LINFIELD 5-1 ARDS 18.3.2017

Having scored ten goals in their two previous home games against Ards this season, Linfield were hoping to add to that when the North Down side visited Windsor Park this afternoon.

It didn’t matter how many Linfield scored, as long as it was at least one more than Ards, it’s that time of year. The two magic numbers today were three and four. Three points to cut Crusaders lead at the top.

Despite the previous head to heads this season, today wasn’t going to be straightforward. Gareth Tommons had a half-chance in the opening minutes that Linfield were just about able to clear.

Within the first five minutes, Linfield got the early goal they craved when Cameron Stewart headed home from a corner, his first at Windsor Park, ending a drought in front of goal going back to the County Antrim Shield Final.

In the two big home wins this season (4-0 and 6-1) Linfield got a flurry of early goals and had the game won inside the first twenty minutes.

Ards were not prepared to let history repeat itself. Stephen Lowry was forced into an interception after a neat passing move threatened to bring an equaliser.

Andrew Waterworth looked set to score but his header was excellently saved by Ards goalkeeper.

Soon after, Ards got an equaliser when a low cross was finished by Guillaume Keke to make it 1-1. It wasn’t against the run of play.

During the move that led to the goal, Cameron Stewart went down injured and had to be replaced. Kirk Millar came on from the bench for him. Surprisingly for me, when Aaron Burns seemed the logical choice.

The change meant a slight reshuffle for Linfield, with Millar going to his right hand side position and Paul Smyth moving to a central role.

The change brought rewards for Linfield with Smyth thriving in is new central, with his cross after breaking in behind Ards defence eventually falling to Kirk Millar to fire home from close range.

Credit must go to Niall Quinn who shielded the ball away from an Ards defender to give Millar the opportunity to score.

Having lost the lead once, it was not going to happen again, as Linfield sought to increase their lead.

Andrew Waterworth got in behind Ards defence but was let down by a poor first touch while Paul Smyth had a shot go just wide.

As the half neared it’s end, four minutes injury time meant that there was time for Linfield to push for a third.

That came when Paul Smyth crossed for what looked like Matthew Clarke to score, only for Andrew Waterworth to control the ball and finish himself, his 100th goal for the club.

Having taken a goal from one left sided player, Waterworth still had time in the first-half to set up Niall Quinn, but his powerful shot was well saved.

Despite a comfortable lead at half-time, the title momentum swinging 3-3 draw at home to Ards in 2014 was still a recent memory for Linfield fans that they felt another goal for their side was needed, a game that Linfield led 3-1.

Linfield set out at the start of the second-half to get that fourth goal, but couldn’t quite get it. Kirk Millar with a volley and Mark Haughey heading over were the best chances.

Naturally, there was frustration amongst the crowd, especially when Linfield began to have a wobbly spell, Ards getting encouragement to try and get a second goal.

It only lasted for a short time, and Stephen Lowry fired home from close range after a header was saved. It was a third successive game in which he had scored in, securing the points for Linfield.

This lead gave Linfield a chance to give minutes to Aaron Burns and Josh Carson from the bench. Burns had a header over the bar as Linfield searched for a fifth.

That search got a little bit easier when Johnny Taylor achieved the unique feat of being sent-off at Windsor PArk for two different clubs.

Eventually, Linfield got their fifth when a shot fell perfectly for Aaron Burns to fire home.

It maintains Linfield’s impressive record against Ards, an unbeaten run going back twenty years and includes Linfield wins by 5-1, 4-0, 5-0, 4-0, 7-0, 7-2, 5-0, 4-0 and 6-1 margins. I’m sure there’s more that i’ve missed.

Those two second-half goals weren’t vital in the context of the game, but they could be by the end of the season. It means that Linfield’s Goal Difference is 50 to Crusaders 43.

For the title to be decided on Goal Difference, Crusaders would need to draw two games and lose win while Linfield win three in that run.

If Linfield win their last six games, Crusaders win four, draw two and lose one, both teams would be level on points.

Even if those six games were won by one goal, Linfield’s goal difference would be 56. Crusaders would have 42, and would need need to claw back fourteen goals over those four wins. At least.

For every point Crusaders drop, the Goal Difference advantage that Linfield have will put more and more pressure on Crusaders.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to Ballinamallard. Everytime i’ve been there, Linfield have won. The two competitive meetings I haven’t been to, they haven’t won.

I’ll be there even if I have to be stretchered there. I’m going to sacrifice myself for us to get three points if I have to. It’s that time of year.

Other results of interest went Linfield’s way today. Coleraine winning and jumping into 3rd, potentially gaining an automatic UEFA Cup place. They play Crusaders next Saturday. Let’s hope their winning run continues, but ends on April 22nd.

Carrick beat Portadown to put pressure on Ballinamallard ahead on Monday night’s game.

Also next week, Northern Ireland face Norway in a World Cup Qualifier. Next week’s fixture list offers a chance for groundhopping for Norwegian visitors. Glentoran v Carrick on Friday (in the away end), game on Saturday, and then the international match on Sunday.

There are matches on Saturday in Belfast, but i’m sure if you got in touch with a LSC, they’d be more than willing to take some Norwegian visitors.

And how did Crusaders do today? They weren’t playing, as their match at home to Ballinamallard has been moved to Monday for Sky.

I might watch it and cheer on Ballinamallard, but then again, Travel Man is on Channel 4 at 8.30pm, then a choice at 9pm between a documentary about King’s Cross (Yes, I like documentaries about train stations. You probably watch Nolan, so you can’t judge me) and the new series of Family Guy on ITV2.

Hopefully by the time the final whistle blows at Seaview on Monday night, it will be Linfield fans who will be feeling giggidy about their team’s title chances.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR …..)

December began for me with a trip to The Limelight, a venue I would be spending a bit of time at this month, to see Primal Scream in concert.

Two Days later, I was headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Carrick Rangers.

I then headed out into Belfast to get some photos of a mural of Jack Nicholson

That night, I headed back to The Limelight to see Ocean Colour Scene in concert.

The following weekend, I was Bangor bound to see Linfield take on Ards, and then back to The Limelight (I know, becoming a regular) to see Cast in concert.

The morning after that, I was out on my bike to get some Street Art photos, in Great Victoria Street and a mural of Prince in Botanic.

On the middle Saturday in December, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield record a late win over Ballymena United.

The weekend before Christmas saw me being busy, taking in Ulster v Connacht for my annual Rugby match, and then the following morning heading to Seaview to see Linfield Swifts win the Steel and Sons Cup.

There’s still a bit of the month left. Two big Linfield matches, against Glentoran and Crusaders. I’m also hoping to get a chance to head to Lisburn to get some Street Art photos.

And then, that will be me for 2016. Don’t worry, there’ll be Camera Adverntures in 2017.

Primal Scream live at The Limelight

Primal Scream live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Jack

Ocean Colour Scene live at The Limelight

Ocean Colour Scene live at The Limelight Photo Album

Ards v Linfield

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Great Victoria Street Art

Great Victoria Street Art Photo Album

Prince Mural

Prince Mural Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Ulster v Connacht

Ulster v Connacht Photo Album

Dundela v Linfield Swifts

Dundela v Linfield Swifts Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

It was a musical start to September 2016, by going to see Squeeze in concert at Ulster Hall, then going to see The Divine Comedy perform at HMV two days later.

It was back to football the following weekend as Linfield took on Portadown.

I was then off to Liverpool for a wedding and made a trip out of it, getting some Street Art photos in Liverpool.

The following weekend after my return from Liverpool, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ards.

Having photographed Street Art in Liverpool, I was photographing Street Art in Belfast, of North Street and surrounding areas, having missed Culture Night due to being in Liverpool.

Squeeze live at Ulster Hall

Squeeze live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

The Divine Comedy live at HMV Belfast

The Divine Comedy live at HMV Belfast Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Liverpool Street Art

Liverpool Street Art Photo

Linfield v Ards

North Street Art

North Street Art Photo Album

ARDS 0-2 LINFIELD 10.12.2016

For the first time in nearly eight years, Linfield headed to Clandeboye Park for a competitive match, to take on managerless Ards.

Having won both previous meetings this season by half-time, Linfield were hoping to do likewise. Their best moment in the early minutes of the game came when Ross Gaynor got in behind Ards defence, but his shot from the edge of the box went just over.

The pressure began to build from Linfield a clear cut chance, they needed a set piece to eventually take the lead on 17 minutes when Jimmy Callacher got in front of his own team-mate, Mark Haughey, to head home from close range.

Just when it looked like a matter of how many Linfield would score, Ards came more into the game, causing some moments of concern for Linfield and giving Gareth Deane, deputising for Roy Carroll, more work to do than many in the crowd had anticipated.

The best moment came when Joe McKinney capitalised on a Mark Stafford slip to run towards goal, but his shot went well wide.

Linfield rode it out and began to have more pressure on Ards goal. They looked to have made it 2-0 when Callacher headed home from a free-kick but the referee disallowed it for a foul. I couldn’t see one myself.

Callacher wouldn’t have long to wait for his second goal, as a few minutes later he got his foot there first in a crowded penalty area to finish from close range after Mark Haughey headed back a Kirk Millar free-kick to give Linfield a 2-0 in the final minutes of the first-half.

The second-half was a bit of a non event. Not that surprising to be honest. Ards had a lot of possession in Linfield’s half but didn’t do a lot with it.

With the 3-3 draw in January 2014 where Linfield blew a two goal lead still a recent memory, Linfield fans were unsurprisingly eager for their side to get a third goal to really kill the game off.

Their best opportunity for that came when Kirk Millar’s low shot was blocked in a crowded penalty area.

Aaron Burns came on from the bench for Linfield. Personally, I would have had him on a bit earlier. The pity for Linfield that they couldn’t get a third goal was that they wouldn’t have got the opportunity to give some game time to young Cameron Stewart.

Andrew Waterworth burst through and hit the side netting in the final moments as Linfield couldn’t get that third goal. They didn’t need it, two was enough.

No results went in Linfield’s favour as Crusaders and Cliftonville both recorded expected victories against bottom half opponents, meaning it’s as you were at the top of the table.

The only down side for Linfield was the worrying sight of Paul Smyth watching the game while wearing a protective foot brace.

Next week’s games are intersting. Linfield (Ballymena at home) and Crusaders (Glenavon at home) have potentially tricky games, while Cliftonville have what should be an easy three points (Carrick at home)

Matters are complicated by the fact that all three of those teams are involved in League Cup Semi-Finals.

The logical thing could be to wish for Ballymena to have a devastating extra-time defeat on Tuesday. but Linfield faced a Cliftonville team last month off the back of an extra-time defeat, so that theory is clearly nonsense.

That match against Ballymena United will see the return of David Jeffrey to the Windsor Park dugout. Last time he sat in it, the seats were nowhere near as comfy, as the redevelopment hadn’t even started.

He’ll barely recognise the place, and it will be nothing to do with the novelty factor of being in the away dressing room.

The fixture list has been kind in that regard with his return coming as late as possible.

It was always going to be a media circus, not his fault, so i’m glad it’s come as late as possible in the season, to avoid such a distraction in the early months, especially as Linfield have already played Ballymena twice this season, it won’t be as big a story as if Ballymena came to Windsor Park in August or September.

No doubt he’ll get a deserved reception at 2.59pm, but come 3pm he’ll be the opposition manager, and I hope he has a miserable afternoon.

With Ballymena joint 2nd best attack and joint 2nd worst defence, it’ll probably finish 8-7 to someone. Hopefully, Linfield.

Over the next week, i’ll have a lot of tickets to get. Two for friends on Boxing Day, and one each for Linfield’s forthcoming visits to Seaview (Crusaders away and Steel and Sons Cup Final)

I tried to get some at Windsor Park on Saturday but they’re only on sale between Monday and Friday. Talk about making it inconvenient for supporters.

Meanwhile, it was announced this week that Lyon will host the 2018 UEFA Cup Final. That ground will be familiar to Northern Ireland fans as the venue for their Euro 2016 win over Ukraine.

I’d provisionally looked into it, but flights are only once a week (Saturday) and don’t operate in May. Well, that’s that plan bit the dust.

Anyway, onto Ballymena next week.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 4-0 ARDS 24.9.2016

Top of the league in August, Ards arrived at Windsor Park on a run of three defeats in four matches. Just over ten minutes into the game, they were on their way to four defeats in five games as Linfield turned on the style.

Linfield were straight on the attack, Paul Smyth forcing Ards goalkeeper into a save from a header. Once again, Smyth was involved in most of Linfield’s attacks. He wasn’t the only one, forming an attacking trio with Ross Gaynor and Kirk Millar. When Linfield were attacking, at least one of them was involved.

A goal for Linfield wasn’t long in coming, and it came on 7 minutes when a Paul Smyth cross wasn’t properly cleared, it fell to Stephen Lowry who played a simple pass to the unmarked Aaron Burns, who fired home.

As soon as Burns got the ball, there was only going to be one outcome.

Within a minute, Burns thought he had made it 2-0 when he fired home from close range from a Paul Smyth cross, but the goal was disallowed for offside..

A quick free-kick set Paul Smyth free out wide, and his cross found Stephen Lowry, who fired home.

The last time Ards visited Windsor Park, Linfield blew a two goal lead to draw 3-3 in a game that let Cliftonville back into the title race in 2014. There was no danger of that happening today. There weren’t even fifteen minutes on the clock, and the game was won for Linfield. The only question, was how many?

After that, Linfield eased off for a while. All Ards could offer was a speculative long-ranger shot. After easing off, Linfield stepped up a goal, with Stafford and Burns having attempts on goal.

It was only a matter of time before Linfield made it 3-0, and it came when Paul Smyth and Chris Casement toyed with Ards before setting up Kirk Millar to finish.

The waves of Linfield attacks continued, with Aaron Burns hitting the side netting from a wide angle after being played through, while Mark Stafford hit the woodwork from a corner.

Natuarally, the second-half wouldn’t be as intense as the first-half, but Linfield still had chances, Paul Smyth having a weak shot saved in the opening minutes of the second-half.

Just after the hour, Linfield made it 4-0 when Ross Gaynor’s cross was put into his own net by Emmett Frairs. If he didn’t try to cut out the cross, Aaron Burns would have had an easy finish from a few yards out.

A start today was Burns reward for goals off the bench in his last two games, with Andrew Waterworth being dropped.

4-0 up, it was the perfect time to bring on Waterworth and Kris Bright. Waterworth forced Ards keeper into a save, but when the game is long won, the attacking intensity isn’t the same.

Today marked the opening of the new bar at Windsor Park, in the corner of the South Stand and The Kop. My own impression was that it was underwhelming.

The thing that stood out, was no TV. When the old viewing lounge was there, I would pop in to check half-time scores in England and Scotland. I was hoping to go in today and watch the United match today. I doubt I was the only one thinking this.

It’s quite a basic thing and not having it is going to turn people away from the bar long-term if they can’t watch football on TV before the game, or have Soccer Saturday on while watching the match.

By the way, there is an excellent view of the game from the bar. Bit of a pity that you can’t watch the game from the balcony though.

Next up for Linfield, is a domestic double header against (barring any recruitment activity in BT4) two former managers, with the Scottish Challenge Cup tie against Queen of the South.

I’m always nervous going into games against Glentoran, but even more so given their form and league position. I’ve been more confident going into games against them when they’ve been top of the league.

A repeat of today’s performance, and we’ll be fine.

Some curious stats around today’s game, it was the third time in the last four home games that Linfield have scored four, and it was Linfield’s fourth clean sheet in eight games.

Long may this continue at both ends of the pitch.

Upon return from Dumfries, is a League Cup tie away to Ballymena, a competition we’re rarely still in come November. Would be nice to win it for the first time in, whisper it, eight years.

The League match against in-form Ballymena has been postponed due to the Challenge Cup, as has Crusaders match against out of sorts Glenavon. It’s fair to say those postponements have worked in Linfield’s favour.

The situation regarding postponements is one to keep an eye on. We’re only one game behind and there’s a date confirmed for it, Tuesday 18th October at Solitude. So it’s not that bad.

It’s been a good weekend for the club, with the Women’s team winning the Irish Cup and the Swifts getting through to the Quarter-Final of the Steel and Sons Cup.

The way the calendar falls this year, the final will be on Christmas Eve, which is a lot more convenient to attend. Hopefully, they can get to the final this year.

You may or may not have seen it this week, but Linfield got an apology this week from the Belfast Telegraph for a story printed in July about Linfield fans causing trouble in Dublin.

Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be bullshit.

I remember seeing it on the news stand when it was published and instantly dismissed it.

That was on the front page. I’m led to believe this apology was on page six.

If you want to read it, you can find it here.

If you don’t want to give them a hit, don’t worry, here’s a screenshot of it.

As you can see, it’s a C minus of an apology, just about scraping the basic requirements, apologising for “any inconvenience suffered”.

Obviously, “We were wrong”, “We lied” or “It wasn’t true” was too much of an inconvenience for them to publish.

The decline in standards at Belfast Telegraph in recent years can be addressed elsewhere. Possibly in a viral video. That’s the only type of story they do these days. A few weeks ago, they did a story about a video of a baby farting “going viral”.

Elsewhere, the corporate launch of Euro 2020 was this week. I know, Euro 2016 has already been consigned to history.

This tournament will have no host country but will take place all around Europe. An utterly farcical idea.

However, i’m a total hypocrite, and i’ll be keeping an eye on the schedule, to try and see what games in Dublin or Glasgow I can try and get to.

And finally, i’ve launched a series this week looking at the Windsor Park redevelopment from start to finish. You can find a link to it here.

The next time Linfield play a match at Windsor Park, against Ballinamallard on October 15th, the redevelopment will be complete.

Hopefully, there’ll be TVs in the bar by then.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

My football watching in December began in Ballymena, to see Linfield race into an early 2-0 lead, only to get home 3-2, in a vital win.

The following Saturday, was the first of three visits to Windsor Park in December, to see Linfield beat Ballinamallard United and go top of the league.

That set up a top of the table clash against Portadown, which Linfield won 3-2, helped by a last minute penalty save from Ross Glendinning.

The final week of the month saw me go to three matches in three days. I got invited to the Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas morning. It was a good game and worth getting out of bed for, Carrick Rangers beating Harland and Wolff Welders 4-1.

The next day, was the Boxing Day clash between Linfield and Glentoran. It wasn’t a good game, but it was a good result, with Linfield winning 2-1.

The next day, one more match for the year, to see Bangor take on Ards in a top of the table clash in Championship 1, with Ards getting a late and dramatic 3-2 win in injury time.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Linfield v Portadown

Carrick Rangers v Harland and Wolff Welders

Carrick Rangers v Harland and Wolff Welders Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Bangor v Ards

Bangor v Ards Photo Album

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)

BANGOR 2-3 ARDS 27.12.2014

One last football match in 2014, and it wasn’t a bad way to finish the year, as I headed to Clandeboye Park for the North Down Derby (although the area has now been rebranded as “East Coast”) between Bangor and Ards, also a top of the table clash in Championship 1.

Bangor were top of the league and unbeaten, aspiring to get promoted to the Premiership next year, having not applied for promotion for this season. If they did, they would have had a play-off against Warrenpoint Town, who they beat in the Irish Cup.

To give an indication of how far Bangor have progressed under the management of Garth Scates, the last time I went to see them, they were six minutes away from relegation to the third tier of Irish League football.

A more long-term measure of where both clubs were, is the fact that the last time I saw them play against each other, was in an Irish Cup Final.

Bangor and Ards are two of eleven clubs who have applied for a licence for the Premier League in 2015-2016, and both had their eyes on promotion.

For the record, Bangor were the home team today (both teams play at Clandeboye Park) with Ards home game resulting in a 1-1 draw in August.

I wasn’t the only neutral taking advantage of the fact there were no top flight games today, as I spotted Eddie Patterson (Glentoran play Ards in the Irish Cup next month) and Gary Hamilton (a former teammate of Bangor manager Garth Scates) in the crowd.

A good sight to see that there were queues right up to kick-off stretching to the bottom of the street of supporters wanting to get in.

It was Ards who took the lead with the first moment of note in the game, when James Cully managed to get himself free in the box and fired home, after 9 minutes.

Bangor dusted themselves off and went about getting level. They had good build-up play but couldn’t get a clear sight of goal. Bangor almost scored shortly after Ards went 1-0 up when a long range shot from outside the box smashed against the bar and out.

From where I was stood, I thought it was a goal. The linesman said no. No technology at this level to confirm one way or the other.

Soon afterwards, Bangor had a goal disallowed for offside.

It wasn’t all Bangor though, Ards were having just as much a say in the game, it was end to end stuff.

As the half neared an end, Ards got a free-kick within a shooting range. The clock stated 44 minutes. Sometimes you see a set pices being lined up and you know it will be a goal. So it proved, as Gary Warwick fired home to give Ards a 2-0 lead.

Like at Windsor Park the day before, a goal just before half-time had such a massive bearing on the game.

As when they went 2-0 down, Bangor responded by trying to get a goal to get them back in the game.

Early in the second-half, Bangor had a free-kick tipped onto the post. Bangor had a lot of possession but couldn’t get a breakthrough.

The game took on the pattern of a game where one team is 2-0 up and trying to score, while the other is content not to concede.

Ards had the mentality that they didn’t need to score. Truth was, if Bangor could pull it back to 2-1, they would have so much momentum going into the final stages.

Ards did almost score to go 3-0 up, but a goalbound shot was cleared off the line in the nick of time.

With 15 minutes to go, Bangor got a lifeline when a thunderous shot from Andy Hall hit the back of the net.

I was behind the goal at the time and ducked, as I was convinced the ball was going over. It was one of those efforts when it went right for him.

This spurred Bangor on, but they couldn’t get the equaliser from their pressure.

As each minute ticked by, Ards seemed to be seeing the game out and getting the win.

As injury time approached, Bangor appeared to run out of ideas. When there’s only one goal in the game, at any level, the game is still up for grabs.

Bangor got that one moment, eventually, and made the most of it. They managed to get one more attack and won a corner. The ball went out for another corner, which was eventually bundled home by Jordan Forsythe. The Bangor fans behind the goal celebrated wildly. Derby Day Pride had been salvaged, but more importantly, they wouldn’t be losing any ground to a promotion rival.

Watching as a neutral, I had a suspicion that the scoring for today wasn’t over. I couldn’t tell who would get that all important fifth goal.

It was to be Ards, when a shot off the post fell perfectly for Ross Arthurs to finish and put Ards 3-2 in injury time.

There was still some time remaining, and Bangor had one last chance, which was fired wide from inside the penalty area. It should have been a goal.

Bangor’s unbeaten league run was over, and the race for promotion has just got interested. Championship 1 is a lopsided league as teams often have games in hand due to cup commitments and gaps in the table can be deceptive.

Ards can go within three points of Bangor if they win their game in hand, Harland and Wolff Welders could go two points above them if they win theirs, as could Carrick Rangers.

My football watching is over for 2014 ……. i’ll only have to wait 15 hours before getting started in 2015.

Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : 2013-2014

Barring something amazing, my matchgoing 2013-2014 season is over, time for a statistical analysis.

There were no curiousities to report. Went to some games, saw some goals, visited some new grounds. Standard stuff.

Matches Attended : 47

Goals Seen : 139

Red Cards : 23

Hat-Tricks : 2

Cristiano Ronaldo (Northern Ireland v Portugal)
Robin Van Persie (Manchester United v Olympiacos)

Penalties Missed/Saved : 2

Highest Scoring Match : 7 (Linfield 5-2 Ards, Glenavon 2-5 Linfield)

Countries Seen Matches In : 4

England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland

Teams Seen Play : 31

Ards, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Cliftonville, Crusaders, Crystal Palace (1st time) Derriaghy CC, Drogheda United, Dundee United (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Everton (1st time), Glenavon, Glentoran, Hibernian, IF Fuglafjordur (1st time), Leyton Orient (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Northern Ireland, Peterborough United (1st time) Portadown, Portugal, Russia (1st time) Skoda Xanthi (1st time), St Patrick’s Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur, Warrenpoint Town (1st time)

Competitions Watched : 11

County Antrim Shield, European Cup, FA Premier League, Football League One (1st time), Irish Cup, Irish League, League Of Ireland, Northern Ireland League Cup, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup, World Cup,

Stadiums Visited : 18

Ballymena Showgrounds, Brisbane Road (1st time), Coleraine Showgrounds, Dixon Park (1st time), Easter Road, Ferney Park, Milltown (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Richmond Park, Seaview, Seycon Park, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, White Hart Lane (1st time), Windsor Park,

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – SEPTEMBER

September began for me with the World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Portugal. Everything looked set for a Northern Ireland win, until Ronaldo turned on his magic, aided by playing against nine men.

The next day, it was back to Irish League action, as I made my first visit to Dixon Park, to see Linfield take on Ards.

The following weekend, I was Old Trafford bound. A trip with a difference, as it was my first visit with David Moyes as United manager, for the game against Crystal Palace.

There was much hype in the build-up about a Belgian on the bench about to make his first appearance for United at Old Trafford. Little did we know, it would be another Belgian on the bench that day we would be falling in love with over the season.

Seven days later, I was on my travels again, to Fermanagh, to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard, getting some nice shots on a sunny day, and watching Linfield win.

To end the month, it was back to Windsor Park for the first time in three weeks, to see Linfield take on Coleraine, which was won by Linfield with an injury time goal.

The sunny days might have been ending, but the football season was in full swing. Time to look forward to the Winter months.

Northern Ireland v Portugal

Northern Ireland v Portugal Photo Album

Ards v Linfield

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine