GLENAVON 2-0 LINFIELD 8.3.2019

As Linfield fans entered Mourneview Park on the opening day of the season, if you said to them that when they returned in March, a win would put them 12 points clear, they’d probably be a bit disappointed because they believe we should be 20 points clear. We’re a demanding bunch.

Exiting the Irish Cup allowed Linfield to have an unofficial mid season break, with a gap of ten days between this and their last match.

Last time out, they left it late to secure all three points at Newry, to give themselves a nine point lead at the top of the table. With Ballymena having a game in hand, it was always deceptive, you have to always assume that games in hand will be won, meaning it would always be viewed as a six point lead.

Good to have, but not enough to be comfortable, a lot of work still needed to be done to secure the title.

That work for the final run-in began at Mourneview Park on Friday night, for an away match against Glenavon which was selected for live TV coverage. This gave Linfield the opportunity the open up a twelve point lead, and really put the pressure on Ballymena United ahead of their trip to Coleraine.

Glenavon had most of the attacking play in the opening minutes, but the best they could offer was speculative shots on goal, on the stretch.

Linfield’s first attacking moment of note came when Andrew Waterworth dispossessed Caolan Marron, with the Glenavon defender being booked for a foul in the full back position.

The resulting free-kick was cleared. On a night when clear chances were rare, Linfield had to make the most of their set piece opportunities, especially as Jonathan Tuffey was struggling with the wind at times, nobody was really getting in front of him or near him to cause problems.

Linfield were now having pressure on Glenavon’s goal, but they needed to make it count. If they got the first goal, they could really push forward against a team that was there for the taking.

Their first real strike at goal came from a Jordan Stewart shot from a wide angle, which Tuffey turned around for a corner. Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s next attempt on goal, flicking on a header from a corner.

Daniel Kearns frustrated when he got the ball in an attacking position, usually taking too many touches meaning the opportunity was missed to take advantage of the possession.

Just before half-time, a neat passing move created Linfield’s first clear chance of the half, but Kyle McClean saw his low shot excellently turned around by Tuffey.

0-0 at half-time, and Linfield were frustrated by not making the most of their set pieces, and having the weather in their favour. However, there was nothing to suggest that Linfield couldn’t go on and win the game in the second-half.

A minute into the second-half, things changed when Glenavon took the lead after a long range shot from Aaron Harmon. The goal came out of nowhere. Suddenly, from trying to win the game, Linfield were now having to turn around a deficit.

Linfield responded immediately, with Jordan Stewart being denied again by Tuffey from a wide angle when a cross to players running into the penalty area.

Jimmy Callacher later headed over from a corner as Linfield searched for an equaliser.

David Healy then turned to his bench, bringing on Marek Cervenka and Kirk Millar for Jordan Stewart and Daniel Kearns. The removal of Stewart didn’t go down too well with some supporters.

Cervenka’s main contribution was to gift Glenavon soft free-kicks in their defensive thirs with stupid fouls, stopping the game when Linfield needed the game to be alive.

Millar endured a frustrating evening, never really getting a clear opportunity to get a cross in.

It looked like Linfield were going to get that elusive equaliser when Andrew Waterworth lined up a shot in the penalty area, only to hit the post.

Marek Cervenka then had a half chance on the edge of the penalty area but he blasted over.

Lorcan Forde was then brought on for Kyle McClean as Linfield chased an equaliser.

It was Marek Cervenka who had Linfield’s next best opportunity, when he was played through on goal but his shot was saved by Tuffey. He really should have scored. On a night of few clear goalscoring opportunities, Linfield had to make the most of the ones that came their way.

You had the feeling if Linfield got an equaliser, they could push on and win it 2-1. With 81 minutes on the clock at that stage, there would have been plenty of time to make it happen.

Jimmy Callacher was next to be frustrated when he headed over from a corner. With 85 minutes on the clock, there would still have been time for Linfield to push on and win it.

Within a minute, Linfield’s task got a lot harder when Josh Robinson misjudged a header, allowing Josh Daniels to sneak in and finish low to make it 2-0.

You shouldn’t allow yourself to think it, but that was it, it was not going to be Linfield’s night.

A frustrating night against a team that were there for the taking. Despite the chances created, Glenavon’s goal was never under siege, which was the most frustrating thing.

With both Linfield and Ballymena United having tricky away games this weekend, you had the feeling there was going to be a plot twist in the title race. It would be Linfield getting pulled back rather than pulling away.

There’s no doubt that this result gave Ballymena a boost before their game at Coleraine, which they won 4-0.

Coleraine will use the red card at 0-0 as an excuse, but in truth, the defending for three of the goals was awful. Ballymena were more alert and eager on every occasion.

Ballymena’s second goal was given despite not crossing the line, much the Coleraine’s anger. Oh the irony of Coleraine complaining about a goal being given despite not crossing the line.

Coleraine fans found out the hard way that bad refereeing decisions aren’t so funny when it affects you’re own team.

It was a game that Linfield were hoping for a favour, but we should know by now that you don’t get any favours in a title race, you have to help yourself. Linfield didn’t do that at Mourneview.

A sense of perspective is needed. It brought to an end a run of 10 League wins in a row. Linfield’s record since losing at Ballymena in December is 16 wins from 19 games in all competitions.

The next eight games will determine if this is just a blip or the start of a slump. It is up to the players to make sure it is just a blip.

However, in recent weeks, Linfield have been getting away with it an scraping by.

The fixture list gives Linfield two games against Bottom Six teams, who must be beaten before the split if Linfield are to have realistic title ambitions.

Even though they have a goal difference in their favour, they don’t want to have to use it.

Crusaders let Coleraine back into it from a similar position this time last year though, but just about managed to get over the line.

Over the next few weeks, our attacking players need to step up. The stats are damming.

Michael O’Connor hasn’t scored since January 28th. Neither has Jordan Stewart. Andrew Waterworth hasn’t scored a League goal since January 12th. Marek Cervenka has only got one goal. Even Jimmy Callacher is experiencing a goal drought.

We just need to get back to basics. Joel Cooper’s absence is a loss but that can be overcome, we have the personnel to deal with it.

We might have versatile players, but we don’t need to constantly change formation and personnel. Our success this season has been based on having a settled line up. Let’s go back to 4231, and if we keep winning, keep the starting eleven.

The squad has served us well this season, but now is the time for minimal disruption.

Elsewhere, in unsurprising news, Larne confirmed their promotion to the top flight. I haven’t been to Inver Park since 2005, so it’ll be good to visit there again. Hopefully, Linfield will be visiting there next season as League champions.

With a County Antrim Shield Final in midweek, hopefully, Linfield will be entering the pitch ahead of their next League game, against Institute at Windsor Park next Saturday with another trophy in the bag.

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KT TUNSTALL – LIVE AT ELMWOOD HALL 5.3.2019

Tuesday nights are the new Saturday night.

Well, maybe that’s a bit too far, but it was the third of four successive Tuesday night adventures, going Music-Football-Music-Football.

After Chvrches and Newry City v Linfield, it was back to music, and a first concert at Elmwood Hall for me.

I had previously been there, to see Norman Whiteside at The Belfast Festival in 2012, while I was also at the Fine and Dandy Market a few weeks previously.

Elmwood Hall is the venue now being used to effectively replace Mandela Hall, less than a minute away, coincidentally, the venue KT Tunstall played for her last headline show in Belfast.

I should have been back there more recently than this show. I had a ticket for Simon Day in October last year, but unfortunately that was cancelled.

When I was at the Fine and Dandy Market a few weeks previously, the first thing that came to me as I walked around the hall was, where on earth are they going to put the stage?

That was answered as I arrived, with an erected stage taking up quite a lot of the floor, meaning we were all squished in and very close to the stage.

As she entered the stage to Mickey by Toni Basil, jumping straight into a new song In This Body, joking about how it is good to get the unknown songs out of the way first.

Up next, was something a bit more well known, Other Side Of The World, encouraging the crowd to get their phones out as she attempts to turn Elmwood Hall into an “Enormodome”, reassuring that she won’t verbally abuse anyone in the crowd like Chrissie Hynde, fangirling over Hynde having toured with her and Simple Minds the previous year.

I remember being very annoyed at that Simple Minds/Pretenders/KT Tunstall visited everywhere except Belfast.

The version of Other Side Of The World she performed was far superior to the one on record, heavier drums and more guitar led.

The second night of her tour, she promised the audience a good show. Well, maybe not a good show, but that it would be less shit than the previous night, while also telling the crowd to pretend that it’s Saturday night.

In her previous Belfast show, she spoke a lot between songs, telling stories behind the songs or just general chit-chat.

She asked if anyone had travelled far to be at this concert, someone in the crowd shouted “Dunmurry” which seemed to impress her until someone shouted that it was in West Belfast. She was then actually impressed when somebody shouted that they had travelled from Tipperary.

It was lucky for one audience member that she wasn’t adopting the Chriss Hynde attitude to phones, as someone’s phone went off during a solo performance of Feel It All, she mockingly put on a Norn Iron accent, saying “You’ll never guess what, she’s performing Feel It All”.

When recalling a tale of doing karaoke of her own songs, she did a brief cover of Faith by George Michael, disappointing the crowd by not playing it in full, as it is her karaoke song, before giving us a brief cover of Black Betty by Ram Jam during Black Horse And The Cherry Tree.

We did get treated to a cover in full, asking the crowd “Who likes the 1980s?” before performing I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany, even though that song itself is a cover of a song from the 1960s.

At the end of the show thanking the crowd for coming to see her, reading out a list of alternative things that were on in Belfast, one of which was a coding class at Ashfield Boys School.

She had forgotten to do that at her concert in Dublin the previous night, so we got treated to what Dublin folk missed out on by choosing to see her, which included a balloon artistry workshop, but not EA Sports Cup games at Bray Wanderers and Shelbourne.

Overall, a very enjoyable evening.

Up next for me, is Echo and the Bunnymen, as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, which was announced a few days after this concert.

Coincidentally, it was the day after Rik Mayall’s birthday. He once sent an angry letter to Ian McCullough.

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KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall 2016

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 8.3.2019

1. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot
2. Chvrches and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Miracle
3. KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See
4. The Prodigy – Firestarter
5. Rose Elinor Dougall – First Sign

Today, is International Women’s Day. As is now tradition on this blog, i’ll do some themed charts.

If you doing something or going to something, enjoy yourself.

If you’re not that bothered and it’s just another day to you, enjoy yourself.

Whatever you’re doing, just don’t be a dick about it. You know who I mean, the sort of person who sits in front of a computer screaming IT’S NOVEMBER 19TH!!!!!!

Here’s some charts

FIVE SONGS BY FEMALE VOCALISTS

1. Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever
2. Celine Dion – It’s All Coming Back To Me
3. Madonna – Who’s That Girl?
4. Amy Studt – Misfit
5. Britney Spears – Boys

FIVE SONGS BY FEMALE FRONTED BANDS

1. Blondie – Heart Of Glass
2. Chvrches – Lies
3. Paramore – Hard Times
4. Altered Images – Don’t Talk To Me About Love
5. Garbage – Stupid Girl

FIVE SONGS BY GIRL GROUPS

1. Sugababes – Soul Sound
2. Alisha’s Attic – I Am I Feel
3. Bananarama – Love In The First Degree
4. Girls Aloud – Biology
5. Little Mix – Black Magic

FIVE SONGS WITH A GIRL’S NAME IN THE TITLE

1. The Killers – Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
2. Toto – Roseanna
3. Oasis – Lyla
4. Marillion – Kayleigh
5. Franz Ferdinand – Eleanor Put Your Boots On

FIVE SONGS WITH GIRL OR WOMAN IN THE TITLE

1. Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl
2. White Town – Your Woman
3. Kate Bush – Rubberband Girl
4. Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
5. Billy Joel – Uptown Girl

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 15.3.1986

Sheffield Wednesday’s on form striker Garry Thompson is the cover star, in a week where Shoot speculates that Manchester United might be trying to sign Sammy Lee from Liverpool.

Lee is the subject of a double page feature, where he states he is aiming to make up for lost time after a disappointing 84-85 due to injuries and loss of form.

Lee was linked with Manchester United by Shoot, whose Danish defender John Sivebaek has revealed he joined United for money, while manager Ron Atkinson revealed that it was his goal against Republic Of Ireland in a World Cup Qualifier which prompted United to sign him, beating off competition from Spurs, Celtic, Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge.

With the World Cup approaching, Shoot looks at the chances of those wanting to go. They did a report on Terry Fenwick’s performance during QPR’s 1-1 draw with Luton, concluding that he is being wasted in midfield.

One player not going to Mexico was Remi Moses, who would be missing out through injury. Bryan Robson writes about this in his column, and also states that Mark Hughes wants to stay at Manchester United, and then promotes his fan club, which you can join for £3.50 a year if you live in the British Isles.

In news, Reading’s Andy Rogers was saved by the club’s physio after he collapsed during a recent game.

Two youngsters getting full page profiles were Nigel Spackman (Chelsea) and Paul Stephenson (Newcastle United)

Shoot reports that Barcelona are looking at Mark Hughes, while Gary Williams is set to leave Aston Villa after a bust-up with manager Graham Turner.

One player agreeing with his manager was Peter Rhoades-Brown of Oxford, whos manager Maurice Evans described him as inconsistent.

Jimmy Greaves Star Letter comes from a Scotland fan complaining that it was unfair that Belgoium were considering playing their Euro 88 Qualifier against Scotland to a neutral country, due to the fear of hooliganism.

John Bond gets a double page spread, with the recently appointed Birmingham City manager stating that he can revive the club. They were relegated in 1986, and almost get relegated again in 1987, before Bond was sacked.

In foreign news, Andreas Brehme has signed a pre-contract with Bayern Munich, while Janusz Torowski and Jaroslaw Biernat have both signed for Eintracht Frankfurt, but won’t be going to the World Cup, having claimed asylum in West Germany.

Shoot is in the World Cup mood, doing a double page feature on Denmark, comparing them to the Holland side of 1974 and 1978.

Peter Davenport’s chances of going to Mexico received an endorsement from his manager at Nottingham Forest, Brian Clough, who wrote a column to urge England manager Bobby Robson to put him on the plane.

Talking of managers, Kenny Dalglish picked up his first Manager Of The Month award, but defeat to Everton ruined his day when he was presented with the award.

A future manager, was Alan Curbishley of Charlton, who was on the pitch for them in 1986, leading their promotion charge as they aimed to reach the top flight for the first time since 1957.

In Scotland, a former Rangers man has done Celtic a favour, as Mo Johnston has had a run of form kickstarted by being dropped from the Scotland squad by Alex Ferguson.

Brighton get a full page profile, as they aim to be promoted back to the top flight after being relegated in 1983.

Returning to Scotland, Shoot previewed the Scottish Cup Quarter-Finals between Hibs and Celtic, and Aberdeen v Dundee. At the time of going to print, they were the only two Quarter-Finals definitely confirmed.

NEWRY CITY 0-1 LINFIELD 26.2.2019

There wasn’t much time for Linfield to dwell on the match against Ballymena United, as they were back into League action three days later, as both they and Ballymena played in rearranged games that were postponed due to the League Cup Final.

This was supposed to be the second of two Friday night visits to Newry, but due to postponements and the League Cup Final, it was the second of two Tuesday night visits. Though, with both teams out of the Irish Cup, there was no reason why it couldn’t have been put back to Saturday 2nd March.

Tuesday night it was, and Linfield would have to get on with it, and it would be a Linfield eleven with two enforced changes from the second of those 1-0 wins against Ballymena, with Jimmy Callacher (suspension) and Jamie Mulgrew (injury) missing.

Newry will have been glad to see Callacher not on the field, having scored a hat-trick when the sides met at Windsor Park in October. Though, he is currently experiencing a goal drought recently, having failed to net since scoring twice at Ards on New Year’s Day.

Mulgrew’s absence meant a place on bench for Benny Moller Nielsen, while Andrew Mitchell made a welcome return to bench after a period of Injury and Compassionate Leave. Ironically, it was an injury that he suffered against Newry in late January.

With Jamie Mulgrew joining Stephen Fallon on the injury list, centre midfield was starting to look like a problem position for Linfield, so getting players coming back in that area is always welcome.

I was running slightly late and missed the first couple of minutes. It certainly wasn’t as bad as the time I got stuck in Newry traffic and only managed to get in the ground in time to see Curtis Allen put Linfield 1-0 up, on a day stood in the rain watching Linfield win 6-0, while Glentoran were losing at home to Coleraine by the same score. It was that long ago, Glentoran were defending champions.

Back to the present day, and as I arrived, Marek Cervenka was being played through to finish, only to be denied by and offside flag.

It was one of many frustrating moments in the first-half for Linfield, the ball being mostly in Newry’s half, but not near enough near Newry’s goal.

Ryan McGivern, playing in his home city, couldn’t twist to put the ball home from close range, while Mark Stafford was denied by the crossbar from a header after a corner.

The only chance that Linfield’s pressure could bring, was a Marek Cervenka shot that was fired over under pressure.

As the half-time whistle blew, with the score at 0-0, Linfield knew they had to step it up, especially with Ballymena beating Cliftonville 1-0.

This combination of results would have undone to good work by beating Ballymena the previous Saturday. Even though we’d be a point better off than we were two games previous, we’d be letting Ballymena back into the title race instead of keeping them at arms length.

Whatever was said at half-time, it was brief and to the point, as Linfield’s players were back out while Newry’s were still in the dressing room.

Linfield were straight on the attack in the opening minutes of the second-half, already showing more attacking intent than they did in the first-half. It looked like getting an instant reward when Andrew Waterworth headed home, but he was denied by the offside flag.

The closest that Linfield came to legally scoring was when Mark Stafford headed over from a corner.

Newry rode it out, and suddenly, Linfield were running short of ideas. Usually, it was kicking it out wide to Kirk Millar and hope that he won the flick, but not knowing what to do if he won it.

Andrew Waterworth got in behind Newry’s defence and was fouled. From where I was, it looked like the Newry defender just about won the ball just outside the penalty area. There was a bit of commotion between Newry’s protest, and the issue of a yellow card. During this, Josh Robinson placed the ball on the penalty spot in anticipation of a spot kick, only for it to be a jedi mind trick, as the referee pointed for a free-kick.

It was on the line, as close to the penalty area as possible. The only option was to smash it low and see if the keeper can get down quick enough. Chris Casement tried to place it, and it was blocked.

On a night that Linfield weren’t creating many chances, they had to make the most of those that came their way.

David Healy turned to the bench, bringing on Michael O’Connor and Jordan Stewart for Daniel Kearns and Marek Cervenka.

However, it was Ryan McGivern who had Linfield’s next big chance, firing just wide.

Kyle McClean then had a shot blocked from the edge of the box, unable to recreate his recent heroics against Coleraine, setting himself up when he needed to shoot instantly, giving Andy Coleman a chance to get into position.

Newry began to grow in confidence, and sensed they could win this 1-0. They almost did but Gareth Deane had to rush out of his goal and intercept a through ball.

Even though it was 0-0 rather than 1-1 going into the final minutes, this game had similarities to trips to Ballinamallard (2017) and Dungannon (2018) in recent years, being frustrated, out of sorts at times and having to guard against conceding on the counter attack.

Linfield won those previous two games, and were hoping to do likewise in this.

On a night when they were struggling in attack, it seemed strange not to introduce Lorcan Forde from the bench, to offer something different.

Having failed to score in 90 minutes, Linfield would have 5 more, as the board for injury time came up.

They only needed 2, as a Niall Quinn cross was headed home by Chris Casement, to ecstatic scenes in the away support.

It was only his third goal of the season, but the second time in 2019 he has come out of nowhere to score a vital goal, having put Linfield in front when they were struggling against Glentoran in January.

By this point, Ballymena had left the pitch having beaten Cliftonville, this goal maintained Linfield’s nine point lead, deflating Ballymena’s hopes of cutting the gap before Linfield travel to Mid and East Antrim Council Stock Car Arena in April.

It was a goal cursed by one former Linfield manager but celebrated by another, with David Jeffrey and Warren Feeney keeping an interest in this result, a game which affected both ends of the table.

Linfield’s current manager seemed quite happy with the goal.

It is unknown what Trevor Anderson, Eric Bowyer or Roy Coyle made of the goal.

There was still time remaining in the game, but thankfully, Linfield were able to see out the game and win 1-0. It was their third clean sheet in a row, after conceding six in their previous three games.

Late goals, wins, clean sheets. All good habits to have at any time of year, but especially in the run-in.

This will be Linfield’s last match in Newry and Mourne this season, but i’m already looking to next season’s visits, crossing my fingers that Linfield will be away to Warrenpoint Town on Saturday 5th October, so that I can go to the John Power concert after the match.

As said earlier and in recent weeks, I was hoping this game would be on the following Saturday as both teams are free.

However, we can use this to our advantage, having a break to rest legs and get players in condition for the run-in, after a demanding run of games over the past three months, including a lot of away games, six pointers, and Cup Finals/Semi-Finals.

As the teams were leaving the pitch, the floodlights started to dim. Linfield’s title ambitions are very much still shining bright.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 1.3.2019

1. Chvrches and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Miracle
2. Talk Talk – Life’s What You Make It
3. KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See
4. Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
5. Stereophonics – Chaos From The Top Down

Today, is St David’s Day, so I’ve got a treat for Welsh readers, a chart for you to celebrate your national day.

FIVE SONGS BY WELSH ACTS

1. Stereophonics – Dakota
2. Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever
3. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
4. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
5. The Automatic – Steve McQueen