PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April’s football watching began with a trip to Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday to see Linfield grind out a 3-2 win away to Glenavon.

That was followed on the Saturday afterwards by going to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

Good start to the month, but that was as good as it got, as Linfield could only managed one point from their next three games against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville, which would cause them to eventually miss out on European football.

There was only one match for me in May, a trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Watford.

And that, was the 2017-2018 over for me.

Here’s to more football and photos in 2018-2019.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football watching began with a long trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield beat Ballinamallard 6-0 in the pouring rain.

Up next, was Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off against Switzerland. The following day, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield take on Ballymena, giving me two disappointing results on successive days.

Results took an upturn in the final weeks of the month, as I headed to see Linfield beat the top two in the League, Coleraine and Glenavon, in successive weeks.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

August’s football watching began at Wilgar Park to see Linfield take on Dundela in a friendly. The following day, was another Pre-Season Friendly, but in different surroundings, as Manchester United took on Sampdoria at Lansdowne Road.

That weekend, I was in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival. While there, I make an effort to attend a game, and I saw Edinburgh City v Montrose while I was there.

Upon my return, was the start of the Irish League season, and I was out for Linfield’s opening week of matches against Carrick, Ards and Dungannon.

My football watching for the month ended by seeing Linfield take on Ballymena at Windsor Park.

Dundela v Linfield

Manchester United v Sampdoria

Manchester United v Sampdoria Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Montrose

Edinburgh City v Montrose Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

LINFIELD 2-0 BALLYMENA UNITED 7.4.2018

A late run of form saw Ballymena claim the last place in the Top Six ahead of Glentoran. It wasn’t just the obvious opportunity to laugh at Glentoran having a second successive season of Bottom Six football. Having paid for a Season Ticket last summer, and liking to watch my pennies, having three home games and not having to go to The Oval today was also a positive.

A week long break after that win over Ballinamallard killed Ballymena’s momentum, and they couldn’t recover it on Easter Tuesday, losing 3-0 at home to Cliftonville.

That win for Cliftonville, combined with Linfield’s win over Glenavon meant that 3rd place Glenavon and 5th place Cliftonville were separated by two points, with Linfield sandwiched in 4th, level with Glenavon.

Depending on the result of the Irish Cup Final, 3rd place could guarantee an automatic place in Europe next season. Every point is vital, Linfield had to grab three of them today, especially with Glenavon and Cliftonville travelling away to the top two.

Linfield were unchanged from Tuesday night’s game. A bit surprising, as Jimmy Callacher was available after serving a one match ban, Josh Robinson kept his place, with Callacher on the bench. Robert Garrett was serving the second game of his two match ban.

Not a lot happened in this first-half, but what did happen, Andrew Waterworth was involved.

He had Linfield’s first attempt on goal, creating space for himself before firing over, as well as having a goal disallowed for offside. Looked it, so no complaints.

Waterworth also got himself a yellow card for shoulder barging a Ballymena player who accused him of diving, four days after a Glenavon player didn’t even get a yellow card for pushing him over.

That’s the sort of consistency we love from Irish League Referees.

Trying to goad Linfield players seemed to be a tactic by Ballymena in the first-half, with several of their players trying to gang up on Kurtis Byrne after a collision with Jim Ervin. Thankfully, Linfield players didn’t take the bait.

Linfield had to make a first-half sub when Niall Quinn went off injured, replaced by Stephen Fallon.

Conor McCloskey had the only first-half shot after a run, which was easily and spectacularly saved by Roy Carroll, for the benefit of Photographers.

Linfield needed to step it up in the second-half, especially when they digested the half-time scores from elsewhere.

Glenavon were 1-0 down away to Crusaders, which meant that Linfield would jump above them, but Cliftonville were 1-0 up away to Coleraine, meaning they would now be level on points with Linfield, and have a lot of momentum going in their favour.

There was a scenario pre-match where a 0-0 draw for Linfield and a 4-1 win for Cliftonville would see Linfield and Cliftonville level on points with identical records. Linfield’s part of that “bargain” was lookign very likely to happen.

Mark Stafford was involved in the early minutes of the second-half, producing a goal saving tackle as Matthew Shevlin looked set to finished after a run. Minutes later, he headed home from a corner to put Linfield 1-0 up in a game where the first goal was vital.

There were a few corners before that which went right to the penalty spot area. Either nobody attacked or a Ballymena player got their first. All Linfield needed was for one of their players to win it, and they were going to get their reward.

It was also an unexpected consequence of Niall Quinn’s absence. The corner came in from the right hand side, with Kirk Millar taking it due to no left footed set piece takers on the pitch, an outwsinger, where it would have been an inswinger if Quinn was on the pitch.

Roy Carroll was forced into a couple of saved from long range shots, as Linfield needed a second goal.

That almost came from a shot from Kurtis Byrne from outside the box, but it was tipped onto the post.

He got it a few minutes later when Kirk Millar kept the ball in on the byline, going forward to Andrew Waterworth close to the corner flag. He waited for the moment to cross, and did so just as Byrne was running through, finishing from close range to give Linfield the points.

Byrne and Waterworth were replaced by Achille Campion and Louis Rooney, with Campion and Rooney combining to create a chance for Stephen Lowry, who couldn’t bundle the ball home from close range. It didn’t matter.

Results elswhere took a dramatic turn, with Glenavon coming from behind to get a draw at Crusaders, while Coleraine came from behind to get a late win against Cliftonville.

That means that Linfield are now 3rd. I can’t remember the last time they were that high. Most importantly, they have a five point lead over Cliftonville with nine points to play for.

Net Saturday, Cliftonville are at home to Glenavon. A draw would be perfect. Whatever the result, Linfield can pull clear of one or both of them with a win at Seaview.

Although results against Crusaders this season have been poor this season (being kind), there’s no reason why Linfield can’t go to Seaview and win.

Crusaders are in a rut, they’ve only won two of their last five games.

If we go there, get stuck in, attack them, and make sure we defend properly, we are more than capable of getting the three points. Basically, just do everything we haven’t done against them this season. Linfield are the form team of the two, relatively speaking.

So, a win, a clean sheet, and other results went our way. That’s what I would call a good day.

Linfield won’t win the League this season, but they will have a big say in who does, with Crusaders and Coleraine coming up next. Hopefully, we’ll have the biggest voice in who finishes 3rd.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER 2017

November began with a long trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard. It was raining goals and raining rain as Linfield won 6-0.

From going West, it was going East that was next on my agenda, as Northern Ireland took on Switzerland with the aim of going to Russia. They lost 1-0.

The following day, it was a trip to Ballymena, to see Linfield lose 2-1.

The following Friday, the entertainment was of a musical variety, as The Killers came to The Odyssey.

The photos continued on a musical theme, getting photos of a Run DMC mural in Belfast, as well as some Street Art beside Apache.

It was back to football, seeing Linfield beat Coleraine and Glenavon.

The last day of the month saw me cycle to Lisburn to get some Street art photos, including a mural of Top Cat.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

The Killers live at The Odyssey

The Killers live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Run DMC/Apache Mural

Run DMC Mural Photo Album

Apache Mural Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art 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 – APRIL

April began for me with a trip to Lurgan for the Irish Cup Semi-Final, to see Linfield secure a late 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

The following weekend was another 1-0 win for Linfield and just as important, a League win against Crusaders that blew the title race wide open.

April saw the launch of a new mural in Belfast City Centre, in the Cathedral Quarter, which I went and got photos of.

On Easter Saturday, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield beat Ballymena 2-0.

On Easter Monday, I cycled to Lisburn to get some Street Art photos from the City Centre.

The following night, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield secure vital win over Glenavon.

On the following Saturday, the football continued, heading Coleraine to see Linfield beat Coleraine and finally get to the top of the Irish League.

Towards the end of the month, a mural of The Two Ronnies appeared in Belfast City Centre, so I headed out to get photos of this.

The penultimate day of the month saw me head to Solitude where Linfield needed to avoid defeat in order to win the Irish League. It didn’t look good at half-time, but a Andrew Waterworth hat-trick in the second-half saw the trophy head to Windsor Park.

Immediately after the game, there was a celebratory event at Windsor Park so that supporters unable to get into Solitude could join in the celebrations. Naturally, I was there getting photographs.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Pure Here, So It Is

Pure Here, So It Is Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

And It’s Goodnight From Me

And It’s Goodnight From Me Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2017 began for me in Manchester, heading over to see United take on Hull City, while also getting some Street Art photos.

Back in Northern Ireland, I was on the road to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute in the Irish Cup.

The next day, I was out on my bike for my biannual (usually February and August) visit to Belfast Peace Wall to get some photos of the Wall Art on the walls.

The following Saturday, another road trip, to Carrickfergus to see Linfield at Taylor’s Avenue

The following weekend, it was back to Windsor Park for Linfield, and a disappointing draw against Portadown.

The morning after, I was out on my bike to get photos of a Jamie Dornan mural in Belfast City Centre.

Later that day, it was another cup final, the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena and Carrick.

The following weekend, I was Oval bound to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Be My Valentine

Be My Valentine Photo Album

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

2017 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

George Michael Mural

George Michael Mural Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Princess Leia Mural

Princess Leia Mural Photo Album

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-1 LINFIELD 10.11.2017

With Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders not in League action this weekend, the trip to Ballymena was a must win game which presented them with an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table. Defeat means that next Saturdays game against Coleraine at Windsor Park is more about staying in the title race rather than becoming actively involved in it.

There were two enforced changes from the starting eleven against Ballinamallard the previous week with Roy Carroll (International Duty) and Josh Robinson (Suspension) being replaced by Gareth Deane and Mark Stafford.

It didn’t take long for Linfield to take the lead in this game. Just three minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Robert Garrett who fired home low from outside the box to put Linfield 1-0 up.

It looked like it was going to be the first of many for Linfield as Ballymena looked nervous in defence, panicking and needlessly conceding cheap throws and corners. They looked like they were going to gift Linfield a goal at any time.

More Linfield pressure followed. Stephen Lowry had a shot cleared off the line and Kirk Millar fired over from a similar position to which Garrett scored.

Garrett tried his luck again from outside the box, but it was turned around the post by Ross Glendenning.

Inbetween that, there was a brief flurry from Ballymena. The best effort was a free-kick that Gareth Deane dropped it out for a corner when he should have held it. The resulting corner was headed over, reminding Linfield that this game was far from won.

Linfield led 1-0 at half-time and it could have been more. The game was far from won. A second goal should have been enough.

Linfield never got going at all at the start of the second-half, and it was no surprise when Conor McCloskey equalised from a long range free-kick.

The response was immediate, and Josh Rooney had a chance, but he toepoked wide, the finish of a player who is struggling for goals.

On the hour, Ballymena took the lead when a goal kick was flicked on for Johnny McMurray to spectacularly score from long range.

There’s no doubt it was a world class finish, and a video of the goal has been doing the rounds all over the internet.

However, from the defending team’s point of view, there have to be questions about the goalkeeper’s position (from an opposition goal kick) and why a defender close to him wasn’t immediately putting him under pressure as soon as he got the ball.

Linfield had their chances to equalise. Jordan Stewart fired over from inside the box just after Ballymena scored. He really should have scored.

Aaron Burns came on for Louis Rooney as Linfield searched for a comeback win. They closest they came was when a Mark Stafford header was saved by Glendenning.

That was the problem. Ross Glendenning was making saves, but he wasn’t making top class saves. They were just saves. Saves that you would expect any goalkeeper to make.

Linfield couldn’t get any momentum going.

Brandon Adams was brought on for Chris Casement. The Killers might not be in Belfast until the following Friday. Linfield fans were hoping that this would be the Friday night for Brandon to shine.

Kirk Millar fired wide on his left foot when he should have hit the target.

The problem when you miss the target at Ballymena is that it takes and age to get the ball back. Ballymena weren’t slow in slowing the game down, as Ballboys seemed to be reluctant to distribute the ball to restart the game.

Once again, another referee made a mug of. A referee who gave Andrew Waterworth a talking to for scoring when he was flagged offside, but stood and did nothing when Ballymena players were slowing the game down.

We need to get smart to this. We need to be getting in officials faces and making sure they act on it and stop giving teams a chance to kill games. Opposition players aren’t slow in letting the ref know if a Linfield player looks at them funny.

If Linfield could get an equaliser, they would surely go on and win the game. The problem was, getting that equaliser.

With each passing minute, Linfield’s ambitions were being downgraded to wanting an equaliser to be the springboard to winning the game, to just getting an equaliser to salvage something from the game.

That wasn’t helped when Robert Garrett got sent-off for a second yellow card in the final minutes.

Those final minutes saw five minutes of injury time. It could easily have been six.

There were plenty of stoppages in those five minutes, but only an extra five seconds were played. The game ended as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

The League table doesn’t make good reading as Linfield have now dropped to 5th after Cliftonville’s win over Ballinamallard. The ambition this weekend was to get closer to the top, not fall further behind.

It’s hard to explain. Linfield had enough chances to win. It sounds simple, but we need to take our chances and concentrate throughout the entire game.

There’s a November 2015 vibe about this current run. Games are being decided by small margins. This one was decided by two freakish top class goals.

The damming truth was, that when Ballymena went 2-1 up, we were hoping Linfield would get back into the game rather than expecting it.

Up next in the League is Coleraine and Glenavon. They were already must win, they are even more so now. It was a scrappy 1-0 win over Coleraine that got us out of a rut in the Winter of 2015 and kickstarted a run of form. We just need something to go our way.

With this win, Ballymena moved up to 7th, creating a damming statistic that 8th placed Dungannon are the highest ranked team that Linfield have beaten away from home in the League this season.

There’s a good starting point. How to fix it though?

It is in contrast to last season’s away form, where they last failed to win in November 2016, winning 16 successive games in all competitions. That statistic doesn’t include 2 games on neutral venues.

The big fear is, that this result might see a return of 451 in forthcoming matches.

Elsehwere, i’m in Manchester on the midweek of FA Cup 2nd Round Replays (I’m seeing United v Bournemouth on the Wednesday) and the draw has given Rochdale, Crewe and Wigan away games. Hoping for one of them to draw and play on the Tuesday night.

It is interesting to note that Crusaders Scottish Challenge Cup Semi-Final will be on 17th or 18th February. The NIFL Cup Final is scheduled for 17th February. There could be a major storm brewing if Crusaders reach the final of it.

Linfield could do the NIFL a massive favour by beating Crusaders on Wednesday night in the Quarter-Final.

They could give themselves a big one as well.

Photo Album