No goals, but still plenty of talking points, as Linfield’s attempts to get back to winning ways after losing their perfect start to the season enduring a frustrating afternoon in Lurgan, as part of a combination of results that were celebrated by both North Belfast teams.

There were a few familiar faces in the Glenavon squad. Joining Daniel Wallace, Sean Ward and Robert Garrett in the starting eleven were two of their three Summer signings from Linfield, Mark Haughey and Andrew Waterworth, with Mark Stafford on the bench.

Linfield’s former number 7 started the game on the pitch, but their current number 7 began on the bench alongside Jamie Mulgrew, with David Healy shuffling his team around ahead of a busy run of three games in six days.

Those changes resulted in first League starts for Ahmad Salam and Martin Donnelly.

Despite spending most of the opening minutes in Glenavon’s half, that was really as good as it got for Linfield as an attacking force.

Any time they got in behind Glenavon, there was usually a heavy touch or too many bodies in defence or not enough bodies offering support.

Glenavon had a Mark Hughey header go over as their best moment in a first-half that was a bit of a non event. Both defences were on top and you never believed that a goal was coming when either team got into their attacking third.

If the first-half didn’t have much incident of note, that was remedied in the opening minute of the second-half with an incident that resulted in a double red card, with Andrew Doyle stood on Christy Manzinga who kicked out in return. Doyle seemed intend on continuing the conversation as both players headed to the dressing room

A big blow in terms of the match, but the next two matches as well, as Linfield will be without a key player and one of their main attacking threats ahead of the Tuesday-Friday double header.

For the next ten or twenty minutes, you would have thought it was eleven v ten in Linfield’s favour as they appeared to react better to their loss than Glenavon, being camped in their half, being roared on by fans standing behind the goal.

It looked like there was going to be an instant breakthrough when the ball was pulled back for Cameron Palmer to strike, but his low goalbound shot was blocked by a defender.

Sensing that Linfield were now on top for the first time in the game, David Healy introduced some attacking substitutions, with Matt Green, Kirk Millar and Jamie Mulgrew entering the action.

Millar almost made the breakthrough when a cross came in perfectly for him to volley, which he did, only for a defender to get in the way and take the sting out of the shot, being easily caught by Glenavon’s keeper.

It had to be. His legs were wide open. If he didn’t catch the ball, they were going through them for an embarrassing goal that would give Linfield the lead.

That should have been a sign of things to come. When things are going your way, that slides under the keepers legs and the floodgates open.

Mike Newberry then had a volley fly over after the ball dropped to him at a set piece. Again, when things are going your way, that smashes into the back of the net.

One of the biggest frustrations for Linfield was the quality of set pieces, and they had a lot of them.

More often than not, not beating the first man, or not getting to the second ball.

In a game where Linfield were not creating a lot of clear chances in open play, they simply had to make the most of set pieces when they came.

Jordan Stewart and Billy Chadwick were brought on, to offer more attacking support as Linfield searched for a winner.

There was to be more frustration for Linfield as Matt Green flicked a header just wide from a corner.

You felt it was coming despite the clock running down. You only need seconds to score a goal.

There was a worry that it might come for Glenavon. It was one of those unwritten rules.

After spending most of the second-half playing for a draw, Glenavon decided they quite fancied winning the game.

Even though Linfield had sniffed out their danger all game, you just felt that Glenavon would score in the final minutes when they started to attack.

There was no evidence to back up that worry, it’s just one of those things. You know what I mean. I haven’t explained it properly, but you know exactly what I mean.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to continue to frustrate any Glenavon ambitions of scoring, going straight on the counter attack as the game became end to end, as if it was Goal The Winner in the school playground.

By now, Jimmy Callacher was basing himself further and further upfield to the point he was practically a centre forward.

Nobody could provide him with the cross to score. Nobody could provide anybody with a pass to score.

Despite all the possession and pressure in the second-half, Linfield couldn’t work a clear goalscoring opportunity.

There wasn’t a moment when you felt that Glenavon’s keeper made a great save or that a Linfield attacker had a shocking miss.

It has happened in the past, and will happen in the future, that Linfield will play worse than this and win.

In relation to Glentoran and Larne, the result wasn’t that fatal, with Glentoran losing 3-0 at home to Crusaders, and Larne drawing 0-0 at home to Carrick Rangers in a teatime kick-off.

The way that the day had gone, you just knew that Larne were going to draw.

However, there are teams other than Glentoran and Larne that Linfield should be focusing on.

Cliftonville have taken advantage of having a full schedule by getting points on board and sit six points clear.

Famous last words, I don’t think they’ll finish that way.

You can’t truly assess a league table until everybody has played each other, and they still have to face Linfield, Larne and Glenavon.

However, they got the points on the board early on in 2012-2013 and lay down a challenge to the rest of the league to catch them. We simply can’t let them get further ahead.

Coleraine have recovered from a poor start to sit in 2nd, no surprise there.

They sit ahead of Crusaders on goal difference, whose seven points against Cliftonville, Larne and Glentoran suggest they might be better than I thought they were based on their showing at Windsor Park on the opening day.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to The Oval, 6th against 7th, a mid table battle you could say.

The table is so tight that the winner can jump up to 2nd depending how Larne’s visit to Mourneview Park on the same night ends up. There’s no reason why that can’t be Linfield. Truthfully, between me and you, I think this game has 0-0 written all over it.

After two successive defeats in big games, Glentoran will be there for the taking. We simply cannot let them settle. We must be asking them the questions and not giving them a chance to answer.

That is followed three days later with a home game against Cliftonville, live on BBC Two.

It’s not an ideal schedule, but when you’re winning, you’ll want to play every day.

This is a great short term goal, win two games and shoot up five places and start breathing down Cliftonville’s necks, giving the rest of the League something to think about while having their Saturday morning Corn Flakes*

*Other breakfast cereals are available.

Ultimately, this was a frustrating day for Linfield. If they played the second-half for the entire game, they might have worn Glenavon down.

They’ll play worse and win at some point in the season, but they’ll have to play a lot better throughout the season if they want to win more often throughout the season.

Photo Album


There can’t be many fixtures as evenly matched in recent years as when Linfield and Coleraine face each other.

Nineteen meetings in the League over the previous five seasons had seen five wins each and nine draws.

The first three of those seasons saw one win each and two draws, while Coleraine’s two wins and a draw in 2019-2020 were immediately cancelled out by Linfield’s two wins and two draws in 2020-2021.

They even kicked-off this match level on points, six each, though Coleraine’s came from four games and Linfield’s from two.

After losing their first two games, Coleraine have recovered by winning their next two and progressing in the League Cup.

A win for Linfield wouldn’t rule Coleraine out of the title race, but it wouldn’t help. Having written Coleraine off in mid November last season, I wouldn’t be making the same mistake again.

Goals against Portadown and Ballyclare Comrades meant that Matt Green was given a start, as Linfield looked to Christy Manzinga to continue his impressive start to the season, four goals in his first two League games, or seven in his last three games if you include the friendly against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield started the game well. Too well, if you know what I mean, as a lot of the ball didn’t result in a goal.

The best chance that Linfield had was a free-kick from Kirk Millar that looked goalbound until a block took the sting out of the shot, deflecting it over.

It was only natural that Coleraine would then have some of the ball. Their almost took the lead in bizarre fashion when Jamie Glackin attempted an effort from just over the halfway line, going just wide.

More Coleraine pressure continued with Carson and McKendry being frustrated, the closest they came to scoring was from a Jamie Mulgrew last ditch tackle that sent the ball goalwards, but wide of the post.

Linfield responded with a Trai Hume effort from range.

Just as in the first-half, Linfield started the second-half strongly, but it would be midway through the half before they took the lead, Christy Manzinga finishing from close range after being played in.

In a game so tight, Linfield had got the vital opening goal. However, Coleraine would not be deflated.

Straight away, Chris Shields was forced into a tackle to block a shot when it looked like Coleraine were going to score.

Jordan Stewart came on for Matt Green as Linfield searched for a second goal, but the second goal of the game would be a Coleraine equaliser, rather than a clincher for Linfield as Conor McKendry fired a screamer in from just outside the penalty area.

The goal came out of nowhere as the game was meandering to a finish, not that Linfield would have been complaining as they held a 1-0 lead.

Suddenly, that goal for Coleraine perked Linfield into life.

Billy Chadwick, brought on for Christy Manzinga, managed to work space for himself on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot went agonisingly wide.

Jordan Stewart managed to work a small opening for himself. Instead of trying to ping it on his left foot and see where it ended up, he tried to get it onto his right, but the opportunity was gone.

Just when it looked like that winning opportunity would fall Linfield’s way, Coleraine seemed to get a body in the way.

Or, that the final ball from a Linfield player was awry.

The final flurry came too late for Linfield, as Coleraine held on for a draw, that was a fair result.

It also meant that half of the meetings between the sides since the start of the 2016-2017 season were draws.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of the League games finished tied. We’re due one of those seasons.

Looking elsewhere in the table, it was a point gained on Larne who lost 1-0 away to Crusaders, meaning that the only two perfect records in the League have now gone.

So early in the season and with some teams not playing their full compliment of games, it’s hard to assess a League table where Linfield languish in 6th, but will go top if they win their games in hand.

Biggest word in football, if.

What Linfield can do is keep picking up points.

Up next is Glenavon, Glentoran and Cliftonville in the space of six days, it is even more important to do so.

That game against Glenavon will see Linfield wear their new away kit for the first time. It looks a bit “Ballymena”. IT would be a cracking kit if the secondary colour was blue.

At the end of October, we’ll hit the point where everybody will be scheduled to have played each other, meaning the table will start to spread out.

Let’s hope Linfield are leading rather than chasing in this race by then.

Photo Album


Cristiano might have been the talk of the footballing world in the lead up to this weekend, but at Shamrock Park, it was Christy who was the centre of attention.

After a two week break due to games being called off due to International Call-Ups, Linfield were back in action and back on the road.

Their last away trip, to Solitude in May, saw them lift the title.

For many fans, due to restrictions, they missed out on a chance to be there, just as some were unable to attend the Irish Cup Final the previous weekend due to restrictions. This match would be the first opportunity in eighteen months to see their team on the road, since a trip to Carrick Rangers in March 2020.

There would be no signs of rustiness, vocals all in tune. Like a classic rock band, you never lose it.

In the opening minutes, there wasn’t much to sing about, with both teams forcing the opposition keeper into routine saves.

There would be nothing routine about Chris Johns first meaningful save, as Ruairi Croskery was played through. He looked certain to score, but Johns got a hand to his low shot, saving it, and sending the rebound away from immediate danger.

Christy Manzinga got in behind Portadown’s defence, similar to his second goal against Crusaders two weeks previously.

This time, his shot was saved. From where I was, it looked like a cross to Billy Chadwick would be a better option, but when you’re on the run of form he is on, he is entitled to shoot.

It was Portadown who scored first, from a cheaply conceded corner by Linfield. Kirk Millar made a hash of clearing the ball when a corner came to him, the resulting confusion saw a team-mate forced into the safety first option of conceding another corner.

The safety didn’t last for long, as a free header across the penalty area and a stretched leg saw the ball fall perfectly for Ruairi Croskery (one game and one goal for Linfield in 2016) to sneak in and put Portadown 1-0 up.

It was a bad goal for Linfield, Michael Newberry was caught ballwatching. He knew it too, with his hands going on his head straight away.

Linfield’s best chance in response was a volley from Christy Manzinga which went over the bar.

Manzinga was soon involved in the action when he was played through after a run from Billy Chadwick. He made no mistake, finishing to make it 1-1.

Chadwick and Manzinga combined well at times, something to work on.

Something that definitely needs worked on was the amount of cheap throw-ins conceded.

Even though they weren’t in dangerous area, it was frustrating to continually see simple passes gone wrong, or too ambitious passes being made. Especially at a ground like Shamrock Park where the ball doesn’t come back into play immediately, and Linfield needed the game to flow to keep the pressure on Portadown.

Christy Manzinga continued to be the main character in the game, this time being denied by the crossbar after a header.

Both teams exchanged shots that were easily saved as the half meandered to an end, looking like they would go in level.

Portadown had other plans when Lee Bonis snuck in unnoticed from a cross on the left to finish from close ranger. Another poor goal to concede as a result of not tracking a man.

The dynamic of the half-time team talk had changed once again. It was no longer about finishing the job off and completing the comeback, it was about starting another comeback.

It looked like another equaliser was going to come from Billy Chadwick, when he got himself one on one with a Portadown defender, set himself up to shoot, but dragged his shot wide.

From where I was behind the goal, it looked like there would only be one outcome. I turned out to be wrong. I know, i’m as shocked as you are.

David Healy turned to the bench to try and change the game, bringing on Jordan Stewart and Matt Green.

Jordan Stewart had scored the winner in two of Linfield’s last three visits to Portadown, so fingers crossed for three out of four.

He would soon have a goal disallowed due to an advantage not being played. The resulting free-kick went over the bar.

There were more agonising near misses for Linfield.

Trai Hume having an effort cleared off the line by a header. Matt Green had a header saved by the keeper’s legs.

You had a feeling that if Linfield could just get one goal, it would be the springboard towards victory. There was still plenty of time to go.

That goal eventually came when Jordan Stewart played the ball to Kirk Millar whose low cross was finished from close range by Matt Green for his first goal for Linfield.

No time to savour the moment though, grabbing the ball straight away to restart the game. There were three points to be won.

Green would be frustrated in his attempts for his second Linfield goal, having an effort saved by the legs of Portadown’s keeper, before having the ball snatched away from him by a Portadown defender just as he was setting himself up to fire home.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead for the first time, when Christy Manzinga, who else, made space for himself outside the box, and for some reason ignored me shouting at him to pass it left, firing home to make it 3-2 and give Linfield the lead for the first time.

Even though there was one goal in it, you can never be too comfortable, the way the game had gone, you just knew Linfield would see the game out.

They weren’t even seeing the game, continuing to spend the game in Portadown’s half, despite the aim being not to concede rather than to score.

Four goals would have been nice, but three was enough, as Linfield kept up their winning start to the season, but languish in 5th, due to inactivity.

Postonements due to International Call-Ups have made the table lopsided, but it is Cliftonville with ten points from twelve who lead.

Linfield facing a repeat of the Winter of 2019, having to make up games and chase opponents.

Up next, was a League Cup tie away to Ballyclare. I wasn’t there, which is probably why they won, negotiating that opponent, round and venue a lot more effectively than when I visited in 2014.

In League terms, Coleraine at home, a fixture that has literally been even over the past five year.

2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 saw one win each and two draws.

2019-2020 saw two Coleraine wins and a draw, before Linfield levelled it out last season with two wins and two draws.

Two wins have seen Coleraine back on their feet after losing their first two games. The objective for Linfield is to knock them off their feet again. Every point is valuable.

On the Wednesday before this, was Shayne Lavery running the show for Northern Ireland against Switzerland. They still have a chance but are up against it.

I gave the match a miss as it will be an absolute Covidfest. Sorry, but there are two many divs in the Green And White Army.

Although, the ticket prices made it easy. Good to see and issue being made about it and hopefully the IFA address the issue for Euro 2024, or dare I say, a World Cup Qualifying Play-Off. Got to be optimistic.

Living relatively near Windsor Park, I incorporated it into my evening walk to purchase a programme for watching the game on TV.’

I was disappointed to see them not being sold at the ground. This has been a recent phenomenon at games under the IFA. This was the case at the Irish Cup Final and the European Super Cup Final as well, instead selling them online only.

Ahh yes, that well known matchday behaviour, ordering the programme to get it through the post four days later. And you have to pay postage for it.

I fully understand safety concerns about Programme Sellers, absolutely, but there is enough land in and around Windsor Park for them to be based. Why not borrow a kiosk from Ticketmaster to reduce close contact for them?

They can sell programmes at Old Trafford with a crowd of 75,000 for crying out loud.

There have been a few Linfield games moved to Friday nights. One of those was Crusaders moved to Friday 12th November.

Before you could say “Isn’t that the night Northern Ireland play Lithuania? That seems like a dumb idea”, it was moved back to the Saturday.

As I will have some free Saturdays, I hope to spend one of those visiting Harland and Wolff Welders new ground.

The first definite date is Saturday 27th November, but if Linfield v Carrick Rangers is postponed due to International Call-Ups, i’ll be there on Saturday 9th October, all being well, the first scheduled game there.

Until then, my match going will be Linfield. Up next, will be the aim for three wins in a row to help with four titles in a row.

Photo Album


September comes around quick, and that can only mean one thing, Hit The North.

And even that comes around quicker, two weeks earlier in fact, being an independent event rather than being part of Culture Night.

Usually, I would turn up at Hit The North, and get work in progress photos alongside the final pieces.

The date of the actual event – Sunday 5th September – didn’t suit me, I was unable to attend, but that didn’t stop me from going to check out the finished pieces.

Well, what pieces were finished.

My past experience of Hit The North has taught me that not everything happens on the date advertised.

Some pieces start a few days early, while others take a few days later to complete.

On the Monday night, I headed down after work on my bike to check things, and a sweet themed mural at the side of a retro style sweet shop.

That trip on Monday night was just a dry run, to see where everything is before going out on my photo adventure.

The next opportunity I would have would be on Friday night. I was on foot this time. I wanted to see the finished pieces.

I left my camera behind as I assumed the place would be rammed as it was a Friday teatime and there are a lot of pubs.

That would not be the case. In fact, that were parked cars rather than people that were foiling me, blocking the best views and meaning I would have to adjust my shooting angles.

Eventually, I headed out with my camera on Saturday morning. Up early, partly because I would be heading to Portadown later in the day, but also to avoid people and have the place to myself.

The weather was ok. Not the brightness I was hoping for, but enough I could work with.

Amongst the murals being photographed was a tribute to Lee Perry, who had recently died.

Ironically, none of the new pieces were on North Street, but in Kent Street and Little Donegal Street.

If you want it simplified, basically, around The Sunflower.

Additionally, there were a few pieces on High Street, beside Lidl.

I went back on Sunday morning again, just to check if there was anything missed, and to try a few different angles, but most of the photos are from Saturday.

I’ll be back in that end of town on Friday for Culture Night. I’m heading over to see what it’s like, but if it’s an absolute shitshow, i’ll just go home and give it a miss.

At some point over the next few months, i’ll probably be using up excess Annual Leave.

When I am, i’ll spend one of those days doing a day trip to Derry as I haven’t been there since 2019.

My plan was that I would go one Saturday a year during pre-season, but you know, Covid.

My Street Art Senses will be on, just as they were on my last visits in 2015 and 2019, especially as they have just held a Street Art Festival, featured on Belfast Live and UTV Live.

Photo Album

Hit The North 2020

Hit The North 2019

Hit The North 2018

Hit The North 2017

Hit The North 2016

Hit The North 2015

Hit The North 2014

Hit The North 2013

Hit The North 2012