It was a win, but it was a tough watch. That’s all that matters, especially when there were two meetings between Top 6 teams and coming off defeat at The Oval. To say that Linfield will have to play a bit better in upcoming matches is generous. They will have to play a lot better.

Following defeat at The Oval, there were a lot of changes for Linfield, with welcome returns in defence for Jimmy Callacher and Ben Hall, with a first start for Ryan McKay and Max Haygarth being brought in on the other side.

Sat in position ready for the game to start, the Referee signalled for the teams to switch sides, meaning I had to get up and powerwalk to the other end.

The same thing happened when Carrick were at Windsor Park in December, and I got into my seat just in time to see Eetu Vertainen put Linfield 1-0 up.

I would miss a dramatic start again, of sorts, as I took my new seat just in time to see Robbie McDaid receiving treatment. Hearing the screams as he received treatment, it became obvious that a substitution was imminent.

So it proved, as Chris McKee came on, hoping to carry on from his performance against Cliftonville the previous week.

McKee had Linfield’s first big chance of the game when he controlled a through ball but his right foot saved by Ross Glendenning.

He would have been better smashing it with his left foot, but the way the ball was bobbling about, he was glad just to get any sort of shot on goal.

Ryan McKay would be next to be frustrated when he was played in but his left foot shot was saved at point blank by Ross Glendenning.

This was the sort of game where it was obvious that Linfield needed to get a lead as soon as possible. The longer it stayed 0-0, the more the frustration would set in.

Just like Robbie McDaid, Ryan McKay’s afternoon would end prematurely through injury, Joel Cooper replacing him.

Not wanting to miss out, Carrick even had a player go off injured.

It all added to the stop-start nature of the game. Carrick were skilled in winning cheap free-kicks. It felt at times, like a Linfield just had to look at a Carrick player to concede a free-kick.

In the few actual game time there was, Linfield weren’t really offering much. No urgency on the ball, if they managed not to lose it, as most of the time, first touches were just giving the ball to Carrick.

It soon became obvious that the first goal of this game was going to be key. If Linfield had got it, especially when McKee and McKay were denied, it could have been the springboard for a comfortable afternoon.

If Carrick got it, that didn’t bear thinking about. You just didn’t feel that Linfield had it in them to come back.

Unsurprisingly, with all the injuries, we had ten minutes of injury time at the end of the first-half. Linfield’s previous half of football only had ten seconds.

Ten minutes felt like a punishment for the crowd. Ten more minutes to wait before doing what they do at half-time.

Nothing of note happened during these ten minutes. Barely anything of note happened in the forty-five that preceded it.

Linfield responded with a double substitution, Ethan Devine and Kirk Millar coming on for Andrew Clarke and Max Haygarth.

It had to get better from Linfield. It didn’t. The expected response from a half-time rollicking didn’t materialise.

Eventually, Joel Cooper had an attempt on goal but was frustrated when he created space for himself but his low shot was easily saved.

Cooper would be making an impact on the game soon afterwards, setting up Eetu Vertainen to fire home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

The way the game had been going, everybody expected the pass to Vertainen to bobble, or for his shot to go well over the bar. It was one of those games.

As mentioned earlier, the first goal was going to be so important in this game. Thankfully, Linfield had it.

Chris Shields would be frustrated as his shot flashed just wide.

With only a one goal lead, this was looking like “One of those games”. You know what I mean. Late Carrick equaliser, too little time for Linfield to reply. This was something we could really do without.

Kyle McClean came on as a substitute for Eetu Vertainen. Not a change I would have made but what do I know, it paid dividends within a few minutes.

Linfield had a free-kick in a shooting position. Many had expected Ethan Devine to hit it, having scored one against Larne in October.

It was McClean who hit it, into the back of the net to secure the points.

For the first time all afternoon, the locals could relax.

After that, the game meandered as it finished 2-0 to Linfield.

Results elsewhere weren’t kind.

The draws that were hoped for didn’t materialise, with home wins for Crusaders and Larne.

Famous last words, but Coleraine look like they might be the first victims of the February Bloodbath.

There’s a danger that Larne might start to run away with it.

That’s why winning by any means is so important, the keep the pressure on Larne and Cliftonville and to stay ahead of Crusaders and Glentoran.

To keep on winning, it’s going to have to be a lot lot better.

Photo Album


December began with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a tip to Telegraph Building to see Blossoms in concert.

A spell of frost descended on Belfast, but now snow. I was all psyched up for snow photos, for nothing.

There was then a football free weekend for me, with Linfield in Scotland.

The following weekend, I headed to Ulster Hall to see Ash in concert, followed by Linfield’s home match against Dungannon Swifts.

As you will have noticed, there is still a week of the month left.

What I have planned is Bangor v Dunmurry Rec, Glentoran v Linfield, a walk up Cavehill and possibly Lisnabreeny Hill.

Here’s to more phototaking in 2023 and beyond.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Blossoms live at Telegraph Building

Blossoms live at Telegraph Building Photo Album

Ash live at Ulster Hall

Ash live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts


August began with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on FC Zurich.

That was followed two days later by a trip to Spelga Dam for a stroll around Mourne Mountains.

Sunday was the new day for football, going to see Linfield take on Portadown and Newry City.

It was then back to Thursday nights for Linfield v RFS. The less said about that game, the better.

The end of August was a Bank Holiday Weekend, which I spent walking, with trips to Cavehill, Blackhead Path and Lisnabreeny Hill.

Sandwiched inbetween that was a trip to Taylor’s Avenue to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v FC Zurich

Mourne Rambling

Mourne Rambling Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Newry City v Linfield

Linfield v RFS


Cavehill Photo Album

Blackhead Path

Blackhead Path Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Lisnabreeny Hill

Lisnabreeny Hill Photo Album


Another win, and finally some progress, as Linfield moved up to the dizzy heights of 3rd.

Larne’s win at Glenavon on Friday night meant that the three points were needed simply to keep in touch, it would turn out that defeats for Glentoran and Cliftonville would mean it was about that and overtaking others.

Linfield’s starting eleven saw a return for two absentees, with Joel Cooper back from injury and Eetu Vertainen from suspension.

With both teams ready to start the game, the Referee signalled for a change of ends.

Fuck sake. As someone who likes to sit where Linfield attack, that mean a fast walk to the other end of the South Stand which is a bit of a task as I am full of chocolate.

You know the drill when this happens, no goals in the first minute.

This was an arrangement that Linfield kept to, but only just.

As I had just taken my seat, I was up out of it straight away as Eetu Vertainen got on the end of a Matthew Clarke cross with just ninety seconds on the clock.

A welcome development in a game like this. As Linfield found out in August, you don’t give a team like Carrick something to defend.

Despite the setback, Carrick didn’t capitulate and had a few attacks of their own in search of an equaliser.

A few of those attacks came from fouls on Linfield players clearing the ball not being given.

You know it’s bad when a free-kick for Linfield is universally met with sarcastic applause.

Linfield looked to capitalise on their early lead, and looked set to go 2-0 up as Ethan Devine set himself to head in, but it was saved from closed range at the expense of a corner.

There wasn’t long to wait for that second goal as Jimmy Callacher was allowed to run with the ball, and used the time and space to play in Eetu Vertainen to make it 2-0. One of those where you knew he was going to score as soon as he got the ball.

Robbie McDaid curled a shot wide and Joel Cooper had a goalbound shot blocked, the block taking the sting out of the shot so the ball could be saved at the expense of a corner as Linfield went in search of a third goal.

Despite that, 2-0 was a satisfactory half’s work.

Most of the second-half, the game meandered and became a non event, the League Cup Semi-Final against Glentoran looming large and the object being to get through this without doing anything stupid and save energy for the trip to The Oval.

David Healy took the opportunity to make use of his bench, with Chris McKee, Cameron Palmer and Liam McStravick all coming on.

Suddenly, Carrick Rangers got back into the game when a speculative shot that was going well wide suddenly became a great pass for Ben Tilney, who made no mistake to make it 2-1.

Suddenly, we had a game.

You could hear the collective groans around Windsor Park. This wasn’t supposed to be happening.

There was still ten minutes to go, plenty of time for Carrick to grab an unlikely point.

As the game entered it’s final minutes, there was never any danger of Carrick getting an equaliser, but you can never be too confident when there is only one goal in it.

Especially as Carrick scored from a wayward shot that suddenly became a great pass.

Those of a nervous disposition weren’t helped by there being five minutes of injury time.

Their mood was improved during that injury time when Robbie McDaid was played through and made it 3-1. Points definitely in the bag now.

The best thing about this game? Not cringing at Balloon Unity, or whatever the fuck they are called, making arses of themselves.

I can’t remember the last match I went to where I didn’t cringe at the shite they sing. An embarrassment we can do without. The sooner we get rid of them, the better.

I’m long past the point of tolerating them, or even trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. They’ve proven time and time again that they can’t be trusted to behave themselves.

We’re all going to be punished for their shitty behaviour and I won’t be dragged down by them.

I’m sure they’ll embarrass themselves and every single one of us some time soon. Might as well enjoy this one.

As one of five teams at the top, getting four results in our favour every week is a tough ask, but two will do.

Up to third now, cutting the gap at the top gradually.

Small steps.

That’s the League on hold for a while for Linfield and a good way to send off ahead of two cup games.

The first of those, was an easy 3-0 win at The Oval to go through to the League Cup Final.

I was going to go, but having missed the County Antrim Shield Semi-Final a few weeks back, I was worried about jinxing them so I didn’t go.

You can all thank me for that result.

I’ll definitely be at the Final.

One of two Cup Finals to look forward to in 2023.

Hopefully, six points in the two League games that remain in 2022 will give us a title challenge to look forward to as well.

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


It turned out to be the week that Linfield made history, although i’m not sure that a first defeat to Carrick Rangers since 1987 was what they had in mind.

Due to their European exertions, Linfield had fallen a match behind, not playing in the recent midweek fixture list.

As this match was put back to the Sunday, they were now two games behind rivals. The league table is now beginning to take shape, with the Top 6 being who you would expect it to be, starting to pull away from the rest.

The Top 4 were all separated by one point, Linfield kick-off 6th but would jump up to 2nd with a win, just one point off the top.

With a game in hand as well.

It was Carrick who had the first chance of the game when a mishit clearance fell to Curtis Allen who fired over when you expected him to score.

Eventually, Linfield started getting into their rhythm, and it looked like a matter of time before they took the lead.

Joel Cooper scuffed a shot wide before Ethan Devine headed wide on the stretch.

Kirk Millar was next to be frustrated when he created space for himself but his shot went just.

It looked like it was only going to be a matter of time before there was a goal.

Within a few minutes, there was, but to who you expected, as Carrick went 1-0 up when a speculative effort from Andrew Mitchell ended up in the back of the net.

It might look spectacular on the TV footage, but I was behind the goal at the other end and could see that it was going wide until it hit Jamie Mulgrew and changed direction.

So, it looks like it’s going to be one of those weeks then.

No need to panic. If Linfield could carry on playing as they were in the minutes leading up to the goal, they would be fine.

The problem was, they didn’t. There was no instant response.

Linfield’s first real chance fell to Andrew Clarke on the stretch after a flick on. He didn’t really do much with it, other than scoop the ball in the air.

Ehane Devine then headed across goal from a cross from a few yards out. It was already looking like one of those days.

Carrick did have ventures in Linfield’s half, when they weren’t taking an age over goal kicks and throws, as Curtis Allen had a low shot from the edge of the box that needed to be turned around for a corner.

As the half neared it’s end, David Cushley did a foul worthy of a yellow card whilst on a yellow card, meaning that would be his last involvement in the game.

After he was sub at half-time after getting a telling off from the Referee.

Of course, a Linfield player would be treated so leniently.

Linfield’s performance in the first-half was a strange paradox. They had a lot of chances without looking like scoring, but it would be hard to see them not scoring in the second-half.

If that makes sense.

Joel Cooper was having an off day and Kirk Millar wasn’t getting much out of Ben Tilney. As a result, there was no real attacking fluidity or cohesion from Linfield.

The start of the second-half didn’t see the expected onslaught from Linfield in it’s opening minutes.

Eventually, on the hour, Linfield got an equaliser when a Carrick defender missed a header, which gave Ethan Devine a clear view of goal, and he smashed it low into the back of the net.

Now to push on and get a winner.

Well, not quite, as Carrick replied with an effort stabbed goalwards from a corner.

A few minutes later, Carrick were back in front when Linfield couldn’t clear a throw, which fell for Emmett McGuckin to smash home to make it 2-1.

This was looking like a repeat of the game against Ards in 2018.

David Healy unsurprisingly turned to his bench, bringing on as many attacking players as possible to get an equaliser. It was hard to see what formation
they were playing.

One of those subs, Robbie McDaid, hit the bar from six yards out when the ball was pulled back to him.

Carrick also managed to survive a goalmouth scramble. Looking like one of those days.

And so it proved, as Carrick held out for a win.

Despite the chances created and missed, it’s hard to make a case for saying that Linfield deserved to win the game.

You can use Europe as an excuse, but they weren’t doing the basics right.

The last time Linfield got so close to Group Stage Football, in 2019, they dusted themselves off and won four successive games in September.

Europe is gone. I can be generous and write this off as a blip.

Let’s not make it a habit.

Photo Album


March’s football watching began with a trip to see Linfield labour to a narrow win over Carrick Rangers.

The following weekend, that was followed by another laboured win, this time at home to Crusaders with a dramatic injury time winner.

That was followed by a more comfortable home win, against Dungannon Swifts.

Then is was a road trip on a beautiful sunny. The weather didn’t match the football, but Linfield did manage to scrape a late win away to Warrenpoint.

The month saw me make a return to watching Northern Ireland, in a new location in the Railway Stand, for the friendly against Hungary.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album


November 2021 was a mixed bad for Linfield with away trips, to Portadown, Crusaders and Glenavon.

Oh, and there was a home match against Cliftonville sandwiched inbetween that, before a midweek home match against Carrick Rangers on the last day of the month.

Portadown v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Carrick Rangers


October’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville on the very first day of the month.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by two road trips, to Warrenpoint and Larne for two Linfield matches.

The month ended where it began, at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts


Having been postponed last week, Linfield fans had to wait six days for this game.

Was it worth the wait? Well, they got three points, which is the only positive you can take from a match that was every bit as uncomfortable as the scoreline suggests.

Despite two wins from the previous two meetings this season, Linfield would have been well warned that Carrick would be difficult opponents.

The game in October was decided by a four goal blitz in ten minutes while the meeting in November was decided with a late penalty and an even later counter attack settled the game in Linfield’s favour.

And, of course, Linfield’s last visit to Taylor’s Avenue was a barely deserved 1-1 draw.

There were no Linfield fans at that game. There were no Carrick fans at it either. Such was the way things were in early 2021.

Although there was a County Antrim Shield meeting in October 2020, for most Linfield fans, this would have been their first visit to Taylor’s Avenue since March 2020.

It was a different world back then, on a day that would be the day the football stopped, without a single ball being kicked in Northern Ireland again until the Irish Cup Semi-Finals in late July 2020. Linfield weren’t involved, let’s not talk about that.

That day, I was talking to someone I hadn’t seen in a while, who told me he had just retired and was planning to use his free time going to more Linfield matches, while I walked past Rohan Ferguson, who missed the match through injury, telling a supporter that he would be fit to play against Larne the following weekend.

Nobody saw it coming.

When the postponement was announced, this was the obvious date to reschedule the game with both sides having a free weekend due to both sides being out of the Irish Cup.

Naturally, a Saturday would have been perfect seeing as this game was no longer going to be streamed.

With the weather being so good, I could have made a day of it by heading to Whitehead for a late morning stroll before the match.

Unfortunately, it would be Friday night, i’m guessing Linfield weren’t too bothered by that as they could claim it gave them a slight advantage over Ballymena United regarding their next match four days after this, with Ballymena playing on Saturday afternoon, and then into Saturday teatime with their Irish Cup tie against Larne going to extra-time and penalties.

When the game was originally scheduled, it presented Linfield with an opportunity to go three points clear at the top. With the postponement, and wins for Glentoran and Cliftonville, it meant Linfield were now trying to keep up instead of setting the pace. A win would have sent them top.

Linfield lined up 3-5-2, 3-4-3. Not for me. Maybe brought about through necessity with no left-backs, but hopefully the return of Niall Quinn will see the end of it.

Just three minutes was all it took for Linfield to take the lead when a cross from Jake Hastie was diverted into his own net by a Carrick defender.

Getting an early goal in a match like this was perfect, but it was just one minute later than the goal Shayne Lavery scored to put Linfield 1-0 up in a live Sky game at the same venue in February 2021. Linfield ended up having to settle for a barely deserved point. A warning, it it was needed.

If you were hoping for that goal would be a springboard, you would be wrong, as the ball was spending far too much time in the air in the minutes afterwards.

There was a point midway through the first-half where you realised that it actually wasn’t that great a performance, the early goal had just left a deceptive feeling that things were going great.

It looked like Linfield were going to get that second goal when Chris McKee followed up after a Kyle McClean shot was saved but he was denied by a last gasp tackle.

There was a handball appeal for Linfield (I didn’t have a good view of the incident) and there were brief celebrations when the Referee’s whistle blew after an appeal. Those celebrations were premature as it turned out he was stopping the game due to two Carrick players lying injured in the goalmouth.

Soon afterwards, it was 2-0 to Linfield, and it was Jake Hastie involved, three successive goals he has been involved in.

He worked his way into a crossing position from a short corner, the ball falling to Chris McKee after a scramble, and he backheeled it home.

McKee wasn’t being showboaty, it was all he could do on the ground with his back to goal.

It doesn’t matter how they go in, as long as they go in. Linfield now had a cushion.

A few minutes later, Christy Manzinga headed home to make it 3-0, but the joy was short lived as the offside flag went up.

If it did count, that would surely have been the game in the bag.

It looked like there would be an opportunity for a third when there was a penalty appeal after Conor Pepper tangled with Ben Tilney. I didn’t think it was to be honest. I would have happily accepted it though.

2-0 up at half-time without a vintage performance, now Linfield needed to kill the game with goal difference being so key. Glentoran won on this matchday by two goals so it was important for Linfield to at least match them.

The situation is so tight, that one big win for Glentoran against compliant opposition would blow away Linfield’s advantage in an instant. Every goal counts.

Forget about the goal difference, Linfield needed a third goal to just kill the game, ensure that there was no drama.

It looked like that was going to come when Christy Manzinga was played through on goal, but his low shot was saved by the legs of Carrick’s keeper.

A header that had to be cleared off the line by Chris Shields should have served as a warning that this game wasn’t won yet for Linfield.

It was a warning that was ignored as Jordan Gibson created space for himself and fired in off the post.

Suddenly, there was now a game on, and the last twenty minutes weren’t going to as comfortable as hoped.

You couldn’t say it wasn’t coming. Linfield were coasting, hoping to get away with doing the bare minimum.

Doing that at 2-0 was always a risk. You can get away with it at 3, 4 or 5-0 up.

In response, Linfield brought on Niall Quinn, Ethan Devine and Eetu Vertainen.

However, it was Carrick who had the last big chance of the game, an effort which hit the side netting.

Stood at the opposite end, it was enough to cause concern amongst Linfield fans.

They weren’t helping themselves. Far too often, Carrick’s defence and keeper weren’t put under pressure when on the ball, enabling then to set themselves up to launch the ball upfield.

As a result, there were quite a few scary moments for Linfield. All it needed was once bounce to fall Carrick’s way.

Thankfully, Linfield were just about able to see the game out and win 2-1.

However, it was a performance that was very concerning. They won’t get away with a similar performance in upcoming games against Ballymena United or Crusaders.

Two games that are massive. They all are at this time of year, but these two especially are.

While Linfield are at Ballymena, Glentoran and Cliftonville face each other at The Oval.

Guaranteed points droppage below Linfield that they simply have to take advantage of.

You could take a positive if there was a winner at The Oval, but Linfield simply have to win in order to be looking at what the best result is.

If they do that, they play first in the next matchday, an opportunity to put pressure on rivals before they play on Saturday.

Meanwhile, i’ve booked a weekend to Edinburgh for early May, the weekend of the Irish Cup Final, which i’ll have no interest in.

I may take in a football match there (No fixtures confirmed yet as it is post-split and Play-Offs) but it’s not specifically a football trip.

Let’s hope I go there with Linfield having another title in the bag.

Photo Album