PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Ballymena on the first of the month and a top of the table clash, which Linfield lost 2-1.

Thankfully, the rest of the month did get better, including the following Saturday, where Crusaders were disposed of 4-1.

Postponements meant I wouldn’t be at another match for two weeks, as Linfield drew 0-0 with Glenavon, though it was still better than Crhistmas shopping.

The next match was a bit decent, as Linfield thrashed Glentoran 4-0 on Boxing Day.

The month, and the year, of football watching ended with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield secure a 2-0 win.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November 2018’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

It didn’t get much better the following Saturday, as I headed back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The weekend after, was a double header, the first of which was a first trip to The Brandywell, to see Linfield take on Institute. The next day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

The following weekend, it was yet another trip to Windsor Park, but finally a home win, as an Andrew Waterworth hat-trick saw off Cliftonville.

My football watching for the month ended with a midweek trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on BSC Young Boys in the European Cup, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

August began for me with the opening game of the 2018-2019 season, as Linfield travelled to Mourneview Park to take on Glenavon.

My next match was in the Scottish Challenge Cup, taking in Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers during a short break to Edinburgh.

Upon my return, it was back to Irish League football for me, with successive trips to North Belfast for Linfield, against Crusaders and Cliftonville.

Glenavon v Linfield

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

LINFIELD 5-1 CLIFTONVILLE 23.4.2019

Linfield should ask to play Cliftonville at home on 23rd April every year. This decade has already brought wins in 2011 and 2016, and 2019 brought another three points, in the most spectacular fashion of those three wins.

Linfield went into this game on the back of a 4-0 defeat against Glenavon, which though didn’t ruin the mood during the trophy presentation, it was unwelcome.

Linfield made changes from that game, reverting to close to the eleven that saw them through the final weeks to secure the title, the only two of note that were missing were Gareth Deane and Andrew Waterworth, with Conor Mitchell coming in for a League debut, while Michael O’Connor came in for a start, while Stephen Fallon and Kirk Millar came in for Andrew Mitchell and Joel Cooper.

Cliftonville’s interest in trophies ended in January, which resulted in Barry Gray being replaced as manager by Paddy McLaughlin.

McLaughlin’s start looks decent, with seven wins out of ten matches. I could be cynical that four of those wins came against bottom six teams, plus it is really hard to assess wins against Coleraine and Crusaders, who are seeing out the League season.

They did beat Glenavon, which is something that Linfield haven’t done in their last three matches though.

Whatever your take on Cliftonville’s form, they had momentum, which is handy as they aim to get ready for the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Even though the result wouldn’t affect either team’s position, they both had reasons for winning. If Linfield avoided defeat, if would be the first season since 2011-2012 that they didn’t lose at home to Cliftonville. Cliftonville wins at Windsor Park have been far too common in recent years.

Another one, would represent a change in fortune against Linfield this season for Paddy McLaughlin. His previous three games as manager of Institute have seen 0-3, 0-5 and 1-4 defeats.

It felt like a County Antrim Shield game, such was the sparseness of the crowd. I even helped myself to a padded seat in the second-half. If I hadn’t seen such riches ………

It wasn’t that surprising, with the trophy presentation already taking place.

The protocol was that it should have taken place after this game, but having it against Glenavon was the right choice, though I think TV might have had a say (No complaints there) as a Saturday afternoon made it easier for families to attend, and people would have longer to enjoy the celebrations in an afternoon than an evening.

I was a bit surprised when the split games were announced that Games 37 and 38 weren’t switched, so that both Linfield and Ballymena United would be at home on the final game on a Saturday, to make it easier to present it to whoever wins it.

The early minutes of the game saw a lot of Linfield pressure, which was rewarded when a cross from Jordan Stewart was headed back by Michael O’Connor, who was in too wide a position to score, to set up Daniel Kearns to put the ball into an almost empty net.

There may be a dispute (I think it was officially awarded in Joel Cooper’s favour) about a goal against Dungannon Swifts in September, so this was officially his first goal at Windsor Park, as a Linfield player.

Linfield continued to dominate but needed a second goal, especially when Cliftonville had a few shots on goal.

That second goal came from a Jordan Stewart cross where a Cliftonville defender seemed to leave the ball when he should have headed it away, while another stood there to let Michael O’Connor get in front of him to finish.

Soon after, a second for O’Connor and a third for Linfield when he got in behind one defender, flicked the ball past another, made himself a cup of tea, did The Times crossword and then waited for his laptop to update before finishing to make it 3-0.

A game that Linfield fans might have been worried about pre kick-off was now won just before half-time.

If there was any small amount doubt, that was eroded minutes into the second-half when Jordan Stewart dispossessed a Cliftonville defencer, ran circles around the others, before firing home.

It was a good job that he did score, Cliftonville’s defence was so focused on Stewart, they left Michael O’Connor unmarked throughout the whole move, a simple pass would have brought a certain hat-trick.

Cliftonville claimed for an offside against Daniel Kearns, it didn’t hit him. The North Stand chanted “Cheat cheat cheat”, because Cliftonville were on the verge of a comeback to win the game 4-3.

Cliftonville players started to lose their discipline. What was a relatively uneventful game was now a yellow card fest.

A 4-0 lead allowed Linfield the opportunity to make some changes. There were a few youngsters on the bench for this game, Caomhin McGuinness (First League appearance) came on for Mark Stafford, Trai Hume came on for Chris Casement, while Daniel Reynolds, who scored for Cliftonville against Linfield on the final day of last season, came on for Michael O’Connor.

Cliftonville pulled a goal back when Conor McMenamin poked home a Ryan Curran shot. They almost made it 4-2, like the score in November at Windsor Park, when a long range effort from Chris Curran hit the bar.

There was a danger that the scoreline was almost going to be respectable for Cliftonville.

In the final minutes, Kirk Millar gave the scoreline a realistic reflection of the game, finishing after being played through by Jordan Stewart to make it 5-1.

It would be the last goal scored by a Linfield player at Windsor Park this season, and a good way to sign off for the home season. Certainly a better outcome than the previous home game.

With the trophy presentation having already taken place, Linfield players stayed on the pitch for not quite a lap of honour, but an opportunity for fans to show appreciation to the players for their efforts this season.

For me, it would be my last Linfield match of the season, i’ll be giving the trip to Coleraine on the last day a miss. If it’s still on, I write this on Saturday morning and it has been pissing down constantly since I’ve got up.

Glentoran v Institute has just passed a pitch inspection as I write, so a potential fall-out from a postponement was avoided.

Elsewhere, there should be a battle on the last day between Glenavon and Crusaders for 3rd place and automatic entry to the UEFA Cup, but unfortunately the Irish League doesn’t believe in meritocracy, and instead has a Play-Off for the last League place, a reward for mediocrity.

No offence to Glentoran, Institute, Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town, who were all in contention for 7th, but it is an absolute mockery if a team can be in the bottom half all season and qualify for Europe by winning two matches.

My attitude to this has been consistent since it was introduced in 2016, it’s not because Linfield missed out last year. Thankfully, Linfield won’t have to worry about this charade.

You heard it here first, Crusaders will lose the Irish Cup Final because they’ve taken their eye off the ball for five League matches.

One of Newry City and Ards will go down automatically, while the other will face Carrick Rangers or Portadown in a Play-Off. I’ve no preference regarding who goes down, stays up or goes up.

In terms of ins and outs at Linfield, that will probably be dictated by injuries and loans. If Roy Carroll will miss the start of next season, we’ll need a back-up to Gareth Deane. Alex Moore is capable of the role, but he could benefit from another loan, so if we can get a back-up for Deane, I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore went out on loan again.

Mark Haughey missed the entire season through injury, so that situation will need to be monitored if we need another defender to come in.

I was pleasantly surprised that Mark Stafford signed a new contract as I thought he might have wanted to leave due to a lack of games. That means he won’t have to be replaced.

If Kyle McClean’s loan isn’t made permanent, we’ll need a replacement there.

I’d expect Marek Cervenka to return to his parent club at the end of his loan.

I’d expect to see Cameron Stewart to leave at the end of the season. It’s hard to see him getting many games. He’d be a handy option off the bench, but it’s probably best for both parties to part ways. We’d need another forward in that case, mainly as a third striker, as back-up to Andrew Waterworth and Michael O’Connor.

In terms of loans out, i’d expect to see Caomhin McGuinness, Ryan Strain, Daniel Reynolds and Brandon Doyle getting loaned out.

Pre-season wishlist, all away, ideally to grounds I’ve never been to or haven’t been to for a while, so any of – Moyola Park, QUB, Sirocco Works or East Belfast.

I wouldn’t mind one last trip to Tillysburn Park before Harland and Wolff Welders move to a new ground in 2020.

Would hoping for Stanraer or Ayr United away be too ambitious?

I’m heading to Dublin in July, the only confirmed match while i’m there is Bray Wanderers v Limerick, though there may be a UEFA Cup tie for Shamrock Rovers and/or St Patrick’s Athletic while i’m there, while i’m keeping an eye out if any English clubs announce friendlies.

Off to Old Trafford in a few weeks for Manchester Untied v Cardiff City. Now, I enjoyed making a weekend of it when United were in the UEFA Cup in 2016-2017, but it’s not something I want to repeat.

If Watford win the FA Cup, the 6th place team in the Premier League enters the UEFA Cup in July, so i’m already trying to get a ticket for Ballinamallard United v Manchester United on Thursday 25th July 2019.

2019-2020 will hopefully end for me in July in London. I’ll be making the most of being off for the July holidays by planning to go to London. I’ll chance getting a ticket for the European Championship Final, but i’ll hope to take in a Pre-Season Friendly on the Saturday before I head to Brighton for a few days. That’s the plan.

If I do go anywhere in the Summer of 2020, hopefully it will be after witnessing Linfield win the League for the second successive season.

Photo Album

CLIFTONVILLE 0-2 LINFIELD 29.12.2018

To be honest, 2018 was an awful year for Linfield.

However, the Irish League doesn’t run on calendar years, and the second part of the year was a lot better, giving hope that 2019 could be a good year. Linfield arrived at Solitude hoping to make the final week of the year a very good week.

The busiest time of the year, both sides were coming into this game on the back of contrasting fortunes of their games on Wednesday afternoon. The quick turnaround meant there wasn’t a lot of time to analyse the games on Boxing Day, which was probably good for Cliftonville, after a 5-1 defeat at home to Crusaders.

Linfield didn’t really have to do much analysing of their match against Glentoran, they just had to repeat it.

The only positive that Cliftonville had on Boxing Day, was that they conceded less goals than they did in their previous game, a 6-4 defeat away to Institute.

All season, Cliftonville have conceded goals. Linfield know this, they stuck four past them in November, with Andrew Waterworth becoming a trendsetter, as everybody now scores a hat-trick against Cliftonville.

As you entered Solitude, you were greeted with a muted atmosphere amongst the home support, those two results creating a sense of doom and gloom. They looked like a beaten team in the warm-up.

Linfield’s preparations for this game weren’t exactly smooth, on and off the pitch. The lucky cafe I usually go to for lunch before games at Solitude was closed today. Just as big, was the absence of Joel Cooper through suspension, with some supporters who weren’t aware of this getting a shock as they saw him taking his seat amongst the away support.

His place in the starting eleven was taken by Matthew Clarke, when Daniel Kearns looked a more obvious option.

However, when the sides met last month, Clarke came on for Cooper with the score at 3-2 to Linfield, with Niall Quinn being pushed into midfield.

I had my doubts about this substitution, as I thought it was too defensive, but it proved instantly effective as Quinn set up the goal to make it 4-2.

David Healy was hoping for a similar outcome at Solitude.

On the back of the two previous results, Cliftonville were going to go at Linfield early on, and Linfield would have to ride it out.

That would be more because they have conceded early goals in those two games, meaning that it was a case of attack being the best form of attack.

Cliftonville had the first opportunity of the game when Rory Donnelly cut inside only to see his shot saved by Roy Carroll, before Matthew Clarke blocked Joe Gormley’s rebound when he looked certain to score.

Clarke required treatment afterwards, it looked as though he suffered turf burn on the artificial pitch.

It was a painful afternoon for Clarke as later on, he blocked a cross which hit him right inbetween the legs.

Linfield were poor in the opening minutes, giving the ball away with stray passes, and being caught in possession and easily dispossessed when they had the ball.

Too often, Cliftonville were first to every ball, and first in the air. They weren’t doing any damage to Linfield, but there’s no way that Linfield could get away with it for 90 minutes.

Linfield’s first real chance of note came when Jordan Stewart had a shot saved by Richard Brush.

Stewart then set up Niall Quinn, who fired past Brush, who came rushing out, only for the ball to go wide. He really should have scored. Worst of all, I was at the other end, a celebrated prematurely.

A few minutes later, Linfield went in front when a header from Jordan Stewart hit the post and rolled over the line, though from where I was, it looked like it was rolling across the line, meaning my celebrations were delayed, rather than premature when Quinn shot at goal.

Looking at the TV footage, it does look like an own goal by Chris Curran to me. We all know how the Dubious Goals Committee works in the Irish League. If an Attacker shouts loud enough, it’s their goal.

Cliftonville responded with a Rory Donnelly header which hit the post, but fell perfectly for Jimmy Callacher to clear, to remind Linfield that even though Cliftonville’s confidence is low, this game was far from won.

The half ended with a free-kick from Stewart being saved by Brush.

Inside a minute of the second-half, it was 2-0, when Andrew Waterworth got in behind Cliftonville’s defence shot past the keeper who came rushing out, but his shot was going wide, so Niall Quinn made sure from a few yards out.

I’m not sure why the keeper ran out, as Waterworth still had a lot to do to score. By rushing out, he made it so much easier for Linfield to score, not that I’m complaining.

Just like on Boxing Day, Linfield started to really play now they had a cushion. They couldn’t get the third goal they needed to secure the points.

Even though Cliftonville never looked like getting back into the game, Linfield still had memories of blowing two goal leads at Solitude in 2015 and 2017.

Andrew Mitchell came on for the injured Stephen Fallon, while Michael O’Connor came on for Andrew Waterworth.

O’Connor’s afternoon didn’t last that long, as he got sent-off for two stupid bookings. Linfield were comfortable, and didn’t need to give any encouragement to Cliftonville.

The only moment of worry they had was a long range shot from Ryan Curran that was saved by Roy Carroll. Linfield might have had a man less, but they had the ball, and Cliftonville couldn’t score if Linfield had it.

In the end, it was a comfortable win for Linfield.

At one point, in the second-half, with Linfield 2-0 up, Ballymena United, Crusaders and Glenavon were all dropping points. In the end, only Glenavon dropped points.

Three other results going in our favour was hopeful, but we’ll take one.

Next up, is the first game of 2019 on the first day of 2019, a trip to Ards. We’ve already slipped up there once this season.

Elsewhere, Ballymena play Crusaders. One, or possibly two, teams below us will be dropping points on Tuesday. A win at Ards is a must.

Linfield can’t influence other results, but we can take advantage of them.

Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

From Warrenpoint to Waterford, as the following week I spent a few days in Waterford seeing Waterford Walls, with a brief stop-off in Dublin.

The day after my return to Belfast, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The following weekend, a new ground for me to visit for the first time, as I headed to The Brandywell to see Linfield take on Institute.

The day after, it was a return to Windsor Park, and another bad home result, as Northern Ireland lost to Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

On the following weekend, I headed to The Limelight to see Cast in concert.

That was then followed by a good home result at Windsor Park, as Linfield beat Cliftonville 4-2.

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on BSC Young Boys and get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Waterford Walls

Waterford Walls Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August 2018 was a busy month, and it began at Mourneview Park for the start of the 2018-2019 season as Linfield beat Glenavon 1-0.

The following weekend, I headed to Custom House Square to see George Ezra in concert. That was followed by a day trip to Bangor where I squeezed in some Street Art photos, including a mural of John Lydon.

It was then back to the football as I went to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup while on a short break in Edinburgh. I also managed to get some Street Art photos while in Edinburgh.

Upon my return to Belfast, was a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

The next few days were spent at Custom House Square, seeing Kasabian, Turin Brakes and Travis in concert.

The following Saturday was a trip to Solitude to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

Glenavon v Linfield

George Ezra live at Custom House Square

George Ezra live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Bangor Street Art

Bangor Street Art Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Kasabian live at Custom House Square

Kasabian live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Travis live at Custom House Square

Travis live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

2018 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April 2018 began for me with a trip to Smithfield, to snap a new mural commemorating Smithfield Market.

Two days later, on Easter Tuesday, it was a trip to Lurgan for me to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

It was a month dominated by football, as I went to Linfield’s matches against Ballymena, Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville.

The month ended as it started, with me checking out some Street Art, well, mostly the now finished garden at CS Lewis Square which featured a tribute to famous East Belfast people and landmarks.

Smithfield

Smithfield Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

East Belfast Wall Of Fame

East Belfast Wall Of Fame Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March 2018 began for me photographing snow. Yes, you read that right, the snow came down in the early days of March 2018.

That snow caused the postponement of Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, so I had to wait a week for my first football match of the month, as Linfield took on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed up the following midweek by Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville.

Two days later, I headed to The Odyssey to see Stereophonics in concert.

St Patrick’s Day was spent watching Linfield draw 1-1 at home to Glentoran.

The following Thursday, I headed to The Limelight to see Feeder in concert.

Off work the next day due to needing to use up excess Annual Leave, I made the long journey to Ballinamallard to see Linfield drop two points in the last minute.

That weekend, and the month, ended with me heading to East Belfast to get photos of some new murals that had appeared during the month.

Belfast Snow March 2018

Belfast Snow March 2018 Photo Album – Thursday 1st March

Belfast Snow March 2018 Photo Album – Saturday 3rd March

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

East Belfast Street Art

East Belfast Street Art Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2018 began with a trip to The Limelight, a first proper concert of the year, to see Shed Seven supported by John Power.

That was followed the following midweek by a trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

The following Saturday, was Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

The following week was very busy, with Paul Weller at Ulster Hall followed by Ulster v Edinburgh and then Cliftonville v Linfield.

The weekend after that was a trip to the seaside, to see Linfield take on Ards.

That was then followed by a midweek trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

Around that time, it was getting cold. So cold, there was the possibility of snow. That didn’t come until March 1st, so you’ll have to wait until next month’s round-up to see that.

John Power live at The Limelight

John Power live at The Limelight Photo Album

Shed Seven live at The Limelight

Shed Seven live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster v Edinburgh Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon