THE FRIDAY FIVE – 20.9.2019

1. Pet Shop Boys ft Olly Alexander – Dreamland
2. Freya Ridings – Castles
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – This Is The Place
4. The Cars – My Best Friend’s Girl
5. Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You

Stereophonics and Pet Shop Boys announcing concerts with no Belfast gig. Flip sake.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WHEN SATURDAY COMES – NOVEMBER 2011

A Glum looking Carlos Tevez is the cover star of this week’s edition of When Saturday Comes, with a thought bubble stating that he won’t play with players who are only there for the money. A few weeks earlier, he had refused to come on as a substitute for Manchester City against Bayern Munich.

There is a look at Sion, expelled from the UEFA Cup but a pursuing the matter through the courts.

Brazil had recently played Ghana in a friendly at Craven Cottage, which saw a crush outside the ground of supporters trying to get in, with WSC looking at the events of that night.

In Scotland, it is reported that Rangers were on the verge of going bankrupt, a story which dominated Scottish football throughout 2012, which resulted in Rangers getting relegated to the fourth tier.

Truro City get a profile, currently in the Conference South, but with ambitions of being the first Cornish club to play in the Football League.

There is a photo feature of Birmingham City’s UEFA Cup tie against Braga, the first time in 50 years that European football had come to St Andrew’s.

Garry Cook had recently left Manchester City, and WSC looks at his successes at the City Of Manchester Stadium, to balance out the criticism he received over the manner of his departure, mocking the mother of one of City’s players.

The global appeal of English football is looked at, looking at Norwich City supporters across the world.

WSC also looks locally, wondering why it is considered a risk for English clubs to sign players from the lower leagues.

Talking of local issues, WSC looks at Hartlepool United, who are coming to terms with the fact they don’t have a local derby rival.

Match of the Month is the Conference clash between Gateshead and Cambridge United.

There is a look at the recent trend of clubs offering fans refunds after bad away results, asking if it is the right thing to do.

On a season long loan to Lille, there is a look at Joe Cole as he begins life in France.

There is a look back at George Best’s brief spell at Cork Celtic in 1975.

Socrates gets a profile after a spell in hospital due to Liver problems. He died the following month.

EDWYN COLLINS – LIVE AT STRANGE VICTORY 15.9.2019

Just putting it out there, all concerts should come with cake and tea on arrival.

That was what greeted me upon arrival at Stange Victory, where Edwyn Collins was doing a live instore afternoon gig before appearing at The Empire later that evening.

If you don’t know where Stange Victory is, walk towards Virgin Megas ……. what do you mean Virgin Megastore isn’t there any more?

Walk towards where Virgin Megastore was, and then turn left before you get to where Virgin Megastore was. Then you’ll find Strange Victory, and independent music store.

Starting a few minutes late due to the volume of fans wanting photos, autographs and everything inbetween, every request was honoured.

Not realising his mic was on, Collins accidentally broadcast his conversation to the crowd, it was nothing juicy or scandalous, he then asked for a glass of water, stating that it was thirsty work.

It was ironic, that he had a very dry sense of humour, commenting every time a member of his band introduced what song would be next.

Unsurprisingly, the setlist mostly comprised of songs from his new album Badbea, which he encouraged people to buy, even though he is against the commercialisation of rock n roll.

To be honest, I only really knew three songs by Edwyn Collins, none of which were played, not that it mattered.

A Girl Like You, undisputed banging tune. You can play air guitar to that song but not headbang, just strut and pose.

The Magic Piper Of Love, from the first Austin Powers movie, which wasn’t a massive hit, though it should have been.

And then, Rip It Up by Orange Juice, thanks to Top Of The Pops 2 for introducing it to me.

Of course, I managed to keep up my concert tradition of bumping into Linfield supporters, having a conversation about the previous day’s match as I left.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it was especially enjoyable for Collins, who was presented with a cake by the store as he left

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ULSTER SPORTS CLUB STREET ART

Spotted some photos on Instagram of new Street Art in Belfast, so I decided to go and have a look in person.

It is at the back of Ulster Sports Club. If you want an easy tip on how to find it, look for the large mural of a man and a lobster.

Culture Night is coming up but there’ll be no Hit The North, that was in May.

I note from the programme that there is a Street Art event in The National, so i’ll check that out.

If there is something of note, you’ll see it here.

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BELFAST PEACE WALL ART – SEPTEMBER 2019

A few weeks back, I went to the Peace Wall at Cupar Way for my every six months visit to see if there was anything worth getting photos of. There wasn’t.

However, in the intervening two weeks, I spotted photos of a work in progress piece by Emic, so I decided to go and have another look.

One the way, I took a detour and got some bonus photos at Northumberland Street.

Eventually, I arrived at Cupar Way and got some photos of Emic’s piece, which now has some inspiring messages written on it such as “CAMBRIDGE UNITED WOZ ERE” and “UP THE DUBS – 5 IN A ROW”

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LINFIELD 1-0 GLENTORAN 14.9.2019

Linfield warmed up for their opening UEFA Cup group match with a ………… ah, if only.

It’s now a case of back to reality and domestic action, and it’s been a satisfactory first week back, with three points away to Cliftonville, and a County Antrim Shield win over East Belfast.

That win over East Belfast especially pleasing, as some players who aren’t regular starters got game time, and some players got debuts.

Matthew Shevlin got a first start and goal, and Andrew Waterworth got a goal as well, and kept his place in the starting eleven, with nobody have to make way for Shayne Lavery, as an injury to Daniel Kearns enabled him to go back into the eleven.

Injuries to Kearns and Jordan Stewart meant that Linfield were a bit light when it came to attacking midfield options from the bench. Those injuries presented an opportunity for Daniel Reynolds, another goalscorer from the midweek Shield match.

It was Linfield who had the better of the opening minutes, with Shayne Lavery flicking wide from a Joel Cooper cross.

Lavery was then played in but looked too wide to score. His cross/shot flashed across the Glentoran six yard box, Kirk Millar unable to keep up with his run and get on the end of it.

There was no doubt that Linfield were up for this game, but they couldn’t get an early goal.

Although, early goals have never been a good thing for Linfield in this fixture in recent year, it still would have been welcomed.

Having ridden out that spell of Linfield pressure, Glentoran were able to spend some time in Linfield’s half, in front of the biggest exodus from East Belfast to South Belfast outside of Boxing Day for a while.

There weren’t any moments of worry for Linfield. I say that, but any time Glentoran have the ball in Linfield’s half, even if they are well away from goal, I naturally become nervous. It’s just the way I am.

After a strong start, the afternoon didn’t really happen for Joel Cooper, not getting much joy when taking on his opposing full-back.

Linfield’s next big chance gave when Bastien Hery headed over from close range. I don’t think he realised that Glentoran keeper Marijan Antolovic was hopelessly out of position.

Antolovic doesn’t need any vaccinations, because he never caught anything, keeping Linfield attacks alive longer than they should have been.

His lack of willingness to catch crosses or hold on to shots always gave Linfield hope that they could force an error out of him.

Glentoran’s shots on goal in the first-half were long range shots from Robbie McDaid and Joe Crowe which looked a lot closer than they were as I was sat at the opposite end.

By this point, Crowe was on a yellow card, having picked up a card for a cynical foul on Shayne Lavery as he raced towards goal.

Linfield’s only other attacking moments of note in the first-half was a long range shot from Andrew Waterworth which went over, as the ball set up, he was fancying a repeat of his goal at The Oval in 2016, and a cross which just evaded Mark Stafford who would have scored if he could get on the end of it.

0-0 at half-time but no need to panic. If Linfield could keep creating chances, surely one would go in. And if they can’t create chances, there was always the possibility that Glentoran’s keeper might gift them one.

As half-time scores filtered through, they were all going Linfield’s way, with Crusaders and Coleraine both drawing their matches. It didn’t matter if other results were going for or against Linfield, they still had to help themselves.

However, if Coleraine and/or Crusaders did fail to win, and Linfield took advantage, they would be finishing the day no higher than 9th, as the full-time whistle was blowing in the 2pm kick-off at The Brandywell, where Larne had just beaten Institute 4-1.

The second-half was very nervous, with neither team creating a clear cut opportunity.

With each passing minute, it was clear how important the first goal was going to be, if there was one. This match was not going to finish 1-1. It would either be 0-0, or somebody would sneak it 1-0.

Despite this, David Healy was reluctant to use any of the options on the bench.

One of those options was Matthew Shevlin, who had a decent cameo off the bench at Solitude the previous week, another was to bring on Matthew Clarke and push Niall Quinn forward.

However, it was Stephen Fallon who came on for Andrew Waterworth, just minutes after Robbie McDaid hit the bar for Glentoran.

On 86 minutes, it was Linfield who got the breakthrough when Bastien Hery instigated a move which saw Mark Stafford play the ball to Kirk Millar in space, not a lot, but enough to set himself up to get a shot at goal, which went in via a deflection.

The celebrations amongst the home fans showed how important a goal it was. Not just in the match, but in the title race, with Linfield having to come back from a ten point deficit and not being able to afford any dropped points.

It was such a big goal, David Healy joined in the celebrations, running faster than he had ever run as a player.

Having spent 86 minutes trying to get in front, it was important now for Linfield to stay in front in what time remained. They did that, Glentoran never having any opportunity to get an equaliser.

Even though Linfield didn’t move up the table or get any closer to the top, it was still a big win, as the draw between Ballymena United and Coleraine, and defeats for Dungannon Swifts and Glentoran mean that Linfield could jump up to 4th if results go their way on the next matchday.

They’ll have to wait two days for any such opportunity, with the trip to Carrick Rangers being selected for live coverage on Sky Sports.

Talking of results going their way, it could have been so much better if Glenavon hadn’t missed a last minute penalty to equalise against Crusaders. We can’t really complain about Glenavon being useless, we’ve benefitted from it plenty of times in the past. Let’s hope they stay useless for the next two weeks.

I dare say, Crusaders are probably more disappointed about Linfield’s late win than Linfield are about Crusaders late escape.

You could pick holes in Crusaders start by pointing out that four of their opening six games have come against the bottom four.

Before Carrick, is a NIFL Cup trip to Ballinamallard for Linfield as a busy period of fixtures get underway.

That run of games might not include any UEFA Cup Group Stage matches, but there’s still enough to keep minds occupied and focused.

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NORTHERN IRELAND 0-2 GERMANY 9.9.2019

You could say that Northern Ireland’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 has been a bit like a video game.

Estonia and Belarus, Level 1, negotiated with maximum points. Now for Level 2, Germany and Holland. It’ll be a bit tougher, but we’ll have four lives to use. If we can get a high enough score, we will progress to Level 3 – Euro 2020.

When you look through the instruction manual, Germany and Holland both have weaknesses – They both came into this campaign on the back of two major failures.

For Holland, it was failing to reach the last two major tournaments, not even reaching the Play-Offs.

Germany’s recent failure is a bit more relative. 2018 was ein annus horribulus for them, with relegation in the UEFA Nations League coming on the back of elimination at the Group Stage at the World Cup in Russia.

A lot of countries can only dream of being that rubbish.

If 2018 was ein annus horribilus for Germany, the early games of 2019 were ein annus bouncenbachken, with three wins out of three going into the September games, including an 8-0 win over Estonia.

That winning run came to an end on the Friday before that with a 4-2 home defeat by Holland, a result that generated as many groans in Belfast as it did in Berlin.

The theory being, with Germany already winning in Holland, it would be better for them to win this game. At worst, it would essentially set up a two legged Play-Off between Northern Ireland and Holland for the other qualifying place.

Northern Ireland prepared for this game with a dull friendly win over Luxembourg. It wasn’t ideal to have a match before this game, but UEFA rules stated they had to play a friendly when they weren’t in group action.

You’ve heard the phrase “Fixture fulfilment” in relation to end of season League matches, Northern Ireland’s match against Luxembourg literally was that. I gave it a miss, though I did enter competitions for a free ticket though.

I can’t help it, I like free things, but I don’t want to join the DUP in order to get them.

Within ten seconds of the kick-off, Germany already had Northern Ireland stretched, a long punt from kick-off causing some concern for Northern Ireland’s defence.

They managed to see it out, managing a better start than they managed the last time Germany visited Windsor Park, and found themselves 1-0 up just over a minute into the game.

In fact, it was Northern Ireland who had the first chance of the game with six minutes on the clock, when a stray German pass played Conor Washington through on goal.

A poor first touch allowed Manuel Neuer to get out and make himself big and block the shot. He should have scored. On an evening when clear opportunities could be rare, you have to take them.

If Northern Ireland had went 1-0 up early on, who knows how the rest of the evening would go.

It was clear early on that Germany’s players were unsettled by the atmosphere, and the fact that Northern Ireland players were first to every loose ball.

It looked the sort of night that could have been perfect for Paul Smyth to come on as an impact sub late on if the game was in the balance, but frustratingly, he was missing through injury.

Germany’s first attacking moment of note saw Craig Cathcart slice over his own crossbar after Jonny Evans lost possession. For a brief moment, there was a worry it was going in. Northern Ireland were able to easily clear the German corner.

Who got to the ball first? Craig Cathcart.

Germany’s next moment of frustration saw a long range shot blocked by George Saville full on right in the face. Ouch.

Right at the end of the half, it looked like Northern Ireland were going to have the lead when Neuer parried a cross to Washington, who couldn’t get his feet into position to put it into the empty net, before a combination of defender and keeper cleared the danger for Germany.

Immediately on the counter, Timo Werner was denied by a point blank save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Even though Northern Ireland were holding their own, and could justify their claim to be at least level at half-time, Peacock-Farrell was still having work to do.

Not as much work as Michael McGovern had to do when the sides met at Euro 2016 though.

Unfortunately, it all unravelled within two minutes at the start of the second-half, when Marcel Hastenberg spectacularly fired home to put Germany 1-0 up, undoing all of Northern Ireland’s good work in the first-half.

The goal deflated Northern Ireland, both on the pitch and in the stands.

Michael O’Neill responded by bringing on Gavin Whyte for Niall McGinn. It almost brought it’s reward when he got past a couple of defenders to cross for fellow Crusaders old boy Stuart Dallas, who fired agonisingly wide.

He probably should have passed it to Gary McCutcheon or Timmy Adamson instead.

Michael O’Neill made two further subs as his side looked for an equaliser, bringing on Josh Magennis and Shayne Lavery.

It’s not often that Northern Ireland can bring on one of the top 20 goalscorers in that season’s UEFA Cup from the bench.

The biggest thing that gave Northern Ireland fans hope as the game entered the final minutes was that they had scored late in their previous four games to either clinch or win the game.

Unfortunately, the late goal came for Germany, when Serge Gnabry squeezed home from a tight angle.

Within seconds, the game was over officially, having been over theoretically.

Northern Ireland pushed Germany all the way to the very end, but it’s points they need, not plaudits.

By getting points on the board early on, it meant Northern Ireland set down a challenge to Holland.

Holland responded with a win in Estonia, with Estonia unable to repeat their 2-2 draw against Holland in a World Cup Qualifier in 2013.

Now we are pinning our hopes on Belarus repeating their 1-0 home win over Holland in a European Championship Qualifier in 1995.

Of course, we can help ourselves in the double header against Holland in October and November.

Normally, finishing 3rd would be good enough for a Play-Off, but that is not guaranteed due to the UEFA Nations League.

I have a horrible feeling we are going to be royally screwed over by this nonsense. Yet, there are idiots in our support who told us it would help us qualify.

In order to avoid this, we need lots of countries in Pot 1 and Pot 2 to qualify automatically. That is happening in most groups, thankfully.

This might not be the only time I see Germany play in Euro 2020. I’ve booked a few days in Bray to base myself for the Last 16 match at Lansdowne Road. That will be the winner of the group based in England and Scotland v the runner-up of the group in Germany and Hungary.

The night before that is the Green Day/Weezer/Fall Out Boy concert at the RDS, so could be a double header if you’re that way inclined. Might charge a Green Day fan to sleep on my hotel room floor.

When i’m there, I plan on walking up Bray Head on the Tuesday before going to the football. All I need is a ticket for the football.

I’ve booked a few days break in November for Vilnius in Lithuania. I was looking for a (early) Monday to (late) Wednesday getaway or a (early) Wednesday to (late) Friday trip. There were no routes from Belfast that offered these times.

I narrowed it down to Vilnius or Waterford, but for £160, Vilnius was too good to turn down. Don’t worry Waterford, i’ll still have you in my mind to visit you again.

I was hoping to go in October and take in the Euro 2020 Qualifier between Lithuania and Serbia. Unfortunately, the dates of the flights didn’t suit.

I don’t think there’ll be any football on while i’m there, but you don’t need football to enjoy somewhere though it does help.

The options from Belfast are now reduced with Ryanair and Aer Lingus pulling some flights. What’s the point in shiny blue passports if there is nowhere to go?

Funnily enough, I was looking at Malaga as a short visit/football trip.

It is worth pointing out that Brexit won’t restrict our travel opportunities, mainly because there’s fuck all options out there anyway from Belfast.

At least the bridge from Northern Ireland to Balamory will be handy for the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers Cup if Linfield decide to play in it again.

Linfield could have been playing Raith Rovers, could have had a short stay in Edinburgh for that and walked up Arthur’s Seat.

And finally, Linfield’s away match against Institute has been moved to a 1pm kick-off. Not too unhappy with that, means there’ll be less of a rush to get back for Northern Ireland v Holland that night.

Before then, is the away game against Holland in Rotterdam, where due to it’s close proximity to Amsterdam, Northern Ireland will have a decent sized support.

The match could be in Rotterdam or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome. When we go to Rotterdam, we’ll need to bring three points home.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 29.9.1973

England, Scotland and Wales form part of a collage for the cover of this week’s edition of Shoot, ahead of a big week of international football. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are in World Cup Qualifying action, while England face Austria in a friendly.

In news, Arsenal have used their matchday programme to defend the sale of Frank McLintock by stating that he wouldn’t be getting many first team games in the future.

After making a return to Manchester United’s team, Shoot have announced that George Best will be making a return to Shoot as a columnist.

Bobby Moore uses his column to state that England’s upcoming friendly is excellent preparation for the key World Cup Qualifier against Poland.

Shoot suggests that a defeat to Austria might be good for England as they lost a friendly to Austria in 1965 while preparing for the 1966 World Cup, which they won.

England are looking for a favour from Wales as they visit Poland, and Wales manager Dave Bowen promises that his team are going for the win.

Wlodi Lubanski of Poland is interviewed, stating that a win is far from guaranteed for Poland.

Kevin Keegan uses his column to state that the difference between players in England’s First and Fourth Divisions is Skill.

Ally Hunter of Scotland tells Shoot that the fans at Hampden must back the team all the way during their World Cup Qualifier against Czechoslovakia.

Pat Jennings tells Shoot about how Northern Ireland’s fanatical fans at Windsor Park give the side a 1-0 headstart. Unfortuntely, due to The Troubles, Northern Ireland are playing home matches in England, the upcoming World Cup Qualifier against Bulgaria will be at Hillsbrough.

The magazine ends with a poster collage of European stars from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Austria who will be facing UK teams this week.

CLIFTONVILLE 0-1 LINFIELD 7.9.2019

To be honest, I’ve never really rated Andalucia or Cyprus as travel destinations and let’s be honest, Luxembourg is a bit dull.

Ok, so I haven’t got over Linfield’s UEFA Cup exit to Qarabag. I was mentally planning a long weekend in Barcelona if we drew Espanyol. I was thinking of basing myself in Birmingham if we drew Wolves, and was looking at sneaking in a day trip to Oxford.

The brutal reality is that Linfield’s European adventure is over. The only way they’ll get to relive it, is to qualify for European competition to get the chance to do it all again next Summer, preferably in the European Cup.

While Linfield were away, other clubs were playing, with Linfield kicking off in 9th position, ten points off the top of the table.

There is no margin for error. They would have been boosted by the fact they were playing a team they were looking to beat for the fourth successive time, a rare run of results in recent years considering how problematic matches against Cliftonville have been this decade.

In order to facilitate this return to domestic action, it was important to get the pre-match preparation done right. I am referring to my own.

Lunch at Papa Drew’s (We always win when I go there) and then a wee browse through Iceland and then into Ballysillan Leisure Centre to pick up some free newspapers for reading while sat on the bus.

Linfield’s line-up for this game was always going to be different from the European games. One change was enforced, with Shayne Lavery missing out due to being called-up to the Northern Ireland squad, with Andrew Waterworth taking his place.

The starting eleven was similar to that which began the early games of last season, the only ones weren’t regulars this time last year being Mark Stafford and Bastien Hery.

With Jordan Stewart also not in the eighteen, I presume due to injury, it meant that Linfield were light in terms of attacking options, though it did give new signing Matthew Shevlin a first opportunity to appear in a matchday squad.

Also appearing in a matchday squad for the first time this season was Gareth Deane, returning after injury. You would assume that midweek cup ties against East Belfast and Ballinamallard United over the next few weeks will allow him to get some game time.

Linfield had a lot of the ball early on, an early cross from Chris Casement flashed across the penalty area, although Linfield’s best opportunity came when a Cliftonville defender almost flicked the ball into his own net from a Kirk Millar corner.

Despite carrying the more believable attacking threat, Linfield couldn’t make it count. If they were able to get a goal, it could give them a platform to go on and win the game.

Garry Breen got a yellow card for a tackle similar to the one that Jamie Mulgrew got sent off for at Solitude last year.

Inevitably, Cliftonville began to see more of the ball as an attacking force, the big opportunity they created was Conor McMenamin getting in behind Linfield’s defence, having to take a first time shot which he dragged wide when he perhaps should have scored.

Every time Joe Gormley got the ball, Linfield’s defence weren’t getting close enough to him, giving him too much of a sight of goal for my liking. More often than not, he didn’t take the shooting opportunity that was there, but you don’t want to encourage him.

To be honest, Linfield would have been glad to see that out and go in at half-time 0-0, a chance refresh at the break and start again.

The game was similar to the recent game between Cliftonville and Crusaders, which was 0-0 at half-time, before Crusaders won 2-0.

It wasn’t a game that Linfield could win in 45 minutes, they would have to make use of the full 90 minutes. They would have to wear Cliftonville down to get their rewards.

The half ended for Linfield with an injury scare for Jimmy Callacher, who went down after defending a corner, having to receive medical attention on the pitch as everybody else was heading to the dressing room.

It was serious enough for Darren Murphy to arrive on the scene to assess the situation. Thankfully, all he needed was a bit of strapping on his wrist, and Linfield would be glad he was able to appear for the second-half.

The early minutes of the second-half didn’t do much to alter the analysis that this was looking like a 0-0 sort of game.

Just before the hour, Linfield broke the deadlock when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a corner. He seems to enjoy playing against Cliftonville for Linfield, this being the fifth time he had scored against them, the third time at Solitude.

However, it was his first goal at Solitude at the end where Linfield fans are based, so he got to fully enjoy the moment.

There was a small element of luck to the goal for Linfield. Daniel Kearns was looking to play a pass to the right, but it was intercepted by a Cliftonville player and fell back to him, meaning the attack had to move left. The resuling play saw Linfield win the corner that brought the goal.

Cliftonville’s instant response was a Joe Gormley header from a free-kick that was easily saved by Rohan Ferguson. That was all they offered in the minutes following the goal.

Stephen Fallon replaced Bastien Hery a few minutes after he was booked. In a fixture which has seen a lot of red cards for both teams in recent years, David Healy knew he could potentially be targeted and took evasive action.

Rory Donnelly had a shot over the bar as Cliftonville chased an equaliser. Their best opportunity came when a cross from Chris Curran went behind Ryan Curran, who could only scoop it into the hands of Rohan Ferguson.

Andrew Waterworth was substituted for Matthew Shevlin a few minutes after Cliftonville fans and players were screaming for a red card after a collision with Richard Brush. It never was.

Cliftoville fans were claiming for everything in the final minutes, such was their desperation. “Andbawl, Andbawl, Andbawl” should become their club anthem.

The chance for Ryan Curran aside, Cliftonville weren’t able to produce much from open play. As long as Linfield didn’t concede any soft or stupid set pieces, they would see them game out.

Matthew Shevlin didn’t do too bad on his debut. One chance passed him by when he couldn’t control the ball to get the shooting position he wanted.

He had one chance in injury time as he burst away on the counter attack. Had the option to pass or shoot, he crossed to Kirk Millar, whose close range shot was superbly saved by Richard Brush, who made himself big.

Linfield could really have done with a second goal to make the final minutes more relaxing, but it wasn’t costly, as they held out for a 1-0 win to lift them up to the heady heights of 8th.

It was also the first domestic clean sheet of the season. A good habit to start.

Elsewhere, there were no real surprises in other results. It’s too early to panic about the gap to the top. It’s important to note that three of Crusaders opening six games have been against the bottom three.

If Linfield had reached the Group Stages of the UEFA Cup, the club would have had to play matches on a Sunday. Jim Allister was horrified by that prospect. I’m sure there would have also been negative points to this.

The first point is, it has already happened. Linfield’s Women’s Team played a Sunday match a few weeks back, and have played previously on a Sunday, while the Men’s Team played a match on a Sunday in 2016.

I prefer Saturday games, and this wouldn’t have been a permanent move, only facilitated by having to play matches on the previous Thursday.

The important thing is, the only people whose opinion matters is Linfield fans and Linfield fans only.

Maybe next year, we’ll be playing Thursday night games between September and December.

Postponing games in August is a one-off due to the nature of the matches, but it wouldn’t be sustainable to do it six times between September and December.

They might not say it publicly, but I think NIFL were glad that Linfield lost to Qarabag, as it eases some fixture scheduling dilemmas.

Something that hasn’t been noted about Linfield’s run in Europe has been the Co-Efficient points generated. It might take a few years to reap the rewards due to the way UEFA’s cycles work. It could end up potentially resulting in being seeded in the European Cup.

If Linfield had reached the Group Stages of the UEFA Cup, there would be no free midweek to play the NIFL Cup match against Ballinamallard (originally scheduled for Tuesday 27th August) until October.

Despite Linfield not reaching the Group Stages of the UEFA Cup, i’ll still be taking in a game at that stage of the competition as I’ve booked to see Manchester United take on Partizan Belgrade in October.

I’d hoped to make a long weekend as United are at home to Brighton the Sunday after, but the hotels that weekend were over £100 a night.

One time I did a Thursday-Sunday double header with United in 2016, I went to see Bury on my free Saturday, and it is sad to hear of their demise.

I’m needing some travel inspiration as i’m using up Annual Leave. Looking for somewhere from Belfast either Monday-Wednesday or Wednesday-Friday. The options from Belfast for Mainland Europe are shite, Vilnius is looking tempting though.

I know I think it every year, but this might be the year I finally decide to do a day trip to Dublin to take in the FAI Cup Final.

Outgoings from Windsor Park included Lorcan Forde, who has gone to Warrenpoint on loan, which will be a benefit to him to get games and fitness.

It’s a busy week at Windsor Park with three matches in six days. Linfield host Glentoran looking to rack up the points to continue their climb up the table. The highest they can get to next Saturday (if other results go their way) is 7th.

One step at a time.

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