ARDS 0-3 LINFIELD 24.2.2018

Didn’t we have a lovely time? The day we went to Bangor.

Due to roadworks, I arrived late, a couple of minutes into the game. As I entered the ground, Linfield were on the attack. It would be a theme that would continue throughout the game.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s first chance of note when he outpaced an Ards defender to unleash a first time shot, which was well saved.

The reason he was able to get that chance soon became cleared as the Ards defender he outpaced had to be substituted through injury.

Ards were struggling to handle Waterworth all afternoon, being involved in. It’s of Linfield’s attacks, putting Ards players under pressure to the point they were conceding cheap corners and throws, giving Linfield attacking opportunities where they shouldn’t have.

The same also applied to Achille Campion.

Mark Stafford looked like he was going to put Linfield 1-0 up but he headed wide from close range.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead from the first moment they really cut through Ards defence, when Niall Quinn was played through only to see his shot cleared off the line, but fell perfectly for Achille Campion to fire home from close range.

It was reported in the media that was his first goal for Linfield, so it’s safe to assume that the goal against Cliftonville had been credited to a Tomas Cosgrove own goal.

It was indisputable that this was his goal.

Jamie Mulgrew fired wide from outside the box as Linfield looked to second goal before the break.

It didn’t take long into the second-half for that to arrive, from the penalty spot after Andrew Waterworth was bundled over.

It looked soft, but it was a penalty. Bafflingly, there was a similar incident in the first-half where Linfield didn’t get a penalty.

It was Waterworth’s first penalty (I think) since the last day of last season, and it had the same result, chipping it down the middle and ending up in the back of the net to give Linfield a two goal lead.

I wouldn’t recommend him doing that if he takes a penalty in the near future, as a lot of goalkeepers will have noticed that.

If Linfield were in a commanding situation, they had the game won a few minutes later when Stephen Lowry made it 3-0 , firing in off the post after his attempted pass to Andrew Waterworth was blocked, the rebound falling kindly to him.

Linfield the turned on the style, Kurtis Byrne going close to scoring,

With the game won, Linfield were able to let some of their players have a rest, with Mark Stafford, Jamie Mulgrew and Achille Campion all getting substituted.

Joe Crowe suffered an injury during the game just as Stephen Fallon was coming on for Linfield’s third and final sub, but was able to continued, though he looked pained as he left the pitch at full-time.

Unsurprisingly, the final minutes were uneventful, apart from an Andrew Waterworth effort that just went over, as Linfield comfortably secured the points.

Below Linfield, Cliftonville lost 1-0 to a Glentoran side rejuvenated under their new young and dynamic manager Ronnie McFall, meaning that Linfield now have a six point lead over Cliftonville, and can now start to look upwards in the table.

Above Linfield, Glenavon secured a late win over Carrick to maintain their lead over Linfield. However, Linfield had to face Glenavon twice before the end of the season.

The first of those occasions would be on the Tuesday night following this game. That will be covered elsewhere. It would be a Glenavon side missing the Linfield bound Joel Cooper through suspension after being sent-off.

3rd place is still up for grabs, and Linfield have to grab it if they have ambtitions of securing European football next season. Winning the Irish Cup will see us there without having to rely on others or to win a Play-Off.

It’s not ideal to be playing Glenavon on Tuesday before the Irish Cup Quarter-Final, but that’s where we are. I don’t think Glenavon considered it to be ideal either. As it would turn out, there would be no Irish Cup Quarter-Final on the Saturday.

We had no choice as we were backed into a corner due to the late confirming of games on the weekend of 16th/17th February.

Hopefully, the lessons of that, and the shitstorm that was avoided if Crusaders had reached the NIFL Cup Final have been learnt, and won’t happen again in the future.

That is definitely me finished discussing the matter. I hope.

Talking of fixture scheduling, Northern Ireland have announced a home friendly against Israel in September. A bit underwhelming. I’ve already seen Israel, so there won’t even be a novelty factor for me.

It also makes a mockery of the UEFA Nations League, a competition designed to get rid of international friendlies, if teams arrange friendlies when they don’t have double headers.

Apologies for the lateness of this blog, as I had issues with my laptop battery. Stay tuned for a look at the match which followed this ……. if you want to relive it again.

Photo Album

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2017 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

In the first week of October 2017, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Germany in a World Cup Qualifier.

That was sandwiched inbetween me going out around Belfast to check out Street Art which was painted as part of Hit The North, these pieces were still works in progress when I went to photograph them in September

The following day, I went to my one Rugby match a year, as Ulster beat Wasps in the European Cup.

It was back to football the following day, seeing Linfield take on Coleraine.

There was a glut of concerts towards the end of the month, going to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, OMD and Liam Gallagher, with Linfield’s matches against Ards and Crusaders sandwiched inbetween.

Northern Ireland v Germany

Northern Ireland v Germany Photo Album

Hit The North Mop-Up

Hit The North Mop-Up Photo Album

Ulster v Wasps

Ulster v Wasps Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Crusaders

OMD live at Mandela Hall

OMD live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Ards

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August began for me at Wilgar Park, seeing Linfield take on Dundela in a Friendly.

The following night, was another Pre-Season Friendly, as I was on the road to see Manchester United take on Sampdoria at Lansdowne Road.

That weekend, I was travelling some more, heading to Edinburgh for a weekend away, getting some Street Art photos and taking in Edinburgh City v Montrose.

When I returned home, I was out getting some Street Art photos, the aftermath of Hit The East Festival in Eats Belfast.

The following weekend, the Irish League season started, with Linfield taking on Carrick Rangers at Windsor Park, followed by a midweek trip to Ards and a trip to Dungannon Swifts.

As soon as the final whistle blew at Stangmore Park, I was straight back to Belfast to see Amy MacDonald perform at Custom House Square.

A few days later, I was back at Custom House Square to see Blossoms warm up for Kasabian, or so I thought, as Kasabian pulled out at the last minute.

A few days after that, I was back at Custom House Square, to see Ocean Colour Scene in concert.

The following day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My photo adventures for August ended by getting snaps of murals of Jimmy Cricket, Jimmy Nesbitt, Jimmy Young and Carl Cox.

Dundela v Linfield

Manchester United v Sampdoria

Manchester United v Sampdoria Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Montrose

Edinburgh City v Montrose Photo Album

East Belfast Street Art

East Belfast Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Amy MacDonald live at Custom House Square

Amy MacDonald live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Blossoms live at Custom House Square

Blossoms live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Ocean Colour Scene live at Custom House Square

Ocean Colour Scene live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

The Three Jimmys and Carl Cox

The Three Jimmys Photo Album

Carl Cox Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March 2017 began for me with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders in an Irish Cup tie. That was followed a few days later by my first concert of 2017, seeing Blossoms at The Limelight.

It was then back to football for a Monday night match between Linfield and Cliftonville, and then returning to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ards.

I was then out on the trail of Street Art, getting photos of a mural of a Dancer in Belfast City Centre.

The following weekend, I headed to Fermanagh to see Linfield get a late win against Ballinamallard.

I then headed out again in search of Street art, getting photographs of a new mural of East Belfast legends.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Norway in a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Blossoms live at The Limelight

Blossoms live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

The Dancer

The Dancer Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

East Belfast Wall Of Legends

East Belfast Wall Of Legends Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-0 ARDS 28.10.2017

It has been 20 years since Ards beat Linfield. It felt like 20 years since Linfield beat anyone, with a sole League Cup win over Ballinamallard being sanwiched inbetween three successive League defeats and a Scottish Challenge Cup exit.

As well as being 20 years unbeaten against Ards, Linfield had amassed some high scoring wins such as 4-0 (multiple times), 5-1 (multiple times), 5-0 (multiple times), 7-0, 5-2 and 7-2. Just a scrappy 1-0 would have done today.

Crusaders expected win over Ballinamallard made this even more of a must-win game for Linfield, especially with Coleraine and Glenavon having games they were expected to win, which they did.

Linfield made four changes to line-up from Monday night. I even made a line-up change myself, binning my lucky scarf after three successive defeats. There’s no room for sentiment in football.

Linfield lined up with a 4-4-2, but with Andrew Mitchell playing in right midfield, another case of trying to shoehorn three centre midfielders into two positions, especially with Ross Clarke and Stephen Fallon on the bench.

In the opening minute, there was already more fluidity in Linfield’s attacks, with Matthew Clarke and Jordan Stewart linking up down the left. Clarke’s crosses caused panic in Ards defence but Linfield were unable to take advantage.

Still in the early minutes, a misplaced pass played in David McAllister, who saw his shot saved by Roy Carroll when it looked certain he would give Ards the lead.

I’m not even sure if it could described as a shock lead, as having won their last two games, Ards were the form team prior to kick off.

Louis Rooney thought he was going to head Linfield in front, only to see the ball deflect away from him.

It was becoming frustrating for Linfield. If they could get an early goal, they could really build on it. With each passing minute, Linfield were facing the paradox of it being a long afternoon while time was also running out.

Andrew Waterworth was next to be frustrated as he was played in behind Ards defence with only the keeper to beat. It wasn’t a clear opportunity to score, with the keeper rushing out, he had to get a foot on it and send it goalwards. He did just that, but the keeper was quickly out to smother it and deny him.

A few more weeks and a few more games behind him, it might have been 1-0 to Linfield.

Mark Haughey then shot wide from inside the box as the first goal continued to elude Linfield.

It almost came for Ards when a misplaced pass fell to Guillaume Keke, but he was denied by Carroll.

Having come out to deny Waterworth, it was Chris Casement who was fruastrated by Ards keeper Aaron Kerr coming out to make himself big.

Eventually the goal came. There was nothing sophisticated about it, a cross in, bodies in the penalty area, with Jordan Stewart getting enough space and time to set himself up to blast home.

You could see the relief all around Windsor Park.

As the second-half kicked off, Linfield needed a second goal, especially when Keke headed well wide from a free-kick in the early minutes.

That came on 52 minutes when Josh Robinson headed home to make it 2-0. Even though Linfield had gifted Ards two first-half opportunities, that was the three points realistically secured.

David Healy certainly thought so, despite the events at Solitude a few weeks back, bringing on Cameron Stewart and Aaron Burns for Andrew Waterworth and Louis Rooney.

With Rooney and Waterworth both making their way back after injury, it was an opportunity to rest them both, especially with a County Antrim Shield meeting on Monday night.

At least Linfield will be facing the same opponents and won’t be disadvantaged in terms of turnaround time. I’d expect a lot of changes to the starting line-up for this game.

I won’t be at that game as I usually give midweek cup games a miss, plus i’ll be at Liam Gallagher. Have I mentioned that i’m going to Liam Gallagher? I’m going to Liam Gallagher on Monday.

He’s coming back to Belsonic next June on a Saturday night. That is not going to end well. And the World Cup is on.

Healy was justified in bringing on some subs, as the game meandered to a comfortable Linfield win, with Healy bringing on Stephen Fallon as his final sub.

With ten minutes remaining, there was a moment of worry for Linfield when Roy Carroll was forced into a double save. In doing so, he was well off his line when the ball fell to Gareth Tommons outside the box, who fired just wide.

Thankfully, as it would have made the final ten minutes nervous, especially as Linfield had taken their foot off the gas and didn’t look like they were able to pick it up again.

That was it, 2-0 and a return to winning ways. The big fat 0 next to Ards name is a positive. Quite how it was achieved, I don’t know. If we continue to give opponents clear opportunities like that, we won’t be so lucky in the future.

Hopefully, Jordan Stewart will now be able to get a run of games, and that includes the big games, not being sacrificed for more defensive players.

It would be nice if he could be joined by a more attacking minded player on the right. Andrew Mitchell is a decent footballer, but he’s not a right winger.

The next run of games gives us an opportunity to build some momentum ahead of a big run of games in late November. If we continue winning through November, at worst, we’ll be seven points behind Coleraine and closer or possibly above Glenavon and/or Crusaders.

The next two League games against Ballinamallard and Ballymena are essential, especially when there will be guaranteed progress if they win those two.

Next Saturday, Coleraine travel to Glenavon, while the following Saturday, Crusaders are inactive due to playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Six more points, and Linfield’s League position will be looking a lot better by the time Coleraine visit Windsor Park on November 18th.

Small progress today but back to winning ways. I’d forgotten what it felt like.

Photo Album

ARDS 0-2 LINFIELD 15.8.2017

With three games in seven days, there isn’t much time to relax at the start of the Irish League season, as Linfield made it two wins out of two in the North Down sunshine, beating Ards 2-0, the three points being secured before the sun went down.

The only worry for some away fans was getting into the ground, as roadworks at Ballyrobert made it a one hour journey for me.

As I arrived, there was a massive queue of people in front of me, and soon afterwards behind me. Would it really have been too much effort to delay the kick-off by five or ten minutes for those who were held up?

I ended up getting my first experience of the NIFL’s new £11 admission fee, due to the increase in handing back change in coins instead of the nice round £10 fee.

I only missed about a minute of action, and thankfully, Linfield weren’t quick off the blocks.

They weren’t slow either, building up pressure and being camped in Ards half. It was a matter of time until Linfield scored. That came when Mark Haughey was able to flick a loose ball over a defender in the box, and smash the ball home from close ranger after 18 minutes.

On 28 minutes, a Paul Smyth cross found Kirk Millar to head home and make it 2-0.

The pressure continued but Ards held out to keep the score to 2-0 at half-time.

A commanding position but not a definitive lead.

You know all those cliches about 2-0 being a dangerous lead? Linfield almost found out in the early minutes of the second-half when Scott Davidson was played through and hit the post.

You know that pundit speak of “He hit it too well”? It applies here. If he scuffed it, he would have scored, he struck it perfectly and hit the post, and straight to a Linfield defender to clear.

That was Ards big moment, as Linfield went in search of that third goal to put the match beyond all doubt.

Paul Smyth and Aaron Burns came closest for Linfield.

The third goal didn’t come for Linfield, but it wasn’t needed.

Burns, alongside Stephen Lowry were substitutes in the only change to the squad from Saturday after a one game suspension.

With Cliftonville, Glentoran and Crusaders waiting in September as well as the League Cup, County Antrim Shield and Scottish Challenge Cup between now and then, strength in reserve will be key to Linfield, even if it wasn’t needed here.

Results elsewhere meant that Linfield were one of five teams with six points out of six.

It is peak modern day Glentoran that they have actually had their best start to the season in eight years …… and find themselves 5th in the table.

Linfield are tucked away in 4th.

With two of the teams above them, Coleraine and Crusaders, playing each other, Linfield travel to Dungannon on Saturday knowing that a win will propel them into the top three at least.

The reason why Linfield are 4th is due to goal difference. It could have been so much better across these two games.

Goal difference was the thing that put life in Linfield’s title challenge last season when all looked lost. Linfield knew they didn’t need to overtake Crusaders, they just had to pull level with them and let the goal difference do the work.

There’s still 36 games to make up four goals.

Whilst the goals for column could be better, there’s no complaints about goals against, two clean sheets. Defensive records usually win you titles.

Linfield only needed two goals to be sure of beating Ards, Cliftonville needed to score six just to be sure. I know what position i’d rather be in.

Thursday sees the draw for the Scottish Challenge Cup, where Linfield will face an away tie. Stranraer away please.

I was amused to see that the scorer of Elgin City’s winner was Steve Bronsky. I’ve no idea where in Scotland he’s from so I don’t know if he’s a Smalltown Boy.

That’s enough 80s pop jokes.

Unless Kris Lowe of Dungannon is thinking “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” as Linfield score another goal on Saturday.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December 2016 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers and record a routine 3-0 win.

The following weekend, was a trip to Clandeboye Park, Linfield’s first competitive game there since February 2009, a routine 2-0 win over Ards.

The games got harder and more dramatic, with a late win over Ballymena United coming the following weekend, ruining David Jeffrey’s first return to Windsor Park.

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday in 2016, it meant that the Steel and Sons Cup Final was held on Christmas Eve, which I attended. Even more of a bonus was the fact that Linfield Swifts were in it, beating Dundela 3-1 to win the trophy for the first time since 1997.

Two days later came the highlight of the Christmas footballing calendar, Boxing Day. It was a bit crap in comparison to the previous four years.

The month, and the year, ended on a high, with Linfield going to Seaview and getting a vital win in the title race.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dundela v Linfield Swifts

Dundela v Linfield Swifts Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

Not a lot of football in September, due to Linfield having a domestic game postponed due to international call-ups, and then going to England for a weekend two weeks later.

Just the two games, seeing Linfield score four games at home to Portadown and Ards.

Linfield v Portadown

Linfield v Ards

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