LINFIELD 1-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 2.12.2017

December will be a busy month. Thankfully, there won’t be a lot of travelling, with four Saturday games at Windsor Park this month. The first of those, saw Dungannon Swifts visit Windsor Park as Linfield aimed to win three League games in a row for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.

It is because of that statistic that every game is now must win, especially today, with the four teams above Linfield all having games you would expect them to win.

Unfortunately, i’ve only got 89 minutes of football to review, as I missed the opening minute. My reason? I was getting myself a Boxing Day ticket. It was Members and Season Ticket holders only today, and i’ll be having to get a few more next week.

It’s one of those milestone events in the year that indicates that Christmas is getting very close. There was a disappointing lack of “SANTA IS A BLUEMAN” hats at this game though.

I might have missed 1 minute, but Cameron Stewart would miss the whole 90. Injured, I presume. Disappointing for him, having scored the winner at Mourneview Park last weekend.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s first chance, when he was played in from a counter-attack, his first time shot going just wide.

A few minutes later, he controlled a Kirk Millar cross to swivel and shoot, his shot saved by Stuart Addis. Carrying on from his performance at Mourneview Park last weekend, he was in the mood, and wanted goals.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though, a Dungannon break seeing Roy Carroll make a save from a Ryan Harpur header.

A low cross fell perfectly to Jordan Stewart but he shot wide. If he hit the target, he would have scored.

Kirk Millar and Chris Casement were combining well down the right for Linfield, but they couldn’t assist a goal between them as Dungannon held out.

Andrew Waterworth was the next to miss when he headed over from a cross. He got too much power on it. A gentle touch would have put the ball in the net.

Despite their pressure, it was 0-0 at the break. Despite their missed chances, Linfield needed to step it up to get the three points.

The way the match seemed to be going the same way. It seemed to be similar to the Irish Cup Semi-Final against Dungannon last season, where they had to be patient to get the winner. The worst case scenario, was that it would be a repeat of the League match against Portadown in February. It had that vibe.

In short, Linfield needed a goal, and they needed it as soon as possible, and they needed to get it before Dungannon.

A scuffed effort from Andrew Waterworth was the best they could offer in the opening minutes, as Roy Carroll had to rush out to deny Dungannon taking the lead to smother the ball just as a shot was about to be unleashed.

David Healy turned to his bench. He had three attacking options to choose from – Ryan Strain, Louis Rooney and Ross Clarke. Surprisingly, he plumped for the teenager Ryan Strain ahead of Louis Rooney.

Just as surprisingly, it was Jordan Stewart who would be replaced. I thought it would have been Niall Quinn.

Stewart was playing well, but it was obvious he was needed out wide rather than through the middle. It was clear that Linfield needed another option through the middle.

Strain almost had an instant impact, when he fired goalwards from a low cross. Agonisingly, it went just wide. It is the sort of chance you see missed in the final minutes of a 0-0 draw. For Linfield, there was still time to win this.

Strain was at it again, controlling the ball from the sky like Dimitar Berbatov, before unleashing a shot that forced Addis into a save. Strain then had a long range shot go just over.

As well as his team-mates, Strain’s personal battle with Stuart Addis lifted the crowd, but still the goal eluded Linfield.

Do you remember my lucky scarf from last season? Well, it looks like I have an unlucky coat.

At the Coleraine match, I got a Linfield raincoat from the Club Shot for a fiver. It was a Nike one, so they were looking rid of it. With a bit of rain at lunchtime, it looked like a good opportunity to wear it.

For some reason, I took it off in the second-half. It was desperate times, maybe my coat was bringing bad luck? Within minutes, Linfield scored.

I think I might get rid of it. It’s yours for £6 if you want it.

Linfield took the lead when Andrew Waterworth headed home. That’s four in five League games for him now.

With Coleraine, Glenavon, Crusaders and Cliftonville all winning, Linfield had to do likewise just to keep up with them.

Despite that, Linfield needed a second. Ryan Strain was determined to get it, but he kept getting denied by Addis.

Roy Carroll was keen to emulate Addis saves by diving at his feet to deny Peter McMahon. When he was beaten by a long range shot, he was relieved to watch as the ball went narrowly over. This game was far from won for Linfield. Windsor Park was nervous.

Andrew Mitchell came on for Kirk Millar. The obvious sub if Millar was to be withdrawn was Ross Clarke . We don’t play well when we try to defend a lead.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to hold out and get the win. They had to, as the four teams above them all won.

Next week, Cliftonville face Glenavon while Linfield travel to Carrick. Crusaders and Coleraine face Bottom six opponents. There will be points dropped above us. We simply have to taken advantage. Even though the furthest we can jump will be up to 4th with a win, it’s a jump we must make. Small steps and all that.

I’m not sure of the exact rules, but I think today was the deadline if we wanted to bring the match against Crusaders forward ahead of the Coleraine away game. As there is no news yet, it looks like we’ll be playing Saturday-Monday over Christmas/New Year.

We still have to arrange a date for our home match against Glenavon. I’ve noticed that we are due to play Cliftonville away and Glenavon are at home to Crusaders on the weekend of the NIFL Cup Final. If it’s a Crusaders v Cliftonville Final, expect Linfield and Glenavon to make the most of their free weekend and face each other at Windsor Park. Expect some movement in that regard the week after next one way or the other.

Elsewhere, Paul Smyth was an unused sub for QPR today. Good to see him make progress so quick. Hopefully, a start and a hat-trick against Leeds next weekend.

From Linfield’s past to Linfield’s future, and the signing of Kurtis Byrne from St Patrick’s Athletic was announced this week, effective when the January window opens.

I don’t really know much about him, but his Wikiepedia stats suggest he has scored a respectable return in struggling sides the last two seasons. It actually dawned on me that I have seen him play in the flesh. He scored and his team won 5-1. That’s the benchmark that has been set and i’ll be expecting it every week.

Talking of League Of Ireland, the 2018 fixtures will be released on 19th December. I’ll be keeping an eye on this, to fit a game around my annual short break to Dublin. I’m eyeing up Friday 13th July 2018 when i’ll already be off work.

Crewe play Blackburn in the FA Cup tomorrow, so i’m hoping for a draw as i’ll be in Manchester the week of the Replays. Failing that, Rochdale to draw away to Slough on Monday would be nice.

Due to spending most of the pre-match queuing to get a Boxing Day ticket, I didn’t get a chance to get the updated version of Every Other Saturday. I may wait until the Crusaders match on 30th December before purchasing, just in case Santa gets it for me.

If I get it, I could read it at half-time at the Steel and Sons Cup Final if I go. Still undecided on that one, or maybe at The Oval the following day. Not even joking, I saw someone in reading a novel at the League match in February this year, the match was that bad.

And finally, Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. That’s a tough group. Our opening match against Brazil is nice symmetry as they were our last opponents at Mexico 86.

Sorry. Sorry. I’m still in denial about that one.

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2017 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2017 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose 1-0 to Coleraine. Not the best start to the year.

Things got a bit better the following Saturday when I headed to The Oval to see Linfield beat Glentoran in the Irish Cup after extra-time.

It wasn’t all football in January, as I headed out to get photos of a George Michael mural which appeared in Botanic.

Back to football, and I was on the road to Lurgan to see Linfield beat Glenavon 2-1. The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

The next day, it was back to murals, as I headed out to get photos of a mural of Princess Leia that appeared in East Belfast, and then across Belfast to get pictures of a mural of Jon Snow. The guy from Game Of Thrones, not Channel 4 News.

The following weekend, it was back to football and back on the road, as I headed to Stangmore Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on Hull City. While there, I got some Street Art photos of Salford Quays.

I headed over on 31st Janaury. You’ll have to wait for February’s round-up for the match and Street Art in Manchester.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

George Michael Mural

George Michael Mural Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Princess Leia Mural

Princess Leia Mural Photo Album

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 1.12.2017

1. Tom Grennan – Found What I’ve Been Looking For
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – If Love Is The Law
3. Sia – Santa’s Coming For Us
4. Embrace – Wake Up Call
5. The Divine Comedy – Something For The Weekend

First of all, an apology. To the entire nation of Scotland. Yes.

Yesterday was St Andrew’s Day and I forgot to do a themed chart last week. So, belatedly, here is a St Andrew’s Day chart, celebrating two of the best things on earth – Scotland and people called Andrew.

FIVE SONGS BY SCOTTISH ARTISTS

1. Pilot – Magic
2. Simple Minds – She’s A River
3. The View – Blondie
4. Aztec Camara – Somewhere In My Heart
5. Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday

FIVE SONGS BY BANDS FEATURING AN ANDREW

1. Wax – Bridge To Your Heart
2. Wham – Freedom
3. Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again
4. INXS – Afterglow
5. Primal Scream – Jailbird

Sorry to Oasis, Duran Duran and OMD, but this chart is for Andrews only, no Andys.

It was announced that Blossoms will be supporting Noel Gallagher on his European tour next year. Fingers crossed they’ll be supporting him on his UK dates as well. The fact they’ll be touring in 2018 means we can hopefully expect new music from them as well. They’re brilliant by the way. If you haven’t already, you should check them out.

If there are any readers in the South-East of England, Victorious looks like it has a decent line-up on the Friday night : Lightning Seeds, Shed Seven and Kaiser Chiefs all playing on the Friday. Admittedly, Libertines headlining is underwhelming. Still, you can just use the time to get a bite to eat/go to the bar/go home early. Not going to lie, i’m jealous of that line-up.

….. and talking of Shed Seven, they’ve announced a Belfast gig to go with their rearranged concerts that were recently cancelled. Now that’s what I call a stroke of luck. I’ll be trying to get a ticket later this morning.

Finally, it’s the World Cup draw today. I’ll be doing a themed chart for each group with songs by artists from the countries when it comes along in June. I’d rather be including Baltimora than Yello to be honest. I’m over it, i’m over it. Ok, i’m still not over it. If Switzerland end up in a group with Panama, Russia and Iran, I might just cry.

TOP CATS AND LASER EYES (AKA, LISBURN STREET ART NOVEMBER 2017)

Some new photos of Street Art to report, from a usual location, in Lisburn City Centre at the R Space Gallery.

There was a mural of Top Cat painted a while back, and I had been waiting ages to get a photo. Unfortunately, every time I went to get a photo of it, there was a car parked in front of it, blocking any chance of a decent photo. Not wanting to be a grass, but it’s a double yellow line.

Every few Sundays I cycled over, but my plans were thwarted by parked cars.

Using up some Annual Leave, I was off work today, so I decided to see if I would have better luck on a Thursday instead.

It seems that Lisburn folk have finally learnt to park, or maybe they’re not so brave at committing parking violations during the working week, i’ll let you decide.

I got a clear view of the Top Cat mural and got some photos.

The delay turned out to be a stroke of luck for me, as another mural recently appeared, of a man and woman looking at each other with Laser Eyes.

I’m not sure what the building work that is going on around it, but if it continues to provide a platform for Street Art in Lisburn, the building work can take as long as it wants.

Photo Album

Lisburn Street Art April 2017

Lisburn Street Art May 2017

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : FOOTBALL MONTHLY – MAY 1982

Kenny Dalglish is the cover star of Football Monthly as the 1982 World Cup approaches, a tournament he will be playing in for Scotland.

There are rumours that the management duo of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor might be breaking up, with Taylor wanting to become a manager in his own right.

Arnold Muhren gets profiled as one of the best foreign players in England, while English players could be set for moves to Italy after the Italian FA passed a rule to allow teams to have two foreign players in Serie A.

Barry Davies writes a column where he praises Bobby Robson, describing him as a future England manager, while another columnist praises Stewart Robson of Arsenal, predicting he could be playing top flight football for 20 years.

In Northern Ireland, John Jameson of Glentoran is profiled, revealing that his middle name is Charles, and that he is named in tribute to John Charles.

In Scotland, Ruud Krol of Holland expects them to get to the Second Phased of the World Cup, with the Dutch having recently face Scotland in a friendly.

GLENAVON 0-1 LINFIELD 24.11.2017

Last week, Linfield did Glenavon a favour by beating Coleraine, enabling them to cut the lead at the top of the table to two points. On Friday night, they did Coleraine a favour by beating Glenavon and giving them the opportunity to increase their lead to eight points, having beaten Ards in midweek. Crusaders wouldn’t have been too unhappy to see Coleraine and Glenavon lose games.

Linfield weren’t interested in helping Coleraine, Glenavon or Crusaders, they were only interested in helping themselves. They certainly did that over a six day period.

This is the run of games when teams are playing each other twice, but Linfield and Glenavon were only meeting for the first time, with their scheduled meeting in October being postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

That outstanding game has yet to be rearranged. There were games the previous midweek, but two teams playing each other on Tuesday and Friday was never going to happen. The next logical available date would be in January, but with a scheduled meeting on 20th January, the two sides could potentially be having a double helping of meetings in the new year. Just hope they avoid each other in the Irish Cup.

As mentioned last week’s, Linfield’s visits to Mourneview Park in recent years have been silly, great for the neutral, not so much if you support one of the two teams, so this promised to be an entertaining game, especially as these were the only two teams in the League to have scored in every League game so far this season.

It was Glenavon who had most of the ball in the opening minutes. They were up for it. They want to win this game early.

Despite Glenavon’s possession, Linfield were comfortable. Glenavon didn’t have a clear chance. They were having too much of the ball for Linfield to be too comfortable.

The first real chance of the game fell for Linfield, when Andrew Waterworth burst down the right wing and crossed for Cameron Stewart, who got the ball caught between his legs and scuffed the opportunity. He really should have scored. You had the feeling that if the roles were reversed and Andrew Waterworth was on the end of the cross, Linfield would have been 1-0 up.

A few minutes later, another Linfield breaks saw Linfield win a corner. As the corner was about to be taken, someone near me shouted “COME ON STEWART!!!”. I’m guessing that was aimed at Cameron rather than Jordan.

He might have known something was about to happen, a believer in the unwritten football rule that if a player misses an easy opportunity to score, they will score a harder opportunity a few minutes later.

And so it proved, as Cameron Stewart headed home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Glenavon complained about it, claiming there was a push by Stewart. There was physical contact, but a foul? Seriously? The Glenavon defender should have been stronger. If Linfield conceded that goal, i’d be asking questions about our defence. Glenavon also had an opportunity to clear the ball before it came to Stewart.

After the game, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton complained about “Pressure” being put on the referee by Linfield recently. After being eliminated from one competition and potentially losing the League in the space of four weeks due to gross incompetence, I think Linfield are entitled to ask questions about the standard of officiating, just as Glenavon did over a referee’s performance in two games at Mourneview Park between October and November 2014.

It seems as though some people have short memories.

All that Glenavon could offer in response was a low shot that was easily saved by Roy Carroll.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s next chance when he broke through but his shot was saved by Jonathan Tuffey.

Glenavon might have had most of the ball, but Linfield were making the most of it when they had it, and looked the more dangerous side when attacking.

As the half neared it’s end, Linfield had another break, an advantage played despite two fouls saw a Niall Quinn cross only be cleared as far as Stephen Lowry, who fired home from close range.

Or so he thought, as the goal was disallowed for handball.

I didn’t get a clear view of it, and TV pictures were inconclusive. Linfield could have done with a second.

They could have had it in the opening minute, when Jordan Stewart got space in Glenavon’s box to shoot, only to see his shot saved, and Niall Quinn unable to head home the rebound.

Linfield were putting pressure on Glenavon’s goal in the opening minutes of the second-half. You would have thought they were the team that was 1-0 down and had just been given a dressing down at half-time.

Unable to get a second that would surely have clinched the points, they were almost pegged back when Sammy Clingan fired from outside the box.

I was behind the goal at the other end, and it looked like it was going in. It looked like it was unsavable, but Roy Carroll got a hand on it and saved it.

Aaron Burns came on for Cameron Stewart and linked up well with Andrew Waterworth. Waterworth was winning the personal battle against his defender throughout the second-half, constantly getting in behind Glenavon’s defence.

Unfortunately, the shot or the final pass was just short. It was clear he is still suffering from missing pre-season through injury. The fitness will come. If this match was four or five weeks time, he probably would have had a hat-trick. Despite that, Glenavon’s defence was terrified every time the ball went near him.

Having been sent-off at Mourneview Park last November, Roy Carroll was once again in trouble with the referee, getting a yellow card as he took a goal kick. Literally, as he took a goal kick. The referee declared that he was timewasting.

Now that referees are cracking down on this, I look forward to opposition goalkeepers being booked against Linfield in the coming weeks, especially at Windsor Park.

Carroll was targeted at set pieces by Glenavon and was offered no protection by the referee when he was blocked off. Luckily, Linfield’s defenders were there to save the day.

Linfield’s players were getting into the Black Friday spirit by scrapping for and holding onto three points as if it was a discounted TV.

Aaron Burns appearance off the bench was brief, as he was stretchered off after a challenge. He was replaced by Louis Rooney.

He, or any of the none other outfield players couldn’t get that second goal. Niall Quinn headed agonisingly wide in stoppage time. I was right behind it and could see it going wide from the moment it hit his head. Everyone around me knew that the three points were still not secure, even though the 90 minute mark was approaching.

Glenavon had one late chance, that went just wide. four minutes and fifty seconds into five minutes of injury time, Glenavon were not going to get another chance, and so it proved, as the final whistle blew and Linfield had the three points.

I said last week that i’d take a boring 1-0 win. It was a 1-0 win, but it wasn’t boring.

In the end, it was a deserved win for Linfield. A week previously, Linfield hadn’t beaten a team higher than 6th, now they had beaten the top two, and deserved to do so on each occasion.

As well as cutting the gap at the top of the table, Linfield fans left Mourneview Park knowing one of Saturday’s results would go in their favour, as Crusaders would travel to Coleraine.

There would be no bad result for Linfield. A Coleraine win would have put Crusaders closer to Linfield. A Crusaders win would have put Coleraine to closer to Linfield. It ended up a draw, and Linfield are two points closer to both of them. Cliftonville beat Ballymena to stay a point ahead of Linfield, but Linfield have a game in hand.

It might look like Cliftonville are on a good run of form, but it’s deceptive. They’ve had a run of games against sides in the bottom half. I’m not to concerned about being below them hit as they’ll hit a brick wall in December when they have a run of games against sides in the top half.

The gap now to leaders Coleraine is nine points, but Linfield have a game in hand. Until the gap gets shorter, i’m going to continue to lament those ten minutes of madness at Ballymena a few weeks back.

Without sounding arrogant, the fixture list is kind to Linfield, with Dungannon, Carrick and Warrenpoint coming up next.

If Linfield have ambitions of winning the League, that has to bring a return of nine points. If it does, we are looking at a five game winning run going into the Christmas/New Year fixtures. A perfect time to go on a winning run, not that there is a bad time to do so.

Next Saturday, should see wins for Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Cliftonville. The two weeks after that will be of interest, as Glenavon will face Cliftonville and Crusaders.

There will be points dropped above us in the coming weeks, we simply have to take advantage.

Linfield have taken a lot of deserved criticism for their record in big games this season. This month, Coleraine have failed to beat Glenavon, Linfield and Crusaders, and have led in two of those games, one of which was against ten men.

It will be interesting to see if Coleraine’s title credentials come under the same amount of scrutiny as Linfield’s.

Up next of interest to Linfield fans is the Steel and Sons Cup Semi-Final against Immaculata, the winners will play Newington. I know, we’ll all be trying to decide if it’s worth getting up early on Christmas Day. At least last year, it was on Christmas Eve.

Of those Christmas/New Year games alluded to, the game away to Coleraine has been brought forward from Tuesday 2nd January to Monday 1st January.

It’s not that surprising. It stood out when the fixture list was made. It is fair to say that the decision could have been made earlier for those making arrangements.

Hopefully, the club will bring forward the match against Crusaders to Friday 29th, to give the players extra recovery time. It’s our home game, so we can make the call. We have until the end of the week to make the call.

Playing Tuesday-Friday-Monday isn’t ideal, but it’s slightly better than Tuesday-Saturday-Monday.

Next weekend, i’ll be looking at draws. I’ll be hoping that Crewe draw with Blackburn in the FA Cup so that the Replay will be the midweek when i’m in Manchester. Might be tempted to go along.

Next Friday, is the World Cup draw. If Switzerland end up in a group with Russia, Iran and Panama, I might just cry.

Hopefully, Linfield beating Dungannon at Windsor Park the following day will cheer me up.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MELODY MAKER – 16.2.2000

Fran Healy of Travis is the cover star of this week’s edition of Melody Maker, as the band look to make it big in America.

As you open the magazine, Nina Persson poses for a photoshoot with Vic and Bob, after she recorded the theme tune to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) that they are starring in.

Oasis are on a media blitz to promote their new album, with Liam Gallagher appearing as a guest in The Big Breakfast.

The Brit Award nominations are announced, with Ian Brown, Travis and Stereophonics speaking to Melody Maker about their nominations.

Matt Bellamy gets asked about the Brit Awards, describing them as “so much bullshit”.

Mansun get asked to choose their favourite music videos of all time, choosing ones by David Bowie, Nirvana and Blondie.

Travis attempts to crack America get four pages of coverage.

On the other side of the world, Melody Maker covers Big Day Out in Australia, where Foo Fighters, Primal Scream and Blink 182 were among the performers.

Concert Reviews went on the road this week, with Muse in Munich getting five stars, compared with Stereophonics getting two and a half stars for their Toronto gig.

Tim Burgess is the subject of a Q and A, where he reveals he looks into a mirror a lot of times a day.

In lyrics, the lyrics to Oasis new single Go Let It Out get dissected.

LINFIELD 2-1 COLERAINE 18.11.2017

The last time Coleraine visited Windsor Park was for the Irish Cup Final in May. Saturday wasn’t a cup final, thought it might have felt like it. There wouldn’t be a trophy presented today, but defeat would surely have seen the League trophy slip away from Linfield’s hands.

Linfield were Back In Blue after a Highway To Hell which brought two away defeats which left them Thunderstruck.

Last week’s defeat at Ballymena was a missed opportunity for Linfield with Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders all inactive in the League. Coleraine kicked-off eleven points clear of Linfield. Victory would put them fourteen clear of Linfield. Even at this relatively early stage, that would be too much.

Victory for Linfield cuts the gap to eight points. Tough, but doable.

October and November have been rotten months for Linfield in the last few years. 2017 was no different, as Linfield have suffered seven defeats in the last ten games.

It’s been a perfect storm. Bad finishing, bad defending, bad luck, bad decision making (by officials and Linfield players). Sometimes, it’s been all four in the same game.

Coleraine made a good start in the opening minutes, having a lot of the ball in Linfield’s half, even though they didn’t really do a lot with it.

Linfield then had their own moments on top, making more of the ball when they had it. Chris Casement had a free-kick tipped over while Mark Stafford heading wide.

Jordan Stewart was Linfield’s main threat, getting into good positions but failing with the final ball.

Cameron Stewart was troubling Coleraine’s defence by just being a general nuisance.

Andrew Waterworth broke into Coleraine’s penalty area and was fouled. Penalty to Linfield. Finally, a break. Well, so we thought, we’d probably miss.

Thankfully not, as Andrew Waterworth slotted the ball home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Coleraine were now nervous in defence. Linfield were almsot getting in behind them. A poor pass or a lucky leg stuck out saving Coleraine. It was going to be a matter of time before Linfield got it right. They had to. They simply had to take advantage while they were playing well.

A quick free-kick saw Niall Quinn get in behind Coleraine’s defence, and cross for Mark Stafford to run in and head home from close range. It was similar to Ivan Perisic’s goal for Croatia against Greece in the World Cup Play-Offs recently. For Linfield fans, it was just as vital.

On Wednesday night, it didn’t look like Stafford would be playing in this match. We’ll get to that later.

Linfield needed a third goal while they were on top. They couldn’t get it. They had to make do with just the two goals.

In the final minute of the first-half, Coleraine had their only real chance of the first-half when Jamie McGonigle was played through on goal.

Just like when he ran through on goal in the last minute of the meeting between the sides last month, Roy Carroll saved his effort. This time, it went out for a corner. It was definitely over the line. No dispute this time. No cost to Linfield this time.

The opening fifteen minutes of the second-half would be massive. If Coleraine could get a goal, they would fancy their chances of getting something from this game.

Coleraine had a lot of the ball and a lot of pressure, but Linfield held firm. However, if the pressure continued, it would only be a matter of time before Coleraine scored.

Linfield’s rare forays into Coleraine’s half saw them lose possession quickly. They couldn’t even win a corner.

Linfield couldn’t get to the hour with a clean sheet. Just before that milestone, a well worked move saw Darren McCAuley fire home for Coleraine. It was game on.

You felt like it was now going to be a case of Goal The Winner. 3-1 would secure the game for Linfield. 2-2, and it would be hard to see Coleraine not winning.

David Healy responed by bringing on Kirk Millar and Aaron Burns.

Millar played well, holding on to the ball when he had it, and always making himself an option when another Linfield player had it.

Niall Quinn got into a good position but just headed wide from a cross. The final minutes were unsurprisingly nervous. Coleraine had a header just wide. It looked like a goal from where I was sat at the other end.

When you’re on a run as bad as Linfield, you always expect the worst. Adam Mullan had a header saved by Roy Carroll. It just hit him. The luck was now all with Linfield.

Deep into injury time, a Coleraine corner was headed goalward. I was at the other end, and couldn’t see what happened, with so many players in the crowded penalty area.

I knew there two things I couldn’t see. The netting moving, and Coleraine players celebrating. I knew it was ok. The final whistle blew immediately and Linfield had the win.

Linfield players got the blocks when it mattered. In recent weeks, it was opposition players who were doing that. Linfield scored when they were in top. In recent weeks, it was the opposition scoring when they were on top.

It is only one win, but every success begins with one win.

It was also a first win of the season against a top half team of note. Sorry, Glentoran.

It is worth pointing out, that this time last year, Linfield had won only one of eight matches against Coleraine, Glenavon, Crusaders and Cliftonville. They remedied that in spectacular style in the second-half of the season.

It makes the defeat against Ballymena even worse, as the gap would only be five points and things would be very interesting indeed. No point crying about it, the Ballymena game is gone. The title, is not.

Next up, is a trip to Mourneview Park on Friday night. Friday night isn’t ideal, especially when there is a Record Fair in Lurgan that could have made next Saturday a double trip, but we might as well make the most of it and get the three points to cut the gap on Glenavon and put pressure on Coleraine and Crusaders, who play each other.

There will be points dropped above us next weekend, we simply have to take advantage.

Without sounding arrogant, there are a run of games against bottom half teams in December, which represents an opportunity to get a winning run of form ahead of Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine in succession over Christmas/New Year.

If we can kick on from this, it would make the early months of 2018 very interesting indeed.

Since I last wrote, Northern Ireland have been eliminated from the World Cup after a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Switzerland.

Two days later, Republic of Ireland went out after a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Denmark.

Predictably, Wednesday’s media was covering “Calls” for a combined football team.

“Calls”. Anybody can call for anything, that doesn’t make it newsworthy. Look at who is calling for it. Politicians and Journalists. That tells you all you need it to know. There are no calls, no demands, just people using their influence or “Fame” to pursue an agenda through the media.

Why were there no calls at 7.49pm on Tuesday night?

Let’s address this “Issue”.

The famed Ireland Rugby team gets mentioned in this type of nonsense. “Why don’t we have one team like in Rugby?” they cry.

Surely if this was going to be happen, would people not want them to be successful and decent, unlike the Rugby team.

But yes, if we’re using the Rugby model, why not have a Britain and Ireland football team? You know, like the Lions?

What’s that? I’m using sport to push a political agenda and deny people the chance to see their national team compete in international competition? Sorry about that.

When you see Lithuania, Latvia, Armenia and Ukraine fail to Qualify, wouldn’t it be amazing if all the former Soviet states formed a combined team with Russia?

What’s that? Trying to have countries that no longer exist compete in international football is just silly. Sorry about that.

I guess your idea is brilliant and mine are stupid. Fair enough.

The big mistake people who support this idea make, is that they think Northern Ireland fans have to justify their team’s existence. We don’t. We have never had to, and we will never have to.

It is up to those who want this to happen to convince us that it should happen.

Nobody has made a suggestion that is even remotely acceptable to us. Not even close.

First question, what would this team be called? It sounds simple, but what would it be called. You can’t call it “Ireland” as that is the brand name the FAI use for their representative team, and that would not be acceptable for Northern Ireland fans.

Who would be their sponsors? Neither Vauxhall or 3 would accept anything less than prominent position on training gear.

Who would be their kit supplier? Both teams have different contracts that would have to be cancelled and a new one negotiated?

Who is the manager? Who is the coaching, support and admin staff? You can’t have two sets. Somebody will miss out.

Where will they be in the FIFA Rankings? As a new team, they would have to start on 0 and be in Pot 6 for qualifying competitions. Being in Pot 6 will make qualifying for tournaments very difficult.

Where would they play their home matches? Northern Ireland fans would not accept feeding off scraps of home games against teams seeded five and six.

So, we have a team in Pot 6 with no staff and sponsors. This doesn’t sound very appealing.

I wish there was some sort of recent political event where people demanded something without taking into account the consequences.

To quote the great political thinker Joe Quimby, are they getting louder or stupider?

Tuesday’s result was not a shock. Republic of Ireland rarely win big games at home. Germany and Bosnia were exceptions.

In the past 16 years, Russia x 2, Switzerland x 2, France x 2, Israel, Germany x 2, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Monetnegro, Slovakia, Sweden, Austria x 2, Scotland, Poland, Wales, Serbia and Denmark have come home from competitive games in Dublin unbeaten.

Northern Ireland have had some awful results, but we haven’t conceded five in a competitive match at Windsor Park since 1979. Republic of Ireland have done it twice in the last five years.

Perhaps they should look at their own failings rather than trying to use us to deflect attention away from them.

I’m quite confident that I speak on behalf of Northern Ireland fans by politely declining the offer.

We can address it again when journalists report on “Calls” for this when Republic of Ireland get eliminated from Euro 2020.

This week, saw France confirmed as hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Very tempted to do a football/rugby trip. Nice is a host city. A return visit sounds very tempting. It’s still six years away so there is no rush.

And now, Mark Stafford’s red card on Wednesday. A red card for being fouled. I’m surprised a goal for Coleraine wasn’t awarded when he scored today.

It cost us the game. We had most of the possession in the second-half. Most of the possession, against ten men, attacking our own fans. I’m fancying our chances here.

That’s two games in the past month that we have been cost due to refereeing incompetence.

The referee bottled it in the face of an angry mob of Crusaders players. We need to start standing up for ourselves on the pitch. We can’t continue to allow ourselves to be outsmarted by stupid teams.

It’s not just Linfield who have suffered in the face of incompetent refereeing. Just ask Warrenpoint Town fans about the last day of the 2015-2016 season.

So, up next for Linfield is a trip to Mourneview Park. Linfield at Mourneview Park in November is usually interesting.

2014 saw four red cards. 2015 saw a five goal thriller. 2016 saw a two goal comeback with nine men, one of whom was a defender in nets.

I’ll happily take a boring 1-0 win in 2017.

Photo Album

WALK THIS WAY, WALK THAT WAY, WALK THE OTHER WAY

A round-up of recent Street Art events in Belfast. In short – Two new pieces appeared, and one got moved. Here’s the details.

You remember that mural of Carl Cox I reported on in August? It’s gone, but it has been replaced at the same location by one of Run DMC. It is by the same artist, Glen Molloy. If you’re looking for it, it is beside Thompson’s. Ironically, on the same spot in early 2015, the words “WALK THIS WAY” were painted on that spot.

There was also a new piece painted on the side of a wall at the Car Park in Gresham Street, where there is a new Apache shop, and there is also art on the shutters. It is of pigeons, and I got some photos earlier in the week when it was a work in progress.

There is a note at the top of it, which says “Sorry Inkie”.

That is because it was painted over a piece done by Inkie.

Do you remember the Hill Street Wall Of Fame from June?

Well, the building work that it was hiding is no finished, but don’t worry, The Duke of York have found a new home for it.

So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed this round-up. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any more developments in and around Belfast.

Pigeons Mural Photo Album

Run DMC Mural Photo Album