LINFIELD 0-0 COLERAINE 2.1.2023

A new year, but Linfield and Coleraine still managing to draw with each other. That is now twelve draws in the last twenty-five League encounters.

With both teams going into this game on winning runs and keeping a lot of clean sheets, it wasn’t the most surprising of results. Despite gaining one point on Cliftonville, three on Larne and four over Glentoran on the last two matchdays, it was hard to see it that way from a Linfield perspective, as they failed to secure the three points that would have seen them go level with Larne at the top of the table.

Linfield had one change from Boxing Day, with Mike Newberry coming in for Jimmy Callacher. Not that surprising, as Callacher appeared to be struggling with injury during the second-half at The Oval last week.

The early minutes of the game saw Linfield in Coleraine’s half. Inside two minutes, Eetu Vertainen worked space to find Matthew Clarke, whose cross was headed just wide by Robbie McDaid.

There was more header related frustration as a run and cross from Jamie Mulgrew was headed just wide by Eetu Vertainen.

People around me were getting ready to celebrate until they realised that the ball had gone wide.

Vertainen then had a shot go wide as Linfield continued to endure a frustrating first-half.

Despite having a lot of the ball and a lot of attacking situations, Linfield weren’t creating any clear opportunities.

That was, until Daniel Finlayson got on the end of a free-kick, only to see his header superbly saved by Marty Gallagher.

0-0 at half-time, but no immediate need to panic.

Linfield were the better team but couldn’t convincingly say that they should be 1-0 up. They really needed to be more clinical when opportunities fell their way.

The second-half began with a flurry of set pieces for Linfield, but nothing came of it. The best that would be offered in the second-half would be an Eetu Vertainen header and a Robbie McDaid effort, both of which went wide.

David Healy then turned to his bench, bringing on Andrew Clarke and Chris McKee for Cameron Palmer and Robbie McDaid.

A goal for McKee now would feel every bit as big as his goal against Coleraine the last time they visited Windsor Park on the last day of last season.

Clarke would have a shot go just wide within minutes of coming on, though it felt like a speculative effort than an attempt to score.

Joel Cooper then made space from himself but his shot went agonisingly wide.

It was obvious very early in the game that this was a match that was destined to finish 0-0.

With each passing minute. It became even more obvious. No matter how hard Linfield tried.

A lucky bounce saw the ball fall perfectly for Eetu Vertainen but that was the only lucky bounce that fell Linfield’s way as his shot was saved by the keeper’s legs.

Coleraine did manage to have an attack, with a free-kick from Eamon Fyfe being easily saved by Chris Johns.

His late goal at The Oval bought Eetu Vertainen some extra time on the pitch, but there wouldn’t be any more opportunities for him to score another late winner.

Even though Niall Quinn (a welcome return) and Ethan Devine were unused in the bench as attacking options, they could have brought on Lionel Messi and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

It was one of those days, a frustrating afternoon.

Linfield were the better team, but couldn’t convincingly say that they should have been outright winners

As I said earlier in the season, if somebody told you that the last twenty meetings between Coleraine and Linfield had finished 0-0, you would believe it because it sounds believable.

You feel like you could just write off the remaining two League games as 0-0 draws.

And the remaining three against Cliftonville.

Coincidentally, Linfield’s next League game, at Solitude.

Not quite must-win but certainly do not lose.

There’s not point on pushing to get this close to the top of the league just to get pulled away again.

But what a message that would send out to the rest of the League, to win on a rival’s home turf and reach the top.

But first, it’s Warrenpoint Town at home in the Irish Cup.

One game at a time. It’s a busy month. So many games, so many competitions. It’s hard to keep track.

The last two months have seen two Cup Finals reached (one of which is this month) and the gap at the top get closer and closer.

It is frustrating that this run includes three 0-0 draws against Top 6 teams, meaning that all the other Top 6 teams have come away from Windsor Park with something this season.

Although recently, four have them have come away without a goal, just like a few other teams that Linfield have faced over the past two and a bit months.

Considering that Linfield conceded nine goals in eight days in October, that is most welcome.

Now to get it right at the other end.

Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2022

Now that my football watching for 2022 is over, a year of uninterrupted football watching, it’s time to look back at my stats.

Not a single game missed due to being played behind closed doors in 2022. Although i’m not hopeful going into 2023, between Rishi preparing to let Covid run wild again or Balloon Unity continuing to make arses of themselves.

Games : 57

Goals : 154

Red Cards : 4

Penalty Misses : 1

Hat-Tricks : 1

Eetu Vertainen (Linfield v Dungannon Swifts)

Teams Seen : 34

Annagh United (1st time), Ballymena United, Bangor, Bodo/Glimt (1st time), Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Cyprus (1st time), Dunmurry Rec, Dundela, Dungannon Swifts, FC Zurich (1st time), Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece, Harland and Wolff Welders, Hungary, Kosovo (1st time), Knockbreda, Larne, Linfield, Livingston (1st time), Manchester United, Moyola Park (1st time), Newry City, Northern Ireland, Portadown, RFS (1st time), Sheriff Tiraspol (1st time), St Johnstone, St Mirren, The New Saints (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Competitions : 10

County Antrim Shield, Euro Conference, European Cup, Irish Cup, Irish League, NIFL Cup, Scottish Premier League, Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Nations League

Grounds Visited : 18

Almondvale (1st time), Ballymena Showgrounds, Blanchflower Park (1st time), Breda Park, Coleraine Showgrounds, Inver Park, Mill Meadow (1st time), Milltown, Newry Showgrounds, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue, The Oval, Wilgar Park, Windsor Park,

THE SOUND OF 2022

I’ll save you all the usual boring cliches about what a year it’s been and go straight to the chart.

Put together over an afternoon, here’s the 50 Best Songs Of 2022.

  1. Taylor Swift – Anti Hero
  2. Harry Styles – As It Was
  3. Sam Ryder – Space Man
  4. Wallows – Especially You
  5. Jamie T – The Old Style Raiders
  6. Sigrid ft Bring Me The Horizon – Bad Life
  7. Arlo Parks – Softly
  8. Confidence Man – Holiday
  9. Ed Sheeran – Overpass Graffiti
  10. The Feeling – There Is No Music
  11. Feeder – The Healing
  12. Harry Styles – Late Night Talking
  13. Sam Fender – Getting Started
  14. Liam Gallagher – More Power
  15. Pretty Cartel – Dominick The Donkey
  16. Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher – Birth Of An Accidental Hipster
  17. Griff x Sigrdi – Head On Fire
  18. Paul Weller and Suggs – Ooh Do U Fink U Are?
  19. Simple Minds- Traffic
  20. Tegan and Sara – Yellow
  21. Idles – All You Need Is Love
  22. Lewis Capaldi – Forget Me
  23. Rosa Linn – Snap
  24. Sigrid – It Gets Dark
  25. Alfie Templeman – Broken
  26. Let’s Eat Grandma – Watching You Go
  27. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Pretty Boy
  28. Pixey – I’m Just High
  29. The Killers – Boy
  30. Lauren Spencer-Smith – Fingers Crossed
  31. Holly Humberstone – Sleep Tight
  32. Simple Minds – First You Jump
  33. George Ezra – Green Green Grass
  34. Steve Lacey – Bad Habit
  35. Liam Gallagher – Everything’s Electric
  36. George Ezra – Anyone For You
  37. Hot Chip – Broken
  38. Maisie Peters – Not Another Rockstar
  39. Bruce Springsteen – Nightshift
  40. Nina Nesbitt – I Should Be A Bird
  41. Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott – Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two)
  42. Beabadoobee – 10:36
  43. Jamie T – Between The Rocks
  44. The 1975 – Part Of The Band
  45. Beabadoobee – Talk
  46. Sinead O’Brien – Holy Country
  47. Soda Blonde – Mandinka
  48. Tom Chaplin – Midpoint
  49. Foals – 2001
  50. Warmduscher – Fatso

Congratulations to Taylor Swift, a two time winner having won it in 2012. I know you’re all eager to see if she’ll win it again in 2032.

If you haven’t heard the winning song, the video is embedded below.

And if you wish to look at archive charts, i’ve listed all the previous winners below.

2021 : Maneskin – Zitti E Buoni
2020 : Tame Impala – Lost In Yesterday
2019 : Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hill
2018 : Lovelytheband – Broken
2017 : Liam Gallagher – For What It’s Worth
2016 : The Strumbellas – Spirits
2015 : Blossoms – Charlamagne
2014 : Jamie T – Zombie
2013 : Haim – The Wire
2012 : Taylor Swift – We Are Never Getting Back Together
2011 : Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA What A Life
2010 : Marina and the Diamonds – Shampain
2009 : Little Boots – New In Town
2008 : Sons and Daughters – Darling
2007 : Feist – 1, 2, 3, 4
2006 : Kasabian – Empire

GLENTORAN 1-2 LINFIELD 26.12.2022

It’s not the turkey or the presents that makes Christmas, it’s the match the next day. For the first time since 2018, Linfield fans will be marking Christmas as a good one.

They arrived at The Oval (two turnstiles in operation for a large crowd again, just like in February) in expectation of that being the case, a perfect storm of Linfied being on a long unbeaten run and Glentoran losing three in a row as part of a run of one win in eight, a change in roles from when the sides met in the League in October.

Linfield were hoping results would go their way and push them up to 2nd. Glentoran were fearing that results could go against them and they could end up 6th.

It’s almost as if celebrating winning the League in October angers the Football Gods.

You know me, i’d rather play a Glentoran side who have won ten games in a row rather than one who have lost ten games in a row. The theory of “They’re due one”.

Linfield’s starting eleven showed two changes, with Daniel Finlayson and Robbie McDaid coming in for Conor Pepper and Chris McKee.

That was probably harsh on both players but the team didn’t feel weakend. That’s why you have a large squad.

There was a bit of a shock as the teams were getting ready to kick off, with a change of usual ends, with Linfield attacking the goal where their support is based in the first-half instead of the second-half.

I presume it was to do with the wind. Linfield would be playing against it when attacking it. Glentoran were obviously wanting to try and score every advantage they could get.

It would also mean Linfield wouldn’t be attacking that end in the second-half if they were chasing the game. Although Glentoran wouldn’t be attacking their own fans either. I don’t know why, but the ball always seems to bounce perfectly for them when they attack that end.

Linfield dominated possession in the opening minutes but didn’t create any clear opportunities.

That looked like changing when Cameron Palmer began a counter attack, fed Joel Cooper and got a return pass but his cross was intercepted at the cost of a throw.

Palmer was to endure more cross related frustration when an interception denied him just as he was making a run to get on the end of a Robbie McDaid cross.

There was even more frustration for Palmer as he tried his luck from range, only to see his effort easily saved by Aaron McCarey.

And then he was beaten to the ball by a Glentoran defender as he looked to get on the end of a Chris Shields.

Despite this frustration, Linfield just needed to keep doing what they were doing and eventually one of them would fall into place.

They really needed a goal to make the most of their superiority.

Joel Cooper was next to be frustrated as he created space for himself but dragged his shot well wide.

Eventually, Linfield would have an opportunity to take the lead when Eetu Vertainen burst into the box but was taken down by Patrick McClean, a clear penalty.

Despite having a lot of the ball in Glentoran’s half, Linfield hadn’t really created a clear opportunity. Thie would be their best chance of the game. They simply had to take it.

It was probably a good thing that Chris Shields missed a penalty against Ballymena United last month. Might as well get one out of the way when it didn’t matter.

This one definitely mattered, and Shields made no mistake to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With Glentoran’s confidence so fragile, and with just under ten minutes of the half remaining, there was still time for Linfield to get a second that would surely kill the game.

Just one, but you’d happily take a 1-0 lead at half-time, especially when the weather was against you.

Early in the second-half, it looked like Linfield were going to get that much needed second goal when Joel Cooper made space from himself but he was at too wide an angle to score, his effort going wide.

Out of nowhere, Glentoran got an equaliser when a header from Jay Donnelly dropped into the back of the net.

It felt like a repeat of the previous season’s encounter.

The game had suddenly changed. Linfield were now sloppy with their passing.

Glentoran almost got an instant second with a shot from Bobby Burns which had to be diverted out by Jimmy Callacher.

Despite having far too much of the ball for Linfield’s liking, Glentoran weren’t creating any clear opportunities.

They were largely hitting speculative shots from distance that were easily saved by Chris Johns.

As we all know, they benefitted from a speculative shot that got deflected when the sides met in October.

It was clear that Linfield needed some fresh injections from the bench, but they were not forthcoming.

Eetu Vertainen had a rare sight of goal but his effort went wide of the post.

Patrick McClean attempted a long range shot which went just over.

Eventually, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Andrew Clarke and Kyle McClean for Cameron Palmer and Robbie McDaid.

That was followed a few minutes later by Chris McKee coming on for Chris Shields, who was struggling with injury.

Andrew Clarke thought he was going to win it for Linfield with a few minutes remaining but his goalbound effort was blocked and deflected wide by his own team mate for a goal kick.

As the game set to meander to a draw, some Linfield fans decided to head home early to bizarre chants of “Cheerio Cheerio” from the home support.

Are you not supposed to sing that when you are winning comfortably?

Callacher’s accidental block was a temporary reprieve for Glentoran.

From the resulting goal kick, Linfield won possession and Chris McKee played in Eetu Vertainen to finish with his left foot first time.

Further proof of where Glentoran are at now. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. How sad.

He barely touched the ball in the second-half. I would have had him subbed by now. Just goes to show that I know nothing,

The goal prompted him to rip off his shirt, getting a yellow card. Worth it.

He couldn’t get his Under Armour back on, and had to play on in short sleeves.

For only a minute or two, with Ethan Devine coming on for him to see the game out.

Which is what Linfield managed to do, getting a massive three points.

Not just in terms of putting pressure on Larne, but pulling away from Glentoran.

The win temporarily moved Linfield into 2nd due to this game being an early kick-off.

As this game was finishing, other games were reaching half-time.

The one that Linfield fans were looking out for was at Seaview, where Crusaders led Cliftonville 2-0, before eventually winning 3-0.

That result that Linfield were now 2nd, two points behind Larne.

It would be three as Larne could only draw.

From where they were in October, it was always going to be a long way back for Linfield.

Even if they went on a winning run, I didn’t expect it to be February or March before they even got close to the top.

The big games keep on coming, with Coleraine, on a nice run themselves, due at Windsor Park on Monday, with Larne travelling to Solitude.

That game at Solitude will see something go in their favour.

What matters most is that they help themselves. It’s all they can do.

Photo Album

Boxing Day 2013

Boxing Day 2014

Boxing Day 2015

Boxing Day 2016

Boxing Day 2018

Boxing Day 2021

BANGOR 2-1 DUNMURRY REC 24.12.2022

When the calendar gives you a Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas Eve because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, it would be rude not to take advantage of it, especially as the next opportunity to do so won’t fall until 2033.

Knowing this, I was keeping a very close on the results of this season’s competition.

Obviously, I was wanting Linfield Swifts to get to the Final again.

I hadn’t been keeping a close eye on the competition in recent years, as I was unaware that clubs from The Championship were taking part.

That meant that Bangor were probably the biggest club in the competition, so I was expecting them to be in contention for this Final.

As soon as Linfield went out, I was pinning my hopes on an Ards Rangers v Bangor Final, with this season being thirty years since North Down invaded Belfast for the Irish Cup Final.

It turned out that Bangor would get to the Final, but their opponents would be Dunmurry Rec. Now I would have to decide whereabouts in Bangor or Dunmurry I am from.

Bangor has a Pickie Pool, Jamie Mulgrew and is Steve Bruce’s Ancestral Homeland.

Dunmurry has, um, err …….

I purchased a ticket for the Bangor end but it turned out there was Unoffitcial Segregation in place, you could walkabout and stand or sit wherever you liked.

As I was attending as a Neutral, both teams had cases to support them.

Bangor had Lee Feeney as Manager, but Dunmurry, and I didn’t realise this until I saw it in the programme, had Noel Bailie’s son playing left midfield.

Naturally, he was wearing 11. He could hardly wear any other number.

I wasn’t the only neutral there. I saw many regular faces from Windsor Park, as well as hats and coats from Larne, Glentoran and Carrick Rangers.

And a Crusaders coat which was keeping Darren Murphy, who I spotted watching the game, warm. I guess he hasn’t been issued with a Finn Harps one yet, or that the saying that the sun always shines in Donegal is true.

I didn’t see Gary Lightbody though. I did see a much bigger star, who I thought would have been too busy today to attend a football match.

Santa Claus himself was there, or it may have been a man dressed as Santa.

Not that it mattered to a child who approached him thinking he was the real Santa, and now the supporter trying to watch in fancy dress was having to get into character.

We was a fair sport and was happy to pose for photos with the child and his dad.

This game had a lot to live up to after the World Cup Final last weekend. Dunmurry were hoping that Argentina would provide some inspiration.

Surely they were destined to be the second team in sky blue and white stripes to celebrate a trophy this week.

It would have been more appropriate if they were playing Linfield Swifts to make it feel like a proper rerun of last Sunday.

If you squinted your eyes slightly, you could have imagined this was Argentina v Brazil.

Bangor dominated the early stages of the game, with Jamie Glover having a shot which forced Dunmurry’s keeper into a save before Seanna Foster hit the bar a minute later. Bangor were out to get an early goal.

As the minutes went by, Dunmurry continued to frustrate Bangor. That was their plan. Their keeper wasn’t exactly being quick to restart the game when he had a free-kick or goal kick.

Bangor’s frustration was such, they were resorting to long range shots in the hope that one got lucky, but they never did.

A header from Michael Halliday fell perfectly for Adam Neale to smash home, until he saw Dunmurry’s keeper making himself big to make a save from point blank.

0-0 at half-time with Bangor being the better team, but unable to convert their possession into goals.

The focus on Bangor’s half-time teamtalk will have been to get those goals to win the game. Inside the opening minutes of the second-half, they were chasing the game.

A sloppy backpass presented an opportunity for Andrew Carberry to score, a low finish putting Dunmuryy 1-0 up with their first attempt of note on goal.

Standing at the side of the pitch not far from the dugouts, I could see a member of Bangor’s coaching staff going ballistic on the touchline.

Ben Arthurs came on for Michael Halliday and had a near instant impact, with an equaliser within a few minutes of coming on.

A shot fell perfectly for him, and he finished from a few yards out.

The goal from Dunmurry had jolted Bangor into life. They might have been better off scoring with two minutes to go rather than two minutes into the second-half.

The pressure continued as Bangor looked to take the lead.

That pressure was rewarded when Adam Neale headed in a cross from close range to make it 2-1.

It was hard to see Dunmurry come back from this, even though they still had twenty minutes to retrieve the situation.

Naturally, their keeper was hurrying up with goal kicks and free-kicks, to ironic cheers from the Bangor support.

As injury time approached, Bangor had a glorious opportunity to clinch the game when Reece Neale won possession and found himself through on goal, and dinked the ball over the keeper.

Just as he was getting ready to celebrate, the ball agonisingly hit the post and went out for a goal kick.

If Dunmurry get an equaliser and then win the game in extra-time or on penalties, that would be the moment that Bangor fans would be reliving in their nightmares for years to come.

The need for a goal prompted Dunmurry to bring their keeper up for set pieces, to more ironic cheers from the Bangor support.

That sort of sarcastic taunting was asking for trouble. It was all set up for him to silence them with a dramatic equaliser.

Not quite, but a robust foul on him did cause a bit of a rammy.

Bangor survived the inevitable late Dunmurry to win the trophy, as they look to kick on and secure promotion to The Championship.

Much as been made of the size of the crowd and suggestions have been made that this game should be moved to Christmas Even in future.

I’ll admit that the match being on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day tempted me to go. I’d definitely be up for it. As stated earlier, I wasn’t the only neutral there.

However, there are other factors.

The most obvious one was that Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday this year. It’s still a working day for a lot of people.

Even if you are lucky enough to be let out early, you’re not going to make a 10.45am kick-off.

Also, the biggest team in the competition reached the Final. Bangor were always going to bring a decent size support for a Steel and Sons Cup Final.

2023 leaves room to work with as Christmas Day falls on a Monday.

You could play the Final on Saturday 23rd, with there still being enough time for people to travel to 3pm games that day.

Or you could play it on Christmas Eve, a Sunday. It’s worth testing the water when the calendar falls this way.

If it works, you’ll only have to wait until 2028 for the dates to fall this way again.

2023 or 2033, who knows when my next Steel and Sons Cup Final will be. Bangor will be hoping to be in too high a League to be competing for it by then.

Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Harland and Wolff Welders 2014

Dundela v Linfield Swifts 2016

2022 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR ….)

December began with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a tip to Telegraph Building to see Blossoms in concert.

A spell of frost descended on Belfast, but now snow. I was all psyched up for snow photos, for nothing.

There was then a football free weekend for me, with Linfield in Scotland.

The following weekend, I headed to Ulster Hall to see Ash in concert, followed by Linfield’s home match against Dungannon Swifts.

As you will have noticed, there is still a week of the month left.

What I have planned is Bangor v Dunmurry Rec, Glentoran v Linfield, a walk up Cavehill and possibly Lisnabreeny Hill.

Here’s to more phototaking in 2023 and beyond.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Blossoms live at Telegraph Building

Blossoms live at Telegraph Building Photo Album

Ash live at Ulster Hall

Ash live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts