A very comfortable afternoon, I didn’t know what to do in the final minutes. Usually at that point when Ballymena United come to Windsor Park, Linfield are nervously holding on for a one goal win.

There were a few changes to Linfield’s starting eleven. The one that stood out was a first start for Max Haygarth after his goalscoring substitute cameo against Glenavon.

Chris McKee also came in, replacing the suspended Joel Cooper.

Linfield were camped in Ballymena’s half from kick-off.

Andrew Clarke was agonisingly unable to get on the end of a cross, despite stretching out a very long leg.

There wasn’t long to wait for a Linfield opener, when Eetu Vertainen intercepted a cross aimed for Max Haygarth, just as Haygarth was readying himself to shoot, which looked like it would have been a certain goal.

Instead, Vertainen took the ball, created space for himself and fired home. Just as well as he would have been getting a lot of questions if he didn’t score.

After that goal, Linfield continued to be camped in Ballymena’s half.

However, it would be Chris Johns making the next save of the game, low down after an opportunity presented by a defensive miskick.

The scare woke Linfield back into life, and they were 2-0 up soon afterwards when Andrew Clarke was played through by Chris McKee and his low cross was finished from close range by Eetu Vertainen.

At 1-0, Ballymena might have found a way back into the game, but that was never going to happen at 2-0. The points were as good as in the bag.

You could have been forgiven for being a bit confused as to who Linfield were playing

Ballymena’s all orange/peach away kit is a bit Glenavon. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one confused as to who Linfield were playing.

Chris McKee would be frustrated twice in a matter of seconds.

First when his fierce shot was saved by Sean O’Neill, with Andrew Clarke unable to follow up. The play that followed saw a cross come to him, but his volley went just past the post.

Despite the quick flurry of frustrations, it was a quality performance from McKee, having been brought in for the suspended Joel Cooper.

2-0 at half-time, Linfield were in a commanding lead. Just one more goal would make sure of it.

Thirty seconds was all it took for Linfield to get that goal, when Vertainen finished a cross from six yards out to complete his hat-trick, his second for the club.

If there was any doubt before, the points were now in the bag for Linfield.

Unsurprisingly, the game didn’t have the same intensity, especially with a third successive midweek fixture list on the horizon.

Linfield took the opportunity to make some substitutions, with Cameron Palmer, Conor Pepper and Ethan Devine all coming on.

They were then followed by Niall Quinn and a debut for Ryan McKay, recently signed from Dundela.

Linfield’s best chance of making it 4-0 came when Daniel Finlayson got a foot on the end of a free-kick, but his effort was saved by Sean O’Neill.

Three was enough. A routine win for Linfield and an opportunity to rest players ahead of a midweek trip to Seaview.

It was a result that kept up David Jeffrey and Ballymena United’s awful recent record at Windsor Park.

This was Linfield’s fifteenth successive home League win for Linfield over Ballymena United.

For David Jeffrey, the last time he won a match at Windsor Park (Don’t even bring up the 2020 Irish Cup Semi-Final against Coleraine, that was a draw) was when he was manager of Linfield.

Since then, it is two draws and sixteen defeats at a venue he used to always win at.

On the weekend of this game, I decided to book to go away for my birthday in February. Not football specific but would be nice to catch a game if I could.

I had the misfortune to be born during School Half Term, so flight prices were extortionate.

Not that they are much better any other time. Something to bear in mind the next time you hear someone from the industry crying about how they are having such a tough time.

Oh it definitely is Covid and Ukraine and nothing to do with charging £40 for hold luggage.

The only place with reasonably priced flights was Gatwick, so I booked to head to Brighton for a few days.

It wasn’t a football trip, but I later realised i’ll be there during the FA Cup 5th Round.

Brighton got through, but got drawn away. Of course.

But Brighton can be put on the backseat for a few weeks. My next trip will be to Seaview.

Photo Album


November began with a trip to Shamrock Park to see Linfield eventually beat Portadown by a score of 3-0.

By this point, I was using up Annual Leave, so I went on a day trip to Dublin and got some Street Art photos.

That was then followed by two trips to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville and Glenavon.

Another Linfield match, this time on the road, to Ballymena.

The next day, I made the most of a football free Saturday morning to head to Lisnabreeny Hill to get some Sunrise photos.

Then that night, I made my first visit to the newly rebuilt Mandela Hall to see John Power in concert.

November ended with two Linfield matches, both at home, against Larne and Crusaders.

Portadown v Linfield

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glenavon

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisnabreeny Hill

Lisnabreeny Hill Photo Album

John Power live at Mandela Hall

John Power live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Crusaders


September began with a trip to Ballymena to see Linfield get their season back on track with a 4-0 win at Ballymena.

Football then took a break for a bit, but I was back on the road, and visiting a new ground as Linfield travelled to Moyola Park in the League Cup.

More travelling followed, not as far, three days later as Linfield faced Crusaders at Seaview.

Having a football free Saturday, I got up early for a long overdue trip to Giant’s Ring to get some photos as the sun was coming up.

Two days later, was an unexpected Public Holiday, so I headed on the North Down Coastal Path, starting at Helen’s Bay for a change, making my way to Bangor West. I think.

On the following Saturday morning, I made a long overdue return to Belvoir Park Forest before heading to Windsor Park at teatime to see Northern Ireland face Kosovo.

My final adventure of the month was a first concert since June, to The Odyssey to see George Ezra.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Moyola Park v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

Giant’s Ring/Terrace Hill Gardens/Minnowburn

Giant’s Ring/Terrace Hill Gardens/Minnowburn Photo Album

North Down Coastal Path

North Down Coastal Path Photo Album

Belvoir Park Forest

Belvoir Park Forest Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Kosovo

Northern Ireland v Kosovo Photo Album

George Ezra live at The Odyssey

George Ezra live at The Odyssey Photo Album


The first weekend of March 2022 saw me visit Carrick to see Linfield win a rearranged game, then the following morning, head up Cavehill.

Then the rest of the month was Linfield matches, against Ballymena United, Crusaders, Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town.

With the match against Warrenpoint Town being a lunchtime kick-off and the weather being nice, I decided to head to Warrenpoint Beach for some photos. I also headed to Carlingford, but I didn’t get any photos there though.

The month ended with my first Northern Ireland match in over two years, the friendly at home to Hungary.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield


Cavehill Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Costa Del Warrenpoint/Costa Del Carlingford

Costa Del Warrenpoint/Costa Del Carlingford Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album


2022 began with a trip to Dungannon on New Year’s Day to see Linfield win 6-1 at Stangmore Park.

On the Bank Holiday Monday that followed, I could have had a lie-in, but I decided to head up Cavehill instead.

I then visited a new football stadium for the first time, very exciting, going to see Harland and Wolff Welders take on Annagh United at Blanchflower Park, which had opened a few months earlier, this was my first chance to visit this ground.

The rest of the month, was Linfield matches, against Larne, Ballymena United, Glenavon, Cliftonville and Coleraine.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield


Cavehill Photo Album

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United Photo Album

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glenavon

Cliftonville v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield


No fuss, no drama, just three points. That’s all you really ask for when you go to Ballymena.

This was Linfield’s second visit to Ballymena this season.

When they last arrived in Ballymena, they were in a better position in the table but a worse run of form. Now they were on a better run of form but in a worse position in the League, mainly due to a shocking run of results inbetween.

Five wins and a draw in their last six games had seen Linfield get to a Cup Final and a Cup Semi-Final but not make much advances in the League.

Crusaders defeat to Ballymena United four days previously had given Linfield an opportunity to leapfrog Crusaders into the dizzy heights of 4th, even if it was on a temporary basis with Crusaders playing the following day.

Joel Cooper was still missing, joined by Andrew Clarke, with Chris McKee continuing up front, hoping to get off the mark this season.

In the early minutes, Chris Johns was forced into a save, albeit a comfortable save, from a header from a corner.

There was then a moment of worry when a neatly placed shot went just wide.

You really don’t want to go 1-0 down away to Ballymena due to how little time the ball stays in play. Ballboys are hard to find in that vast space behind the goals.

Linfield responded with a period of pressure, and it looked like it was going to be rewarded as Cameron Palmer lined up a shot, but it was deflected over for a corner by a Ballymena defender.

It only delayed a Linfield goal. From the resulting corner, Jimmy Callacher headed to Chris McKee to volley the ball into the net to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Linfield were now on top, but needed a second goal.

Although, as long as they didn’t do anything stupid, they should be ok.

Lost possession resulted in a Ballymena attacker getting a clear strike on goal.

He was through on goal but there were too many defenders around to have a run at goal.

A poor kickout from Chris Johns almost put Linfield in trouble, but they were able to survive that situation.

Thankfully, there wasn’t long to wait for a second goal, when Jimmy Callacher poked home from a corner.

Surprisingly, it was his first goal of the season.

You become so used to him popping up with goals, you expect him to have had a few already in the bag by mid November.

Deep down you knew, that the points were in the bag for Linfield.

Just as long as they didn’t do anything stupid.

There was never any danger of that happening. The only net that looked like being troubled was Ballymena’s

A neat attacking move saw the ball fall perfectly for Chris McKee. He got the power but not the direction as the ball went well over.

Jamie Mulgrew was then played through on goal and looked certain to score but was fouled as he looked to around the keeper, penalty given.

Despite the inevitable cries for a red card, that was never going to be the case. Mulgrew was too wide and there were enough defenders running back for it to be considered a clear goalscoring opportunity.

There was me thinking Mulgrew needs to preserve his energy, and here he is running forward like a man half his age,

Chris Shields had scored a penalty on his previous two visits to Ballymena, and was looking to complete a hat-trick.

Not this time, as his strike hit one post, then rolled across and hit the other. His first penalty miss for Linfield.

You were so used to him scoring, the crowd was already celebrating when he struck the ball, they didn’t know how to react when they realised the ball wasn’t going in.

Kyle McClean got caught out by it as he followed up, only the realise the ball had gone away from him and he wouldn’t be putting the rebound into the empty net.

It probably wasn’t a bad thing. He was due a miss, might as well have it when it doesn’t matter.

Eetu Vertainen then was unable to get on the end of an Ethane Devine cross.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but Stephen Fallon was an unused substitute. It was only when I read about it in the programme for the following Tuesday’s game.

It would have been nice if Linfield could have got a third goal to give them a comfortable enough margin to bring him on for the final minutes to give him some game time.

Two goals was enough.

Another win ticked off ahead of two big home games.

Photo Album


It’s much more fun winning in the rain than losing in the sun.

After recent bumps internationally and domestically, Linfield got themselves back on track with an emphatic win on a wet day in Ballymena.

The end result might see them lie 5th in the table, but in a position to pounce if others slip up.

With August being an emotionally and physically demanding month balancing domestic and international ambitions, a midweek without a game allowed an opportunity to clear heads and gather focus.

Europe is gone for this season, but that is the aim again, and the only way you get into Europe is through your domestic results.

With a postponement and a defeat since their last League win, Linfield had a bit of catching up to do.

They’ve been there before, in 2019.

They responded to that European exit with a clean sweep of wins in September.

Linfield went about repeating that with some decent build-up play, spending a lot of time in Ballymena’s final third, but with no real end product.

It felt like they were trying to scored the perfect goal. Taking too many touches.

Ballymena were concerned by getting the ball in by any means.

It looked like they were looking for an opportunity to shoot from long range as soon as it was possible, or to win a set piece and try and get lucky that way.

Linfield weren’t even giving them that opportunity.

One thing you don’t do at Ballymena Showgrounds is give the home side a lead to defend, especially with the vast wilderness behind the goal and lack of Ballboys.

You won’t be restarting the game for a while when you need time to be on your side.

Time was on Linfield’s side as they looked to take a lead. Joel Cooper had a shot from the edge of the box tipped over.

A neat passing move didn’t get the goal it deserved as Stephen Fallon lunged for the ball on the stretch, his effort going over.

Despite their dominance, it did look like it was going to take a moment of inspiration or a mistake for Linfield to open the scoring.

It turned out to be a mistake.

As the half neared it’s end, it was Cooper who gave Linfield the lead when a header back to Sean O’Neill was too short, Cooper finding himself through on goal, no time to think, just to put it in the net.

0-0 at half-time wouldn’t have been a disaster, you would still have been confident of Linfield winning, but this was a very welcome development.

Linfield definitely needed that goal. A second before half-time would have been just as welcome.

That was probably me being greedy, but that is Linfield delivered as injury time approached. Don’t ask, don’t get.

Stephen Fallon worked his way into a crossing position on the left hand side, hesitancy in Ballymena’s defence meant the ball fell to Kirk Millar who smashed it home.

A solid half for Linfield. No drama, just working towards getting the three points.

It was unsurprising that Ballymena would have some sort of response at the start of the second-half.

When I say “response”, it was having some of the ball in Linfield’s half though there was no real danger of a goal.

I am the sort who worries about conceding when the opposition have the ball, even if the keeper has the ball in his hands on his own goal line. A third goal would be nice just to be sure.

For some reason, I had though at some point over the last ten years, Linfield would have blown a 2-0 lead at Ballymena.

It just sounds like something that is believable. We have blown 1-0 leads a few times.

Nope, I was just worrying too much. A few scares, with 3-2 wins after being 2-0 and 3-1 up in 2014 and 2020.

There was a 2-2 draw after being 2-0 up at home in 2013. Thankfully, I missed that game due to having a weekend away in London.

It never looked like being a repeat of that at any point.

Joel Cooper was unable to get on the end of a cross as Linfield searched for a third goal.

They would soon have an opportunity for that third when a penalty was awarded for a handball.

Penalty misses, still a sore point for Linfield fans.

Not on this occasion, as Chris Shields slotted the ball home to secure the three points.

I say that with confidence at this point. Ballymena didn’t even look like getting one, nevermind three.

Soon after, another Stephen Fallon run down the left set up a goal, with Robbie McDaid getting a long awaited first goal for Linfield.

The goal got the biggest cheer of the afternoon, a bigger cheer than a goal to go 4-0 up in a routine victory usually gets. Linfield fans were with him after a difficult start.

Although, it’s worth pointing out, that Linfield have played eight games against teams better than what they face domestically.

There had been no faulting his performances, workrate or effort so far.

Now the first goal has come, hopefully, more will follow.

McDaid and Linfield both kickstarting their 2022-2023 season in style.

A special mention for Stephen Fallon’s two assists as well.

There was another similar incident while it was 0-0 that didn’t result in a goal.

Unsurprisingly, the game meandered with the result beyond doubt.

Linfield took the opportunity to make some changes and brought on a lot of strikers.

Their presence didn’t result in a fifth goal that would have added some extra gloss to an already impressive afternoon.

One real attacking moment for each side, with Jimmy Callacher blocking a shot and Chris McKee being denied.

It was a weekend where there were no shock results.

The table is already taking shape with the Top 6 pulling away from the rest, so far beating the Bottom 6.

Well, with one exception. Fuck sake Linfield.

Although, I don’t think Linfield will be the only Top 6 team to slip up against Carrick this season.

An enjoyable away trip for Linfield. They’d better get used to them.

This was the second of three in a row. Then after the home match against Glenavon, was scheduled to be five in a row, but a rescheduled home match against Larne just announced breaks that up slightly.

One away trip i’m planning is Moyola Park in the League Cup. I’m looking forward to it, i’ve never been there.

Unfortunately, I won’t be going to Buckie Thistle away as i’ve already purchased a ticket for Northern Ireland v Kosovo the same day.

Even without that, it’s not the easiest place in Scotland to get to.

It is a tie we should be winning though.

No trip to Florence though in midweek to follow this.

Still not over it yet.

Photo Album


January 2022 began with a trip to a very wet Stangmore Park to see Linfield put six past Dungannon Swifts.

I then treated myself the following week with a trip to a match as a neutral, and to a ground I had never visited before.

Blanchflower Park was the destination, my first opportunity to check it out since it opened, to see Harland and Wolff Welders take on Annagh United in the Irish Cup.

Three days after that, it was off to Seaview for the County Antrim Shield Final between Linfield and Larne.

It was back to Windsor Park on the next two Saturdays for Linfield’s home matches against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The month finished with two away trips for Linfield, to Cliftonville and Coleraine.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United Photo Album

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glenavon

Cliftonville v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield


It was hoped that December’s football watching would begin at Lansdowne Road, but I had to make do with Coleraine Showgrounds. It doesn’t really matter where you watch your football as long as you’re watching Linfield win.

Although, Linfield did undo that with a draw at home to Warrenpoint Town the following Saturday.

And then, they made up for it by beating Larne away for the first time since 2008, and then beat Ballymena United to go top for the first time all season.

Before undoing that by drawing at home to Glentoran on Boxing Day.

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glentoran


At this time of year, it’s all about results. If the result at Carrick glossed over the performance, there was no faulting this performance with ten men at a ground where they had lost on their last two visits.

The starting eleven was much changed, although I assume it was due to injury with no place for Kirk Millar, Conor Pepper or Jake Hastie in the matchday squad.

That meant a return to the starting eleven for Niall Quinn, but still 3-5-2 as Linfield have gone from no left-backs to no right-backs.

Mike Newberry was back on the bench which was welcome, even if he wasn’t fit to start.

There was also a return for Chris Johns in nets.

Not much happened in the opening minutes of the game as both teams were working their way into the game.

Ballymena offered a bicycle kick from Leroy Millar while Linfield’s response was an effort from Christy Manzinga which just wide of the post.

Hitting the ball just wide of the post wasn’t recommended at this venue with no stands or Ballboys behind the goal, meaning that Sean O’Neill would be popping off to Fairhill Shopping Centre to retrieve the ball.

Of course, not a word from the Referee.

Christy Manzinga was getting involved in personal battles with Ballymena players, who were targeting him.

It looked like Linfield might take the lead when Chris Shields got on the end of a header, but the ball went over.

Stephen Fallon went close when he got on the end of a cross but his effort went over.

Eventually, the opener came, and it was in bizarre fashion.

A free-kick from Kyle McClean evaded everybody, and ended up being put into the back of the net by a Ballymena defender. It was a most welcome gift.

If you can’t be good, be lucky.

Now that they had the lead, Linfield were looking to kill the game off.

It looked like that was going to come when Christy Manzinga was played in but his low shot was saved by Sean O’Neill.

That would prove to be Manzinga’s last involvement in the game, as he would be sent-off for tangling with and raising an arm at a Ballymena defender. No action was taken against the Ballymena player having him in a headlock.

Despite the provocation, he needs to do better and not engage in personal battles and be wound up by opposition players. Just stick the ball in the back of the net. That’ll shut them up.

As this was his second straight red card of the season, I presume that will be at least a four match ban, meaning he will miss the first Post-Split game, potentially against Cliftonville or Glentoran.

Of more immediate concern, was that Linfield were now up against it in a tricky game, having just got themselves in front.

The one consolation was, that it was close to half-time, meaning there wasn’t long for Linfield to see out and have a chance to regroup.

That wasn’t how the game went, as the final minutes of the half saw Linfield camped in Ballymena’s half, with a succession of corners that caused worry for Ballymena.

Because of the circumstances, and the importance of winning this game with the title race so tight and the two teams below playing each other, Linfield needed a big second-half. Certainly far better than the second-half at Carrick a few days earlier.

An improvement was what we got from Linfield, making the most of the ball when they had it, working themselves further and further up the pitch, and working the opportunities for themselves.

There was very few wasted passes.

If you walked into the ground at half-time, and somebody said to you “It’s 1-0 to Linfield and there’s been a red card”, you would have assumed it was for Ballymena. They couldn’t get the ball no matter how much they ran to get it.

Linfield were also making the most of their set pieces. There was a notable improvement. Though they didn’t score from one in the second-half, they were all beating their man, causing Ballymena problems and keeping the move alive.

Most importantly, Ballymena weren’t getting a sniff at the other end, reduced to speculative long range shots.

Despite that, Linfield still needed a second goal, just to be safe.

Although, they didn’t need to score, just not concede.

As well as controlling the ball when it was in play, they were controlling the ball when it was out of play, dictating the pace of the game.

By this point, the Referee decided he was going to address the matter of timewasting, having ignored it by Ballymena players in the first-half when the score was 0-0.

All we ask for is some consistency. That is all.

With just over ten minutes to go, Linfield got an opportunity to put the game beyond doubt.

Jamie Mulgrew worked space for himself out wide. His cross was blocked by a Ballymena defender. There were screams for penalty for a handball, not for me, but the ball fell for Mulgrew who charged at goal before being brought down.

Absolutely no doubt about this one, a clear penalty.

The responsibility fell to Chris Shields, who has a perfect record from penalties, which is always a worry. You fear he will miss one eventually.

This was one that could not be afforded to be missed. My pessimism was misplaced. He made no mistake to make it 2-0.

You could sense the atmosphere changing, the tension had gone, Linfield fans were now singing and rejoicing, belting out “We are top of the League” without fear of contradiction at full-time.

The job wasn’t totally done. It had only been a few weeks since Ballymena came from a similar deficit at a similar stage of the game to get a point against Cliftonville.

As Linfield continued to restrict Ballymena’s sights on goal, there was never any danger of that happening.

The performance with ten men was even more impressive due to the lack of subs. In truth, making a change would have been making a change for the sake of making a change.

Eventually, there were a few substitutions, as Linfield looked to rest a few legs due to the next game being three days away.

Special mention for Stephen Fallon, who appeared to be everywhere. Not even joking, I swear he played a fifty yard pass to himself.

Linfield were able to see the game out with no drama. This is not the time of year for drama, it’s the time of year for results, not drama.

Talking of results, elsewhere, Cliftonville beat Glentoran 1-0.

A draw would have been perfect, but as long as Linfield won, they could have taken a positive from a winner.

That positive being that they’ve extended their lead at the top from goal difference to a whopping one point, with Glentoran a further two behind.

There wasn’t much time to revel or celebrate this result, as Crusaders would be heading to Windsor Park in just three days time.

Photo Album