LINFIELD 0-0 COLERAINE 2.1.2023

A new year, but Linfield and Coleraine still managing to draw with each other. That is now twelve draws in the last twenty-five League encounters.

With both teams going into this game on winning runs and keeping a lot of clean sheets, it wasn’t the most surprising of results. Despite gaining one point on Cliftonville, three on Larne and four over Glentoran on the last two matchdays, it was hard to see it that way from a Linfield perspective, as they failed to secure the three points that would have seen them go level with Larne at the top of the table.

Linfield had one change from Boxing Day, with Mike Newberry coming in for Jimmy Callacher. Not that surprising, as Callacher appeared to be struggling with injury during the second-half at The Oval last week.

The early minutes of the game saw Linfield in Coleraine’s half. Inside two minutes, Eetu Vertainen worked space to find Matthew Clarke, whose cross was headed just wide by Robbie McDaid.

There was more header related frustration as a run and cross from Jamie Mulgrew was headed just wide by Eetu Vertainen.

People around me were getting ready to celebrate until they realised that the ball had gone wide.

Vertainen then had a shot go wide as Linfield continued to endure a frustrating first-half.

Despite having a lot of the ball and a lot of attacking situations, Linfield weren’t creating any clear opportunities.

That was, until Daniel Finlayson got on the end of a free-kick, only to see his header superbly saved by Marty Gallagher.

0-0 at half-time, but no immediate need to panic.

Linfield were the better team but couldn’t convincingly say that they should be 1-0 up. They really needed to be more clinical when opportunities fell their way.

The second-half began with a flurry of set pieces for Linfield, but nothing came of it. The best that would be offered in the second-half would be an Eetu Vertainen header and a Robbie McDaid effort, both of which went wide.

David Healy then turned to his bench, bringing on Andrew Clarke and Chris McKee for Cameron Palmer and Robbie McDaid.

A goal for McKee now would feel every bit as big as his goal against Coleraine the last time they visited Windsor Park on the last day of last season.

Clarke would have a shot go just wide within minutes of coming on, though it felt like a speculative effort than an attempt to score.

Joel Cooper then made space from himself but his shot went agonisingly wide.

It was obvious very early in the game that this was a match that was destined to finish 0-0.

With each passing minute. It became even more obvious. No matter how hard Linfield tried.

A lucky bounce saw the ball fall perfectly for Eetu Vertainen but that was the only lucky bounce that fell Linfield’s way as his shot was saved by the keeper’s legs.

Coleraine did manage to have an attack, with a free-kick from Eamon Fyfe being easily saved by Chris Johns.

His late goal at The Oval bought Eetu Vertainen some extra time on the pitch, but there wouldn’t be any more opportunities for him to score another late winner.

Even though Niall Quinn (a welcome return) and Ethan Devine were unused in the bench as attacking options, they could have brought on Lionel Messi and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

It was one of those days, a frustrating afternoon.

Linfield were the better team, but couldn’t convincingly say that they should have been outright winners

As I said earlier in the season, if somebody told you that the last twenty meetings between Coleraine and Linfield had finished 0-0, you would believe it because it sounds believable.

You feel like you could just write off the remaining two League games as 0-0 draws.

And the remaining three against Cliftonville.

Coincidentally, Linfield’s next League game, at Solitude.

Not quite must-win but certainly do not lose.

There’s not point on pushing to get this close to the top of the league just to get pulled away again.

But what a message that would send out to the rest of the League, to win on a rival’s home turf and reach the top.

But first, it’s Warrenpoint Town at home in the Irish Cup.

One game at a time. It’s a busy month. So many games, so many competitions. It’s hard to keep track.

The last two months have seen two Cup Finals reached (one of which is this month) and the gap at the top get closer and closer.

It is frustrating that this run includes three 0-0 draws against Top 6 teams, meaning that all the other Top 6 teams have come away from Windsor Park with something this season.

Although recently, four have them have come away without a goal, just like a few other teams that Linfield have faced over the past two and a bit months.

Considering that Linfield conceded nine goals in eight days in October, that is most welcome.

Now to get it right at the other end.

Photo Album

2022 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October was a busy month, right from the very start, heading to Dungannon on the first day of the month to see Linfield get a win at Stangmore Park.

That was followed a few days later by another away day, to a very wet Wilgar Park to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Dundela.

The following night, it was the Ulster Hall to see Beabadoobee in concert.

Back on the road the following Saturday to see Linfield draw with Coleraine.

Then it was back to Ulster Hall to see Paul Weller.

Two days after that, it was Linfield v Glentoran, the less said of that the better.

The following day was a lot more enjoyable, making the most of a football free Saturday to check out Murlough Bay.

Over the next seven days came two Linfield home matches, against Glenavon and Larne.

The following week, I was off to Manchester, my first visit to see Erik Ten Hag’s United in the flesh, against Sheriff Tiraspol.

While I was there, I got some photos from a stroll along a canal, some Street Art (of course) and a walk up Hartshead Pike.

The month ended with a trip to Newry to see Linfield get some much needed three points.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Dundela v Linfield

Beabadoobee live at Ulster Hall

Beabadoobee live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Murlough Bay Nature Reserve

Murlough Bay Nature Reserve Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Larne

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester Canal Walk

Manchester Canal Walk Photo Album

Manchester United v Sheriff Tiraspol

Manchester Untied v Sheriff Tiraspol Photo Album

Hartshead Pike

Hartshead Pike Photo Album

Newry City v Linfield

2022 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April began with a football free Saturday, so I headed to Scrabo Country Park, got lucky with the weather and got lots of nice photos.

The rest of the month was all about football, the next two weekends saw me attend Linfield’s matches against Cliftonville and Glentoran.

With two Public Holidays for Easter, I decided to go for walks up Cregagh Glen and then up Cavehill.

That was then followed by Linfield’s matches against Crusaders, Larne and Coleraine.

Just hours after seeing Linfield winning the League against Coleraine, I headed to Custom House Square to see Echo and the Bunnymen, my first concert of 2022.

Scrabo Country Park

Scrabo Country Park Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cregagh Glen/Lisnabreeny Hill

Cregagh Glen/Lisnabreeny Hill Photo Album

Cavehill

Cavehill Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom Hosue Square

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom House Square Photo Album

2022 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2022 began with a trip to Dungannon on New Year’s Day to see Linfield win 6-1 at Stangmore Park.

On the Bank Holiday Monday that followed, I could have had a lie-in, but I decided to head up Cavehill instead.

I then visited a new football stadium for the first time, very exciting, going to see Harland and Wolff Welders take on Annagh United at Blanchflower Park, which had opened a few months earlier, this was my first chance to visit this ground.

The rest of the month, was Linfield matches, against Larne, Ballymena United, Glenavon, Cliftonville and Coleraine.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Cavehill

Cavehill Photo Album

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United Photo Album

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glenavon

Cliftonville v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

COLERAINE 0-0 LINFIELD 8.10.2022

October is probably too early for games to be described as “must-win”, but two defeats and two postponements meant that Linfield had a lot of catching up to do.

Three defeats, including two in their last three League games meant that Coleraine also had a lot of catching up to do.

Naturally, in a game neither side could afford to lose, they cancelled each other out and drew 0-0.

There are some football stats you could make up and people would believe it.

If I told you that the last twenty meetings between Coleraine and Linfield had finished 0-0, you would believe it. It’s just one of those fixtures.

This is a game that is convenient for me to travel by train.

Due to the Belfast to Derry Line only having an hourly service, it means you have a bit of a dilemma going to the game.

Leave at 1.10pm and you are cutting it fine for kick-off, especially as Coleraine have moved the away entrances to be further away from the Train Station.

I got the 11.10am train, which was 20 minutes late.

That would have been problematic if I had got the later train and experienced such a delay and missed part of the game.

In retrospect, that probably would have been a good thing. This was not a good match.

Coleraine had the first attacking moment of the game when a shot from Conor McDermott was easily saved.

Linfield’s first attacking moment of note came when a free-kick from Joel Cooper went just wide.

Coleraine’s next big attacking moment saw Matthew Shevlin stretching to get on the end of a cross to no success, while Stephen Fallon headed over for Linfield from a good position under pressure from Robbie McDaid, probably too eager to get a goal for himself.

Even at this early stage, it was hard to see where a goal was going to come for either team. This game had 0-0 written all over it.

Chris Johns was spending his afternoon catching crosses and not doing much else..

As the minutes ticked down, Stephen Fallon had a volleyed effort go just wide while Sam Roscoe had a header go well wide.

The most glaring question was, where were the subs?

Too little too late. The game was there to be one, but Linfield didn’t take the risk.

Attacking their own fans, if they had wave after wave of attacks, Coleraine would have capitulated.

I get that 4-5-1 has it’s merits in some games, but when the ground work is done, you have to go for it.

In the end, the verdict was the same for both teams, comfortable in defence but not enough up front.

This was the game where I learnt what a “Staggered egress” is. They couldn’t stop announcing it over the tannoy during the final 20 minutes.

Seemingly, Coleraine fans were kept behind to allow Linfield fans to leave.

Problem was, when you see how far the away exits are from Coleraine Train Station, it was all a bit pointless.

One of those announcements was being made as Linfield had an attacking free-kick with seconds remaining of injury time

It was all set up perfectly for Linfield to score and the away fans to start chanting “We’re not going home”.

Of course that was never going to happen, they couldn’t get home quick enough after a rather forgettable afternoon of football.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

This is it, the title run-in.

I was there, getting photos of Linfield’s last five games of the season, against Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders, Larne and Coleraine.

It had a happy ending, as Linfield won the League. I managed to get some photos of the celebrations.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January 2022 began with a trip to a very wet Stangmore Park to see Linfield put six past Dungannon Swifts.

I then treated myself the following week with a trip to a match as a neutral, and to a ground I had never visited before.

Blanchflower Park was the destination, my first opportunity to check it out since it opened, to see Harland and Wolff Welders take on Annagh United in the Irish Cup.

Three days after that, it was off to Seaview for the County Antrim Shield Final between Linfield and Larne.

It was back to Windsor Park on the next two Saturdays for Linfield’s home matches against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The month finished with two away trips for Linfield, to Cliftonville and Coleraine.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United

Harland and Wolff Welders v Annagh United Photo Album

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glenavon

Cliftonville v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

It was hoped that December’s football watching would begin at Lansdowne Road, but I had to make do with Coleraine Showgrounds. It doesn’t really matter where you watch your football as long as you’re watching Linfield win.

Although, Linfield did undo that with a draw at home to Warrenpoint Town the following Saturday.

And then, they made up for it by beating Larne away for the first time since 2008, and then beat Ballymena United to go top for the first time all season.

Before undoing that by drawing at home to Glentoran on Boxing Day.

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glentoran

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

Due to matches being postponed due to International Call-Ups, September’s football watching took a while to get going, having to wait until the middle of the month for my first match, Linfield’s trip to Portadown.

For me, like a lot of others, it was a first away trip since March 2020.

It was, eventually, an enjoyable trip with Linfield winning 3-2.

That was then followed by a home match against Coleraine, and trips to Glenavon and Glentoran.

Portadown v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Glentoran v Linfield

LINFIELD 2-0 COLERAINE 30.4.2022

With Cliftonville winning the League Cup, Larne winning the County Antrim Shield, Crusaders and Ballymena United to contest the Irish Cup Final, and Glentoran winning the Top In February Cup, this was Linfield’s last chance for a trophy in 2021-2022.

It was the big one though, the one they wanted. There would be no second chance if it went wrong at home to Coleraine.

The fact the intro to this blog isn’t filled with expletives suggests that things went ok.

Injury last week against Larne meant that Jamie Mulgrew missed out and was replaced by Stephen Fallon, himself back from injury, while Chris McKee came in for Jake Hastie as Linfield brought in a second striker to try and offer more of an attacking threat than they did against Larne seven days previous.

He would be joined on the bench by Christy Manzinga, making a welcome return after injury.

Linfield had a decent start to the game, being camped in Coleraine’s final third. The plan was to get Jordan Stewart on the ball as much as possible.

Every time he got the ball, something seemed to happen for Linfield.

It was the same for Eetu Vertainen. Just four minutes in his game was over after a challenge where he landed awkwardly.

The delay to the game for treatment meant that this game and the one at The Oval would be out of sync.

Vertainen’s departure meant that Devine Time would be a bit early than usual. Christy Manzinga’s return from injury not enough for him to play over eighty minutes.

As Devine was coming on, Linfield had a corner. Surely not?

That would have been too much of a fairytale, but it did almost result in a goal for Linfield, with Chris Shields heading just over.

This game was very similar to the match against Larne, with Linfield struggling to break down a team set up to defend and hit on the break. We were even being treated to taking an age at goal kicks and pretend arguments between defenders and keeper in order to slow the game down.

The need for a goal became even more urgent as Cliftonville went 1-0 up at The Oval.

I only knew as the person in front showed me on their phone. I would have expected a roar from the North Stand when that news emerged.

As things stood, Cliftonville were champions.

Just as in the Larne game, you felt if Linfield got a goal, things would be ok, they would go on and win the game comfortably. The problem was, getting that first goal.

Ben Hall shot over as the pressure continued. Coleraine had their own attacks, but nothing that caused concern for Linfield.

With 42 minutes on the clock, Linfield got the breakthrough when Ben Hall headed home from a corner. His first goal for the club, and what a time to get it. A player who has begun to flourish after a difficult.

You could feel a weight being lifted all over Windsor Park. as things stood, Linfield were now Champions.

It was a lead, but not a win. There was still a lot of work to do.

With a few minutes left in the half, the game meandered. Having worked so hard to get the lead, Linfield were determined to make sure they went in at half-time 1-0 up.

Due to the injury to Eetu Vertainen, there was still a bit of injury time to play. I was saying to myself that there was still time for one last push to try and get a second.

And what a push, as neat passing between Niall Quinn and Chris Shields played in Chris McKee.

It was one of those that he had to hit first time, there was no opportunity to control the ball and shoot.

Hit it first time is what he did, low and hard into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

It is easy to say in retrospect, but that was the moment. That was the moment we knew Linfield had won the League. The celebrations in the stand reflected it.

Obviously I didn’t say it out loud. I’m not stupid. That would jinx it.

It was the last kick of the half, with the half-time whistle blew straight away.

You could sense the change in atmosphere. If the goal from Hall lifted a weight off everybody, this goal made it disappear completely.

David Healy only needed to say one thing at half-time – “Don’t do anything stupid”.

Suddenly, the game at The Oval, where Cliftonville led 1-0 at half-time, didn’t matter. For 42 minutes, it very much did matter.

As long as Linfield kept in control of the ball, they would keep in control of the game, and win the League.

Simple really. No drama, that’s all I ask for.

Could do with a third goal, just to be absolutely sure though.

It almost came when Jimmy Callacher got on the end of a corner but his header went wide.

The second-half was a bit of a non event. Linfield didn’t need to score, they just had to make sure they didn’t concede.

Which never looked like happening. Coleraine had a few half chances and speculative shots, but nothing that caused any concern.

In order to see out the game, Kyle McClean came on from the bench, as did Ahmed Salam later on.

Christy Manzinga, wasn’t needed.

The final whistle blew, and Linfield were Champions, four times in a row.

Twice before this century they had tried to win four in a row and fell short.

A single point did for them in 2009, so they know exactly how Cliftonville fans feel (even to the point of there being matchdays where both teams drew) and quite spectacularly getting nowhere near the title in 2013.

I’d said before this season that draws can kill you, but in the end, it was draws that did it for Linfield. They won the same amount of matches as Cliftonville, but it was Linfield drawing one more game and Cliftonville losing one more game than Linfield.

Ultimately, you could say it was the weekend (well, extending into Monday) in October when Cliftonville lost at Ballymena and Linfield got a late draw at Larne.

Or maybe it was Boxing Day when Linfield drew at home to Glentoran but Cliftonville lost to Crusaders when they played each other the following week.

Amazing to think that game looks like the one that did it, when compared to Cliftonville losing at home to the same opposition just over two weeks later.

At the time, it looked like those four points were going to send the Gibson Cup to East Belfast, but they ended up having to settle for the Top In February Cup.

In retrospect, the game that won it for Linfield was the game at home to Cliftonville in November.

To give a bit of background, Linfield had hit a bump for the first time domestically, losing their unbeaten League start at Crusaders, which was preceded by a League Cup exit at Ballymena and two dropped points at Portadown.

At that time, they had a game in hand on Cliftonville, but Cliftonville were getting the points.

Those points had given them a (deceptive) six point lead. The season was threatening to go away from Linfield.

Defeat would have seen Cliftonville potentially run off into the distance, even a draw would have been a big challenge to overcome them.

Linfield turned up with their best performance of the season so far, got a deserved win, and reeled Cliftonville back in, kept the pressure on them, ultimately doing enough to finish a point ahead.

Not letting teams get too far away was something Linfield had to do in response to defeat at The Oval in February, not letting Glentoran get too comfortable with their three point lead, setting down the challenge to them, only to watch them capitulate.

A three point deficit became a five point lead within six games. It would be twelve by the end of the season.

The most damming thing you can say about Glentoran is that Linfield and Cliftonville won one match in four going into the last game, and still pulled further away from Glentoran.

Oh well.

Crusaders were a strange team, games in hand did for them. If they had played them and got the points on the board, they could have put pressure on those above them.

That’s why it was so important for Linfield to keep getting the points in the bag while they were playing catch-up with the fixture list prior to Christmas.

Due to points accumulated in 2019, Linfield need to make the most of it in terms of ranking and co-efficient in Europe. That is why it is so important to keep qualifying for Europe, especially the European Cup.

This would be a fantastic opportunity to progress in Europe and really have a go at it, even if it means dropping into the later Qualifying Stages of the Euro Conference 2023 Final was potentially at Windsor Park too, successful bid permitting.

However, they lost out to Prague.

Not surprising, due to hosting the 2021 European Super Cup Final, and London and Dublin hosting club and national finals so close together. It could be a case of waiting a few years.

As is custom these days, players left the pitch while a podium was being erected. For many, this would be their first chance to see Linfield lift silverware in the flesh since 2019 due to the 2020 title win taking place before a training session at Midgley Park while last season’s Irish Cup Final and title lift at Solitude were played in front of reduced crowds.

I had to make do with BBC Two for the game at Solitude.

The players walked out in numerical order. Apart from Chris Shields who slide onto the pitch head first.

Having gone into the season with a bit of worry due to the turnover of players, this current squad stepped and made themselves hard to beat, only losing three games, the lowest title winning total since Crusaders in 2018.

You may have seen a stat doing the rounds on Social Media and in the Sunday Life that Linfield didn’t trail at home during the season.

I was aware of this stat a few weeks before the season ended but decided not to post it to avoid jinxing it, with two home games remaining.

The Irish League season wasn’t over, with Relegation, Irish Cup Final and European places to be decided.

I would have been excited by Annagh United being promoted, a new ground to visit, but they lost to Portadown.

Long term readers will know my position on the European Play-Offs. Nothing but a reward of mediocrity.

Pains me to say it, but natural justice would have been Glentoran winning it, as the team who should have qualified through the League.

Funny that they didn’t though. and the manner in which they didn’t win it.

Ballymena winning the Irish Cup would have been great as it would have resulted in at least two ot Glentoran, Crusaders and Larne missing out on Europe.

No harm in seeing rivals weakened.

Sometimes it’s not about who you want to win, but who you want to lose.

Newry City eventually secured their promotion, so there’s be visits there next season. Hopefully on a Saturday (both games in 2018-2019) were midweek and, without being greedy, in August, at teatime. Make a day of it and go to Carlingford beforehand.

That was me domestically for 2021-2022, a trip to Scotland followed the weekend after, and then two Northern Ireland matches in June.

My options for a game at that weekend were: Celtic v Hearts, Rangers v Dundee United, Hibs v Aberdeen, Livingston v Dundee, Dunfermline v Queen’s Park, Bonnyrigg Rose v Cowedenbeath or a Rugby match between Edinburgh and Wasps.

Click across the next few blogs to see who I went to.

2022-2023 will see a World Cup on at the same time as Irish League matches. That will be odd.

With the World Cup Final being scheduled for Sunday 18th December, that means that day’s edition of Sunday Life will preview the World Cup Final and the Steel and Sons Cup Final.

Which will be held on Saturday 24th December 2022. Might go along to that.

Complain all you want about Linfield driving you nuts and messing with your emotions.

You’ll miss it for the next three months.

Photo Album

2019 Title Win

2017 Title Celebrations

2017 Title Win