PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

After a two month break, my football watching for 2014-2015 began in early July, with the World Cup still going on (on the night of the first two Quarter-Finals) in Bray.

I was over there for a concert, and decided to take in a game as there was one on while I was there, a bottom of the table clash between Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United.

Carlisle Ground is a nice stadium for watching football in when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was raining. A lot.

It was still an enjoyable game, with Drogheda winning 3-1.

On the night of the now infamous World Cup Semi-Final between Brazil and Germany, I was at Mourneview Park for the UEFA Cup tie between Linfield and B36 Torshavn, my first experience of seeing a Warren Feeney managed Linfield team in the flesh.

The following week, I was back at Mourneview Park again, for the next round against AIK, to see Linfield secure a fantastic 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat meant Linfield’s European hopes were over for another year.

Two days later, I was Bangor bound, as Linfield used Clandeboye Park for a friendly against Cowdenbeath.

My main reason for going was to check out the facilities at Clandeboye, which had recently had some renovation work and a new 3G pitch.

That was my football watching for July, the league season not long away from starting. It was great to be back watching football.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

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STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2014

So, my football watching is over for 2014. Time to look back at the year just gone. And what better way to do it than with a load of stats.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 164

Red Cards : 17 (includes Rhys Marshall getting sent-off after the final whistle, but not Gary Hamilton being sent-off as a substitute before he entered the field)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 1 (Robin Van Persie, Manchester United v Olympiacos)

Teams Seen : 37

Accrington Stanley (1st time), AIK Solna (1st time), Ards, B36 Torshavn, Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades (1st time), Ballymena United, Bangor, Bray Wanderers (1st time), Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Cowdenbeath (1st time), Crusaders, Drogheda United, Dungannon Swifts, Everton (1st time), Exeter City (1st time), Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders, Heart Of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hull City (1st time), Institute, Leyton Orient (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Northern Ireland, Olympiacos (1st time), Peterborough United (1st time), Portadown, Real Madrid, Sevilla (1st time), Tottenham Hotspur, Warrenpoint Town,

Stadiums Visited : 19

Ballymena Showgrounds, Brisbane Road (1st time), Cardiff City Stadium (1st time), Carlisle Grounds (1st time), Coleraine Showgrounds, Crown Ground (1st time), Drumahoe (1st time), Ferney Park, Milltown (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, Tynecastle, White Hart Lane (1st time), Windsor Park

Competitions : 15

County Antrim Shield, European Championship, European Cup, European Super Cup (1st time), FA Premier League, Football League One (1st time), Football League Two (1st time), Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, League Of Ireland, Northern Ireland League Cup, Scottish Championship (1st time), Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiosities this year. There were two twins on opposing sides, but i’d already seen it. Other than that, a player setting up a goal with no boots. It was a poor year for curiousities.

UEFA 100 Club : Everton, Sevilla (now at 32 clubs)

2014 IN PICTURES – JULY

July began for me with a trip to Dublin, then Bray, primarily for a concert headlined by James and Paloma Faith, a bit of football to see Bray Wanderers, and some Dublin Street Art.

The following week, Linfield’s season was back up and running with the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against B36 Torshavn at Mourneview Park, my first time seeing Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

A 1-1 draw was enough to giver Linfield a tie in the next round against AIK, again at Mourneview Park, where and Andrew Waterworth goal secured a 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat in the away leg eliminated Linfield.

Two days later, it was back on the football wagon for Linfield’s friendly against Cowdenbeath. The only reason I went was to see Clandeboye Park, after having had some work done.

The month ended with another Wonder Villains gig, an instore at HMV.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

James – Live At Killruddery

James – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

Wonder Villains Live At The Loft Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-0 AIK 17.7.2014

After seeing off B36 last week, there wasn’t time for Linfield to relax, as they faced another, but vastly superior, Nordic opponent, in the face of AIK at Mourneview Park.

The match, was Linfield’s 100th in European competition. It was Swedish opposition they faced in the 1st.

(In case you’re wondering why an even numbered milestone is in a first leg tie, it’s because the second leg of a match against Vorwarts wasn’t played, as the East German side had Visa issues)

It might have been as high profile as a European Cup Quarter-Final, or as headline grabbing as beating European Cup Winners Cup holders Manchester City, but it was a worthy result and performance for the occasion.

Scandinavian opponents are quite common for Linfield in Europe. In fact, there’s been matches against Swedish teams in the last decade, against Halmstad (2005) and Elfsborg (2007) which have brought hope, and ultimately heartbreak.

Matches against Norwegians and Danes such as Rosenborg (2010), Randers (2009) and Viking (2002) weren’t much better. Don’t even start me on Copenhagen.

Having lost at this stage in extra-time to Skoda Xanthi, there was a desire amongst players and fans to better that. There was a bigger crowd than last week, with most of the stand Linfield usually use being filled. We were even allowed to sit as far as the corner flag at the Crescent End, such as the demand for tickets.

AIK brought a couple of hundred fans, situated in the traditional home end, very noisy, indulging in vocal sparring with Linfield fans.

There wasn’t really much to the first ten minutes, but Linfield came more into it, having a few situations and winning a few corners and attacking free-kicks.

In games like this, you often look at milestone minutes, at keeping the score 0-0. With each passing minute, it became more about “Can we take the lead?” as opposed to “Can we keep it 0-0?”

Linfield’s best chance came when Peter Thompson got behind the defence but fired over. Despite having a couple of defenders chasing him, it looked like a great chance. We’re all Lionel Messi on the terraces (or, in the case of Mourneview Park, stand) aren’t we?

As the second-half began, the feared backlash from AIK didn’t materialise, as Linfield continued to hold their own.

There were no clear cut chances, but situations and shots at goal. The ball was just not bouncing for Linfield. Crosses were just going wide, shots weren’t going where they should have.

It looked like being a frustrating night, that could be ruefully look backed on in seven days time.

Linfield’s best attacking moment came when a Sean Ward shot from the edge of the penalty area was saved and put behind of a corner. Seeing how the players were endeavoring to take a lead to Sweden, the crowd raised the voices in appreciation.

Most of Linfield’s support where in the stand they usually sit at Mourneview. All bunched together, it helped to create and atmosphere that would spur the players on.

When playing higher ranked opponents, you always fear they will score with every attack they have, even if they haven’t done anything in the game to merit that fear.

AIK’s best attacking moment saw them hit the post, only for Chris Hegarty to block the rebound. It summed up one of the more noticeable aspects of the early games of Feeney’s Linfield – that extra percentage.

In the B36 game, Aaron Burns strove to play a wide cross back across the penalty area, and was rewarded with an assist. Earlier in the AIK game, Michael Carvill pressurised a defender shepherding the ball out for a goal kick, and ended up winning possession in AIK’s penalty area and kept an attack alive, albeit, it eventually came to nothing.

Games are decided on such small margins. IF AIK went 1-0 up, despite not playing well, they would have seen the game out and taken a lead, and away goal(s) to Sweden.

Just when it looked like being a frustrating 0-0, Linfield got the winner. A goal kick up the field was flicked on to Andrew Waterworth. He got a space away from his defender. He wouldn’t have been able to get a run on goal, he had to hit it first time, which he did.

Mourneview Park went wild as players ran to the stand where Linfield fans were. Linfield supporters on the grass bank behind the goal walking towards the exits celebrated. A valuable lesson learnt about why you should never leave a football match early.

The goal, was a smash and grab. The result, was anything but.

AIK’s fans weren’t slow in showing their displeasure at their team’s performance. Linfield fans, applauded their team off the pitch.

A lead and a clean sheet going to Sweden. We have a chance. More than many people thought we’d have at the halfway stage of the tie.

Photo Album