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

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Linfield v Portadown

Carrick Rangers v Harland and Wolff Welders

Carrick Rangers v Harland and Wolff Welders Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Bangor v Ards

Bangor v Ards Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

After a two month break, my football watching for 2014-2015 began in early July, with the World Cup still going on (on the night of the first two Quarter-Finals) in Bray.

I was over there for a concert, and decided to take in a game as there was one on while I was there, a bottom of the table clash between Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United.

Carlisle Ground is a nice stadium for watching football in when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was raining. A lot.

It was still an enjoyable game, with Drogheda winning 3-1.

On the night of the now infamous World Cup Semi-Final between Brazil and Germany, I was at Mourneview Park for the UEFA Cup tie between Linfield and B36 Torshavn, my first experience of seeing a Warren Feeney managed Linfield team in the flesh.

The following week, I was back at Mourneview Park again, for the next round against AIK, to see Linfield secure a fantastic 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat meant Linfield’s European hopes were over for another year.

Two days later, I was Bangor bound, as Linfield used Clandeboye Park for a friendly against Cowdenbeath.

My main reason for going was to check out the facilities at Clandeboye, which had recently had some renovation work and a new 3G pitch.

That was my football watching for July, the league season not long away from starting. It was great to be back watching football.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

BANGOR 2-3 ARDS 27.12.2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon afterwards, Bangor had a goal disallowed for offside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Album

2014 IN PICTURES – JULY

July began for me with a trip to Dublin, then Bray, primarily for a concert headlined by James and Paloma Faith, a bit of football to see Bray Wanderers, and some Dublin Street Art.

The following week, Linfield’s season was back up and running with the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against B36 Torshavn at Mourneview Park, my first time seeing Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

A 1-1 draw was enough to giver Linfield a tie in the next round against AIK, again at Mourneview Park, where and Andrew Waterworth goal secured a 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat in the away leg eliminated Linfield.

Two days later, it was back on the football wagon for Linfield’s friendly against Cowdenbeath. The only reason I went was to see Clandeboye Park, after having had some work done.

The month ended with another Wonder Villains gig, an instore at HMV.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

James – Live At Killruddery

James – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

Wonder Villains Live At The Loft Photo Album

LINFIELD 0-1 COWDENBEATH 19.7.2014

Last time I went to Bangor, it had a grass pitch and was called Clandeboye Park. In the 14 months since my last visit, it has had a 3G Pitch installed, had some renovation work done, and been renamed the Bangor Fuels Arena as part of a sponsorship deal.

With Windsor Park out of use, Bangor Fuels Arena was the venue for Linfield’s “Home” friendly against Cowdenbeath. A trip to the Seaside in the middle of July? That sounds good. We were treated to typical Northern Ireland summer weather ……… pouring rain.

Less than 48 hours after the UEFA Cup game against AIK, this was a much changed Linfield team, 11 changes in fact.

I knew what sort of team to expect, but my main reason for going today was to see what Bangor Fuels Arena Clandeboye Park was like.

Obviously, the pitch was done, and had a Seaview style fence around the pitch, tarmac between terracing and the fence if supporters want to get closer, and supporters can now stand behind the end where the houses are. Though, with the weather as it was today, nobody took up that option, unsurprisingly.

The inexperience Linfield side held their own in the opening exchanges, with Ross Clarke being the focal point of the attacking.

Sometimes he lost the ball trying to do too much, but he was always trying to make things happen.

Eventually, Cowdenbeath took control of the game, creating some chances, which required some last ditch Linfield defending to deny them.

In the final ten minutes of the half, they got behind Linfield’s defence, and (just about) made it count.

Ross Glendenning hesitated, not knowing if he should stay on his line or run out to force the shot, and did neither, but the Cowdenbeath attacker crossed, and it was turned into his own goal by Niall Quinn, trying to intercept it.

Cowdenbeath stepped it up and it became important for Linfield to keep it 1-0 to half-time at least, as such an inexperience line-up could have fallen apart if the gap widened.

Linfield came out for the second-half strong, with Rodney Brown forcing a save from Cowdenbeath’s keeper, who also had to be alert as Conor McMenamin was unable to get a touch to a cross. If he did, he would have scored.

The rest of the second-half was typical pre-season fare, largely interrupted by substitutions from both teams.

Even though it was an inexperience Linfield team, there were still first-team players. In a departure from recent seasons, friendlies have run alongside European games, instead of being announced once elimination has been confirmed, meaning that players such as Ross Glendenning, Ross Clarke, Mark Haughey, Jimmy Callacher and Niall Quinn are getting game time ahead of the start of the domestic season.

Linfield had a late rally but couldn’t get a goal that would have secured a deserved draw, and Cowdenbeath’s travelling fans celebrated the win.

Hopefully, next year, there’ll be a return fixture.

Photo Album