NORTHERN IRELAND 0-0 HOLLAND 16.11.2019

We were 15 minutes away from a 30 foot statue of Josh Magennis being erected in Bangor Marina. It could still happen, but it won’t be in 2019.

Northern Ireland had hoped this Dutch Double Header would become a virtual play-off for 2nd place, though Holland’s win in Germany in early September put a spanner in the works.

As Northern Ireland led 1-0, things were looking interesting, but three late Dutch goals deflated our bubble.

Those two goals in injury time for Holland meant that they not only had three points, but that if Northern Ireland won the return match at Windsor Park, they would have to do so by a score of 2-0, or a three goal margin in order to win the head to heads should the sides finish level on points.

Since then, Michael O’Neill has left his job as Northern Ireland Manager. Well, sort of. He’s going, but not yet.

I was surprised that he chose Stoke, considering their League position and the general downward spiral since relegation from the Premier League in 2018.

However, he would have seen the impact that The Cowleys had at Huddersfield Town, a club in a similar situation, and felt he could do likewise.

There’s no ideal time for a Manager to leave, if they are lucky to leave a job on their own terms.

It is a credit to O’Neill and the IFA that a deal has been done to minimise disruption, as he will continue as Northern Ireland Manager until their Euro 2020 campaign is over.

This could have been his last game as Manager at Windsor Park, it might not be.

We know that Michael O’Neill will be leaving as Northern Ireland Manager, but we don’t know when his last game will be.

Between you and me, I think it might be at Wembley on Sunday 12th July 2020.

To give you a barometer of Northern Ireland’s progress under O’Neill, it was Holland who they faced in his second match in charge, a friendly in Amsterdam as Northern Ireland were cannon fodder in Holland’s farewell party ahead of Euro 2012.

Now they faced them as genuine rivals, having outperformed them in the previous two campaigns.

Holland fans marched to Windsor Park behind an orange party bus playing bad techno music. As I walked to the ground, I saw the bus parked in a street just off Tate’s Avenue. It had the logo of the tournaments it had travelled to, though it hadn’t been updated since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A point at Windsor Park would see them able to add Euro 2020 to the list, and they’d be playing their group matches in Amsterdam.

I’m not sure how it was calculated, but results elsewhere meant that Northern Ireland had already secured a Play-Off spot, though a 3rd place finish should have been enough if the UEFA Nonsense League didn’t exist.

We almost got a dramatic start when Corry Evans charged down a clearance from Holland’s keeper, but was unable to put the ball into the net when he got on the end of it.

Josh Magennis then headed just wide as Northern Ireland chased an early goal.

Holland also had their moments, and Northern Ireland were lucky not the go 1-0 down when a period of pinball in the penalty area saw Holland hit the bar just as the ball looked set to loop in.

Midway through the first-half, Northern Ireland got a penalty for handball. On TV replay, it did look a bit harsh.

Thankfully, Joel Cooper wasn’t taking it, but Steven Davis, Mr Reliable.

Davis stepped up and secured three points. Well, three points at Mount Merrion Avenue rather than Donegall Avenue, as his shot was between the posts but well over the bar.

Yet again in this campaign, Northern Ireland were left to rue a glorious chance gone missing. Ironically, when they needed a goal in Estonia, they got one deflected in when the ball hit Josh Magennis in his Willie John McBride.

The rest of the game drifted towards a 0-0 draw, which suited Holland, as a point would be enough for them to qualify.

The game did finish 0-0, my first 0-0 draw attended this season, and it was enough for Holland, alongside Germany who qualified as a result of this draw.

For stat fans, it also meant that Holland joined England, Scotland, Republic of Ireland and Germany in securing qualification for a tournament at Windsor Park.

Northern Ireland were made to wait on other results to see who their Play-Off opponents are. At the time of writing, it looks like Bosnia away. They finished 4th in a poor group, so we shouldn’t be fearing them.

Plus, we more than matched them in the two UEFA Nations League games.

I’m beginning to think it was a tactical masterstroke to lose twice to them, as we’ll be due a win against them.

Whilst this is taking place, the search for a new Manager will be ongoing. I’m obviously not privy to who has applied for it, but unless a major name (might as well joke about it being Pochettino) applies for it, I would expect it to be Stephen Robinson or Ian Baraclough.

Hopefully, whoever it is, will be taking over a team who have just qualified for the European Championship.

Photo Album

Holland v Northern Ireland 2012

INSTITUTE 0-3 LINFIELD 16.11.2019

It didn’t quit banish the memory of Dundalk on Monday night, but it was a welcome three points for Linfield as they looked to secure a place in next season’s Unite The Union Cup.

On paper, a trip to face Institute at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium looked like an easy three points to recover from that 6-0 defeat. The reality was far from that, with Institute enjoying a resurgence under new Manager Sean Connor, getting draws against Crusaders and Glentoran, as well as reaching the NIFL Cup Semi-Finals.

As it was last year, this matched kicked off at 1pm. That worked out convenient for fans and players, even though it wasn’t decided for those reasons.

Those going to the Northern Ireland match later in the evening could get back to Belfast in plenty of time for kick-off at Windsor Park, while the players knew that if they could get three points, they could put pressure on Coleraine and Cliftonville, who kicked off at 3pm.

As it was on the weekend the last time Linfield played a League match, on November 2nd, all the games were Top 6 v Bottom 6. You might get one shock result, but you won’t get three or four. Linfield didn’t want to be that team, especially as Crusaders had already secured three points on the Friday night, just about though.

Linfield’s starting eleven saw a return to League action for Chris Casement as Linfield returned to four defenders. Thank goodness for that.

There was a welcome return to the starting eleven for Joel Cooper, who recently had minor surgery after being roughed up by Carrick Rangers.

In the early moments, Linfield were trying to get him on the ball to make things happen. Not a lot was happening for Linfield in the early moments as Institute looked comfortable when defending, it didn’t look like a Linfield goal was inevitable.

Institute weren’t afraid to attack either, but Linfield were able to shut them out. Thankfully, as the last thing you want to do in a game like this is to give the opposition something to defend.

Linfield wee presented with an opportunity to make a breakthrough when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Joel Cooper. A soft foul, but still a foul.

Cooper immediately grabbed the ball and stated that he was taking the kick. He had already scored from a penalty this season. Well, sort of, having scored the rebound from a saved penalty only for a goal not to be given despite the ball being clearly over the line. Yep, i’m still going on about it even though we won that match.

It was a bit surprising that Cooper was putting himself forward to take the kick, especially with Andrew Mitchell, on as a substitute for the injured Niall Quinn, and Andrew Waterworth being on the pitch.

Cooper’s finish didn’t match his confidence, with his poor kick being easily saved and held by Institute’s keeper. In a game where Linfield weren’t playing well, they needed to make the most of the rare opportunity that came their way.

Within a few minutes, Linfield were given another opportunity when they got a second penalty.

It was for an off the ball incident, so I don’t know what actually happened. However, the referee seemed certain in his decision when he flashed a red card at Institute defender Ryan Morrow.

It took a while for fans to compute that another penalty had been given. This time, Andrew Waterworth.

He Panenkaed it, it really wasn’t the time or place for it, and for a moment, it looked like he was going to miss it. Thankfully, he didn’t, and Linfield had the lead.

In the aftermath of the red card, Institute players lost their discipline, arguing with the referee and squaring up to Linfield players.

Sean Connor was hoping for half-time just to get them to calm down and work on a plan on getting back into the game. It was essential that Linfield made the most of this.’

As the half neared it’s end, Bastien Hery worked himself into space on the edge of the penalty area and fired home to make it 2-0.

Curiously, the move began when Institute’s keeper caught a low cross from Kirk Millar, and then kicked it away, Institute were never able to get the ball back from there.

I’m not sure why he kicked it out, I can only think that he lost his bearings and thought he was going to slip the ball into his own net.

Without playing too well, Linfield were 2-0 up and a man up.

However, it was Rohan Ferguson who was the busier keeper in the second-half, making four big saves to stop Institute pulling the game back to 2-1 and getting ideas of an unlikely comeback.

Linfield weren’t without their chances to kill the game off at 3-0, with Andrew Waterworth getting on the end of a Kirk Millar cross but his effort was saved.

It was crosses from Joel Cooper down the left that were causing Institute the most problems, going right into the six yard box, with a desperate block usually denying Linfield.

Deep into injury time, Linfield did make it 3-0, and it came from another penalty.

I think this was the first time I’ve ever been to a football match where three penalties have been awarded to the one team. It was a foul on guess who? Joel Cooper.

Andrew Waterworth stepped up and repeated his feat from last season, 364 days previously, by scoring twice at The Brandywell.

He must have been fuming inside at not getting to hit the first penalty, and missing out on the chance to get a hat-trick.

Three points in the bag, Linfield headed back down the motorway with their feet up hoping that Cliftonville or Coleraine slip up.

It was Coleraine who slipped up, losing 3-1 at Warrenpoint. That was not a result I saw coming, but it was welcomely accepted by Linfield fans.

That meant Cliftonville went top of the League, as a result of their seventh successive win.

Dare I be that guy and point out they had a run of games they should be winning?

I’ll be surprised if they’re top after 22 games when everybody plays each other twice. However, Linfield just have to look after themselves.

Up next, is a match against Glenavon live on BBC Two, which hopefully goes better than our previous televised games against Glenavon, both 2-0 defeats.

That is followed by a trip to Ballymena, which has been scheduled in after being postponed due to Linfield’s run in Europe. Both teams current runs of form mean they are games we should be winning.

If we do, we get to put pressure on the teams playing on Saturday afternoon. If we follow that up at Ballymena, we’ll be breathing down the necks of Coleraine, Cliftonville and Crusaders.

I’ll be missing that Ballymena match as i’ll be on a short break in Lithuania, meaning it’ll be a 9.45pm kick-off for me local time. Unfortunately, I’ve got an early morning flight home on Wednesday morning, so I may be sleeping the whole way through the match.

Unfortunately, I can’t go without mentioning the game against Dundalk.

I was hoping to go as i’d never been to Oriel Park before, but the ticketing arrangements were a pain in the arse. I had a lucky escape.

It was frankly, an embarrassing result. There’s no shame in losing to Dundalk, but that scoreline was embarrassing. We’re better than that.

We just looked off the pace from the start and were punished by a team who were ruthless. We weren’t as ruthless in the few opportunities we had.

David Healy didn’t really help himself by declaring it not a priority. He was probably saying what a lot of people were thinking, myself included, it probably wasn’t best to say it out loud in public.

If we won the Unite The Union Cup but finished 4th, it wouldn’t be considered a successful season.

If we win the League, that night in Dundalk will be forgotten about.

The best way to remedy that result? Qualify for next year’s Unite The Union Cup.

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DRUMAHOE

Welcome to the first in what will probably be a one part series, looking at abandoned football stadiums.

Linfield’s trip to Institute presented me with an opportunity to check out one such venue, Institute’s former home of Drumahoe.

Though the match would be played at The Brandywell, the pre-match arrangements were for Linfield fans to meet at Drumahoe Park and Ride, beside Drumahoe, in order to be bussed in to The Brandywell.

When the sides met last season, I intended to have a nosey around the abandoned ground, but time constraints meant that I couldn’t. So, I made sure that I had enough time in my stay in the village to look around.

The reason why the ground is abandoned is that it became flooded during heavy rain in 2017.

This caused an infestation of Japanese Knotweed on the pitch, making it unplayable.

That was then compounded by an arson attack on the changing rooms in the Summer of 2018.

Institute then moved to Wilton Park for the rest of the 2017-2018 season, but after winning promotion, needed a suitable stadium for top flight football, hence their groundshare with Derry City at The Brandywell.

There are plans in place for a new stadium at Clooney Park West.

The closest you can get to an Irish League version of Chernobyl, you can’t actually get into the stadium, but there are railings where you can take photos through, which is what I did, capturing the pitch where the grass has grown. A lot.

It’s the first time I have visited an abandoned stadium. When I was last in Glasgow, I attempted to visit Cathkin Park, a former football stadium which now forms part of a public park, though the terracing is still intact.

Next time i’m in Glasgow, i’ll make an effort to make that Part 2 of this series.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MATCH – 13.10.2001

Having scored the goal that took England to the World Cup Finals, David Beckham is the cover star of Match, which reviews England’s successful qualifying campaign.

The man who made Beckham captain, Peter Taylor, is the main story on the contents page, having just been sacked by Leicester City, a year after being Caretaker Manager of England.

There is a full page interview with the Co-Creator of Championship Manager, Paul Collyer, following the release of Championship Manager 01/02.

There are four pages dedicated to England’s World Cup qualifying campaign, a match by match guide, as well as looking at the dramatic departure of Kevin Keegan as manager, and the appointment of Sven Goran-Eriksson.

There is a “Where Are They Now?” of Leeds United’s 1992 title winning team. The Leeds team of 2001-2002 were hoping to emulate them, sitting top of the Premier League. This magazine had a four page interview with goalkeeper Nigel Martyn.

Players described as “Hot” get a feature, such as Andy Oakes of Derby, Peter Crouch of Portsmouth and Darius Henderson of Reading.

George Burley, manager of Ipswich Town gets an interview, where he says the vacant Scotland job doesn’t appeal to him.

In ads, you could buy Michael Owen’s own brand breakfast cereal.

ROCHDALE UPRISING

As in, Lisa Stansfield?

Yep.

The place where Gordon Brown called that woman a …..

Yep.

The team from League One that United needed a penalty shoot-out to beat in the League Cup?

Yes, that Rochdale.

Now, I’m no Michael Palin, I’m not even Michael Portillo, but I have travelled about a bit and seen Street Art in various cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. However, Rochdale isn’t somewhere that would instantly come to mind as a place to travel to in order to see Street Art.

All that changed in August this year, with the first ever Rochdale Uprising event, a collaboration between the local council and the Street Art duo Nomad Clan, as an attempt to brighten up the Town Centre.

If the name Nomad Clan sounds familiar, that’s because they have previously featured on this blog for their work around Belfast.

Usually when they are written about, they are billed as being from Manchester. They are just based in Manchester, one of them comes from Rochdale, hence their involvement with the local council in this event.

I travelled to Rochdale by tram from Manchester, having been over for a United match. I would have been better off going by train, except that there weren’t many running due to flooding, so I didn’t really have a choice.

As my tram ventured from Rochdale Train Station to Rochdale Town Centre, I could see pieces as I looked out the window, excitedly making a mental note as to their location in order to get a photo.

As soon as I got off the tram, I walked about, stumbled onto one piece, and then another, and then another,

However, not all of the artwork was outdoors, as there is an exhibition inside Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre.

To be brutally honest, there’s no other reason to visit Rochdale, there’s not much to it.

This makes any such visit worthwhile.

It’s unknown if this was a one-off event or the first of an annual event. If it is an annual event, I’ll make sure to visit to snap the new pieces that appear whenever I am over for a trip to Old Trafford.

Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 3-0 PARTIZAN BELGRADE 7.11.2019

Ole’s still at the wheel, but this journey has been a bit bumpy.

It’s one of those journeys with piss breaks every five minutes. And then, somebody nips out for a quick smoke, meaning you’ve been parked for twenty minutes. Then you stop off to a Service Station for a quick toilet break, and half the bus rushes to Burger King and you spend half an hour there.

This is why I usually make my own way to football matches.

A case of two steps forward, and one back, perfectly summed up by recent events, with three wins in a row followed up by a defeat to Bournemouth, just as the Top 6 was within reach.

This was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford, my third with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as United Manager. United had yet to win in the previous two games I had been to.

Things were going so well for Solskjaer, winning his first eight games in charge, and then I turned up against Burnley.

United went into this game knowing that a win would send them through with two games to spare. The last time they were in the Group Stage of the UEFA Cup, they didn’t secure qualification until the last game, and didn’t even win the group.

Going to this game meant that I would be able to tick Partizan Belgrade off my 102 Club list, although, I rather they weren’t on it.

They are on the list as they reached the 1966 European Cup Final, beating United 2-1 on aggregate in the Semi-Final.

Having already won 1-0 in Belgrade, a win tonight wouldn’t represent revenge for a defeat 53 years earlier, United were looking to secure European football for February 2020.

One good thing about being in the UEFA Cup is that Thursday night games are a lot more convenient to travel to. In 2016, I made a long weekend of it by seeing a match against Feyenood on the Thursday and the match against West Ham on the Sunday.

United had home games scheduled for the Sunday after Matchday 4 and 5, so there was the potential for a repeat.

Unfortunately, I had to wait until the draw was made. When I looked at booking a double header, unfortunately, the prices were too much to do Partizan and Brighton, I had to make do with Partizan.

Hypothetically speaking, if I was making a long weekend of it, I would have went to a game on the Saturday.

Possible options included Burnley v West Ham or Wigan v Brentford.

There was also cup games at Accrington Stanley (took in a game there in 2014. Turned out their FA Cup game was delayed by an hour due to officials getting injured), or Salford City, Stockport County at home in the National League or FC United at home in the FA Trophy (I planned to do this in my long weekend in 2016, but a frozen pitch denied me)

Of course, when I went to the Burnley match in January, I took in a day trip to Sheffield. I could have done that and taken in Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea City. However, that would be dependent on Northern Rail running a Boat Replacement Service.

Barnsley is just over an hour away from Manchester, though I couldn’t think of a reason why their match against Stoke City would be appealing.

It would only be Partizan I would be seeing, a match where Ashley Young would be starting due to his suspension against Brighton, necessitating that Brandon Williams not be risked.

Based on his appearances so far, I see no reason why Williams shouldn’t be United’s first choice left back, regardless of wether Ashley Young is suspended or not.

As kick-off approached, the rain continued to lash down.

This game saw two early goals, though both of them were disallowed.

Partizan’s goal that was disallowed was one of those horrible efforts that looped up and in after their striker was tackled by a United player. If it did count, it would have just summed up United’s season.

United missed a few opportunities early on, a couple of Marcus Rashford volleys going well wide, while Anthony Martial had a shot smothered by Partizan’s keeper, who was wearing a headband that made him look like Rab C Nesbitt.

Eventually, United got the breakthrough when Mason Greenwood fired home low after being found in space.

Despite not having many attempts on goal, Partizan still offered enough of an attacking threat to keep United worried. They needed a second goal to relax.

That came when a Partizan clearance was charged down and fell perfectly to Martial, who danced past a couple of defenders and poked the ball home.

It was a key goal as it gave United breathing space and deflated Partizan.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Marcus Rashford finished after a tee-up from Ashley Young, and that was the three points and qualification secured.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the match was a non event, as United got the three points and qualified. Now all they need is four points from their last two games to win the group, which will be hand when the Last 32 draw comes around.

Elsewhere, the football news has been dominated by two Michael, with Michael O’Connor being on trial at Hibs and Michael O’Neill joining Stoke City.

But not quite leaving Northern Ireland, he’ll leave when the Euro 2020 campaign ends. So that’ll be 12th July 2020 then.

Stoke doesn’t look that appealing, but he’s obviously seen the impact that The Cowleys have had at Huddersfield and believes he can do likewise.

My next United match will be Burnley in mid January, a match that won’t be rearranged now that the League Cup Quarter-Final dates have been confirmed.

Hopefully, by then, United will be progressing in the two domestic cup competitions and climbing up the table.

Photo Album

MANCHESTER STREET ART – NOVEMBER 2019

This edition of Manchester Street Art actually doesn’t begin in Manchester, but in Altrincham, in Greater Manchester.

I was in Manchester for United’s match against Partizan Belgrade. When in Manchester, I like to try and take in as much of Greater Manchester and the North Of England. With a bit of spare time on my hands before checking in, I headed to Altrincham, having not been there for a while to visit Altrincham Market.

While there, I spotted a mural of Brigitte Bardot outside Everyman Theatre. Naturally, I got some photos.

I’ve no idea why it was done, there’s no particular reason for it.

Background research shows it was done late last year by an artist called Richard Wilson. Not that one. If it was, your response would be “I don’t believe it”.

Upon arrival in Manchester, there was only one place to go, Stevenson Square, Manchester’s hotbed of Street Art, to take in the latest pieces.

You may have noticed them recently on TV, as Football Focus interviewed Juan Mata there.

Stevenson Square was as far as I got on Thursday, as it was chucking it down with rain, and by mid-afternoon, my main intention was checking in to my hotel, and getting into my warm and dry room.

On the tram to my hotel, I noticed a mural of Noel Gallagher. I know it’s somewhere near Cornbrook, but I didn’t go to find it. I’ll be back in Manchester in January for another match, so I’ll look for it then, if it’s still there.

If it’s not, the number one suspect will be a certain William Gallagher.

Friday was spent walking around Ancoats and Oldham Street to look for new pieces.

On Friday morning, I headed to Rochdale in search of Street Art (a separate blog will follow after this) meaning that I didn’t have any time to get photos of Salford Quays/Pomona Whaf.

Photo Album

Manchester Street Art – May 2019

Manchester Street Art – January 2019

Manchester Street Art – November 2018

Manchester Street Art – May 2018

Manchester Street Art – December 2017

Manchester Street Art – May 2017

Manchester Street Art – February 2017

Manchester Street Art – November 2016

Manchester Street Art – May 2016

Manchester Street Art – January 2016

Manchester Street Art – November 2015

Manchester Street Art – May 2015

Manchester Street Art – November 2014

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : 90 MINUTES – 29.6.1996

We’re slap bang in the middle of Euro 96, and Stuart Pearce’s celebration after his penalty against Spain being the cover image.

There is an error on this cover, as it is dated 8th June 1996, when it should be 29th June 1996, as it is inside.

In their cartoon, Gazza and Teddy Sheringham go out for a cup of tea, downing it like they were on the infamous Dentist’s Chair in Hong Kong.

In transfer rumours, Anders Limpar is leaving Everton to join Marseille.

In news, a survey by Cellnet has revealed that 27% of football fans phone friends and family from matches to keep them up to date with scores.

Despite being in the middle of a tournament, Terry Venables gives an interview to 90 minutes where he revelas he considers himself a passionate Celt rather than a sedate Englishman, due to his Welsh and French family background.

There are full page match reports of the final group games of Euro 96, that saw England go through and Scotland go out.

Later on in the magazine, there are reports of the Euro 96 Quarter-Finals.

90 Minutes Live interviews fans outside Germany v Czech Republic at Old Trafford, asking which Euro 96 player they would like to see bitten by a rabid bat.

One Port Vale supporter says Darren Anderton, as he’s sick of his female friends commenting on how good looking he is.

LINFIELD 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 2.11.2019

On a Matchday where the Top 6 faced the Bottom 6, this was a game that Linfield were expected to win. It was a game they had to win, as they would fall further behind the Top 3 as you might get one shock result, you were never going to get three or four.

If Linfield players needed any more motivation to win this game, the sight of Carrick in their white away kit, looking like Derby County, should have done the trick.

I’ll have you know they have been reported to the Kit Police, a full statement has been made and a Reference Number has been provided.

The topic of ends attacking has been an interesting point in recent home matches.

Over recent years, Linfield have attacked The Kop in the first-half, but not in their last two home League matches against Ballymena United and Warrenpoint Town, meaning a quick change of ends for those who like to sit where Linfield attack.

On Tuesday night against Cliftonville, it was a return to attacking The Kop first, so that’s where I set up camp, only to have to walk the length of the South Stand as they changed ends.

When Larne come to Windsor Park at the end of the month, i’ll set up camp at the Railway Stand pre kick-off, meaning it’s an absolute cert they’ll attack The Kop in the first-half that day.

However, it was both ends that were getting an equal share of the attacking in the first quarter of the game, with Carrick giving as good as they were getting, not being afraid to attack, though not having chances of the scale that they had when the sides met in September.

As with most of Linfield’s recent games, good things happened when Joel Cooper got on the ball, wanting to add to his tally of eight goals in his last seven games, though it should have been nine in seven after the Linesman failed to spot a Cliftonville player clearing his shot halfway on the Boucher Road.

When Cooper wasn’t on the ball, Mark Stafford could usually be seen lurking at set pieces,a player with a ridiculously good goalscoring record against Carrick, especially at Windsor Park. Stafford was looking to score against Carrick for the third successive game, having scored at Taylor’s Avenue earlier this season, and when the sides last met at Windsor Park in March 2018.

Unsurprisingly, it was Cooper who was involved when Linfield took the lead, his defence splitting pass finding Matthew Clarke clear on the left. I thought Clarke was going to shoot but he crossed instead for Andrew Waterworth, in for the injured Shayne Lavery, to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Just as when the sides met in September, it took Linfield until the final minutes of the half to take the lead, albeit just a few minutes earlier than in September.

Curiously, this goal was almost a cover version of Andrew Waterworth’s goal against Cliftonville last season that completed his hat-trick.

Having scored a few minutes left of the first-half, it looked like Waterworth was going to score a few minutes into the second-half when he finished from close range but he was adjudged to be offside. It didn’t look it from where I was sat.

A quick corner saw Kirk Millar run into the box but his shot hit the bar.

A few minutes later, Millar was assisting rather than scoring a second when his cross was headed in off the post by Mark Stafford. It did look like an own goal by Carrick’s keeper, but I think Stafford will claim it. He always scores against Carrick.

Just as it looked that would be the game won for Linfield, Carrick had a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit when a stray pass from Rohan Ferguson fell perfectly for Guaillaume Keke, who went round Ferguson, but his goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Bastien Hery.

I was surprised that Keke didn’t shoot first time. By taking a slight delay, he gave Hery an opportunity to get back.

Having got into a commanding lead, the last thing Linfield needed was for the game to be competitive again.

Carrick didn’t have any attacking moments of note after that, as Linfield saw out the game comfortably.

A curious thing was that there were no substitutions made by Linfield. I know that 2-0 isn’t totally secure, but even for five or ten minutes, it would have been a perfect opportunity to bring on Josh Robinson as he continues his recovery from injury.

In other results, it turned out that Crusaders were the team who slipped up while Coleraine, Cliftonville and Glentoran also won.

That’s four League games without a win for Crusaders and one win in six in all competitions. If it was Linfield on this run of form, it would be talked about at length.

Apologies for going on about it, but it makes Linfield’s defeat at Seaview even more frustrating.

There is even more frustration for Linfield as they are inactive in League terms due to their involvement in the Unite The Union Challenge Cup.

It comes in a weekend where Cliftonville, Glentoran and Coleraine all face Bottom 6 opposition they would be expected to beat.

It is worth pointing out that Linfield were also due to face Bottom 6 opposition at home. IT depends how you look at it.

Dungannon have lost their last six games, including two defeats to Linfield (conceding four on each occasion) so they are prime for another three points for Linfield.

There is an alternative viewpoint that they are due something, and they are most certainly due one against Linfield. So it’s maybe for the best that this game is set aside for a bit.

It’s just frustration that having got one outstanding game played (and won), we will now be back up to three games in hand.

The reason for the postponement is the Unite The Union Challenge Cup match against Dundalk.

Due to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland running on different calendars (football wise), arranging a full Setanta Cup style competition is going to be hard, so this is the best you can get, though the scheduling of this is far from perfect.

There are only four windows to play the match, the start or end of each country’s season.

July/August, at the start of the Irish League season is out as both clubs would be focusing on Europe. Even if it was scheduled on two Saturdays around their European Cup tie, both teams will have their minds on the European game instead and won’t be full application.

May, end of Irish League season. Makes sense in marketing terms to have the game on brighter evenings, but if the Irish League season goes to the last game, there will be not a lot of time to arrange the game.

November, end of League of Ireland season. Same problem as if League Of Ireland season goes to last game, there won’t be much time to arrange the game. However, Dundalk won the 2019 title with a few games to spare, so arrangements should have started then.

If Dundalk weren’t in the FAI Cup Final, I have a suspicion it would have been played this weekend.

I can’t imagine Dundalk being enthused about this game at the end of a long season.

It’s a good idea but the arrangements looked rushed. The games were only confirmed two weeks ago, meaning that ticketing is being arranged late. For me, I wouldn’t be able to purchase a ticket until the first leg.

That’s not ideal as my job is appointment based, so i’d need to know if I have a ticket before booking time off, and i’m sure there are others who do appointment based jobs or shift work.

And then there are the arrangements, having to make your own way to Banbridge first. If I did have a ticket, i’d be tempted to book a hotel (i’d imagine a hotel in Dundalk on a Monday night in November wouldn’t be fully booked) and make a two day trip of it and explore Louth.

Considering some people are trying to promote the idea of an All Ireland League, this isn’t selling it to people.

What about February/March? The start of the League Of Ireland season. This might be the best option, part of LOI side’s preparation, not too late in the IL season to be a distraction.

Looking at this season’s schedule, Dundalk played in the President’s Cup on 9th February and their first League game on 15th February.

That would present difficulties in terms that 2nd February was and Irish Cup date and 16th February was ringfenced for the NIFL Cup Final.

Nothing that couldn’t be overcome. Hypothetically speaking, if it was introduced last year, could have been played on 8th and 11th February, with the League Of Ireland season being pushed back a week and the President’s Cup on 16th.

Or, 2nd February could be a League date with the Champions game postponed to accommodate this and 9th February an Irish Cup date.

That would be the best idea for this competition to have it played in February or March on a mutually agreed date that doesn’t interfere with either country’s cup competitions.

This competition is a good idea, but the arrangements are rushed. A game in February means we know who will be playing for three months, and arrangements can be made.

After all my complaining about tickets and travel, i’ll actually miss the Windsor Park game as i’ll be flying back from Manchester after seeing United take on Partizan on the Thursday night.

If you believe in omens, the last time Linfield played when I was in mid air was the away leg against Sutjeska in August.

High hotel prices over the weekend meant I wasn’t able to make it a double header with the game against Brighton on the Sunday, I consoled myself that i’d be back for the Linfield match on the Saturday. Flip sake.

That’s the second time that high costs (flights frustrating my London/Brighton break plans for July 2020) have frustrated my attempts to see Brighton, the city and football team.

I’ve got an idea in my head to do a London/Brighton long weekend in January 2021, but there’s still a while to go before I worry about that.

The most frustrating thing about the scheduling about these matches against Dundalk is that it rules out two midweeks for slotting in outstanding games, especially with a Friday night TV game against Glenavon also ruling out another midweek later in the month.

Talking of ticketing, still no news about the game against Institute in two weeks time. There should be a rule in the Irish League that if a game is ticketed, tickets should be on sale (at least) four weeks in advance.

Talking of fixture scheduling, there’s a midweek in early December that Linfield won’t be able to play a League match, but in a good way, as they play Coleraine at home in the NIFL Cup Semi-Final.

I guess we’re due one against them.

No pressure, but if Linfield lose, i’m spending my birthday in Ballymena. What a grim thought.

It seems that fixture scheduling is also an issue in England with this business over Liverpool in the League Cup.

I’m slightly worried that the United match against Burnley i’m going to in mid January could be postponed to accommodate League Cup Semi-Finals.

Talking of Semi-Finals, Linfield are in the Semis of the Steel and Sons Cup, meaning I could be facing a decision wether to go or not. If they do, that would be three finals in four years, which will be impressive, especially as the team is all youngsters, due to so many senior players being ineligible for the competition.

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