PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2018-2019

2018-2019 is now over and consigned to history. I hope you’ve enjoyed my month by month look back. I thought i’ll end with a look through some of my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours.

NEWFORGE

Taken during a Pre-Season Friendly, I like arty farty shots in the style of Stuart Roy Clarke, so I unashamedly try to copy him.

MOURNEVIEW

I like this shot because of the way everybody is lined up, and how everybody has their eyes fixed on Kirk Millar, being the man in possession

COLERAINE

This shot came about by fluke, I was hoping to capture a Linfield goal, but again, it’s the fans who make the picture for me, all heads in the one direction.

DUNGANNON

Got some good photos this day due to generous Winter Sun. Dungannon is always good for photos. I like the framing, getting the terraces in alongside the pitch.

JORDAN

Jordan Stewart makes it 4-0 against Crusaders in December. I like being able to capture the celebrations on the pitch and in the stand. Even a Steward joined in.

CLANDEBOYE

That spot at Clandeboye Park is handy for getting photos, as long as something interesting happens at that end during the game. Thankfully, Linfield scored while I was at this end. Not just in terms of phototaking, but the match, as it was looking like a frustrating afternoon against opponents who had already proved tricky earlier in the season.

SNOW TRAFFORD

Having got snow photos of Windsor Park in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck when Manchester was hit with snow the day after United’s match against Burnley. Staying close to the ground, I was straight out with my camera to get photos.

McCLEAN

An explosion of emotion. 2-0 down and looking to be pegged back in the title race, to 2-2 and being frustrated, then a last minute winner, I managed to capture the reactions, of fans and players both going wild in unison.

RAIN

A weather based photo that just works. Bleurgh, an awful night for weather and football.

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

I didn’t have to wait long for some football action in September, with Linfield taking on Ards on the first day of the month. I would have to wait a while for a first goal of the month, as that match finished 0-0.

The goals flew in during my next match, as Linfield beat Warrenpoint 5-0, before taking in Northern Ireland’s first ever UEFA Nations League match, a 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The month ended taking in three further Linfield matches, home wins against Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United, as well as a draw at Coleraine.

Linfield v Ards

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

2018 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

September 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ards on the first day of the month, for a match that finished 0-0.

The following day, I headed out on bike to check out the latest scribbles on the Belfast Peace Wall.

On the third day of the month, yes, three successive days of photo adventures, I headed to The Limelight to see The Kooks in concert.

The following weekend, it was a football double header, taking in Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint Town, and then Northern Ireland’s first ever UEFA Nations League match, at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There was more football, taking in Linfield’s matches against Dungannon Swifts and Coleraine.

Sandwiched inbetween that was a trip to The Palm House to see Kyle Falconer in concert, and then Belfast Culture Night.

In the aftermath of Culture Night, I was out getting photos of new Street Art which appeared in Belfast, as part of Hit The North.

The month ended with me taking in Linfield’s home match with Ballymena United.

Linfield v Ards

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

The Kooks live at The Limelight

The Kooks live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Kyle Falconer live at The Palm House

Kyle Falconer live at The Palm House Photo Album

Culture Night Belfast 2018

Culture Night Belfast 2018 Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

North Street Art

North Street Art Work In Progress

North Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

2018 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2018 was supposed to start for me heading to Coleraine, but the weather saw Linfield’s match on New Year’s Day postponed.

I had to wait a week for a photo adventure, heading to a very wet Carrick to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win.

A week and a bit later, it was my first visit of the year to Windsor Park, to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

The following weekend, I headed to London. Unsurprisingly, I was out with my camera, capturing a lot of Street Art, going to see Turin Brakes do an instore concert at Fopp, and seeing Millwall take on Rochdale in the FA Cup.

Upon my return from London, it was to Coleraine, to end the month with a rearranged game that should have kicked off the month.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

London Street Art

London Street Art Photo Album 1

London Street Art Photo Album 2

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden Photo Album

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

COLERAINE 0-0 LINFIELD 22.9.2018

This match was never going to win the League for Linfield, but a win would have seen them move eight points clear of Coleraine (albeit with a game more played) in late September, which would have been a monumental statement to make in the title race, even at this early stage.

They knew it wouldn’t be easy, as League meetings over the past two seasons were evenly matched, two wins each and four draws.

Last season, they were perfectly matched, a 2-1 win for Coleraine, a 2-1 win for Linfield, then two successive 2-2 draws. In those 2-2 draws, the away team came from 2-0 down with two quickfire goals.

This game was the first in charge for new Coleraine manager Rodney McAree. Surprisingly, he walked to the dugout almost unnoticed, giving a wave to the fans seated in the stand beside the dugout.

To be honest, I was expecting him to take his seat before the teams came out, in an attempt to gee up the home support.

Those that were there to see his debut saw an early corner for Coleraine evade everybody, while a Linfield corner saw Jamie Mulgrew hit a speculative shot over.

About ten years ago, Mulgrew had a run of goalscoring against Coleraine, and because of this, shot at every opportunity. This looked like being another one of those days, as he had another similar effort in the half.

Jamie McGonigle then had an effort saved by Roy Carroll, with nobody following up on the parry.

Coleraine’s attacks were more convincing than Linfield’s, but while Coleraine were having more opportunities, Linfield were always getting bodies in the way. They needed to be.

Coleraine had the better of things at the start of the second-half. Their attacks seemed to be a lot quicker than Linfield’s, but when it came to that final pass or shot, Linfield were able to avert the danger, with Jimmy Callacher having to block a shot after Roy Carroll parried out.

Even though Coleraine weren’t getting many shots on goal, they were having too many attacking moments, that they were bound to get one right.

It looked like that was going to come from a Stephen Lowry header, but it went wide. Jamie McGonigle then headed wide after a flick from Aaron Burns fell to him. He really should have scored.

Linfield’s best attacking moment resulted in Daniel Kearns getting space to shoot, only to see his effort saved.

It was clear that Linfield needed to look to their bench to liven things up. There was no Andrew Waterworth (I presume he was injured) which would have been the obvious change, especially with Michael O’Connor being on a yellow card. The only striking option was Daniel Reynolds.

The realistic attacking options were Jordan Stewart, Stephen Fallon and Niall Quinn. It was Quinn who got the nod, replacing Kirk Millar.

Having survived Coleraine pressure, Linfield were now applying pressure on their own, hoping to make Coleraine pay for not taking advantage when they were on top.

It looked like that was going to happen when Josh Robinson headed towards goal, but his effort hit the bar, with Coleraine able to clear the danger.

If either team were able to break the deadlock, that would surely win the game. It was one of those games. It looked like it was always destined to finish 0-0.

There was late drama as both teams went about changing that.

Jamie McGonigle got in behind Linfield’s defence, but his effort was saved by Roy Carroll just before the goalline. A lucky break for Linfield. Last season, it probably would have been cleared off the line but a goal would have been awarded. Oh, wait …….

Deep into stoppage time, Michael O’Connor had a shot deflected onto the post. The ball went slowly towards the goal. I dared to let myself to believe it was going in.

0-0 it finished, overall, a fair result. Neither side doing enough to win.

Frustrating, as Linfield could have opened up a healthy lead over Coleraine. They did extend their lead over Crusaders by a point, but that comes at the expense of Glenavon now having the opportunity to overtake Linfield if they win their game in hand, which they took, beating Ards 2-0.

I said last week that Linfield’s four point lead was deceptive due to other teams having games in hand, and the table can’t fully be assessed until those games are played.

And don’t forget Glentoran, who will be one point behind Linfield if they win their game in hand, with the sides due to meet on 8th October, live on Sky Sports.

That will be the second live game that weekend, with Crusaders facing Cliftonville on the Friday night as part of a new TV deal announced with BBC NI. Good to see.

Hopefully, we’ll be watching that game with a further three points in the bag and another clean sheet.

Top of the League with seven clean sheets out of eight and trips to Glenavon, Crusaders, Cliftonville and Coleraine out of the way.

That will only be a good foundation if Linfield have title winning home form. That has to start next Saturday.

Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2017-2018

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look back at the 2017-2018. The less said about what happened on the pitch, the better.

I took a lot of photos, so i’ve rounded up my favourites.

Feel free to vote for your favourite.

PLATT LANE

This was taken in June last year when The Oval was being used for filming a movie about Bert Trautmann, and was decorated to look like Maine Road. I went to get some photos.

I specifically wanted one with 1950s Maine Road and 2017 Oval both in the same shot, and this was my favourite from that day.

CLANDEBOYE

You have roadworks to thank for this photo.

I was held up heading to Ards v Linfield and missed the first couple of minutes.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered, a crowd with their eyes fixated on the pitch on a warm summer evening.

GARRETT

I like the composition of this photo.

You may be surprised that Robert Garrett is attacking and not defending, he had just kept the ball in play and was now being surrounded by two Dungannon defenders.

PHOTOGRAPHER

I just like the composition of this shot. Taken during Spartans v Linfield in Scottish Challenge Cup.

RAINBOW

Me being arty farty. I love trying to get pictures of rainbows over football grounds. Taken at half-time during Ballinamallard v Linfield in November. A rare time that afternoon when it wasn’t raining.

HAUGHEY

Same match, everyone huddled in the stand to avoid the rain. I like the composition of this shot.

FLEGS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Switzerland match in November, green and white flags were left out before the game for fans to wave. I decided to take a shot as they were being waved and got lucky.

CELEBRATION

Everything fell into place for this shot, the sky, a well worked goal, and the whole team coming together to celebrate.

GOAL

I like this shot because it captures the emotion of a last minute equaliser as part of a late comeback that never looked like coming.

TIPTON

I was heading to the exit for a quick getaway (in my defence, it was an away game on a weeknight) and stumbled upon this framing as Matthew Tipton looked on as Warrenpoint took on Linfield.

CAMPION

Taken during Cliftonville v Linfield in February, the guy in the red coat makes it makes it with his celebration as Linfield players celebrate in front of their fans.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January 2018’s football watching was supposed to start at Coleraine on the first day of the month, but the weather saw to that, so I had to wait a week to visit Taylor’s Avenue for my first game of the month, to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Carrick Rangers.

There was another postponement in the middle of the month, at Warrenpoint, which meant I had to wait a whole week for my next match. It wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield lost 3-2 to Glenavon.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to London for a short weekend away. Naturally, I hoped to take in a game while I was there, and the game I chose was Millwall v Rochdale.

My final game of the month was a trip to Coleraine, which should have kicked off the month, to see Linfield score two late goals to secure a dramatic draw.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : OCTOBER

October’s football watching began with Northern Ireland taking on Germany in a World Cup Qualifier.

That was then followed by taking in Linfield’s defeats against Coleraine and Crusaders.

Thankfully, the month ended a bit better, as I went to see Linfield beat Ards

Northern Ireland v Germany

Northern Ireland v Germany Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ards

COLERAINE 2-2 LINFIELD 30.1.2018

This was a match that should have been played on New Year’s Day. Linfield were hoping that this match would kickstarted their 2018, four weeks later than anticipated.

If Linfield take any longer starting this year, they might as well join the Chinese Super League.

Glenavon and Cliftonville dropped four points in their games on Friday and Monday, which meant that Linfield could make up ground on the two sides above them with a win.

While Linfield’s ambitions were to make up ground to try and climb into 3rd. Coleraine’s was a bit more lofty, looking for three points to go top of the League.

It is Coleraine’s strong finish to last season which sowed the seeds for this season’s title challenge that is now what Linfield are aiming to replicate, rather than the Cliftonville 2014 model that did for them last season.

Kirk Millar whipped a cross in the early minutes which had nobody end of it, while Josh Carson had a shot just wide for Coleraine.

Ciaron Harkin’s cross evaded everyone and went out for a goal kick as Coleraine piled on the pressure. There was no immediate danger for Linfield, but the shots were tallying up. Far too many shots for Linfield’s liking.

Darren McCauley had a shot saved by Gareth Deane, deputising for the injured Roy Carroll, while Kirk Millar tried to replicate his goal at Ballinamallard on the opening day of last season after a kick out by Chris Johns, but only managed to put his shot wide.

Jamie McGonigle’s goalbound header was tipped over by Gareth Deane as it looked only a matter of time before Coleraine scored.

That came when McGonigle finished after a quick counter-attack after Linfield lost possession. It was another poor goal to concede.

The goal had been coming, and every time Coleraine attacked, it looked like they were queuing up to score. Even if Linfield had more defenders, Coleraine always looked likely to win out in the situation.

Linfield survived and were relieved to only go in at half-time 1-0 down. They made a strong start to the second-half, with Ryan Strain and Stephen Lowry coming on for Andrew Mitchell and Kurtis Byrne. Kirk Millar looked the more obvious player to make way for Strain.

Stephen Lowry was having an impact. Linfield were now more creative and believable when they attacked.

Andrew Waterworth thought he had equalised but his low shot was saved by Johns. Despite all their possession, this was Linfield’s best attacking moment.

Soon after, Coleraine went 2-0 up when Ian Parkhill was played through and finished. It was another poor goal to concede, as Parkhill didn’t have to move a lot in order to get clear.

The goal had come slightly against the run of the play in the second-half, and it looked like it secured the points for Coleraine.

In the immediate aftermath of the goal, it looked like Coleraine were going to surge on and win 3-0, or possibly more, as their fans taunted David Healy with chants of “Sacked in the morning”, not that it was a realistic scenario.

However, there was to be a late twist, as a cross from Niall Quinn was headed home by Andrew Waterworth with a few minutes to go to make it 2-1. It was the first real moment of attacking quality in the game from Linfield, and suddenly, it was game on.

In February 2016, Coleraine led Linfield 2-0 at home in the first-half. When Linfield pulled it back to 2-1, Coleraine didn’t seem to fancy the fight.

Looking at the body language of the Coleraine players after Waterworth’s goal, it looked like being a repeat situation.

As the board for injury time made an appearance, Linfield had a free-kick out wide.

Stephen Lowry overhit the free-kick, but unbelievably bounced off the bar and hit a Coleraine player and went in. Linfield had got an unlikely equaliser. It was hard to see who scored it from where I was, it didn’t really matter. If you care, it was credited as a Gareth McConaghie own goal.

Various times this season, Linfield have conceded farcical goals and lost games they never looked like losing until they went behind. Now they were on the right side of ridiculousness.

Seasons can turn on the strangest things. Hopefully, Linfield can now use this lucky break as a springboard for the rest of the season.

When the equaliser went in, thoughts went back to a live Sky game in October 2012, when Linfield were deservedly 2-0 down before pulling it back to 2-2 late on, only to lose it 3-2 immediately.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. In fact, if the game last five more minutes, Linfield probably would have won it. If it lasted for ten more minutes, Linfield definitely would have won it.

The draw didn’t help either sides League position. The draw will have cheered up Crusaders fans after they left Stangmore Park following their side’s exit from the NIFL Cup. You have to be a very special team to do a Clean Sweep.

NIFL will have breathed a sigh of relief after that result, avoiding a fixture shitstorm that would have followed a Crusaders win, with them being scheduled to face Inverness away on the weekend of the Final.

It’s a Final that will be played at Windsor Park.

That looks like a lazy one size fits all option, due to the NIFL being backed into the corner by the short turnaround between the Semi-Final and Final.

Crusaders v Cliftonville or Ballymena could have been accommodated at one of the participants home grounds, like in 2014. I could understand using Windsor Park for either of those two combinations though.

Dungannon v Ballymena could be played at Seaview while Dungannon v Cliftonville could be played at Mourneview Park.

Windsor Park being used for the Final means that Linfield now won’t be able to bring forward their League match against Glenavon if they have a free weekend due to Cliftonville reaching the Final.

NIFL were praying that Ballymena v Cliftonville wasn’t postponed. It was. I’ll write about the fall out on that and the knock-on effect for Linfield in my Warrenpoint blog.

Since I last wrote, the draw for the UEFA Nations League was made. Bad news for those wanting to visit Wales, but thankfully bad news for gutter press with no interest in football as Northern Ireland avoided Republic of Ireland.

Unfortunately, we decided to arrange a friendly against them instead. How very underwhelming.

Who we did get was Austria and Bosnia, representing a great chance of promotion.

Austria away is very tempting, especially as you can do a Vienna/Bratislava double header, as there is only one hour between the two cities. Slovakia are at home to Czech Republic the day after Austria v Northern Ireland, but I would guess it would be a bit difficult getting tickets for that game.

Definitely in the calendar is An Evening With Eric Cantona in October. I’ve already sorted myself with a ticket for that.

Linfield have already begun the overhaul of their squad with Ross Clarke being loaned to Ards, Joel Cooper signing in the Summer and the arrival of Joe Crowe from Sandy Row. Yes, actually. That’s his name and that’s where he’s from.

This match was followed by a 1-0 win over Newry in the Irish Cup. I wasn’t at it so can’t comment on it.

It was a match disrupted in the second-half by a floodlight failure. Funny how there’s never a floodlight failure when Linfield are getting beat.

In the Quarter-Finals, is a home tie against Cliftonville, who beat Crusaders. After that match, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter spoke on Radio Ulster about how his players were cynically fouled and that the Fourth Official was influenced by the opposition bench.

I’m not going to make any comment on any possible irony whatsoever.

Cliftonville have scored four goals in each of their last two games, losing to the team at the bottom and beating the team at the top.

There’s nothing to fear, we can beat them. We’ve got previous against them in Quarter-Finals, beating them at that stage en route to the Final in 1992, 1994 and 2016.

It’s Semi-Finals against Cliftonville when the year ends in 9 that are a bit of a problem. We can worry about that next year.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

In the first week of October 2017, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Germany in a World Cup Qualifier.

That was sandwiched inbetween me going out around Belfast to check out Street Art which was painted as part of Hit The North, these pieces were still works in progress when I went to photograph them in September

The following day, I went to my one Rugby match a year, as Ulster beat Wasps in the European Cup.

It was back to football the following day, seeing Linfield take on Coleraine.

There was a glut of concerts towards the end of the month, going to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, OMD and Liam Gallagher, with Linfield’s matches against Ards and Crusaders sandwiched inbetween.

Northern Ireland v Germany

Northern Ireland v Germany Photo Album

Hit The North Mop-Up

Hit The North Mop-Up Photo Album

Ulster v Wasps

Ulster v Wasps Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Crusaders

OMD live at Mandela Hall

OMD live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Ards

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey

Liam Gallagher live at The Odyssey Photo Album