My football watching for 2019 is over and my football watching for 2020 isn’t that far away.

As is tradition, time to look back at my football watching over the past twelve months.

Matches : 53

Goals : 147

Red Cards : 9

Missed Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 5

Jordan Stewart (Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)
Andrew Waterworth (Dungannon Swifts v Linfield)
Shayne Lavery (Linfield v Glenavon)
Shayne Lavery (Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)
Joel Cooper (Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 33

Ards, Ballymena United, Belarus, Bray Wanderers, Burnley, Carrick Rangers, Cardiff City (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee, Dundela, Dunfermline Athletic, Estonia, FK Sutjeska (1st time), Germany, Glenavon, Glentoran, HB Torshavn (1st time), Hibernian, Holland, IFK Norkopping (1st time), Institute, Limerick (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Newry City, Northern Ireland, Partizan Belgrade (1st time), Qarabag, Rosenborg, St Mirren (1st time), St Patrick’s Athletic, Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 19

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Clandeboye Park, Coleraine Showgrounds, East End Park, Easter Road, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newry Showgrounds, Old Trafford, Richmond Park, Seaview, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue, The Brandywell, The Oval, Wilgar Park, Windsor Park,

Competitions : 11

County Antrim Shield, European Championship Qualifiers, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, League Of Ireland First Division, NIFL Cup, Scottish Championship, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

Two hat-tricks in the same match by two players on the same team, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town on 22nd October.


So 2019 is now over and we are almost in 2020.

Seeing as everybody is doing End Of Year Reviews, I thought i’d join the party, albeit a bit belatedly.

So here is my Top 50 Songs Of 2019. There’s no scientific formula to this list. I just went through 2019s Friday Fives and decided to spend an hour and rank the songs in order of favouriteness.

In a change from previous years, it’s only a Top 50 as it would probably take me until 2021 to do a Top 100.

1. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hill
2. Sigrid – Mine Right Now
3. Taylor Swift ft Brendon Urie – Me
4. Dermot Kennedy – Outnumbered
5. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot
6. Liam Gallagher – Shockwave
7. Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
8. Two Door Cinema Club – Talk
9. Freya Ridings – Castles
10. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Wandering Star
11. Tom Walker – Just You and I
12. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend
13. Pet Shop Boys ft Olly Alexander – Dreamland
14. Of Monsters And Men – Alligator
15. Chvrches and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra – Miracle
16. Kygo ft Whitney Houston – Higher Love
17. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Black Star Dancing
18. Bastille – Joy
19. Coldplay – Orphans
20. Liam Gallagher – Now That I’ve Found You
21. Sam Fender – Will We Talk
22. Gang Of Youths – What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?
23. Editors – Black Gold
24. Bastille – Can’t Fight This Feeling
25. Bloxx – Go Out With You
26. Katy Perry – Never Really Over
27. Blossoms – Your Girlfriend
28. Muse – Hungry Like The Wolf
29. The Courteeners – Heavy Jacket
30. Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
31. Chemical Brothers – MAH
32. Jade Bird – Lottery
33. Haim – Now I’m In It
34. Crystal – Just Can’t Get Enough
35. Rick Astley – Every One Of Us
36. Chvrches – Death Stranding
37. OMD – Don’t Go
38. The Divine Comedy – Infernal Machines
39. Vic and Bob – Bono’s Cooking Some Pork
40. Miles Kane – That’s Life
41. Liam Gallagher – The River
42. The Divine Comedy – Queuejumper
43. Weezer ft Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World
44. The Vaccines – All My Friends Are Falling In Love
45. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now
46. Shakespear’s Sister – All The Queen’s Horses
47. Lizzo – Juice
48. Rose Elinor Dougall – First Sign
49. Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
50. Dea Matrona – Let’s Go Crazy

Congratulations to Vampire Weekend. There’s no physical prize, but they can just boast about it everywhere they go. Ideally, they’d be doing so in Belfast before a concert. Hint hint.

If you care, here’s the list of previous winners (NOTE: The 2006-2008 Countdowns were on Bebo, and have now been wiped from internet history)

2018 Lovelytheband – Broken
2017 Liam Gallagher – For What It’s Worth
2016 The Strumbellas – Spirits
2015 Blossoms – Charlemagne
2014 Jamie T – Zombie
2013 Haim – The Wire
2012 Taylor Swift – We Are Never Getting Back Together
2011 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA …… What A Life
2010 Marina and the Diamons – Shampain
2009 Little Boots – New In Town
2008 Sons and Daughters – Darling
2007 Feist – 1, 2, 3, 4
2006 Kasabian – Empire


Linfield ended this decade with a trip to Coleraine, where they should have started the decade.

Back then, in January 2010, it was a tight title race where nobody was able to go on a winning run to burst clear of the rest. Sounds familiar.

In fact, the only winner on a weekly basis during the Winter of 2009-2010 was the weather, with a backlog of games due to postponements. Linfield and Coleraine’s meeting on New Year’s Day 2010 was one of those games to fall victim.

Ten years on, there is a backlog of games to be scheduled, but thankfully not on the same scale.

For both teams, this was the second of two games in three days, both having contrasting fortunes in their respective Boxing Day encounters.

Both sides would have preferred Bottom 6 opponents where they could have rested players.

Linfield made six changes for this game. It’s possible that they could have made six changes if they won at The Oval on Boxing Day, that this rotation was always planned.

One change was enforced, with Joel Cooper missing out through suspension, giving an opportunity for Kirk Millar to slot in after his unscheduled three game break. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that a refreshed Millar would have slotted in anyway regardless of the result at The Oval, or any suspensions.

As suspected in my Boxing Day blog, the quick turnaround was too quick for Mark Haughey, while Mark Stafford and Ryan McGivern also came into the defence.

The last time the calendar fell this way, in 2013, there were no games on Saturday 28th December. The two previous times I can remember, 1996 and 2002, there were games, although I think 1996 was the first legs of a minor cup competition against a lower division side.

People would complain about no games on Saturday 28th, and will complain if there are. People just love complaining.

Travelling to the game by train, Linfield supporters travelling to this game that way will have enjoyed a 1/3 discount as part of a marketing campaign by Translink.

I’d hoped to have a nice relaxing trip. My hopes were not met as I ended up being sat beside a table of melters overdosing on Prosecco. “Derry won’t know what’s hit it” apparently, while one of them has sworn off men. Hopefully, that would be the only 90 minute nightmare of the afternoon.

On the topic of transport, and i’m going to keep saying it, it is incredible that there are no self service ticket machines at Great Victoria Street Train Station. Meanwhile, in Coleraine, I find it incredible that the door at Platform 2 which leads to the street outside (which is open for fans coming home) is closed as fans arrive, as this would be far more convenient as they can take a shortcut to the ground, and not have to wait at a Level Crossing when they can just bypass it.

Linfield started the game in the mood to get an early goal, with Kirk Millar bursting through in the opening minute, only to see his shot deflected behind for a corner.

Matthew Shevlin, making his first League start for Linfield, was then denied when Chris Johns saved his header.

Shevlin’s previous League appearances for Linfield had all been as a substitute, more often not getting enough time to get into the game. He did well in this game, looking lively when he got the ball and making things happen.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead when a throw saw Stephen Fallon in space, he looked up and fired a dipping shot into the net.

A few minutes earlier, Fallon had a shot at goal, so he was fancying his chances. From where I was stood, at the corner of the Terrace and the Away Stand, I was wondering what on earth he was doing.

Before I could think to myself “What the fuck did you shoot from there for?”, I could see the ball coming down and was only going to end up in the back of the net and was now celebrating before the ball hit the net.

The ball went in like a dart from, um, Fallon Sherrock. There’s a topical reference for you, although my only other knowledge of darts is Jim Bowen.

Jim himself would have described the goal as “Super, Smashing. Great”.

Even though Linfield had a few opportunities before that, it wasn’t one way traffic. A few minutes earlier, Coleraine had an opportunity when Josh Carson was played into space, but he fired wide from a wide angle.

Linfield fans weren’t that bothered about the run of play, as their side had a much needed early lead.

Coleraine had enough of an attacking threat for Linfield to know that this game was not won.

In fact this was the first time in eight games that Linfield went 1-0 up against Coleraine, and they’ve only led for about one minute in those eight games.

Coleraine’s best chance in response was a cross which fell perfectly for James McLaughlin, but he fired over when a low shot would surely have scored.

1-0 at half-time to Linfield. With Cliftonville and Glentoran both drawing their matches, this was an almost perfect afternoon for Linfield. So far.

As expected, Coleraine came out at the start of the second-half, hungry for an equaliser. Linfield couldn’t get out of their own half.

Stephen Fallon cleared a header at his post. It might have been hitting the post rather than going in, but he wasn’t to know that, before charging down the rebound as well.

Within a few minutes, Coleraine got their reward when Aaron Canning headed home a corner with Rohan Ferguson stranded, although Chris Casement needed to do better when challenging with Canning.

He didn’t need to win the header, just to do enough to stop Canning getting a clear header.

You couldn’t say that the Coleraine goal wasn’t coming.

The goal brought Linfield back to life and they almost responded with a run and shot from Matthew Shevlin that was saved.

Just as Jordan Stewart was warming up to be Linfield’s first substitute of the game, the game suddenly swung in Coleraine’s favour.

Ryan McGivern got a second yellow card for a foul. He couldn’t get out of the way. If Linfield were hoping for leniency and a talking to, those hopes were quickly dashed when the yellow card instantly came out. There’ll be more about that later.

Suddenly, the substitution changed. It was no longer about getting Jordan Stewart on to win the game, it was about getting Matthew Clarke on to make sure we were covered in the left-back position.

Matthew Shevlin, who probably would have went off for Jordan Stewart, was now coming off for Matthew Clarke.

A man down, Linfield now had to dig in and make the most of any opportunities that fell their way. They almost got one when the ball broke to Kirk Millar, whose first time shot was blocked by Chris Johns, who rushed out and made himself big.

It looked like it was going to be ten against ten when Stephen Lowry, on a yellow card looked like he was going to get a second yellow for a foul, but was spared by refereeing leniency that was denied to Ryan McGivern.

It was such a clear yellow that people around me were celebrating Lowry’s impending removal from the pitch, and that Coleraine’s numerical advantage was soon to be gone.

I’d have had no problem with McGivern’s red card if Lowry got one, likewise i’d have had no issue with the leniency towards Lowry if McGivern had got the same.

It’s not the application that’s the problem, it’s the lack of consistency when applying them.

There’s absolutely no suggestion that Linfield would have automatically won the game if Lowry was sent-off, but that doesn’t change the fact it was a wrong decision.

Instead of 10 v 10, it looked like it was going to be 11 v 9 when Rohan Ferguson mistimed a tackle outside the penalty area. I’m not sure why he was out there in the first place.

I must admit, I muttered to myself in the style of Brenda from Bristol “Not another one” as the whistle blew.

The fact it was a genuine attempt to win the ball saved him, we saw something similar when Jonathan Tuffey was booked when conceding a penalty against Linfield in 2017.

Jordan Stewart was also walking a disciplinary tightrope, after getting booked after a series of cheap fouls. It was utter stupidity on his part, giving away cheap free-kicks when Coleraine weren’t having possession in dangerous areas. He was making himself noticed by the referee, even though there wasn’t long left in the game.

In injury time, it looked like Coleraine were going to win it when Jamie Glackin created space for himself in the penalty area. Surprisingly, he didn’t shoot, instead choosing to set up James McLaughlin.

That split second allowed Rohan Ferguson to get out and make himself big, just as Chris Johns did with Kirk Millar, and save the shot and earn Linfield a point.

If there was any blame attached to him for the goal, he made up for it with that save.

Most Linfield matches in recent weeks, there was been at least one big and key save made by him.

Both teams had to settle for a point. It didn’t suit either of them in terms of the League table. Both teams were left frustrated that they didn’t win a game that was there for them to win, but also relieved not to lose a game that was slipping away from them.

Results elsewhere didn’t do any favours for both teams, with Cliftonville, Crusaders and Glentoran all winning.

It means that Cliftonville are three points clear of both Linfield and Coleraine, who both sit above Glentoran on goal difference, with Crusaders a further point behind.

Much has been made of Linfield’s games in hand, but they only have one in hand on Glentoran and Cliftonville. You won’t be able to fully assess the League table until everybody has played the same amount of games.

It’s been a good Christmas for Glentoran and Cliftonville, displaying the same form over the Festive Period that enabled Linfield to lay the foundations for winning the League last season.

For Linfield, it feels disastrous, but it’s probably more disappointing. Failure to beat Institute on New Year’s Day, and you could legitimately describe it as disastrous. A win over Institute would only upgrade the Festive results to meh.

So that concludes Linfield in the 2010s, a decade that saw 5 League titles, 3 Managers and a rebuilt stadium.

The 2020s will begin at home to Institute, three points is a must if we have ambitions of starting the decade with a title.

Hopefully, this game and the cup tie against Queen’s will give us an opportunity to rotate and get some fresh legs after a couple of tired performances.

Not only that, a few goals will be nice. The last time Linfield scored more than one in a game was against Ballymena in November. We can’t win 1-0 every week.

Sky Sports have done us a favour as we’ll come off the back of this busy period with a break of nine days, a chance to get the batteries recharged ahead of the run-in.

We’ll need to be on full charge for the first game of that run. Away to Cliftonville. We simply cannot afford to let Cliftonville pull ahead of us and get any form of belief in the title race.

Curiously, we arrived for our previous visit to Solitude after a nine day break after a busy run of games. Another 1-0 win would be nice.

That match against Queen’s sees Linfield restricted to 150 tickets, which means it is more than likely that i’ll miss out, which is a bit shit as it was a game I was looking forward to. I’ve never been to The Dub before, but surely it can hold more than that?

A random thought, with the NIFL Cup Final taking place at 7.45pm on Saturday 15th February, surely the League matches scheduled for Friday 14th February can be moved to the Saturday afternoon, even if the kick-offs are slightly earlier. Surely that makes so much more sense?

So, what will football in 2020 hold for me?

Well, i’m going to United v Burnley in mid January. I’ll keep an eye out for other games in Greater Manchester on the Tuesday night when i’m there.

I’m spending time in Dublin/Bray in late June to be in the city on the day of the Last 16 match in Euro 2020 at Lansdowne Road. Hoping to get a ticket for that, but there’s League Of Ireland games on while i’m there, so i’ll be guaranteed to see some football.

Still toying with the idea of doing a Tallinn/Helsinki double header over the July Holidays, so I might even take in an Estonian game.

Who knows what my football watching will be like in 2020?

All I know is that I plan to keep going to as many matches as possible.

Starting with Institute on New Year’s Day

Photo Album

ULSTER 35-3 CONNACHT 27.12.2019

Seeing as it was Christmas, I thought i’d go to my one Rugby match a year.

Usually, when I go to Ravenhill to see Ulster, it is a European match. However, this year, the dates were inconvenient, both clashing with Linfield matches.

One match was on a Saturday afternoon, but it was rotten luck that the game that was on a Friday, Linfield had their League match moved to the Friday for TV.

So, that would mean i’d be going to a League match instead, this game falling when I was off over Christmas, it was a bit of a no brainer.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a match against Connacht would be marked in my diary, having been at Ravenhill two days before Santa arrived in 2016, as opposed to two days after he arrived in 2019.

That match in 2016 took place in the aftermath of Storm Barbara. Thankfully, the weather was a lot calmer for this game.

However, it was not as good as it was for my other visit to see Ulster face Connacht, though that would have been quite remarkable, as that was a glorious teatime in May, having won free tickets for the Play-Off Quarter-Final.

No free ticket wins for me this season yet, but I have been trying.

That match saw Ulster trying (they eventually lost out) to reach the Final at Celtic Park. This year, the venue they are aiming for is Cardiff City Stadium.

In a change with tradition, that match will be taking place in late June instead of late May. Very tempting. If I wasn’t going to Dublin to hopefully see a Euro 2020 game, I may have been tempted by that.

It’s a ground I’ve been to twice, in 2014 and 2016, but I’ve never seen Cardiff City play there. Might as well make it three trips without seeing the Bluebirds, although I have seen them play at Old Trafford.

If you are going to Cardiff, I recommend it to visit. If you have enough time, sneak in a visit to Bristol and/or Bath.

The problem with the usually traditional date of the last Saturday in May is that it clashes with the Football Programme Fair, and well, I can’t miss that, which is why the only Final I’ve been to was 2015, when Ravenhill hosted it.

Cardiff in June is a long way off, and so is Marseille in May. Ulster kicked off second in the table, trying to chase runaway leaders Leinster, who they lost to the previous week by a ridiculous score of 54-42.

It’s not a new observation, but Rugby Fan Culture is just weird. Sorry, but it is true.

I can live with being quiet at penalties even if I don’t think it will ever catch on in football.

Sometimes you hear football fans moaning about not being able to get a beer when watching the game. Be bloody thankful.

Seriously, literally the whole match was spent letting people in and out. It’s only 40 minutes a half, how hard is it to make a drink last that long?

Commercial realities mean they won’t close the bar 10 minutes before kick-off and during the game, but if you can get organised to buy a ticket and get dressed and get to the ground, then you can be organised to purchase what you need in advance of kick-off.

Another thing I found off was people watching the game on the TV screen beside them when the ball was at the other end of the pitch.

Each to their own, but I don’t understand the point of paying for a ticket just to spend most of the match queuing for a drink and then watching the action on a TV screen.

Maybe I’ve just been spoilt the last couple of matches I’ve been to by having a comfy seat in the stand?

The game got off to a dramatic start when Ulster burst through to score a try inside three minutes, only to see it disallowed.

It was Connacht who took the lead, 3-0, from a Fitzgerald penalty.

It would be the only time that Connacht were in the game, as Ulster responded with two tries, from Alan O’Connor and Billy Burns, both converted, to lead 14-3 at half-time.

The interval was only a brief respite for Connacht, they couldn’t get into the game after the break, as three more tries for Ulster, from Robbie Balocoune, Rob Herring and Nick Timoney, all converted, gave Ulster a 35-3 lead.

It was all too easy.

Photo Album

Ulster v Connacht May 2019

Ulster v Connacht December 2016


Well that was shite. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read on.

Christmas got off to a good start for Linfield, with the Swifts winning the Steel and Sons Cup on Christmas Day, now it was the turn of the first team.

They arrived at The Oval on the back of a late draw against Crusaders. Those two points dropped allowed Cliftonville and Glentoran to cut the gap at the top of a congested table. Victory here could see them pull away from Glentoran and one or both of Crusaders and Cliftonville depending on the result at Seaview.

It was expected that the team that finished the match against Crusaders would be the starting line-up for Linfield. However, that would not be the case with Jordan Stewart and Andrew Waterworth starting ahead of Daniel Kearns and Shayne Lavery.

That meant that Linfield’s starting eleven featured all four of their goalscorers on Boxing Day 2018, as well as their goalscorer in 2016, Mark Haughey.

Their goalscorer on Boxing Day 2017, Cameron Stewart, was also on the pitch, but playing for Glentoran.

Inside the first ten minutes, it was Glentoran who struck the first blow when a long throw wasn’t cleared and a shot flashed across goal and fell perfectly for Elvio Van Overbeek to backheel the ball into the net.

It was a bad goal to concede, and was made worse by the fact the initial throw-in was so cheaply conceded, coming from a clearance out after a Glentoran attack was snuffed out.

Linfield responded with a Jimmy Callacher header that was kicked off the line. Joel Cooper then had a shot saved by Marijan Antolovic before Andrew Waterworth was flagged offside when following up the rebound.

Waterworth then had a header go just wide as Linfield went in search of an equaliser.

The best came when a goalmouth scramble fell for Mark Haughey. He managed to get a shooting opportunity but fired over. He would have been better off firing low into the crowded goal line as only one player could use his hands.

Despite being 1-0 down, there was no need to panic. There were goals in this for Linfield. They just had to keep the pressure on.

The pressure on Glentoran’s goal continued with Stephen Fallon having a shot go just wide before Jordan Stewart hit the post.

That search for a goal resulted in Shayne Lavery being brought in from the bench for Bastien Hery.

Linfield still had to be wary of not going 2-0 down, and they had a warning when Willie Garrett headed a free header straight at Rohan Ferguson.

It looked like that goal when Andrew Waterworth headed home from a Joel Cooper cross but was instantly denied by an offside flag. I didn’t have a clear view of it and the TV replay was inconclusive.

Wether left or right, Cooper was getting a lot of jot out wide and making things happen, but Linfield couldn’t get anybody on the end of his crosses.

You sensed if Linfield could get it to 1-1, they would go on to win the game.

Antolovic was having one of those days, and even when he dropped one, a Linfield player couldn’t get on the end of it.

That was the problem, more often than not, wherever it was on the pitch, when there was a loose ball, there would always be a Glentoran player first to the ball.

One such situation saw Hrvoje Plum run towards Linfield’s goal. Linfield’s defenders kept backing off and you knew what was going to happen as he fired in low from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0.

Up against it, but not out of it, Daniel Kearns and Matthew Shevlin came on Jordan Stewart and Matthew Clarke. Kearns should have been on a lot earlier when the score was 0-1.

Even though they were two goals down, Linfield were still in it. If they could get an instant goal back, there was still plenty of time left to get something from this game.

Joel Cooper was denied from a couple of efforts as Linfield looked to get that goal bad.

Plum then made it 3-0 from the penalty spot to put the game beyond doubt.

Despite that, Linfield continued to attack and continued to be denied, no matter what they did.

Linfield’s poor record in big domestic games (excluding Cliftonville) continues to be poor this season. Bizarrely, they aren’t the only team to be afflicted with this.

Top 5 v Each other (8 games, W-D-L-Pts)

Coleraine 4-3-1-15
Crusaders 3-2-3-11
Cliftonville 3-1-4-10
Linfield 3-1-4-10
Glentoran 2-3-3-9

Coleraine are the only team to have won more than they have lost in this Mini League and yet, they sit 3rd in the actual League. These stats are both worrying and give Linfield hope at the same time.

You can win the League without winning all these games, you can win the League having an inferior head to head against one team, but you won’t do it if you lose more than you win against the Top 5.

Nobody has an excellent record in these games, they all take points off each other and Coleraine have dropped to Bottom 6 teams.

It’s frustrating that everytime Linfield got close to the top, they lost a big game and get held back, then when they reached the top, they can’t seem to pull away.

They had better fix it quick, with a trip to Coleraine coming 46 hours after the final whistle at The Oval.

We’re not disadvantaged as Coleraine have the same turnaround time.

Regardless of the result, I would always have expected changes between the two games due to the turnaround.

I would expect Kirk Millar to come back in. We’ve found out the hard way over the last three games how important he is. Maybe a start for Daniel Kearns, Shayne Lavery to start, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Haughey was rested as two games in such a quick time might be too much for a player just back from long-term injury. Possibly, Andrew Mitchell might come in.

I would expect some rotation for the Institute and QUB games.

Sky Sports have done us a favour moving the Cliftonville away game to a Monday night, to have eight days gap between matches as we recover from a busy Christmas/New Year period.

It’s hard to assess this game. Linfield had enough chances and should have got something from this game, but they didn’t take them. We’ve probably played worse and won comfortably.

There were a couple of worrying trends though.

For the second successive game, Linfield conceded a soft goal in the opening ten minutes. We can’t keep giving teams something to defend so early in the game.

Some of the goals Linfield have conceded this season have been shocking, being punished for basic mistakes.

We have also struggled to break down teams who swarm the midfield and are well set up in defence. This is why it is imperative not to concede the first goal and give opponents something to hold onto.

We also need to be quicker to the ball in attacking situations. Far too often, opposing defenders are the quickest to react in situations.

We’ve let Cliftonville go top and put Glentoran back into the title race when we should have been out of sight. Glentoran have a generous run of games coming up, and won’t face a Top 5 team until February.

Tomorrow is a new day, as they say, and if Linfield can get three wins from the next seven days, this result won’t be forgotten about, but the smell of it won’t be lingering about.

We’d be through to the next round of the Irish Cup, and the worst scenario in the League would be 3 clear of Coleraine and 1 behind Cliftonville with those games in hand.

I’d hoped those games in hand would be used to extend our lead, rather than getting a lead.

Fortunes can change so quickly. Remember, Linfield went from four points behind to one point clear in the space of ten days last Christmas/New Year.

The good news for anyone travelling to Coleraine is that return train travel this weekend is 1/3 off as part of a marketing promotion.

Let’s hope Linfield aren’t feeling as generous as Translink.

Photo Album


Ryan Giggs, Andy Cole and Phil Neville are frolicking in the snow on the cover of Manchester United’s official magazine to celebrate United being Christmas Number 1 in the Premier League charts.

In news, Peter Schmeichel says United have made a breakthrough in European football after winning their European Cup group, but doesn’t believe lifting the trophy in Amsterdam is a formality.

Elsewhere, Andy Cole has signed a new contract keeping him at United until 2002.

David Beckham is the subject of a five page interview, as does United’s latest home grown debutants Ronnie Wallwork and John Curtis, who both came on as substitutes in the win over Barnsley in late October.

Brian McClair’s Diary reveals he appeared in a firework safety event, and met a fan in the shape of a Celtic supporting Government Minister.

The magazine ends with a Happy New Year message from various United players.


December’s photo adventures had to wait a full seven days, when I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Cliftonville.

A few days later, I headed to Ulster Hall for my final concert of the year, to see Primal Scream.

The following Saturday, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.

That was followed by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw 1-1 with Crusaders.

December so far hasn’t been that busy so far, but there’s still some photo adventures to come in the final week.

It’s unlikely that i’ll be at Seaview tomorrow for the Steel and Sons Cup Final, but i’ll be at The Oval on Boxing Day. As if i’d be anywhere else.

Boxing Day is the start of three busy days, as i’ll be heading to Ulster v Connacht the day after, and then Coleraine v Linfield the day after that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed by look back at my photo adventures in 2019. Of course, there’ll be more photo adventures in 2020.

In terms of concerts, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Blossoms and Badly Drawn Boy are already on the horizon.

Travelwise, Manchester and Bray are confirmed. I’m planning to walk up Bray Head. While in Bray, i’ll sneak in a trip to Dublin. I’m hoping to see a Euro 2020 game while i’m there, but i’ll definitely catch some League Of Ireland action.

May is the new date for Hit The North, so i’ll be photographing that, and any other Street Art I spot during the year.

And i’ll be crossing my fingers for some snow to photograph at some point because i’m a big kid.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders


The Saturday Before Christmas. It sounds like a novel which has been turned into an animated movie which fills up mid afternoon schedules every year, funnily enough, on the Saturday before Christmas.

For Linfield in recent years, the Saturday before Christmas has usually had a happy ending.

2014 saw a come from behind win (with a last minute penalty save added in) against Portadown which was one of the highlights of Warren Feeney’s brief spell as Manager.

2015 saw another come from behind win, against Ballymena United, which really kickstarted David Healy’s reign as Manager. A year later, came a dramatic and vital injury time win against the same opponents.

Even the wretched 2017-2018 season saw a dominant win over win over Cliftonville.

Last year, wasn’t as memorable, a 0-0 draw against Glenavon as they were trying to keep up with Ballymena United.

On 45 minutes, this was The Nightmare Before Christmas. By full-time, it wasn’t quite a Christmas miracle, but an unexpected and greatly appreciated early present of a point.

The pre-match scenario was similar to when Linfield faced Crusaders in December and January last season, with Crusaders a couple of points behind, and Linfield knowing they could pull clear of them with a win.

Linfield’s starting eleven was the same as the previous week at Warrenpoint, lining up 4-4-2.

The deviation from 4-2-3-1 was not that surprising with Kirk Millar suspended and Daniel Kearns recovering from injury, so they had to make use of the players that were available.

Bastien Hery continued to be rested, having been playing all year with the League Of Ireland playing Summer football.

Linfield enjoyed a lot of the ball in the early minutes, but a free-kick from Chris Casement was all they could offer.

On 7 minutes, Crusaders scored with their first attack when a Philip Lowry cross was headed home by Declan Caddell from six yards out.

The home fans waited for an offside flag. It didn’t come as he wasn’t. Chris Casement and Josh Robinson switched off and left him unmarked.

Caddell became the first opposition player to score a League goal at Windsor Park since August, a goal that was key if recent form in this fixture was anything to go by, as Linfield hadn’t come from behind to beat Crusaders since April 2014.

What we got after that, was a repeat of the bad old days when Linfield go a goal behind against Crusaders, being scared of them and forgetting how to play football.

When Linfield had the ball, Crusaders had everybody defending, and Linfield didn’t have the imagination to break through. They had the players to do it.

When the ball went to them, there were swarms of Crusaders players around them. Far too many times, Linfield players were second to the ball, or when they got it, easily outmuscled in possession.

Most of Linfield’s possession in the first-half saw Josh Robinson and Jimmy Callacher passing it to each other as they had nobody else to pass it to.

Sometimes, they involved Rohan Ferguson, passing it back to him. Every backpass was cheered louder than their goal by the Crusaders fans. Strange bunch.

Hesitancy in defence from Josh Robinson allowed Jamie McGonigle in behind Linfield’s defence. As Jimmy Callacher anticpated a cross, it left space for McGonigle to shoot, only to be denied twice by Ferguson.

Every time Crusaders counter-attacked, Linfield’s defence was stretched and had no support. You would have been happy to take a 0-1 scoreline at the break, and get it remedied in the second-half.

However, Linfield would turn out to be disappointed by that score as they finished the half showing more of an attacking threat than they had previously.

Joel Cooper had a shot spilled by Gerard Doherty, who was able to recover with Shayne Lavery sniffing around.

Cooper would then have Linfield’s best chance of the half when the ball fell to him six yards out but he smashed it against the bar. Even though there were a lot of Crusaders bodies in the penalty area, he really should have scored.

Like in other recent matches, the presence of Shayne Lavery in the six yard box at corners had an offputting effect on defenders and goalkeepers. Linfield couldn’t exploit that, usually not beating the first man.

With no opportunities being created in open play, Linfield simply had to make the most of set piece opportunities that came their way.

The highlight of Linfield’s corners came when they got one, everybody was waiting in the penalty area but nobody was going over to take it so the ball just sat by the corner flag.

0-1 at half-time, and probably thankful to still be in the game. There was no need to panic. When Linfield did attack Crusaders, Crusaders looked shaky, they just weren’t attacking them enough. There were goals in this for Linfield, they just needed to step it up.

The lack of urgency was summed up by two minutes of injury time being signalled, but they were seeing out the half instead of pushing for a late equaliser that would change the mood in both Dressing Rooms.

This was summed up by Gerard Doherty having to play the ball outside his penalty area, but nobody putting pressure on him.

Linfield responded at half-time by making two substitutions, with Mark Haughey coming on for Chris Casement and Daniel Kearns coming on for Andrew Waterworth.

It was Haughey’s first appearance since May 2018, and the biggest compliment you can pay is that it looked like he had never been away. I thought it might have taken a few games to ease him back in. Especially when there were four Linfield players on the pitch when he joined the action who he had never played alongside before.

Waterworth had needed treatment during the first-half, so his withdrawal may have been due to injury, but the switch allowed Linfield to revert to 4-2-3-1, which they enjoyed so much success against Crusaders last season.

There was no immediate pressure on Crusaders goal. Joel Cooper had a speculative shot from a wide angle saved by Doherty before Stephen Fallon hit the bar, the ball didn’t come down quick enough for Shayne Lavery to head in, a Crusaders player managing to clear.

With each passing minute, it became obvious that Linfield needed Bastien Hery from the bench.

He is supposed to be getting rested, but unfortunately, Linfield keep needing to get him out there.

It looked like Matthew Clarke was going to equalise when he went for a loose ball in the penalty area, but was denied by Billy Joe Burns at the expense of a corner.

Burns was involved from the resulting corner, conceding a penalty after handling.

When conceding the corner, it looked like Clarke had fouled Burns. Finally, a stroke of luck which went in Linfield’s favour.

When a penalty is awarded, you can sometimes get a sense what the outcome will be. You didn’t get the sense that a goal was incoming when Bastien Hery stepped up.

And so it proved, as Gerard Doherty saved his low effort, at the same end where he saved a penalty from Jordan Stewart last season.

Whenever a penalty is missed, the team who survives the penalty miss is usually galvanised. Unusually, it was Linfield who were galvanised by the penalty miss, the crowd urging them on in search of an equaliser.

They didn’t have long to wait, as Joel Cooper picked up the ball and fired home spectacularly from outside the penalty area to make it 1-1.

Literally just seconds earlier, across Belfast, Cliftonville had gone 1-0 up against Coleraine in the other match between teams in the Top 4.

Midway through the second-half, I had a feeling that Crusaders would tire, and Linfield could capitalise, as they had conceded decisive late goals in their last two matches against Ballymena United and Glentoran.

Linfield fans were immediately thinking of winning the game. Apart from me, I was immediately having flashbacks to the Irish Cup game in February when Linfield conceded a late winner just after scoring a late equaliser.

Both teams had late chances to win it.

Jamie McGonigle had a shot saved by Rohan Ferguson at the expense of a corner, and a corner was awarded. You weren’t too sure, considering the last time a Linfield player denied McGonigle from scoring in injury time, a goal was awarded anyway.

With just 30 seconds left in injury time, Linfield had a free kick out wide. It was set up perfectly for Josh Robinson or Jimmy Callacher to power home a dramatic winner.

Santa would not oblige, as Crusaders cleared the danger to secure a 1-1 draw.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Linfield. Frustration at not being able to pull clear of Crusaders and Coleraine, but relief that Crusaders haven’t pulled closer.

Glentoran have pulled the gap to five points, which will give them encouragement ahead of Boxing Day.

Just like this match, it is don’t lose, but let’s go and win it. No point being in a traffic jam when we can charge ahead, especially with Crusaders and Cliftonville playing each other, and Coleraine facing an in-form Ballymena United.

How very convenient that Ballymena hit form just as they are due to play Coleraine and Glentoran.

This week, it was announced that the County Antrim Shield Final on 21st January will be held at Windsor Park.

Not ideal, as it rules out that date for scheduling in the rearranged home match against Dungannon, even though that would mean two home games against the same opposition in four days. We could still schedule in a trip to Larne for that date.

Handy for me personally though as i’ll be in England that date and won’t miss a home game.

There’s no need to panic regarding the two outstanding games, there’s still plenty of time to slot them in.

Even though it disappointed me from a travelling and groundhopping point of view, the decision not to enter the Scottish Challenge Cup has been totally justified.

Without the nine points acquired against Cliftonville, Dungannon Swifts and Institute, we’d be 5th, seven points off the top with five games to schedule in. Possibly a sixth if we reached the Semi-Final.

Elsewhere, Friday saw the release of the 2020 League Of Ireland fixtures.

It works out well for me, as there’s a full fixture list on the Monday night that i’m in the Dublin Area next June. I’ll have the choice of St Patrick’s Athletic v Cork City or Bohemians v Shelbourne.

First Division fixtures are yet to be announced, so i’m hoping that Bray are at home that night.

I’m toying with the idea of a break in Tallinn over the July Holidays. They play Summer football so I can take in a game, and sneak in a day trip to Helsinki. Will definitely be giving that serious consideration.

More immediately, I probably won’t be going to the Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas Day. Of course, good luck to Linfield Swifts.

I can’t sign off without wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Even to Glentoran supporters, but I hope they have shitty Boxing Day.

Dare you ask what I want for Christmas? I’ll give you a clue, i’m happy to wait until April and May 2020 for it.

Would it be rude to ask Santa for a pre-season trip to Stranraer?

Photo Album


November 2019 began with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield get a win over Carrick Rangers.

A few days later, I made my first trip of the season to Old Trafford, to see United beat Partizan Belgrade in the UEFA Cup.

While I was there, I got photos of Street Art in Manchester, and then visit to Rochdale in search of Street Art, after there was a festival held there in August.

The following weekend, I headed to The Brandywell to see Linfield take on Institute. While I was there, I was able to get some photos (from a fence outside) of Institute’s abandoned former stadium, Drumahoe.

Later that day, on my return from the North-West, I took in a second football match, Northern Ireland’s European Championship Qualifier against Holland.

Six days later, I was on the road again, to see Linfield lose 1-0 to Glenavon.

A few days later, I headed to Vilnius in Lithuania for a very short, very cheap and very cold break. Unsurprisingly, I was out snapping with my camera.

On the last day of the month, I got up early and walked up Cavehill, my first time doing so. Later that day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield face Larne.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Partizan Belgrade

Manchester United v Partizan Belgrade Photo Album

Rochdale Uprising

Rochdale Uprising Photo Album


Drumahoe Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Holland

Northern Ireland v Holland Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield


Vilnius Photo Album

Vilnius Street Art

Vilnius Street Art Photo Album


Cavehill Photo Album

Linfield v Larne


October 2019 began with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

A busy month of concerts began a few days later with a trip to Ulster Hall to see The Divine Comedy.

There was even some Street Art spotted during the month, heading to Stephen Street to see a mural of The Joker and Catwoman

The next day, I was on the road to Dungannon to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 4-1.

From there, it was another concert, a first visit to The Telegraph Building, to see Two Door Cinema Club.

The flipping between football and concerts continued as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United. The following midweek saw a football/concert double header, seeing Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town, before seeing OMD at Ulster Hall.

October’s photo adventures ended with a trip to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the month beginning and ending for me with a 1-0 defeat.

Crusaders v Linfield

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Joker and Catwoman Mural

Joker and Catwoman Mural Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

OMD live at Ulster Hall

OMD live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield