MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : 90 MINUTES – 24.2.1996

Dennis Wise and Dan Petrescu are the cover stars of this week’s edition of 90 Minutes, which has declared Chelsea as the season’s surprise package.

In news, Manchester United have taken Mark Fish on trial. United have also signed a new kit deal with Umbro worth £40m – £65m.

Leeds United have been ordered bu UEFA to upgrade their dressing rooms for Euro 96, at a cost of £500,000.

There is a three page spread on Chelsea, with 90 minutes describing it as their finest team since the 70s.

Clyde are facing Rangers in the Scottish Cup, and 90 Minutes has an interview with Clyde’s ageing Celtic legend Charlie Nicholas.

Also getting a feature is Blackpool, after it is claimed that their stadium is being haunted by the ghost of Admiral Nelson.

In competitions, you could spend a night with Paul Merson.

As Euro 96 approaches, there is a full page profile on the French team, so good, that David Ginola and Eric Cantona can’t get a game.

90 Minutes Live canvasses supporters at Coventry City v Manchester City for the worst refereeing decision they have ever seen.

Advertisements

LINFIELD 3-2 QARABAG 22.8.2019

On Thursday lunchtime, looking at the gloomy weather, I joked to myself if they have rain in Azerbiajan. Would this unsettle Qarabag? It wasn’t rain that Qarabag had to worry about, it was another force of nature – Shayne Lavery.

Linfield were 180 minutes away from a place in the group stages of the UEFA Cup, the first Irish League team to be in this situation (although not the first team from Northern Ireland, as Derry City were in this scenario in 2006, during the original group stage format. Before I get any angry letters from Foyleside)

They couldn’t have got a worse draw. Qarabag might not jump off the page in the grand scheme of European Football, but they know how to get to the group stages of European competition, most notably the UEFA Cup.

When you want to reach the groups stages of the UEFA Cup, the last team you want to face is a team who knows how to reach the group stages of the UEFA Cup.

Qarabag were no strangers to Northern Ireland, having squeezed through 3-2 against Portadown in 2010. That might not have caused much fear among Linfield’s support, their more recent history – draws against Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid (twice) in the last five years was a barometer of the task in hand.

It took just over a minute for Linfield to realise they had stepped up a level as some cheaply lost possession resulted in a quick attack for Qarabag, a shot going just wide of the post.

Though, if it did go in, with just over a minute on the clock played, it still would have been a better start than the previous match against Coleraine five days earlier.

However, Linfield weren’t spending the opening minutes defending, they had some attacks of their own, though not ones that caused panic for Qarabag.

Despite the even start, Qarabag took the lead when a clearance was returned back into the Linfield penalty area, and Faycal Rherras stretched out a leg, the ball looping in to silence Windsor Park.

Didn’t even like the UEFA Cup, prefer the County Antrim Shield to be honest.

Don’t have to worry about being conflicted if Linfield draw United, wondering if i’ll do two trips to London in nine months if we draw Arsenal, thinking of a Birmingham/Oxford double header if we draw Wolves. Then there’s Espanyol, oh well, no weekend in Barcelona.

Linfield responded with a series of attacks, the crowd cheering and roaring them on, there was no feeling sorry for themselves.

Qarabag were in the mood to finish this tie on the night, hitting the post after a quick attack, while Rohan Ferguson was forced into save after another attack.

Linfield hung in there, it was all they could do.

In previous matches, we had seen Bastien Hery showcase his skills. Tonight, we saw a different side of him, frequently pickpocketing the ball when Qarabag players held onto the ball for too long.

As half-time loomed, Linfield got an equaliser when Mark Stafford headed home from a free-kick. Linfield were no longer looking to stay in the tie, they were very much in the tie.

It completed a rather eventful birthday week for Stafford, with two goals and a baby with his birthday sandwiched inbetween.

Earlier this month, Kirk Millar had his birthday sandwiched inbetween his birthday. Have to say, i’m a big fan of Linfield players going on goal runs when they have their birthday.

Linfield responded to their own goal in the same way they responded to Qarabag’s, with a series of attacks roared on by their support.

As injury time approached, Bastien Hery found himself wide, surrounded by Qarabag players with nowhere to go. He worked his magic and won a corner.

A chance for Linfield to make the most of their momentum, which they did, Shayne Lavery heading home to put them 2-1 in front.

You’ve got Dundalk coach Ruaidhri Higgins to thank for this, having pointed out that Qarabag were weak at set pieces when interviewed by the BBC in the build-up to this match.

For both goals, especially the second, questions have to be asked of Qarabag’s keeper, not that Linfield fans cared as they were grateful.

Just ten minutes earlier, I would have taken Linfield only being 1-0 down at half-time, which makes the turnaround even more spectacular.

In the second-half, Shayne Lavery, Andrew Mitchell and Matthew Clarke had attempts at goal as Linfield looked to get a 3-1 advantage, while also keeping their opponents at bay

Neither side looked like getting that goal, but a 2-1 win would do for Linfield.

However, on 74 minutes, things got even better for Linfield when Shayne Lavery chased down a clearance, and outmuscled a Qarabag defender, and raced towards goal, cutting onto his left foot, the question now, was did he have the finish?

What a stupid question, of course he did, and Linfield were 3-1 up.

Every time a Qarabag defender got the ball, Lavery was snapping at their heels. Quite a lot of times, the Qarabag defenders were able to win cheap free-kicks. Lavery only needed to get it right once.

If Hery was pickpocketed the ball from Qarabag players, Lavery was just taking the ball off them without asking them.

Linfield fans would gladly have taken any advantage to Azerbaijan, now they had a two goal margin.

Within minutes, it looked like Qarabag were going to make it 3-2 when the ball fell perfectly to Mahir Emreli after a tackle, Windsor Park held it’s breath, and then celebrated as if it was a goal when the ball hit the post and landed into Rohan Ferguson’s arms.

The luck was with Qarabag, and it went straight back to Linfield.

It looked like Linfield were going to hold out for a 3-1 win, until Qarabag got a penalty in injury time for a tired tackle by Matthew Clarke. It was a clear penalty. Even the Southstanders didn’t protest, and they moan about everything.

Magaye Gueye stepped up, and Panenkaed it into the net, making it 3-2. It would have been almost too perfect if he had missed it.

The atmosphere at Windsor Park, fell muted, the knew the importance of that second away goal for Qarabag.

The muted atmosphere didn’t last long, as Linfield fans celebrated a famous win at the final whistle.

Linfield got what they wanted, the tie is alive going to Azerbaijan. It’s more than alive for Linfield. They don’t have to win over there, they don’t even have to score over there, though it would be nice.

To lose a second away goal was disappointing, but it still would have been a tough second leg if it was 3-1. We got a win. 1-0 or 4-3, it doesn’t matter, we have the advantage.

Now, time for positivity. Linfield have scored 11 goals in 5 UEFA Cup games. They’re not grinding out 1-0 wins. Well, apart from that one time.

In their two previous rounds, Linfield have scored twice away from home. That should give the players belief that they can score out there.

Even if we go 1-0 down, Qarabag will have the advantage, but the tie won’t be over.

Qarabag won’t be playing the second leg at their usual ground. Every little thing you can think of as advantage, you have to run with it.

A spin-off about this, is the co-efficient points generated from this run. Hopefully, we shall see the rewards in the coming years if we win the League and get seeded in the European Cup.

It’s something I’ve always wondered, that from the 2nd Round to the Group Stage, teams drop into the UEFA Cup, but not the 1st Round.

Finally, teams that go out of the European Cup in the 1st Round get a second chance of European football. This is the first time Linfield have been in this format (introduced in 2018) and they have made the most of it.

We can’t neglect domestic duties though. I can understand why the Warrenpoint game was postponed, instead of being played on the Sunday or Monday sandwiched inbetween both legs. We won’t get this luxury if we get to the groups.

If we do, i’ll discuss the ramifications in terms of fixture scheduling.

If Linfield were to get to the Group Stages of the UEFA Cup, it means there won’t be a spare midweek to play the League Cup tie against Ballinamallard United until October.

We’ll have to start getting points on the board as we currently sit 10th. No need to panic though.

Saturday’s results were kind to us, with Crusaders, Larne, Ballymena United and Glenavon dropping points. It’s important that nobody starts to pull away while we are inactive. We’ll be further inactive the following weekend due to the Larne game being postponed due to international call-ups.

That means Glentoran v Institute will now be a Sky Sports live game. Always good to have the little teams get a moment in the spotlight.

If we win our games in hand, we are only one point off the top.

Meanwhile, Dungannon Swifts are currently watching a Leicester City 2015-2016 Season Review DVD.

Oh, and I booked my accommodation for Bray for the Last 16 game to be scheduled in Dublin at Euro 2020. All I need is a ticket now.

The second leg will be at 5pm on Thursday. It’s live on the BBC website.

If it wasn’t for Mikhail Gorbachev, Linfield would have eight European trophies by now. Probably.

We’ve suffered European exits against teams from former Soviet countries – Dinamo Tblisi (who were later thrown out, so we got a reprieve), Lokomotiv Tblisi, Torpedo Kutaisi, and BATE Borisov, with only a victory against Ventspils in 2005 to counter it.

We’re due another one, right?

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WORLD SOCCER – JANUARY 2012

Lionel Messi is the cover star of this edition of World Soccer, which looks back at football in 2011.

The magazine begins with two obituaries, a full page for Socrates, while Gary Speed surprisingly gets a small mention on the following page.

Algerian internationals from the 1980s have demanded an inquiry into possible doping by the Team Doctor after it emerged that eight players from that era have fathered disabled children.

Manchester United’s elimination from the European Cup gets focused on, with one columnist suggesting that the team lacks flair.

Jaiyah Saelua of American Samoa made history as the first transgender footballer to play in an international.

Brian Glanville uses his column to bemoan the number of dead rubber games in the group stages of the European Cup.

The draw for Euro 2012 has taken place and there is a full fixture list, as well as a look at the goalkeepers who will be taking part in Ukraine and Poland.

In Spain, Real Madrid looked to have blown their chance of winning La Liga.

Qatar are struggling in their bid to reach the 2014 finals, as they aim to reach the World Cup before hosting it in 2022.

Hoping to take part in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers in Gibraltar, and their application to join UEFA is given a full page profile.

With the African Cup Of Nations near, there is a profile of Morocco, now under the management of Eric Gerets, and aiming to win the competition,

There is eight pages dedicated to looking back at 2011, as well as a look at stars of the future, with Eden Hazard, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Jack Rodwell and Christian Eriksen predicted for great things.

There is also six pages looking back at Lionel Messi’s year.

There is also a tactical look at how Chelsea’s high line is costing them dear.

Istanbul is the subject of a two page feature called Soccer Cities, offering advice to anyone wanting to travel there to watch football.

There is three pages reviewing how each European national team performed in 2011, while the focus of the club round-up is of both Manchester clubs crashing out of the European Cup.

LINFIELD 2-4 COLERAINE 17.8.2019

When you’re playing The Limelight days before you headline Glastonbury, the rules are the same, you have to perform no matter where you are playing.

This was more drunken karaoke down the pub than Queen at Live Aid.

The first 13 seconds were awful. The remaining 89 minutes and 47 seconds weren’t much better.

Coleraine kicked off and were straight on the attack, a long ball seeing Ben Doherty get clear of Jimmy Callacher and run towards goal. I was sat at the opposite end and could see that he was setting himself up to shoot on his left foot.

However, the three defenders around him couldn’t see it, backing off and giving him to shoot and put Coleraine 1-0 up.

At least there was still plenty of time to put it right.

Amazingly, it wasn’t the earliest goal I’ve seen Linfield concede, with Gary McCutcheon scoring in 12 seconds in 2013.

The response from Linfield? There wasn’t really one. A lot of build-up play but no final ball.

Coleraine were well organised, so Linfield needed to do something special to break them down. It just wasn’t happening for them.

Midway through the first-half, things got worse when Coleraine went 2-0 up from a corner.

I was at the other end and thought it went straight in. It was much worse than that.

There were no Coleraine players attacking the ball, Ryan McGiven headed the ball into his own net from a few yards out, beating Daniel Kearns to the ball just as he was about to clear it.

Surely McGivern would have seen Kearns and let him clear it? Running to head the ball away when facing your own goal always has a risk, he should have let Kearns take control of the situation.

As with the first goal, there was still time to put it right, but they didn’t look like doing so.

They did have history to look back on for recent inspiration, with Linfield coming from behind to draw and win against Coleraine in recent years, as well as Coleraine throwing away 1-0 and 2-0 leads to draw against Cliftonville and Glentoran in the opening week of the season.

All that Linfield could offer in response was a speculative long range shot from Jamie Mulgrew.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield had their best moments of the game, all being relative. A lot of possession and situations but very few chances. The only moment of concern for Coleraine was a shot from Joel Cooper which deflected into the side netting.

Even if Linfield had pulled it back to 2-1 during those final minutes, it wouldn’t and shouldn’t have changed the half-time team talk.

The response at the start of the second-half wasn’t quick in coming, and David Healy wasn’t prepared to wait for it, bringing on Kirk Millar for Jordan Stewart just three minutes into the half, after Stewart lost an aerial tussle he was favourite to win.

Just before the hour, Matthew Clarke made way for Shayne Lavery, with Linfield now going to three at the back.

Within a few minutes, the ball hit the back of the net, and it was Coleraine who got it when Stephen O’Donnell headed home from a free-kick.

Again, it was poor defending from Linfield, as Ryan McGivern switched off to give O’Donnell a free header when he was favourite to clear it.

Having already blown 1-0 and 2-0 leads this season, there was no way that Coleraine were going to blow a 3-0 lead.

The irony is, if McGivern attacked the ball as he did for Coleraine’s 2nd, he would have cleared it. And of course, if he left the ball for Coleraine’s 2nd as he did for their 3rd, Daniel Kearns would have cleared it.

Linfield responded with a Kirk Millar effort that was saved, before a teed up Joel Cooper free-kick went low into the back of the net to make it 3-1.

The goal wasn’t celebrated as a consolation strike, it was celebrated as the start of a comeback, there was time left to come back.

The crowd were further geed up by the introduction of Bastien Hery before the game restarted.

Then, a header from Shayne Lavery made it 3-2 and an unlikely comeback looked on.

Within minutes, those hopes were dashed when Ryan McGivern got a second yellow card as Eoin Bradley headed towards goal. All he needed was to have missed a penalty to get a full set.

The resulting reshuffle saw Kirk Millar have to go into a full-back position to cover the defence, and blunted Linfield as an attacking force.

Even though there was only one goal in it, the red card and reshuffle killed all of Linfield’s momentum.

There was time for one more goal in this game. Kirk Millar, usually reliable for an assist set up a goal in injury time. Unfortunately, it was for Coleraine, as his stray backpass was seized upon by Emmett McGuckin who rounded Rohan Ferguson and toepoked the ball into the open net before Ferguson could chase after him.

McGuckin was only brought on minutes earlier as a substitute to see the game out.

It summed up Linfield’s day as Windsor Park began to empty as soon as the ball hit the back of the net. Those that stayed saw Joel Cooper have a header saved.

Curiously, the last time August 17th fell on a Saturday, Linfield lost 4-2 at home, this time to Cliftonville. You will be glad to hear that August 17th won’t be a Saturday until 2024. Feel free to start making alternative plans for that day.

What went wrong for Linfield? Everything.

The fightback was too little, too late. You can’t turn up 60 minutes into the game. You can’t even relax for the first 14 seconds, you have to be on it straight from kick-off.

You could argue that the changes to the started line-up disrupted Linfield’s momentum. It wasn’t Swifts players being brought it, it was players such as Cooper, Kearns, Callacher and Waterworth, who were all regular starters when the team picked itself at the start of last season.

We can’t really use Tuesday night’s exertions as an excuse, as there were ten top flight teams in action on Tuesday night, one of those being Coleraine.

As disappointing as this performance and result was, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective and not to panic. If we win our game in hand, we’ll only be three points off the top.

With no game next weekend, and the following weekend’s game pushed back to the Monday night, we could be in the relegation zone by the time we next play a League match.

That would be a hilarious juxtaposition if we were in the groups stages by the time we play at Larne.

It would not be hilarious if we were still in the relegation zone by the end of September though, just for clarity.

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney stated when being interviewed on the BBC after the game that the game was postponed, even though his side got the three points.

I’ll have to disagree with him on that. I can understand postponing the Warrenpoint game, as disappointing as it is, as it is such an exceptional situation.

In terms of fixture scheduling, things are manageable and there is no need to panic, but we can’t let things build up.

If we get through to the group stages, playing League matches on the Sunday after will have to be looked at seriously, as we can’t let the outstanding games pile up.

Whilst we may have games in hand, other clubs will have points in the bag, which is far more preferable.

Next week’s fixture list sees two matches between teams with top six ambtions – Crusaders v Larne and Ballymena United v Glentoran which will hopefully see points droppage that we can take advantage of when we return to League action.

I’m hoping that this performance was purely to lure any Azeri spies into a false sense of security ahead of Thursday night’s game.

Qarabag have recent European pedigree. They know how to reach the groups stages of competitions, mostly the UEFA Cup, though they haven’t got past the group stage or looked like doing so.

A win against Anderlecht and draws with Saint Etienne (twice), Inter Milan, Monaco and Atletico Madrid (twice) in recent years commands respect, but not fear.

The second leg will be played at Azerbaijan’s national stadium, Tofiq Brhramov Stadium.

It’s a stadium that has evaded David Healy in his career. He was suspended when Northern Ireland played there in 2004. By the time they returned in 2017, he was retired from playing.

Hopefully, by the time he eventually gets there on Thursday week, it will be worth the wait.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 3-2 FK SUTJESKA 13.8.2019

I’d braced myself for a 3-2 defeat after extra time. It was going to be another Skoda Xanthi.

For the first time since 2005, Linfield were playing a European tie in August. It didn’t start well.

Standing in departures at Edinburgh Airport getting ready to board, a goalflash alert beeped to say that Sutjeska had just gone 1-0 after ten minutes. Arriving in Belfast and getting on the bus into the City Centre, I finally had wifi again, and expected to be 3-0 or 4-0 down, but instead we were 2-1 up. It’s not often you have a smile on your face when you return from a holiday.

When you have a winning formula, you might as well stick to it, which is what David Healy did, naming the same starting eleven as the first leg, which meant a place on the subs bench for Jimmy Callacher.

Despite a lead and two away goals, the tie was far from over. It was evident in the opening two minutes with Linfield being unable to get the ball.

Eventually, they did get the ball, and made good use of it. They got rewarded when Mark Stafford headed home from a corner.

Due to the larger crowd, more of The Kop was open than normal, meaning I was sat in the middle of the goal and had a perfect view of it. Stafford made a run which meant that all he had to do was get a clean header on the ball, which he did. The perfect start.

The perfect start didn’t last for long though, as Sutjeska equalised with a header from Bojan Bozovic. The perfect was wiped out.

The early goal rush continued, and it was Linfield who were back in front when Shayne Lavery got in behind Sutjeska’s defence. Sutjeska’s keeper went out to clear the danger, and only succeeded in giving the ball to Lavery.

Usually in a situation, the striker is swarmed by defenders, or makes a mess of the shot, or a defender gets back and blocks it. These situations rarely result in a goal, but this one did, putting Linfield 2-1 up.

What it also meant, was that it was good news if you wanted to go to bed at a sensible time when you got home, as we wouldn’t be going to extra-time.

A neat passing move saw Kirk Millar shoot narrowly wide, as he tried to make his birthday celebrations last for a full week.

If Linfield could get a third goal, there would be no way back for Sutjeska.

As the half ended, Linfield received a boost when Aleksandar Sofranac got two quick yellow cards. Linfield smelt that this tie could be won before half-time. Sutjeska were playing to get to half-time at 1-2, and then try to regroup and clear their heads. They were able to do just that.

As the hour approached, Sutjeska were on top and looking for an equaliser. Rohan Ferguson was forced to make a top class save from close range to deny them. Linfield just couldn’t get the ball away. Eventually, Sutkeska were rewarded when Bojan Bozovic headed home to make it 2-2.

Windsor Park was now nervous. Linfield had the advantage, but Sutjeska were only one goal away from winning on away goals.

David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Joel Cooper for Kirk Millar.

Cooper waltzed into Sutjeska’s penalty area, and his perfect low cross was met by Matthew Clarke to fire into the empty net to make it 3-2.

Windsor Park erupted, they knew that the goal meant. With the game on a knife edge, this goal put Linfield just out of reach for Sutjeska.

Only a pub team would concede two late goals at home in Europe to lose 4-3. Oh, hello there Celtic.

The crowd wasn’t relaxed despite the advantage, but not as tense as they would have been ifi t was 2-2.

Shayne Lavery got a standing ovation as he was replaced by Andrew Waterworth, who helped Linfield see out the game and win 3-2.

There wasn’t much time for Linfield to celebrate, as they would face Qarabag in the Play-Off Round eight days later, with a League match against Coleraine sandwiched inbetween.

I’ll repeat that, Linfield are two games away from a place in the group stages of the UEFA Cup.

I’m not even sure if Windsor Park has VAR facilities. Will the Referee have to run up to The Edinburgh Club to watch TV replays on BT?

Elsewhere in the UEFA Cup, Dundalk went out, meaning my hopes for a Dundalk v United group match at Lansdowne Road has bitten the dust.

This match meant that Linfield’s trip in the League to Ballymena was postponed.

The other League games that were played saw not surprising wins for Crusaders and Larne to give them six points out of six, and drop points for Glenavon, Coleraine and Glentoran meaning those three trail Linfield having played a game more. It’s important to keep getting League points alongside European adventures.

As well as the Ballymena match being postponed, the match against Qarabag means the League Cup tie against Ballinamallard will have to be postponed.

There are also doubts as to wether the Warrenpoint game, scheduled for two days after the Qarabag first leg, will be moved.

There’s still nine months of the season left, so there’s no need to panic regarding fixture scheduling, but we should start to be proactive.

As disappointing as it was when it was announced, you can start to see why the club withdrew from the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers Cup. If we were in it, we’d be away to Fortmarine United.

That’s somewhere near Aberdeen in case you’re wondering.

It’s not Aberdeen we’re heading to, it’s Gdansk in May 2020.

Via Azerbaijan first. Hopefully, Qarabag have the same experience as Azerbaijan’s national team had when they last played at Windsor Park.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 14.8.1993

The rhyming duo of Deane and Keane are the cover stars of this edition of The Magazine Archive as the 93/94 season is about to start, having made big money moves during pre-season to Leeds United (Brian Deane) and Manchester United (Roy Keane)

As you open the magazine, there is a double page spread of Shoot staff offering predictions for the forthcoming season. Manchester United were heavily predicted to win the league, though there were suggestions for Aston Villa, Arsenal and West Ham.

Shoot aims to find the best footballer in the world, and this week is a play-off between Ally McCoist and Dean Saunders. A penel of Denis Law, Gary Stevens, Terry Yorath, Tony Coton and Howard Kendall gave McCoist the decision by a score of 243 to 237.

Tony Cascarino of Chelsea is the subject of a Q and A on the theme of First and Last, revealing that the last concert he was at was Steve Harley in Motherwell, when he was living in Scotland as a Celtic player.

Neil Webb issues a warning for Roy Keane, who is hoping to avoid the fate of Neil Webb, Ian Storey-Moore, Garry Birtles and Peter Davenport, who all flopped at Old Trafford after joining from Nottingham Forest.

In competitions, you could win a trip to Italy to see AC Milan in action, as well as getting to meet their players.

In posters, there was a poster of Coventry City’s Roy Wegerle, Mick Quinn, Peter Ndlovu.

In news, Chelsea have won a trophy, The Makita Tournament, beating Tottenham 4-0 in the Final at White Hart Lane.

Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall voices his opinion on the price of football, by stating that admission prices are too expensive for supporters.

LINFIELD 3-1 INSTITUTE 10.8.2019

By a quirk of fate, Institute visited Windsor Park on 10th August, just as they did last year.

In 2018, it was Matchday 2, with Linfield looking to build on an impressive win at Mourneview Park, and banish the memories of a humiliating season which saw no trophies and no European football.

In 2019, it was Matchday 1, and the opening game of a title defence which Linfield fans will be hoping will be a lot better than 2017-2018. How apt, that on International Duran Duran Day, they get an opportunity to see if their team are Hungry Like The Wolf.

Presently, Linfield’s ambitions are both local and international, with this game being sandwiched inbetween a UEFA Cup tie against Sutjeska. The first leg saw Linfield get an impressive 2-1 win away from home.

The result was even more impressive as Jimmy Callacher, Andrew Waterworth and Joel Cooper were all absent.

Callacher was back to start this game, while Waterworth had to make do with a place on the bench.

Linfield had some early pressure in this game, but the decent build-up play fell down with the final pass.

It was Institute who had the first chance of the game when Bastien Hery lost possession (I guess he’s human after all) to Joe McCready who was fouled by Rohan Ferguson as he tried to go round him.

There was never any danger of it being a red card, but you always have that slight doubt. Thankfully, it was only a yellow card.

Joe McCready stepped up to finish to put Institute 1-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes. This was not what we had in mind for the opening day of the season.

Linfield’s first attempt at remedying the scoreline came from a Chris Casement free-kick.

There wasn’t long to wait for an equaliser, as a neat passing move resulted in a Shayne Lavery cross being missed by Daniel Kearns, but it fell perfectly for Kirk Millar to blast home from close range for his third goal this week, equalling his total for last season already.

It’s been a good week for him, all he needed was to have his birthday sandwiched in amongst all these goals. Oh wait ……

Not much else happened for a while, apart from Institute players losing their discipline in a dispute over kicking the ball out of play for an injury, an incident which resulted in three of them getting booked.

Just when Linfield needed some inspiration, they got it from Jordan Stewart, whose long range shot looked to be going just over, and then dipped in to give Linfield a 2-1 lead, taking everybody by surprise, even though he’s capable of doing such a thing.

Linfield came out for the second-half determined to kill the game off, with Kirk Millar hitting the bar from a shot.

There wasn’t long to wait for a third goal for Linfield, that came when Ryan McGivern headed home from a corner to make it 3-1.

It wasn’t quite three points in the bag, but it left Linfield in a very strong position.

If it went to 4-1, that would have been it

Linfield had enough opportunities to make it 4-1. Daniel Kearns hit the post while Jordan Stewart missed an open net after earlier scoring from 30+ yards out, while Andrew Waterworth headed over as well.

Linfield were almost made to pay for not making it 4-1 when Institute had a period of pressure with around ten minutes to go, hitting the post, and almost making it a nervous finale for Linfield.

Linfield got the three points, a fifth successive season that they have started with a win. I can remember when Linfield used to usually drop points on the opening day.

Larne’s 6-0 win over Warrenpoint made them the first leaders of the new season, while a late goal for Crusaders to give them a 3-0 win over Carrick Rangers saw them overtake Linfield into 3rd, the only three teams to win on Matchday 1.

There’s not much time for clubs to contemplate their opening day results, with the return of the now traditional midweek Matchday 2, after a season absence.

Not for Linfield though, as they’ll be involved in UEFA Cup action, meaning the scheduled trip to Ballymena has been postponed.

It’s a situation that will have to be monitored if we progress further in Europe as we can’t afford to have a backlog of fixtures. That makes it even more important to pick up as many points early on if we are going to be a couple of games behind other teams.

It’s not just League matches that will be affected. If Linfield get past Sutjeska, the League Cup tie at Ballinamallard will have to be postponed. That’s two matches that will need new dates and we won’t even be out of August.

Suddenly, you can see the thinking behind not entering the Scottish Challenge Cup, as disappointing as it is.

The fixture list is quite kind to us in terms of other Top 6 teams/teams with Top 6 ambitions playing each other early on. We will have Cliftonville v Glenavon, Glentoran v Coleraine, Cliftonville v Crusaders and Larne v Ballymena United in the next seven days, so hopefully nobody will pull away while Linfield are inactive in League terms.

After this match, I headed to HMV in Belfast City Centre to see Feeder. It was advertised as a signing session but I turned up in the hope that they might do a few acoustic songs. Turns out it was only a signing session, which was disappointing as they were playing live at other instore appearances in England.

Up next for Linfield is Sutjeska in the UEFA Cup on Tuesday night in the second of three successive home matches. Hopefully, the second of four successive home matches.

To quote Buck Rogers by Feeder, I think we’re going to make it.

Photo Album

ARTHUR’S SEAT

I planned to do something, and I went and did it, walking up Arthur’s Seat during my recent stay in Edinburgh.

It’s a hill in Edinburgh, not particularly demanding, but far from easy.

I’d always heard people talking about it, and walking it, so I decided to have a go myself.

I set aside a morning to do this. I decided I would get up early. When I say early, I mean early, my taxi dropping me off just after 6am.

The reason for this, my logic being is that the roads would be clear for my taxi, and there wouldn’t be many people around.

Arthur’s Seat is based in Holyrood Park. I’d seen signs all over the city for Holyrood Park but never really knew where it was. Turns out it’s a very big park.

Thankfully, my Taxi Driver was very knowledgeable when I asked to be dropped off at the start. He took me from my accommodation in Sciennes to an entrance just after the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

I decided to see how far I could get in 30 minutes, turns out I was near the top, so I just continued my journey.

When I reached the top, I was disappointed to learn (Just a joke, I already knew) that there wasn’t a seat in Arthur’s Seat. I really needed one.

I just stood and look over Edinburgh, it was wonderful, I could look over the entire city, with clear views. The only downside was that it was a bit of a rubbish sunrise.

I could even see Easter Road, the first in what might be the only one in a series called Football Stadiums Seen From The Top Of A Hill.

Amazingly, I wasn’t the only one there, as it was surprisingly busy for just after 6.30am on a Monday morning.

Somehow, I ended up taking a different route down than the one I went up, and ended up in Canongate. No problem, I knew how to get back to my accommodation from there, and it gave me an excuse to call in somewhere for breakfast.

From now on, every time i’m in Edinburgh, i’m going to put an early morning trip to Arthur’s Seat on my schedule.

I’m hoping that 2020 will be the year I finish off Bray Head, do Arthur’s Seat again, and at some point between now and then, see how much of Cavehill I can do.

And then in 2021, Kilimanjaro. Just joking, I get knackered walking up Pleasance.

Photo Album

HIBERNIAN 1-0 ST MIRREN 3.8.2019

Having already taken in one game during my trip to Edinburgh on the Friday night, I decided to take in a second game on the Saturday afternoon at a ground I hadn’t been to for a while.

Unlike my other game, there was no Northern Ireland involvement in this, with both clubs parting company with Managers from Northern Ireland this year.

A change in manager seemed to work for Hibs, as they finished the season in title winning form under Paul Heckingbottom, although the manager they got rid of did win the League.

This was my first time seeing St Mirren in the flesh, though it might have been my second, as they randomly played a pre-season friendly a few streets away against Rosario, though I didn’t end up going to that match.

This was my first visit to Easter Road since 2013. They were away when I visited Edinburgh in 2014 and 2015, although I did turn down the chance to see them play in the League Cup against Stranraer in 2015 as I decided to see James in concert instead.

I didn’t visit Edinburgh in 2016. They were at home when I visited in 2017 but I went to see Edinburgh City instead, and they didn’t play when I visited in 2018.

Surprisingly, despite not visiting in six year, I was able to walk to the ground and not get lost. It’s very easy to remember the route from Edinburgh City Centre.

What it now means, is that when August 2020 comes around, it will be five years now since my last visit to Tynecastle, so I know what I want the Fixture Fairy to bring me.

There wasn’t much options in terms of games in Edinburgh or close to Edinburgh. Livingston were at home, but the ground seemed hard to get to, while Edinburgh City were away from home.

The previous weekend, Liverpool played Napoli in a friendly at Murrayfield, which finished 3-0 to Napoli. They maybe should have done that last December instead and made everybody’s Summer a lot more bearable. Useless shower.

Unfortunately, United didn’t follow suit, playing their friendly against AC Milan in Cardiff instead.

You could just imagine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handing out flyers in Pleasance while despairing as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling accidentally got nominated for a Perrier Award.

With tickets for this game being on general sale, I took the opportunity to purchase one for the away end, meaning that I will have been in all four sides of Easter Road, but not all stands, as the game I attended in the East Stand was in 2009, before being demolished to make way for a modern stand in 2010.

One of the highlights of the game came before the match, watching as bemused American tourists wonder what is going on, as St Mirren fans marched to the game signing their team’s songs.

St Mirren were straight on the attack from kick-off and were holding their own in a game that not many were expecting them to get anything from.

However, it was Hibs who had the first strike of note when a long range shot from Stevie Mallan went just wide.

St Mirren were mostly relying on counter attacks, which were very effective.

Hibs had a few decent attacks, with St Mirren usually being forced into a last ditch block or tackle

The closest they came to scoring was when a Scott Allan shot hit the post.

Hibs thought they had made the breakthrough, only to be denied by an offside flag. St Mirren fans responded by taunting the Hibs fans beside them when “Sit down” gestures like Neil Lennon did against Hearts last season.

There was more frustration for Hibs when Christian Doidge missed an open net from a cross.

Just when it looked like St Mirren were going to get an unlikely point, Scott Allan burst through to fire low to give Hibs the lead with a few minutes to go.

But not the points, well not for certain, as St Mirren had a late rally in response, resulting in Jonathan Obika stretching for a cross, but firing over, as Hibs began the season with a win on Matchday 1.

Matchday 2 saw them crash down to earth with a 6-1 defeat at Rangers, and they were overtaken in the table on goal difference by St Mirren, who beat Aberdeen 1-0. It’s a funny old game.

Photo Album

DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC 2-2 DUNDEE 2.8.2019

So, I was in Edinburgh for a few days, it would have been rude if I didn’t take in a football match.

But it wasn’t in Edinburgh, it was a short train journey to the Kingdom Of Fife to see Dunfermline Athletic take on Dundee.

I had BBC Scotland to thank for this one, as this game was moved to the Friday night for live TV coverage, and the 7.05pm kick-off meant I could get an earlier 9.36pm train home rather than waiting until 10.36pm.

This game being picked for TV was a bit of a surprise to me, as I thought Dundee United v Inverness Caledonian Thistle would have been chosen. This game, however, turned out to be a good game for the viewing public.

I had previously been to Dunfermline before for a match. Funnily enough, it was against Dundee, in 2015.

That match was a League Cup tie, and there were two divisions between the sides. That night, Dunfermline won 3-1 with two late goals. I was thankful for a resolution inside 90 minutes as extra-time would have meant having to get a 11.36pm train home. There would be no extra-time tonight regardless of the score.

As the teams entered the pitch to the sound of Into The Valley by local band The Skids, Dundee were looking for automatic promotion at the first attempt after five years in the top flight. Quite aptly, The Skids was the best way to describe Dundee’s season. Both teams weren’t literally going into The Valley, as that’s Charlton Athletic’s ground.

If Dundee thought automatic promotion would be easy, they only had to look across the street at Dundee United, who are trying to get promoted at the fourth attempt.

Despite the match being on a weeknight, there was a sizeable away support, taking up most of the away stand behind one of the goals.

There were even some Northern Ireland connections in this game. Newly appointed Dundee manager James McPake had one cap for Northern Ireland. I was there, a 6-0 defeat to Holland in 2012. He is assisted by Jimmy Nicholl. Meanwhile, Dunfermline had Paul Paton, who has four caps for Northern Ireland.

Dunfermline were up for this and were straight on the attack. They were rewarded on 12 minutes when Ryan Dow was played through and fired home.

The lead was then doubled when Dundee’s keeper missed a cross and Kevin Nisbet headed home to make it 2-0.

Nisbet then hit the bar as it looked like it was going to be a matter of how many Dunfermline would score.

As the half neared it’s end, Dunfermline fans then took aim at Steven Thompson, who was getting ready pitchside to do his half-time analysis, chanting “YOU’RE JUST A SHIT MICHAEL STEWART!!!” at him.

Thompson’s half-time analysis was to change dramatically in the final minute of the half, when Dundee had their first attack of note barring an early header from a set piece which was saved, which resulted in the ball bouncing and hitting a Dunfermline defender’s arm, and a penalty being awarded.

Danny Johnston stepped up to make it 2-1, and put Dundee back into the game.

The second-half was a lot more even, with Dundee getting another penalty, which Johnston put away to make it 2-2.

From looking like they were going to get a pasting, Dundee were now the side most likely to win the game, with Dunfermline now holding on for a draw.

As the game entered the final minutes, Dunfermline began to have some pressure on Dundee’s goal, sensing they could win the game, having a few corners and free-kicks in dangerous positions.

My previous visit to East End Park saw dramatic late goals to win the match, but not tonight, as both teams had to settle for a draw.

Photo Album

Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee 2015