Linfield were hoping to make a positive start, they didn’t get one. Just seventeen seconds were on the clock when a sloppy pass from Kirk Millar set up a Glentoran attack which resulted in a speculative shot easily saved by Alex Moore.

This wasn’t the positive start that Linfield were hoping for. They did reply with an Andrew Waterworth shot that was easily saved by Elliott Morris, but it was Glentoran who would dominate the opening minutes.

Just two minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Marcus Kane, who fired home from long range past Alex Moore to put Glentoran 1-0.

As spectacular as the goal was, there was still questions to be asked of Linfield’s players. Linfield were yet to get into the game. Glentoran had the better of the game and were full of confidence, and knew that Linfield were sluggish.

If Linfield had started the game strongly, there’s no way Kane would fancied a specultive long rang shot.

Both teams had went out of the Irish Cup in midweek, but the contrast in starts was clear to see. Glentoran were looking to boucne back, while Linfield were feeling sorry for themselves. Too many players were second to too many balls.

Nine minutes in Curtis Allen hit the bar from a free-kick. Linfield were almost out of the game before they had even got into it.

That was the wake=up call that shook Linfield into action. We finally got to see them as an attacking force.

Mark Stafford had a header blocked by Marcus Kane, while Andrew Waterworth had a low shot saved.

The golden opportunity came when a counter attack saw the ball come to Kirk Millar, who set himself up to cross for Kurtis Byrne to head straight at Elliott Morris from six yards out. It was harder to miss, but he managed.

Linfield don’t really help themselves at both ends of the pitch when they miss opportunities like this. No Linfield attacking player can complain that they haven’t had enough opportunities to score this season.

Mark Stafford was next to be denied when his header was cleared off the line. I thought it was over, but the TV footage is hard to tell. No VAR in the Irish League.

Kirk Millar then saw a cross evade everyone as Linfield put more pressure on Glentoran’s goal. You got the feeling that if Linfield could get one, they could go on an win the game quite comfortably.

The problem, as has so often been the case this season, was just getting that one goal.

As soon as they went 1-0 up after 2 minutes, Glentoran were timewasting at every opportunity, kicking the ball away at any free-kick won or conceded.

They were only encouraged to do so by the inactivity of referee Keith Kennedy, whose yellow card remained in his pocket, allowing Glentoran’s players to timewaste at will. There was one incident where Elliott Morris was allowed to hold up a free-kick being taken because he needed to fix his gloves. Yes, really.

Amazingly, there was two minutes of injurty time at the end of the first-half, with the Forth Official actually watching the game rather than doing the standard for the first-half and three minutes for the second-half.

Do you remember a story from 2012 about FC Magdeburg fans standing behind the goal and pointing cardboard arrows in the direction of the goal to assist their struggling team?

I’m very tempted to do this at Linfield matches.

It’s getting so bad, the idea of David Healy coming out of retirement to show the team how it’s done doesn’t sound that silly.

At the start of the second-half, Curtis Allen fired just wide from a cross, to premature cheers from the North Stand. I don’t know why, it never looked close to going in.

Linfield fans responded by mocking their rivals. It was the loudest cheer they had all afternoon.

Linfield fans thought they were cheering a goal a few minutes later when Jimmy Callacher headed over following a corner. It was another opportunity that was wasted.

Eventually, Linfield got the goal their dominance deserved, after Elliott Morris flapped at a cross under pressure from Andrew Waterworth, before Robert Garrett headed into the empty net from a few yards out.

He couldn’t miss. Though there were a few situations in the first-half where you could have said that but they managed to miss.

With forty minutes remaining on the clock, there was still plenty of time for Linfield to go on and win the game.

It was noticeable that this was the first Linfield attack where there were bodies in the box and options for the player crossing.

Kurtis Byrne headed agonisingly across goal, before making way for Achille Campion.

Campion had a chance soon after coming on. It wasn’t a clear chance, but he was in a shooting position. He had to blindly shoot. If he did, he would have been rewarded. He chose to pass, and the opportunity was lost.

Andrew Waterworth thought he was going to head home from a cross, but an outstretched leg from a Glentoran defender denied him.

Stephen Fallon came on as a substitute for the injured Jamie Mulgre as Linfield searched for a winner.

They had five minutes of injury time in which to do so. Well, they were supposed to, but one minute was lost to a Glentoran player being treated for an injury, and only half of it was added on, the game finishing as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

This result was bad enough, it got even worse when results from elsewhere came through. Glenavon drew 0-0 at home to Ballinamallard United, meaning that Linfield missed an opportunity to cut the gap on Glenavon to two points.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville beat Carrick Rangers 1-0. Three weeks ago, they were six points behind Linfield, now they could be just one point behind Linfield if they beat Ballymena United on Tuesday night.

Linfield will be hoping for a favour from Ballymena, just as they got last season. No matter how big or small, favours are always to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, it looks like Cliftonville have the momentum that Glenavon (2016) and Coleraine (2017) had when they stormed to 3rd, ironically at the expense of Cliftonville.

Up next for Linfield, is a trip to Ballinamallard on Friday night, shifted to accommodate Northern Ireland v South Korea on Saturday afternoon.

As stated at the time, there are better timeslots for this, such as Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon.

It might have been worth exploring the possibility of playing it on the same weekend as the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, though I do understand that might not be feasible due to Supporters Clubs already having booked buses for a Friday night game.

I’ve got excess Annual Leave from work that needs used before the end of March, so I was planning to be off on Friday, which is lucky for me.

I had actually planned on going to the Paloma Faith concert at The Odyssey, but it’s all seater, which is wank, so i’m giving that a miss. She’s doing a lot of outdoor concerts in August, so i’ll gamble on her playing CHSQ.

No pressure Linfield, give me a performance that is worth missing Paloma Faith for.

Talking of the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, they will be played on Saturday 31st March, which is Easter Saturday. I didn’t realise this until this week.

What an absolute farce. We have a Bank Holiday Weekend, and only four top flight (Warrenpoint face Dungannon in a rearranged game that day) teams are in action. A lot of floating fans will be lost because of this.

There is absolutely no reason why League games could not be scheduled that day, and Irish Cup Semi-Finals played on Saturday 7th April. That would still give four weeks between the Semi-Final and the Final for arrangements to be made.

Keep an eye out for this, as it’s a real possibility. Cliftonville could be at home to Linfield in the Final of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, a match arranged at three to four days notice. Yep, buses and tickets. At four days. I know they managed it in seven days last month, but three to four days will result in a lot of anger. Watch this space. This is the official home of predicting future farces in Irish League football.

David Healy said in his post-match interview on Final Score that it was a good performance. That is true, from the tenth minute onwards. Linfield’s slow start cost them two points today.

If we keep creating chances, we’ll get our reward. Surely. We’ve been saying that a lot this season. Hopefully the tide will turn in our favour at Ballinamallard on Saturday.

Photo Album

STEREOPHONICS – LIVE AT THE ODYSSEY 15.3.2018

Stereophonics have been around for a bit, thanking their Belfast fans for 20 years of support, during a concert that was two days after the 19th anniversary of their first Number One album, Performance and Cocktails.

Regular visitors to Belfast, this was their first indoor concert in Belfast since November 2013, but they have played Belsonic twice since then.

What you get now is a Greatest Hits set. It’s been that way for at least ten years. Let’s face it, who goes to a concert to watch a band perform obscure B-Sides?

They began with more recent classics such as Cest La Vie, I Wanna Get Lost With You and Caught By The Wind.

Caught By The Wind being the standout single released from most recent album Scream Above The Sounds, alongside All In One Night.

Both singles giving off an atmospheric 80s Den Henley vibe.

Don’t be mocking Don Henley, he’s the acceptable face of singing drummers. If they were sounding like Phil Collins, that would be a different matter.

Four songs in, they returned to their debut album, which Jones noted had been released 20 years ago, playing More Life In A Tramp’s Vest.

While the song played, the large screen behind them a compilation of home videos from the band’s early days, with both Kelly and Richard Jones (no relation) both sporting long hairdos. The much missed Stuart Cable sported the same style throughout his time with the band.

During those days, they were known as Tragic Love Company. They had enough video editing skills in them days to write a caption on the screen. Thankfully, they changed their name, as there is only space for one band called TLC.

They then moved onto a song they wrote in San Francisco called Have A Nice Day, though it sounds like Kelly Jones sings “Have an ass day”. It can’t be unheard.

That was then followed by my favourite Stereophonics song, Superman, performed with all the groove and swagger you heard on record.

It was a different stage from previous Stereophonics concerts. Rather than your traditional rock n roll stage design, this stage extended in the middle across the floor, to where the halfway line on the Ice Hockey pitch would be.

You can tell i’m not an expert in stage design. If you went to see U2 in 2015 or Muse in 2016 at The Odyssey.

I was stood at the end of the stage, meaning I had a decent view when they were there, and a decent view when they were in the more traditional rock n roll stage position.

Stagehands snuck some decorations onto that area as the band moved up there. It was dressed as a lounge, similar to that in the video for Handbags and Gladrags, one of the songs that was performed during this section.

Oh yes, there were plenty of lava lamps.

As the band walked over to their new home, we were treated to an instrumental cover of Sweet Home Alabama.

One of the highlights of this section was an acoustic version of Pick A Part That’s New.

That was one of many songs from the first two albums that were played in succession such as Just Looking, Traffic, A Thousand Trees, The Bartender And The Thief

By now, we were at the encore, which included Local Boy In The Photograph.

It looked like they were going to go through a concert without playing Dakota, as Kelly began playing some wandering notes on his guitar, before slowly singing the words “Made me feel like the one, made me feel like the one”.

Everybody in the venue sang it back at him.

They then burst into the version we all know and love. A fantastic tune, their only Number One. It was a good way to sign off.

Photo Album

Stereophonics live at Titanic Belfast June 2016

Stereophonics live at Custom House Square August 2015

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey November 2013

Stereophonics live at Waterfront Hall March 2013

Stereophonics live at Custom House Square August 2010