LINFIELD 0-1 COLERAINE 3.1.2017

The last thing you want after New Year’s Eve celebrations is to have a hangover three days later, and that is what Linfield were hoping to avoid when they hosted Coleraine on Tuesday night.

There was only the one change from Saturday’s starting XI, an enforced one as Chris Casement came in for the suspended Jamie Mulgrew. It didn’t work when David Jeffrey was manager, and it didn’t work again last night. If he is to play, it has to be in defence, his natural position.

Thankfully, Sean Ward was on the bench again after injury, which will be handy when the extra games of Mulgrew’s ban come into effect.

Both previous meetings between the two sides were 1-1 draws. While Linfield were drawing those games, Crusaders were winning theirs on the same matchdays. Those four points were all that seperated the sides at kick-off.

Linfield were hoping to arrest a slide of disappointing home results, only winning two of their last five games at Windsor Park.

There were not a lot of chances in the early minutes of the game – Coleraine having a flurry of corners dealt with by Linfield, while all Linfield could offer was a speculative long-range shot from Niall Quinn.

The game took a dramatic turn on 34 minutes when Jimmy Callacher was sent-off for a second yellow card after coming together with a Coleraine attacker on the halfway line. It was soft.

Unsurprisingly, referee Raymond Crangle couldn’t get his red card quick enough.

Call me a cynic, but if a Coleraine player on a yellow card committed that foul, he would have only got a talking to and a final warning.

We got to see that theory in action, when Stephen Douglas clipped Andrew Waterworth’s heels as he ran forward. No yellow card. He did get booked later on, but that would have been his second if Crangle applied the rules properly. Then, after getting a yellow card, Douglas continued to remonstrate with officials. A Linfield player would have been booked for that.

It seems that some players can get sent-off for two offences, while some can only get a yellow card for three offences.

That’s Crangleism in action for you.

This was not a new situation for Linfield. Worryingly, it’s become a regular one over the past two seasons, but we’ve managed to emerge from matches against Cliftonville, Glenavon (x2), Crusaders (x2) and Ballymena unbeaten with ten, and in one case nine, men on the pitch.

The difference from Saturday was, Linfield had something to hold on to. On Tuesday, they had to balance getting into the lead, with holding on to it.

Linfield’s best chance in the first-half was an Andrew Waterworth shot which was easily saved by Chris Johns.

At half-time, Kirk Millar came on for Jonny Frazer. I’m a big fan of Millar, but he is a frustrating player. It didn’t happen for him on Tuesday, and that’s me being polite, wating too many crossing opportunities in the final third, and losing possession too easily in the final third.

With a man less, Linfield needed to make the most of every opportunity that came their way. Set pieces were poor all night. Not one of them troubled Coleraine.

On 74 minutes, Coleraine took the lead when a cross was headed home by Jordon Allen.

Despite a brief flurry after the goal, Coleraine never looked troubled. Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s subs were attacking, with both Cameron Stewart and Kris Bright coming on. I couldn’t tell you what formation Linfield were playing, but it was attacking.

Despite that, there never seemed to be enough bodies forward or options to pass to when Linfield went forward.

As the minutes ran down, Coleraine unsurprisingly started to timewaste, the classic trick of kicking away the ball they were given and demanding the ball that went out be given to them. Unsurprisingly, Raymond Crangle allowed this, and Coleraine players were only encouraged to make a mug out of him, safe in the knowledge the time wouldn’t be added on.

You don’t seriously expect the attention seeking tit to get the basic things right?

Crusaders win over Ards means the gap is now back to seven points, undoing all of Saturday’s good work. By a quirk of mathematics, Linfield could have got four points (draw on Saturday, win on Tuesday) from the last two games and still been seven points behind.

In a strange way, this is starting to feel a lot like David Jeffrey’s early years. If last season mirrored 1997/1998 (give themselves too much, and a late surge was all in vain), then this is mirroring 1998/1999 (winning the head to head against the leaders, but allowing the gap to increase whenever we get within touching distance of the top)

Hopefully, next season will be a lot like 1999/2000.

This season, however, is far from a right off. There’s far too much to play for. Remember, Cliftonville won the league from a relatively similar position in 2014.

The only positive from last night was that Cliftonville could only draw at home to Carrick, meaning they are three points behind Linfield.

The league is on the backseat for this weekend and all focus is on the Irish Cup. Probably a relief after last night. A big performance is needed. If it is delivered, we’ll be fine.

As mentioned, Linfield’s home form in recent weeks has been dodgy. Thankfully, four out of the next five scheduled matches are away from home. Hopefully, there’ll be an Irish Cup tie on 4th February as well in that run.

Naturally, there’ll be questions as to wether Linfield have problems adjusting to playing at the newly redeveloped Windsor Park. What nonsense, nobody was complaining when Linfield won their final home games of last season 3-0 and 4-0, the first time Linfield fans were in the South Stand.

I’ve done a bit of research into this, and home form has been a problem for Linfield over the past four years, before and during the redevelopment. The suggestion that this is a recent problem is pure laziness.

In 2013/2014, David Jeffrey’s last season as manager and the last before redevelopment, Linfield dropped 19 points (5 draws, 3 defeats) at home. 6 of those points were dropped from winning positions. Linfield finished 2nd by 6 points.

Though Cliftonville had better goal difference, there is no way Linfield would have lost at home to Glentoran on matchday 37 with a 3 point lead instead of a 3 point deficit and in inferior goal difference.

In 2014/2015, Linfield lost 21 points (3 draws, 5 defeats) including 12 from winning positions. Linfield finished 2nd by 10 points. The maths is very simple there.

Those statistics include the two “home” matches played at a neutral venue due to subsidence in The Kop.

In 2015/2016, Linfield dropped 12 points at home (3 draws, 2 defeats), 6 from winning positions. Even though Crusaders winning margin was 8 points, there’s no way Linfield lose at Seaview in April if they have a 1 point lead instead of a 5 point deficit.

Three titles lost through bad home form, and they could have afforded 2 home defeats in each of those seasons.

Curiously, Cliftonville’s last title winning team in 2013/2014 had 4 home defeats that season, so perhaps home records leading to title wins is a bit of a myth.

One area I don’t want Linfield 2017 to emulate Cliftonville 2014 is in the Irish Cup, where they exited at the first hurdle after being beaten finalists the year before.

Meanwhile, Linfield’s appeal was successful regarding the choice of venue for the County Antrim Shield Final, meaning it will be played at a neutral venue, decided next week. I bet they rearrange the final for the midweek i’m in Manchester at the end of the month.

I find all the outrage over this rather amusing.

Five years without a major trophy and we can still boil people’s piss.

Good to see Linfield showing who’s boss off the pitch. Time to start doing it on the pitch.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield take on Glentoran, play awful but grind out a 2-1 win.

The following Saturday, I went to see Northern Ireland take on San Marino, the first game at a fully redeveloped Windsor Park.

I then went home, and got a bit of sleep, before an early morning boat to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United.

Two days later, I was Limelight bound to see Feeder in concert.

There were then two frustrating weekends as I was then Coleraine bound the following Saturday to see Linfield held to a frustrating draw, just as they were at home to Crusaders the following Saturday.

The month ended by going to see KT Tunstall in concert at Mandela Hall.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August began for me with a trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United in the opening game of the Irish League season.

The following day, I ventured to Cupar Way to check out the Peace Wall in Belfast, something I do every six months to have a look at the Street Art.

After that, came a triple whammy if Irish League matches, taking in Linfield’s games against Coleraine, Crusaders and Glenavon.

That was then followed by a triple whammy of concerts – Madness and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Belsonic, then Red Hot Chili Peppers at Vital.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall

Belfast Peace Wall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Madness live at Titanic Belfast

Madness live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Catfish and the Bottlemen Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Red Hot Chili Peppers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields

Red Hot Chili Peppers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

2016 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April 2016 began for me at The Odyssey to see Muse in concert.

The following Saturday, I headed for Seaview to see Linfield lose to Crusaders, a match that killed off their title hopes.

Another concert soon followed, this time it was to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Ulster Hall.

Back to football, and a double whammy of convincing Linfield wins, over Coleraine and Glentoran.

The match against Coleraine allowed me to check out the facilities in the South Stand for the first time since it was officially opened.

Towards the end of the month, Prince died, and Belfast wasn’t slow in paying tribute, a mural appearing within a day of his death.

I then headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

Around that time, I purchased a new camera as my camera was broken beyond repair. I was still getting used to it, so that’s why some photos towards the end of the month are a bit different.

Muse live at The Odyssey

Muse live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Purple Rain

Purple Rain Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

2016 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February began for me seeing Linfield beating Dungannon Swifts 6-0, a good start to the month.

The following weekend, I was on the road to Shamrock Park, to see Linfield lose 2-1.

Back on the road the following weekend, this time to Coleraine, with a better result, with Linfield coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

The next day, I made the most of a free ticket to see Ulster take on Scarlets. Unfortunately, the game ended up in an agonising one point defeat for Ulster.

Two days after that I headed to The Limelight to see Foxes in concert.

The month ended with me heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Glenavon, a match that saw an outfield player go in goal and save a penalty.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster v Scarlets Photo Album

Foxes live at The Limelight

Foxes live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

COLERAINE 1-1 LINFIELD 22.10.2016

After seeing their unbeaten start to the season bite the dust at Solitude on Tuesday night, Linfield found themselves in a reverse role of trying to end someone’s unbeaten start to the season – Coleraine’s unbeaten home record, but most importantly trying to return to winning ways and keep the pressure on Crusaders at the top of the league.

If it wasn’t for Guglielmo Marconi, I would have thought this was a 1-0 win for Coleraine, having missed the start of the game due to being stuck in roadworks. It gives an indication of how much I missed as Linfield were 1-0 up through and Andrew Waterworth goal by the time I entered the ground, having listened to the start of the game on the radio, due to being stuck in roadworks. I even managed to miss Paul Smyth’s involvement in the game, as he was stretchered off in the opening minutes and replaced by Aaron Burns.

It certainly didn’t help being stuck in queues as I stopped off for lunch in Applegreen, with people making a simple task like ordering a sandwich seem like trying to work out quantum physics.

It wasn’t the first time i’d missed action in Coleraine. In 2009, the roads were so bad that I missed the first-half and entered the ground with Linfield 2-0 down. They came back to draw 2-2.

In 2011, I missed Aaron Burns goal in the opening minutes as Linfield went on to win 3-1. I was naturally hoping today would be a repeat.

Of the first-half action I did see, it was very scrappy. Linfield were letting Coleraine have too much possession in their half and inviting pressure on.

One of those self inflicted problems was a softly conceded corner which saw Coleraine hit the bar.

Within minutes, it was Linfield who were hitting the bar from a Jamie Mulgrew shot from outside the box.

In first-half injury time, a needless tackle from Chris Casement which resulted in a foul saw a succession of set pieces which caused concern for Linfield. Aaron Burns had to head out for a corner, a corner that saw the ball headed just over Linfield’s goal.

A reminder for Linfield that this game was far from won.

After a slow start to the second-half, Linfield began to apply some pressure, the ball in Coleraine’s defensive third but not being able to get a strike on goal or play the killer pass. It was clear that Linfield needed a second goal.

Within minutes, Coleraine showed them how it was done when James McLaughlin scored just minutes after coming off the bench, just as he did in August.

There was no response from Linfield as the game began to meander.

Linfield’s best chance came when Aaron Burns put the ball wide from close range. If it did go in, it would have been a (right footed) repeat

Josh Carson was then introduced from the bench. He almost had an impact within minutes as he fired in a dangerous cross that nobody could get on the end of. It summer up Linfield’s attacking. There were even times when they were getting in each other’s way

Coleraine had their chances in the final moments, with Roy Carroll had to get his timing right to deny James McLaughlin. If he didn’t, it was either a penalty or a goal for Coleraine.

Linfield had one last chance in injury time when Mark Haughey couldn’t repeat his goal heroics from February’s visit, and heaaded over after a long throw-in.

Th compound the frustration for Linfield supporters, they were held behind in the ground for five minutes on the advice of the local Dibble, living in fear of the Liam Gallagher Cosplayers Association (AKA, Coleraine’s “Hooligan Firm”)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I go to one Ulster European match a year. Naturally, they would have a Saturday night game on the day of one of Linfield’s longest away trips.

Their other home game pre-Christmas is on a Saturday lunchtime on the day Linfield are away to Ards. Sorry, Ulster, but Linfield come first.

It would have been tight to go straight to Ravehill from Coleraine, especially with a combination of roadworks and being kept behind at the whistle.

To compensate for this, i’m going to the match against Connacht on December 23rd. I know what you’re thinking, an Ulster match on the last Friday before Christmas. It is going to be Pisshead Central.

Of more immediate concern, it’s the second-half of Linfield’s quadrology of teams beginning in C, Cliftonville (County Antrim Shield) and Crusaders (League)

I said last week that Linfield needed four A* performances, they’ve barely scraped C- so far this week.

Despite a good start (going 1-0 up inside three minutes at The Oval), October has been a horrible month for Linfield, but it could all change this time next week, with Linfield being in a Cup Semi-Final and closer to the top of the league than at the start of the month.

It’s a funny old game, as one of Donald Trump’s mates once said.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-1 COLERAINE 10.8.2016

Linfield went into the now traditional (you can call three years a tradition?) August midweek fixture list looking to continue their winning start to the season and get two wins out of two. They ended up getting the win they wanted. In fact, they ended up being thankful to remain unbeaten.

Linfield began the game by getting a lot of joy out their left. They were having a lot of possession but not really doing a lot with it.

The closest they came to scoring was when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, unable to recreate his two goal heroics when the sides met in February, while Paul Smyth curled a shot straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Andrew Waterworth went closer when he knocked a cross goalwards was denied.

Coleraine had their attacking moments, but not a lot that worried Linfield. For all their possession, there wasn’t really a moment when it looked like a Linfield goal was inevitible.

In the opening moments of the second-half, Linfield continued in the same manner, when a Niall Quinn cross was asking to be put in, but nobody was able to get on the end of it and put it in.

Within minutes, Windsor Park was shocked, when a cross from the left fell straight to James McLaughlin, who fired home.

Most home supporters were shocked that he should be unmarked in the penalty area. When the ball landed at his feet, there was that agonising second when everyone knew he was going to score, but hoped that somehow he wouldn’t.

McLaughlin had only come on as a substitute at half-time.

Coleraine had a chance to make it 2-0 but couldn’t take it. They did get a free-kick for a handball by Mark Haughey when blocking it. They couldn’t take advantage of the free-kick.

For a team that never really looked like scoring, it was no surprise that Linfield’s substitutions were of an attacking nature – Josh Carson, Aaron Burns and Michael McLellan all entering the action.

Despite that, Linfield still struggled in front of goal, not creating a clear opportunity. It was all too predictable. Coleraine’s defence were comfortable.

As time ran out, Linfield got a fortunate corner when a clearance hit a Linfield player and went across the pitch and out for what looked like a goal kick.

Linfield fans sighed that another attack ended unsuccessfully with time running out.

To everyone’s surprise, a corner kick was awarded. Linfield took advantage of their luck, when Aaron Burns flicked home from close range after a flick on.

The body language of the Coleraine suggested that they could lose the plot. Lyndon Kane was sent-off before the game restarted.

Linfield couldn’t take advantage of the momentum swing or the extra man in the time that remained.

In fact, Coleraine almost got a dramatic late winner when Jamie McGonigle curled a shot that hit the post. Time stood still. Like with the corner kick decision a few minutes earlier, Linfield benefitted from a stoke of luck.

No disrespect to Coleraine, but this result was two points dropped, even though the circumstances of the game would see it considered one point gained.

What it was, will decided in 36 games time.

Already, Linfield trail Crusaders by two points. They travel to Seaview on Saturday. The gap can’t be allowed to go to five points, even if it is retrievable.

Linfield are more than capable of beating Crusaders if they get stuck in and play to the best of their ability.

They haven’t done that yet. Saturday would be a good start.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – APRIL

April’s football watching began at Seaview, seeing Linfield lose to Crusaders in a game that ultimately killed off their title ambitions.

The following week, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the first game that Linfield fans would be using the South Stand.

The month ended with two more Linfield games, both 4-0 wins against Glentoran and Cliftonville.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began with Dungannon’s trip to Windsor Park for a match that was postponed in January, a 6-0 win for Linfield being a good start to the month.

At the end of the following weekend, I was off to Shamrock Park to see Linfield’s run of form come to a crashing end with a 2-1 defeat.

Eight days later, I was back on the road, to see Linfield get a come from behind win at Coleraine.

I ended the month at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Glenavon, a match that saw an outfield player go into nets and save a penalty.

Just another dull month.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – DECEMBER

After a horrible November, the hope was that December would be a bit better. It got off to a good start, with Linfield beating Coleraine at Windsor Park.

That proved to be a false dawn as Linfield could only draw at home to Ballinamallard United the following week.

Thankfully, the month ended a bit better for Linfield, with wins on the road against Ballymena United and Glentoran.

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Ballinamallrd United

Ballymena United v Linfield

Glentoran v Linfield