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

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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

LINFIELD 1-0 BALLYMENA UNITED 26.8.2017

Just as they did when they kicked-off their last game at Windsor Park, Linfield kicked off against Ballymena United playing catch-up after Friday night results.

Two weeks ago against Carrick, they knew they had to win by a specific margin to go top. Against Ballymena, any win would do thanks to Glenavon’s draw against Glentoran.

In the space of a week, Five clubs at the top with perfect records was now just two, Coleraine and Linfield, with Coleraine already successfully navigated matchday four.

This season, nobody has stayed at the top of the league for long.

Crusaders went top after their first match before being replaced by Cliftonville, before Crusaders went top again three days later, only to replaced by Glenavon four days later, who only lasted six days before being replaced by Coleraine.

Even if Linfield did go top, that would only last seven days due to them not being in League action next week.

Both teams had contrasting starts to the season. Linfield had three wins out of three and three clean sheets while Ballymena had only one point from three games and eleven goals conceded.

Those stats suggested a routine home win. Reality would suggest otherwise.

The early stages of the game saw Linfield having a lot of the ball. A lot. There were some Linfield players who had touched the ball more times than Ballymena’s entire team.

Despite that, Linfield couldn’t make the most of it.

Whilst the score was 0-0, we were treated to the trademark Ballymena tactics of timewasting and cynical foulind, Jim Ervin and Kyle Owen being the worst offenders.

Everytime a Linfield attack came to an end, Ballymena’s keeper was out berating his defence. Except, it was all for show, anything to kill a bit of time. The referee fell for it on every occasion.

Paul Smyth, the centre of a lot of attention today on and off the pitch fired a low cross which evaded everybody, while a run and shot was saved by Conor Brennan in Ballymena’s goal.

There would be more emphasis put on Smyth when Jordan Stewart went off injured and was replaced by Aaron Burns.

Ballymena made a rare venture into Linfield’s defensive third when a Joe McKinney shot was saved by Roy Carroll.

Aaron Burns was unable to get a touch to divert a wide shot from Robert Garrett into the net, before shooting from a wide angle when a cross was the better option.

Linfield’s last chance of the half came when Mark Stafford fired over from a “Tottenham Corner”.

0-0 at half-time was the first time Linfield had failed to score a first-half goal in the League this season. Even more amazingly, it maintained Ballymena’s record of not conceding a first-half goal in the League this season.

As the half-time whistle blew, the tannoy blasted out Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers for those going to the concert at Custom House Square (there was someone sat near me who had an SLF badge on their coat) after the game.

We were all agreed that we wanted and Alternative Linfield in the second-half.

Ballymena had the first attack of the second-half when Roy Carroll was forced into a save from a Kyle Owens shot, before Linfield began to take control of the game.

Mark Haughey had a goalward header cleared. It looked like it was going wide to me, but the Ballymena defender couldn’t take the risk.

Ballymena will have been glad that Jimmy Callacher wasn’t playing, having scored in three of the five meetings last season, but Mark Stafford had scored in Ballymena’s last three visits to Windsor Park, and he was eager to make it four out of four.

Paul Smyth had a long range effort tipped over, before his gentle through pass set through Andrew Mitchell, who was fouled just as he set himself up to shoot. Penalty to Linfield.

Having scored at Dungannon last week, Mitchell made no mistake again to give Linfield the lead.

The only person in Windsor Park probably not celebrating was Cameron Stewart, who was getting readied to come on, only to be sent back to the dugout when the penalty was awarded and then scored.

You always had the feeling that Ballymena were so content on stopping Linfield, they would know how to react if Linfield got the lead and Ballymena had to take the intitiative and get a goal.

How Ballymena reacted was to lose their heads, with Andrew Burns being sent-off for a two footed lunge.

Despite 1-0 being a fragile lead, there was never any danger of Linfield not holding on.

That said, 4-5-1/4-3-3 doesn’t really work for Linfield, even allowing for Andrew Waterworth being injured restricting striking options.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably have to put up with it until there is a bad result or an injury crisis, like in November last season.

While this game was 0-0, the game was crying out for Cameron Stewart’s introduction in place of one of the three centre midfielders.

Having set up the penalty that won the game, it was perhaps apt that the final touch of the game was from Paul Smyth, holding on to the ball and securing the win for Linfield, as he looks set to sign for QPR on Monday. Good luck to him. Hopefully he’ll be back at Windsor Park soon in a Northern Ireland shirt.

To be honest, the word “Hopefully” wasn’t really needed in that sentence.

An immediate loan back would be great, as would a friendly at Loftus Road. I can dream.

With the game in the balance, he couldn’t be subbed for an ovation, he just got it at the final whistle instead.

He will be a loss but there are players who can come in and make the most of the opportunity presented to them, such as getting Ross Clarke back to full fitness and on form.

In anticipation of Smyth’s departure, Linfield have signed Louis Rooney from Plymouth. I know absolutely nothing about him, so, um ………

This week saw the confirmation that Spartans will face Linfield in the Irn-Bru Cup. The issue between them and Albion Rovers should have been resolved before the draw took place.

For future reference, perhaps the 1st Round of the competition should take place a week or two weeks earlier in order to allow supporters of the teams who have to travel to and from Scotland a chance to make arrangements.

Thankfully, Linfield are running a bus to the game for fans. Edinburgh? More like Edinblue.

Before Spartans, is the League Cup tie against Distillery, which will hopefully be used to allow the likes of Robinson, both Clarkes, Deane, C Stewart and Glendenning a chance to get some gametime ahead of a busy month.

With Coleraine facing Glenavon next Saturday, that guarantees Linfield will be knocked off the top of the table while they are Edinburgh.

Up next in the League is Glentoran on September 9th and our annual stupid home draw against them.

Might as well get it out of the way early on.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : TOTAL FOOTBALL – SUMMER 2004

Three models in the kits of England, Northern Ireland and Wales is the cover image of Total Football, with all three home nations in the same World Cup Qualifying Group starting in a few months.

In news, the Northern Ireland team have announced a kit supplier deal with Umbro, and a sponsorship deal with Nationwide.

There is a profile of new Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and the impact he has already had in his first three games in charge.

There is a profile of Irish League referee Andi Regan, as she gets ready to head to Greece to officiate at the Olympic Games football tournament.

Having just made his debut for Southampton, Alan Blayney gets profiled where he reveals he had spent a period of time training with Glentoran the previous year after suffering from homesickness.

Another player leaving Glentoran for full-time football in England was Andy Smith, who had just signed for Preston North End, and he gets a full page profile.

The models in the cover make a reappearance as they review the new kits of both local and national sides.

Getting ready for a second season of top flight football, Ballymena United manager Kenny Shiels gets interviewed.

Over the page is an interview with Loughgall manager Jim Gardiner, as the club gets ready for their first season of top flight football.

In news, Linfield have announced a shirt sponsorship deal with Umbro to run alongside their kit supplier deal.

Linfield are one of three clubs, the others being Glentoran and Portadown, whose upcoming European ties get previewed in a double page feature.

There is a double page feature with new Cliftonville manager Liam Beckett as he gets to grips with the job at Solitude.

The magazine ends with a preview of the Milk Cup.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, a match which resulted in a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Linfield.

It was then the Irish Cup for me, heading to The Oval to see Linfield get an extra-time win over Glentoran.

The following Saturday, another away game for Linfield, this time to Glenavon, and another 2-1 win for Linfield.

It was back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My football watching for the month ended with a trip to Stangmore Park to see Linfield secure a 4-1 win against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield