THE FRIDAY FIVE- 3.3.2017

1. John Hassell and the April Rainers – Intercity 125
2. Pale Waves – There’s A Honey
3. Ryan Adams – Streets Of Philidelphia
4. Blossoms – In Da Club/Carelss Whisper
5. Ray Davies – Rock N Roll Cowboys

In gig news this week, it’s all about people not coming to Belfast. The Kooks are already on a Greatest Hits tour which bypasses Belfast, but now they’ve announced a European tour with Blossoms as support. It would be brilliant if that line-up came to Belfast. That said, i’m going to see Blossoms on Wednesday night as a headliner, having already seen them support Paul Weller. Regular readers will know I think Blossoms are brilliant.

Erasure have announced a new album and tour for May which has no Belfast gig. I’m staring expectantly towards the organisers of Belfast Pride. Outdoor show, Custom House Square. You know it makes sense. Go on go on go on go on. That’s just me hoping and wishing rather than any inside info by the way.

Shed Seven are back with their first album since 2001 and are touring in December. It gets better, they have Cast as support. Guess what? No Belfast gig. Seeing as Cast have been to Belfast the last two years, i’m hoping John Power has a word in Rick Witter’s ear and rectifies this.

Ryan Adams is coming to Belfast in September. Unfortunately, it had sold out by the lunchtime of the day it went on sale. So, if you know anybody selling a spare standing ticket, get in touch.

On Monday lunchtime, I chanced my arm by going to the Venue Box Office during my final ten minutes of lunch. I was third in line, and manage to spend all ten minutes queuing. The person at the front couldn’t make their mind about about what seats they wanted for whatever show they were booking for, then proceeded to pay with a credit card that wouldn’t work.

The next person had a complaint about tickets they had recently purchased and were referred to Ticketmaster but then proceeded to argue that the problem had to be dealt with by the Venue Box Office Staff.

Seriously, how the fuck do people get out of the house and be so fucking stupid?

Also announced in the past week was the line-up for Party At The Palace in August at Linlithgow Palace. If you’re wondering where that is, it’s near Edinburgh.

Regular readers will know I go to Edinburgh every August. Very tempted to make this the weekend I head over.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS APPEARING AT PARTY AT THE PALACE

1. Lightning Seeds – All I Want
2. Razorlight – America
3. Ash – Oh Yeah
4. Amy MacDonald – This Is The Life
5. Kaiser Chiefs – Oh My God

Finally, I spotted an article wondering whatever happened to the mythical and mystical place in music history called 3 Alveston Place. 90s kids will know what i’m talking about. You can read the article here.

This Wednesday, is International Richard Herring Being A Sneering Dick On Twitter Day. Or, if you prefer, International Women’s Day.

If it’s just another day to you, or if you’re doing something to commemorate it, enjoy yourself. Except if you’re planning on sitting in front of the computer screaming “IT’S NOVEMBER 19TH!!!!” all day. You’re a bit of a weirdo and you need help.

This blog will be commemorating it in the only way it knows, by having a series of charts of songs by and about women

FIVE SONGS BY WOMEN

1. Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular
2. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You
3. Madonna – Rain
4. Taylor Swift – Ours
5. Laura Branigan – Self Control

FIVE SONGS BY GIRL GROUPS

1. Girls Aloud – Biology
2. Eternal – I Wanna Be The Only One
3. Bananarama – Cruel Summer
4. The Saturdays – Up
5. All Saints – Pure Shores

FIVE SONGS BY BANDS WITH FEMALE SINGERS

1. Chvrches – Lies
2. Paramore – That’s What You Get
3. Blondie – Heart Of Glass
4. Echosmith – Cool Kids
5. The Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You

FIVE SONGS WITH FEMALE NAMES IN THE TITLE

1. The Beatles – Dear Prudence
2. Bastille – Laura Palmer
3. Cosmic Rough Riders – Melanie
4. Glasvegas – Geraldine
5. Britney Spears – If You Seek Amy

FIVE SONGS WITH FEMALE PRONOUNS IN THE TITLE

1. Oasis – She Is Love
2. James – She’s A Star
3. U2 – Hallelujah Here She Comes
4. The Kooks – She Moves In Her Own Way
5. Shed Seven – She Left Me On Friday

FIVE SONGS WITH GIRL/WOMAN IN THE TITLE

1. Tori Amos – Cornflake Girl
2. Kate Bush – Rubberband Girl
3. Ash – Girl From Mars
4. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire
5. Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 14.6.1997

It might be the summer of a non tournament year, but there is still plenty to occupy Shoot, as Ryan Giggs and Gary Speed are the cover stars in June 1997.

In transfer rumours, Alen Boksic is heading to Manchester United, while Dino Baggio is heading to Newcastle United or Liverpool.

Real Madrid offered Hercules players a bonus to beat Barcelona and help Real win the title, which they did, with Shoot wondering why Middlesbrough boss Bryan Robson didn’t think of doing something similar.

England’s recent World Cup Qualifier in Poland turned out to be a nightmare for marketers, as the referee wouldn’t let England wear their new away kit, while Umbro sponsored Alan Shearer was photographed in a Nike Poland kit after swapping at the end of the game. To top it all off, pitchside advertising at the ground had adverts for Sky’s coverage of England games in France that summer. Poland v England was broadcast in the UK on Channel 5.

Crystal Palace’s Bruce Dyer has got the Adidas logo shaved into his head, saying it stands for “All day I dream about scoring”

Ryan Giggs gets a two page interview, where he speaks of his relief that David Beckham was taking a lot of the attention and spotlight he previously had.

Also getting two pages, is Tottenham Hotspur launching their new kit, with model Sophie Anderton, no relation to Darren, joining players. One player not there, was Teddy Sheringham, who had handed in a transfer request.

Lee Bradbury gets a profile after a successful season at Portsmouth with earnt him a big money move to Manchester City. Simon Grayson gets asked who he would like to be stranded on a desert island, choosing his teamamte Steve Walsh, Ian Botham, U2, Princess Diana and Sandra Bullock.

In posters, you could put promising teenagers Michael Owen or Nicholas Anelka on your wall.

Gary Speed gets a double page interview, reflecting on a season that saw Everton battling against relegation, to the point that Speed was constantly checking the league table on Teletext.

Speed credited survival to youngsters such as Richard Dunne, John Hills and Michael Ball.

In competitions, there were two seperate Eric Cantona videos – one looking back at his time at Manchester United, and the other being his cinematic debut, a French movie called Le Bonheur ….. Est Dans Le Pre.

Tim Sherwood gets a double page interview, looking forward to meeting new manager Roy Hodgson in order to secure his own future at the club, and hoping that Hodgson can help attract top English and foreign stars to Ewood Park.

World Cup Qualifying gets a round-up with the headline “WE’RE GOING TO ITALY” – I’m not sure why, as the 1998 World Cup was in France, though England’s next away game was in Italy. England, Scotland and Republic of Ireland’s chances are profiled, with Wales and Northern Ireland being footnotes, due to both teams being as good as out.

GLENTORAN 0-1 LINFIELD 25.2.2017

After yet another disappointing at Windsor Park against Portadown, Linfield will have been glad to be on the road. If they could choose any ground to visit, it would be The Oval. To say that Linfield have a good record there in recent years is a bit of an understatement.

Form in recent years would suggest this good run would continue. In the past two years, Linfield have gifted Glentoran a point at Windsor Park and then won the remaining fixtures. Glentoran’s league position suggested that a fourth League meeting between the sides at Windsor Park in April won’t be happening.

As supporters entered The Oval, there was one name that the away fans were talking about, Alex Moore. Who? I hear you say. Don’t worry, I asked the same thing. He’s an 18 year old goalkeeper making his debut after (i presume) injuries to Roy Carroll and Gareth Deane rather than a pie related disciplinary issue at the club.

To add to the goalkeeper crisis, the unofficial third choice goalkeeper Mark Haughey was also injured. Coincidentally, his penalty heroics against Glenavon was a year ago this weekend.

Haughey missed the Portadown match and was replaced by Chris Casement. Casement was then demoted to the bench and replaced by Reece Glendenning, who scored a hat-trick against Portadown in a reserve game last week. I don’t that that’s what he was in the team for today, but it would be nice if he did that.

Moore played in the Steel and Sons Cup Final over Christmas, so he had some sort of big match experience going into this. It was telling that Jamie Mulgrew won possession in his defensive third in the first minute and headed back to him, just to give him an early touch of the ball.

He would get further touches of the ball in the early minutes by having to keep out a speculative shot from the byline and having to come out and catch a low cross in the six yard box. Jimmy Callacher probably would have cleared, Moore was not taking any chances and dealing with the danger himself.

Linfield were slow getting into the game, but their first moment of quality almost brought a goal when Niall Quinn got clear and his low cross evaded both Cameron Stewart and Andrew Waterworth.

Paul Smyth wasn’t really getting into the game. For some reason, Linfield attack stands rather than sides. For example, left in the first-half and then right in the second, or the other way around. All the attacking in the first-half by Linfield was down the left hand side, meaning Smyth wasn’t involved as much.

Glentoran’s tactic was to stop Linfield by stopping Jamie Mulgrew, usually by illegal methods as he extended his lead at the top of the Most Fouled Irish League Player In History Chart.

They weren’t even honest fouls, they were cynical fouls with no intention of getting the ball, just to stop the man. While the referee’s yellow card stayed in his pocket, it only encouraged Glentoran more.

It was clear that, like in the recent Irish Cup tie, Glentoran were set up to try and snatch a 1-0 lead in the first-half and then hold onto it in the second-half.

That 1-0 lead that Glentoran desired almost came a counter attack when Steven Gordon knocked the ball past Moore, only to see Reece Glendenning get back in time to clear it on the goal-line.

Stephen Lowry fired agonisingly wide from the edge of the box while Linfield should have had a penalty for a handball from a Niall Quinn cross. A football match had finally broken out, 40 minutes late.

Despite ending the first-half well, Linfield needed to play so much better to get the points in the second-half.

Linfield were much better at the start of the second-half, not that it was hard. Paul Smyth was getting more and more involved in the game. The correlation between getting Paul Smyth on the ball and Linfield looking more likely to score is a very simple one to understand.

It looked like Jimmy Callacher would be the man to give Linfield that lead when his header came back to him, perfectly set up, but he volleyed the ball over.

Paul Smyth then fired just wide as Linfield’s pressure began to increase.

Ironically, Linfield got the goal just when the pressure had died down, a header from a free-kick falling perfectly to Andrew Waterworth to just about finish from a few yards out. As long as Linfield did nothing stupid in the final half hour, it should be enough to secure the points.

Sean Ward came on as a sub for Stephen Lowry, and he had a header go wide from just inside the box as Linfield looked for the second goal that would secure the points.

Aaron Burns made a welcome return off the bench after a month out through injury, while Ross Gayno came on for Paul Smyth. It seemed that Niall Quinn would be the obvious player to go off for Gaynor to come one.

Quinn did go off. Not subbed or sent-off, but injured. The end result being that Linfield would play the final minutes with only ten men. They started to get defensive, inviting unnecessary onto themselves.

The best that Glentoran could offer were a couple of speculative shots in the same attack, one which was blocked by their own player, and the other saved by Moore.

Thankfully, Linfield held onto the ball and made sure Glentoran couldn’t hurt them, seeing out the game to win 1-0.

It was Linfield’s ninth successive win at The Oval, eight in the League and ten if you include the “home” match against Crusaders in April 2015. Thirteen unbeaten against Glentoran there and fourteen if you consider the 2012/2013 County Antrim Shield Final to be a draw. Isn’t it great to be arguing about winning/unbeaten run stats?

Considering our poor results at Windsor Park in recent months, perhaps we should play all future home games at The Oval. (Clarification. Just a joke. For the avoidance of doubt, just a joke)

The only two teams to win a League match at Windsor Park this season, Cliftonville and Coleraine played out a 0-0 draw at Solitude, meaning Linfield extend their lead over 3rd place Cliftonville to eleven points.

I would expect that even if our title challenge fails, at least Linfield won’t be having to participate in the ridiculous UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Even if Linfield lose to twice to Cliftonville in the run-in (We won’t. I know we’ve lost twice to Cliftonville this season, but we won’t lose the next two to them. They’ve downed tools since their Irish Cup exit and are preparing for Play-Off games in May, just like last season) it will be hard to see Cliftonville overturn those remaining five points considering they have only won two (five draws and three defeats, if you care) of their last ten games. Two out of twelve if you include friendlies against Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers.

It also maintains Coleraine’s unbeaten run, albeit ending a run of eight successive wins. The only reason I want Coleraine to maintain their good run of form is that they play Crusaders at the end of March.

Just Crusaders luck to avoid playing Coleraine while they are on a winning run of form. Even bigger luck that their postponed (due to Ballymena’s involvement in the League Cup Final) taking place in the midweek before that game.

Talking of Cliftonville, they will be Linfield’s next League opponents, on Monday 13th March, a game you can see live on Sky Sports. The problem is, it’s up against Chelsea v Manchester United on BBC One at the same time.

It’s great that games are on Sky Sports but I don’t think they’ve picked a good one. Unless Glentoran are visiting on Boxing Day, any game at Windsor Park will be showcasing empty seats in the North Stand due to the camera position.

It would have been better if Sky had waited until the live FA Cup games were picked by BT and BBC before picking an Irish League game that weekend to show.

The bad news for Linfield is that Cliftonville had two players, Paul Finnegan and Jamie McGovern, sent-off. For some reason, Linfield always play badly against teams who have multiple players missing through suspension and/or injury

As I type, the teatime kick-off between Portadown and Crusaders finished 1-1. I know, i’m as shocked as you are, that a team who got a heroic result against Linfield followed-up with a result that helps Linfield.

The gap at the top of the table is now back to seven points, as you were from last Friday teatime but two games further on. When you and a rival both drop points in a title race, you’re caught between agonising over points thrown away and relieved at the situation not being worse.

Linfield get a break from League action next weekend, but it’s not a weekend off, as they travel to Seaview in the Irish Cup. It’s a game that Linfield will have no fear in due to the head to heads this season.

If we play like we do in the previous four meetings this season, we’ll be fine.

Linfield have written the book on how to play against Crusaders this season. Other clubs are more than welcome to have a read. Hopefully, there’ll be another chapter added next weekend.

Photo Album

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 24.2.2017

1. Kings Of Leon – Reverend
2. Conor Oberst – A Little Uncanny
3. Rag n Bone Man – Skin
4. Cast – Paper Chains
5. Ryan Adams – To Be Without You

Next Wednesday, is St David’s Day. So get ready for some Welsh tunes for you.

FIVE SONGS BY WELSH ACTS

1. Stereophonics – Dakota
2. Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
3. Charlotte Church – Moodswings
4. Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever
5. Feeder – Save Us

And as a bonus, here’s a celebration of all musical Davids.

FIVE SONGS BY SINGERS CALLED DAVID OR BANDS WITH SOMEONE CALLED DAVID

1. McAlmont and Butler – Falling
2. Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime
3. U2 – The Fly
4. David Bowie – Sound and Vision
5. Dollar – Hand Held In Black And White

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT 19.2.1977

Match action from Ipswich Town v Leeds United is on the cover of Shoot, but it is four other clubs – Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Queens Park Rangers – who are the main focus, as the League Cup reaches the Semi-Final stage.

In news, 16 year old Alan Currie was set to leave Cliftonville for Luton Town, Leeds and Wales would be meeting in a Testimonial for Gary Sprake. Staying in Yorkshire, Sheffield United want to sign Vic Moreland from Glentoran following Peter Dornan’s return to Linfield.

Neil Warnock, a player at Barnsley, has just passed his referee’s exam and is now a qualified official.

Finally, Radio City in Liverpool have signed up Duncan McKenzie and John Toshack for a Sunday afternoon radio show.

The second legs of the League Cup Semi-Finals are preview, both of which are level after the first legs. The first leg of the QPR v Aston Villa game took place too late to have a reaction from both teams, the game was delayed due to postponements.

Bolton had got a draw at Goodison Park. Bolton manager Ian Greaves commented that his side would now have to manage expectations after the draw at Goodison.

Everton won the second leg 1-0 to go through 2-1 on aggregate.

After a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road, QPR and Aston Villa drew 2-2 in the second leg at Villa Park. There were no away goals in those days, so it went to a replay at Highbury, with Villa winning 3-0.

After needing three games to win their Semi-Final, Villa would need three games to beat Everton in the final, winning a Second Replay 3-2 at Old Trafford.

Kevin Keegan uses his column to talk about tackles from behind, which he describes as “The curse of English soccer”

Shoot does a full page article on the goalscoring record of clubs in the history of league football, with Aston Villa the team with the best goals to game ratio, between 1888 and 1977.

In foreign news, Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalon stadium is set to become the second stadium in West Germany (after the Olympic Stadium in Munich) to get undersoil heating.

South American qualifiers for the 1978 World Cup (in South America) are due to get underway, and Shoot gives it a double page, with interviews from players based in Spain from Brazil, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Shoot dedicates two pages to the issue of sponsorship in football, canvassing Chairman, Managers, Players, including Derek Dougan, who got into a spot of bother for trying to get Kettering Town to wear shirt sponsorship.

Gordon Hill uses his column to write about his love of hunting, accompanied by a picture of him and Steve Coppell jokingly pointing a shotgun at Tommy Docherty.

Kenny Dalglish talks about celebrity fans in his column, and namedropping famous faces he has met at matches, such as Jackie Stewart and Rod Stewart.

On the back cover, there is a poster of Graeme Souness of Middlesbrough. In it, he has facial hair, but it is of the beard variety, rather than his trademark moustache.

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 18.2.2017

When Cliftonville exited the League Cup at the Quarter-Final stage in November, it was guaranteed that the League Cup would be leaving North Belfast after residing at Solitude since 2013. When it was announced that Seaview would be the venue for this year’s final, the trophy would be metaphorically and literally leaving North Belfast.

It wouldn’t be leaving too far, a short journey up the motorway to Ballymena or Carrickfergus.

Carrick were hoping that my presence would inspire them. I’ve been something of a good luck charm for them in recent years, being there when they won the Steel and Sons Cup Final, at Seaview funnily enough, in 2014, and for their penultimate game of the season in 2015 against the PSNI, a vital win which set them up for promotion if they won their final game, which they did.

The early minutes saw Ballymena pressure but nothing come of it. Despite that, there was still no opportunity for Carrick to relax. They didn’t help themselves, creating pressure for themselves when a clearance hit one of their own defenders and put them back under pressure. Later on, Brian Neeson punched a corner away, hitting one of his defenders. Fortunately for Carrick, the ball bounced out for another corner.

Allan Jenkins had Ballymena’s first attempt at goal when his header went over. It was Carrick who had the first real chance of the game when TJ Murray fired over from inside the penalty area when unmarked. It wasn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity but he should have done so much better, keep it low and at least make the keeper make a save.

Ross Glendenning was eventually forced into a save from a long range shot from Carrick’s other Murray, Martin. It was one of those saves usually referred to as a “Photographer’s save”. He did get lucky that there were no Carrick players close enough to capitalise on his parry, as he picked up the rebound.

Ballymena’s first real attempt on goal came when Johnny McMurray’s long range shot had to be tipped over by Brian Neeson. McMurray’s next attempt at goal was a snapshot that went just wide.

It looked like being a frustrating evening for Ballymena, until Willie Faulkner ran at Carrick’s defence to create space to get a cross in, which was finished by Allan Jenkins to put Ballymena 1-0 up. For the second successive Saturday, Carrick found themselves going in at half-time to a goal in the final minute of the half.

Carrick, who were set up to win 1-0, now had to win this 2-1.

Carrick actually made a good start to the second-hal, knocking Ballymena off their stride. Despite that, it never looked like an equaliser was inevitible.

There was more frustration for Ballymena when McMurray, Kane and Jenkins all missed chances to score. A 2-0 lead, no matter how long was left would have been enough to secure the trophy. Jenkins miss was the worst of the lot, firing over from close range when, like TJ Murray in the first-half, all he had to do was keep it low and get it on target.

It looked like Ballymena were going to be made to pay for it when a header from a free-kick fell to Adam Salley. He got enough to header it over the onrushing Ross Glendenning, but not enough for the ball to loop in. That was Carrick’s big moment. It never looked like Carrick were going to get another chance like that.

It was another set piece which provided Carrick’s next chance, a low shot from a free-kick teed to Nathan McConnell was saved by Ross Glendinning when it looked like it was going to sneak in.

Unsurprisingly, as the team trailing 1-0, Carrick had a lot of the ball in the final minutes of the game, but Ballymena always looked like holding firm, despite their unusually high amount of goals conceded this season for a team in the top half.

The biggest moment of worry for Ballymena came when TJ Murray went down in the box. I was not far from the incident and didn’t think it was a penalty at the time. Looking back at the incident, i’ve seen them given. If you’re Carrick, you’ll scream for it, if you’re Ballymena, you’d be fuming if it was given against you. It’s a decision that would be easier for the referee to give if the ball was in the middle of the park.

The Ballymena defender did just enough to get his body in the road to stop Murray getting through.

As the game approached injury time, Ballymena got a second on the counter attack when Conor McCloskey was played through and smashed it home from a wide position. It was a goal that deserved to have Alan Partridge commentary.

Carrick’s players were fuming as the game wasn’t stopped in the build-up for TJ Murray to get treatment for an injury sustained in the tackle which won the ball for Ballymena to counter.

For the second successive Saturday, Carrick lost 2-0 as a result of goals in the final minute of each half.

Interesting day in the Glendenning household, with Ross winners medal being trumped by Reece’s hat-trick for Linfield Swifts earlier in the day.

Ballymena fans celebrated their first major trophy since 1989, and now both teams turn their attentions to the rest of the season. Ballymena fans dreaming of Europe either via winning the UEFA Cup Play-Off Final or the Irish Cup. Carrick aren’t dreaming of Europe, but rather Linfield, Glentoran, Ballymena and all the other top flight clubs they will be hoping to visit for League games next season.

Photo Album

BE MY VALENTINE

New Street Art in Belfast to report, drawn especially for Valentine’s Day, depicting Jamie Dornan in the 50 Shades Of Grey (I don’t what that means but my female friends are fans of this) and the tagline “Be My Valentine”, done by the artist Visual Waste.

This image is on North Street and replaces the Sons Of Anarchy mural which was there previously, but was sadly defaced.

It isn’t the first time that Visual Waste has painted a mural of a man in a mask in Belfast, having previously painted a mural of Zorro at the other end of North Street as part of Belfast Culture Night in 2012.

The work of Visual Waste has been a regular feature on this blog over the past few years, and now he is on the BBC website, featuring in an article on Street Art in Belfast, alongside Emic, Friz and Glen Molloy, all of whom have also appeared on this blog over the past few years.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-1 PORTADOWN 17.2.2017

In the past two years, Linfield’s title challenge has been derailed by defeats to Portadown on a Friday night in February. They avoided a third successive defeat, but it was still a hat-trick of bad results as Linfield commemorated Random Acts Of Kindness Day by gifting Portadown a point, and potentially a third successive title for Crusaders.

The one positive was, that Portadown’s impending relegation means there won’t be any agony against Portadown in February 2018. That, plus INXS were played on the tannoy before the match.

Amongst the crowd at Windsor Park were some Glasgow Warriors fans sat near me making a weekend of their team’s match against Ulster. This, after a group of Dundee Stars fans attended the last Windsor Park game against Ballymena on the same day their team faced Belfast Giants.

It appears that Windsor Park is the go to venue for Scottish sports fans having a weekend in Belfast to see their team.

Even though both teams started slowly, Linfield had the ball in the net in the early minutes when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a free-kick but it was disallowed for offside. An early goal was desired for Linfield as they encountered opponents set up to frustrate.

Callacher was having to deal with problems at the other end from Marcio Soares, having a few nervous moments and stray passes.

It was another stray pass, this time from Stephen Lowry, who gifted Portadown their best chance of the night when Marcio Soares was played through and fired straight at Roy Carroll. He really should have scored.

Linfield’s search for the opening goal continued with both Andrew Waterworth and Niall Quinn having shots saved in the same attack.

Towards the end of the half, Waterworth flicked the ball past his man and got to the ball before the goalkeeper, only to see his effort go wide of the post.

Despite their possession, Linfield weren’t doing much with it. Despite the ball being in Portadown’s half, it didn’t look like going into Portadown’s net. It was poor.

David Healy set about doing something about it, bringing on Paul Smyth for Kirk Millar at half-time. Smyth was surprisingly still on the bench after his cameo and goal at Carrick the previous week. The match would take a recurring theme. Linfield trying to get Paul Smyth on the ball and Portadown players trying to cynically foul him.

It wasn’t quite Claudio Caniggia v Cameroon, but it was close. Portadown players did manage to try to recreate the “third time lucky” foul that Cameroon did on Caniggia. Niall Henderson ending up getting a yellow card.

As at any time over the past fifteen months, Linfield are a better attacking force when Smyth is on the pitch and the ball.

As well as cynical fouling, Portadown players were indulging in timewasting. Again, another referee who gestures to tell players to hurry up but doesn’t add the time on. Another mug.

It might sound like a petty thing to raise, but Linfield don’t really help themselves when opponents try to stop the game. With two empty stands and a slope at the end of the pitch, it’s very easy for opposition goalkeepers to timewaste at Windsor Park. Our ballboys should be making sure a new ball is on the pitch as soon as the matchball leaves the field. There was one incident where the ball went into the Railway Stand and the ballboy behind the goal didn’t have a ball and had to go and get the ball that went out. We should be getting our matchday organisation and infrastructure in place to make sure the game doesn’t stop when we are chasing a goal.

No away team comes to Windsor Park to play football. We shouldn’t be facilitating them.

David Healy again turned to his bench, bringing on Ross Gaynor for Niall Quinn as Linfield chased the breakthrough. Gaynor was soon having a shot blocked, as was Stephen Lowry, and then Mark Stafford had a header cleared off the line as frustration began to grow.

Linfield had to be wary of keeping Portadown out at the other end. Marcio Soares got in behind the defence from a goalkeeper’s kick but couldn’t get enough space to set himself up for a clear shot at goal.

Earlier in the game, a Portadown goal might have kickstarted Linfield into life. By this stage, it was too late. Linfield simply had to get the first goal if they were to have any ambition of winning this game.

David Healy then (metaphorically) sacrificed a defender by bringing on Josh Carson for Chris Casement. Casement was a surprise choice at right-back ahead of Sean Ward to cover for the injured Mark Haughey.

Then, came disaster for Linfield, when Portadown went 1-0 up when Sean Mackle dispossessed Jimmy Callacher and did just enough to set up Adam Foley to lob Roy Carroll.

That’s two goals in three games that Callacher could have done better in. I can’t help but wonder if he really is fully fit after going off at Institute a fortnight ago.

As Linfield kicked-off to restart the game, a crossfield pass to Paul Smyth went out of play for a throw. It summed up the night.

Andrew Waterworth had a volley go just wide before Robert Garrett had a great chance to secure the win for Portadown but his shot was saved by Roy Carroll.

To sum up the mood, not even a board to indicate four minutes injury time could raise a roar. One minute into that four, Josh Carson forced home a rebound from close range to make it 1-1. Portadown’s goalkeeper was injured in the incident and required lengthy treatment.

The stoppage killed any momentum Linfield might have had, just when they needed it most. When the game restarted, the correct amount of injury time wasn’t played. It didn’t matter, they didn’t look like getting a second.

This was a game Linfield should have been winning, having beaten Portadown 4-1 and 5-0 this season. They haven’t improved since that 5-0 game in November. If anything, they’ve got worse, if it was possible. You can bet that their defending won’t be as heroic when they play Crusaders next weekend.

Despite our possession and chances, Portadown were never hanging on. Linfield should have had enough over one hundred minutes to beat Portadown.

To compound the misery, Linfield Swifts then showed the First Team how it’s done by beating their Portadown counterparts 9-1.

Crusaders win at Dungannon means they are nine points clear. With Linfield playing Crusaders in April, we need two teams to beat Crusaders. It’s hard to see. Despite writing the book on how to beat Crusaders this season, nobody else in the league seems interested in reading it. Too many teams in this league simply do no believe they can beat Crusaders.

Sadly, it looks like Linfield will be gifting the title to a bunch of hoofers and thugs for the third successive season.

However, there’s no point feeling sorry for ourselves. We must dust ourselves down and continue to get the points on the board just in case, starting at The Oval next weekend.

The future is bright at Windsor Park and we’re on the right track, it’s just taking us a bit longer than expected to get where we want to be, but we’ll get there in the end.

Naturally, with each bad result, there will be analysis of Linfield’s home form. The truth is, it’s no worse than in any of the past four seasons, and it has cost us in each of those four seasons. A statistical analysis can be found here.

Getting settled in the redeveloped Windsor Park was always going to be trial and error. It’s a lot more error than hoped at the moment.

It must be worth the club having a consultation from fans as to what they want from their matchday experience. One suggestion i’d have is to trial having Linfield fans in the Railway Stand. It’s very easy to organise logistically, and has already happened, in a County Antrim Shield tie against Cliftonville in October 2015.

I remember joking that the Coleraine game took place on the wrong day of the week. Linfield have won on every Saturday they’ve played since November 19th. The good news is, the game against Glentoran next weekend will be on a Saturday.

That triggered a little thought in my head, so I decided to dig a little further. Linfield have won only two of their last seven home games on a weekday (excluding Bank Holidays) including all three this season. I’m not sure if that stat serves any relevance.

Meanwhile, this week, saw Northern Ireland announce a friendly against New Zealand at Windsor Park in June. Undecided at the moment, but i’ll probably end up going for the curiousity factor. And yes, i’m aware that they don’t do a haka pre-match. I was hoping for a random friendly at a random EFL ground, like the game against Qatar in Crewe in 2015.

Up next, a trilogy of Belfast derbies. Thankfully, the next two are away from home.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WORLD SOCCER – NOVEMBER 1998

An expensively assembled team in Sky Blue are featured on the cover of this edition of World Soccer, but it’s not Manchester City, it’s Lazio.

In Jersey, there is an experiment taking place where a referee can move a free-kick forward ten yards if a defending player shows dissent or engages in unsporting behaviour.

In this edition, World Soccer has an article on satellite channels and receivers that can pick up football from around the world. One of those clubs you could watch, is Anderlecht, who get a page feature about their recent downturn in form.

Drugs were a major issue this month, with rumours of failed tests in Serie A being covered up, and one journalist suggesting that referees should be subject to random testing like players.

There is an article based on a quote from Ray Clemence that there are too many foreign goalkeepers in England, looking at the shotstoppers of the twenty Premier League clubs, noting that the two most promising English prospects, Steve Simonsen and Richard Wright, are playing outside the top flight.

Lazio get a four page profile, having spent £70m to try and win the Serie A title. They did manage it in 2000, but not since. One of those player in the expensively assembled sky blue outfit ……. was Roberto Mancini.

Two of those pages are used for an interview with Christian Vieri, who left Lazio the following summer in a big money move, becoming the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Inter Milan.

German football is in crisis with the departure of Berti Vogts as national team manager, and the DFB being rebuffed, for various reasons, in their attempts to appoint Otto Rehhagel, Christoph Daum, Jupp Heynckes, Franz Beckenbauer, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Roy Hodgson and Paul Breitner, before eventually settling on Erich Ribbeck.

Davor Suker, top scorer at the summer’s World Cup gets a double page profile, while Croatia’s Euro 2000 Qualifying opponents, Yugoslavia, get a double page spread.

It’s not just Germany who had a change in manager, the departure of Spain manager Javier Clemente after a 3-2 defeat to Cyprus in their opening Euro 2000 Qualifier got a double page spread. He was immediately replaced by Jose Antonia Camacho.

Across the border in France, Vikash Dhorasoo gets a full page feature, as the most exciting prospect in French football.

Back in Germany, Keir Radnedge reports on the success of the two Munich clubs, currently first and second in the Bundesliga.

In England, Aston Villa are top with an almost all English team (Mark Bosnich from Australia being the only foreigner in their regular starting eleven) and have money to spend following the sale of Dwight Yorke. World Soccer suggest that money could be used to bid on another English player, Andy Cole of Manchester United.

A former manager of Cole, George Graham, has new employment, as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, a move that has divided the club’s fans, given his long association with Arsenal.

In Scotland, Marco Negri is in dispute with Rangers, with manager Dick Advocaat accusing him of lying to the media about his transfer situation.

Northern Ireland’s news is dominated by the resurgence of Linfield and Glentoran, looking to win their first title in 5 and 7 years respectively, but already pulling away from the chasing pack at the top of the table.

Also in dispute with their club like Marco Negri, was future Rangers players Frank and Ronald De Boer, who want to leave for Barcelona.

Bruce Grobbelaar made a comeback of sorts, playing for Zimbabwe at the age of 41, as well as being part of their coaching staff.

Brian Glanville uses his column to question Alex Ferguson’s record in the European Cup and World Cup, in the aftermath of a TV documentary where he referred to Paul Ince as “A big time charlie”

Glanville also uses his column to question the wisdom of those who want Terry Venables to return as England manager following England’s poor start to Euro 2000 qualification.