PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – DECEMBER

I had to wait seven days for some football watching, heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

That was followed by a road trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.

The end of the month got a bit busier heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw with Crusaders. The following Saturday saw me head to Coleraine to see Linfield get another draw.

Sandwiched inbetween that was the traditional Boxing Day game against Glentoran, this season held at The Oval. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Glentoran v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – OCTOBER

October began with a disappointing trip to Seaview to see Linfield lose to Crusaders.

It got better the following Saturday, with a 4-1 win at Dungannon Swifts.

That was then followed by two quick trips to Windsor Park, to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-1, and then hammer Warrenpoint Town 7-0, before the month ended as it started, with a disappointing away defeat for Linfield, this time at Coleraine.

Crusaders v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Coleraine v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – AUGUST

August’s football watching began in dramatic fashions with three games in the first three days of the month.

The 1st of the month saw me head to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on HB Torshavn in the UEFA Cup.

The following day, I headed to Edinburgh for a short break. It would have been rude not to take in some football.

On Friday 2nd, I headed to see Dunfermline Athletic take on Dundee, while on Saturday 3rd, I went to see Hibernian take on St Mirren.

The rest of the month was a residency at Windsor Park, seeing Linfield’s League matches against Institute and Coleraine, and their UEFA Cup matches against Sutjeska and Qarabag.

Linfield v HB Torshavn

Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee

Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee Photo Album

Hibernian v St Mirren

Hibernian v St Mirren Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Linfield v FK Sutjeska

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Qarabag

2019 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October 2019 began with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

A busy month of concerts began a few days later with a trip to Ulster Hall to see The Divine Comedy.

There was even some Street Art spotted during the month, heading to Stephen Street to see a mural of The Joker and Catwoman

The next day, I was on the road to Dungannon to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 4-1.

From there, it was another concert, a first visit to The Telegraph Building, to see Two Door Cinema Club.

The flipping between football and concerts continued as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United. The following midweek saw a football/concert double header, seeing Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town, before seeing OMD at Ulster Hall.

October’s photo adventures ended with a trip to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the month beginning and ending for me with a 1-0 defeat.

Crusaders v Linfield

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Joker and Catwoman Mural

Joker and Catwoman Mural Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

OMD live at Ulster Hall

OMD live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

2019 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August 2019 began with a bit of a bang, it was hard to keep up.

On the 1st of the month, I went to see Linfield take on HB Torshavn in the UEFA Cup.

A few hours later, I headed to Edinburgh for a break, taking in two football matches, some Street Art and a walk up Arthur’s Seat

Upon my return from Edinburgh, it felt like I was having a permanent residency at Windsor Park for the rest of the month, taking in Linfield’s matches against Institute, Sutjeska, Coleraine and Qarabag.

Linfield v HB Torshavn

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee

Dunfermline Athletic v Dundee Photo Album

Hibernian v St Mirren

Hibernian v St Mirren Photo Album

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Linfield v Sutjeska

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Qarabag

2019 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February didn’t get off to the best start, as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield exit the Irish Cup against Crusaders.

Things got better the following Saturday as Linfield came from 2-0 down to score a last minute winner against Coleraine.

It got a lot better the following Saturday as Linfield beat Ballymena United to win the NIFL Cup.

Finally, it was time for my first concerts of the year, going to see Chvrches at Ulster Hall, then Razorlight at The Limelight the following evening.

That was followed by some more football, as Linfield took on Ballymena United again, this time in the League, and then a midweek trip to Newry to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Coleraine

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Chvrches live at Ulster Hall

Chvrches live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Razorlight live at The Limelight

Razorlight live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Newry City v Linfield

COLERAINE 1-0 LINFIELD 26.10.2019

All season, Linfield have been trying to climb to the top of the Irish League table. For most of the season, the peak seemed a long way off. Gradually, win by win, the gap has got close and closer.

Tuesday night’s win over Warrenpoint Town put Linfield only two points off the top of the table, the closest they have been since August.

Just as against Crusaders at the start of October, as soon as Linfeld looked to cut the gap, the gap got bigger.

Games in hand mean Linfield still have the title destiny in their own hands, but another poor result in a big domestic game remains a sense of frustration.

For me, this was my first trip to Coleraine by train, with the ground being a short walk from the station …. or so I thought.

A few observations. I find it absolutely incredible in this day and age that Great Victoria Street doesn’t have self service ticket machines. It is also a very poorly designed train station. Want to know what I mean? Try and walk to the platform after a train has just arrived.

Hopefully, the planned Belfast Transport Hub will address this.

I got off at Central, and the newly built retail units are still empty, which is a bit embarrassing.

Getting off at Coleraine, there was a wait to walk to the ground as the road was closed as it is a Level Crossing and we needed to wait for the train to leave the station. Although, on the way back, I did notice a shortcut from the station to the ground, which i’ll make use of in future.

From there, we were then made to walk the long way around through an industrial estate. This delay meant I missed the opening minute of the game.

I got in just in time to see Ben Doherty have a shot saved by Rohan Ferguson. Even if it did go in, it still would have been a better start for Linfield than when the sides met in August, going 1-0 down after 13 seconds.

There were two changes for Linfield with Niall Quinn and Mark Stafford coming in for Matthew Clarke and Ross Larkin, harsh on both players who did well on Tuesday.

Aaron Traynor then had a shot over the bar as Coleraine continued the pressure. Traynor would then be later denied by two Linfield players charging at him to block a shot and make the goal smaller, similar to when Andrew Burns was forced to hit his shot into the side netting last week.

Linfield’s response was a shot by Bastien Hery which hit the post. Encouraged by this, Hery had a later shot from a similar range which was easily held by Chris Johns.

Eoin Bradley then got in behind Jimmy Callacher but his shot was saved by Rohan Ferguson.

Having got in at half-time 0-0, Linfield would have to improve in the second-half.

Wherever they play, if Linfield are attacking where their own fans, they always have a chance.

Linfield were brighter as an attacking force, but still not troubling Coleraine. Coleraine’s attacks were much more believable.

After managing to frustrate Coleraine, Linfield almost gifted Coleraine a goal, when Rohan Ferguson was caught in possession, but managed to put pressure on Eoin Bradley and make the goal smaller, making the save when Bradley tried to score from a wide angle.

In search of a goal, Linfield brought on Jordan Stewart and Andrew Waterworth for Joel Cooper and Shayne Lavery.

However, it a game that looked like it was meandering to a 0-0 draw, it was Coleraine who got the breakthrough with ten minutes to go when Mark Stafford headed the ball into his own net when trying to clear the ball.

To make it worse, the goal came from a cheaply conceded corner.

It’s the second successive week where Linfield have conceded from Rohan Ferguson not being assertive enough.

When the ball comes in, just get it. If there are bodies in the road, just get it. If one of your own players is in the road, just go and get the ball. Hopefully, he’ll work on it.

It was a poor goal to concede on so many levels, in terms of time of the game, importance and the quality of the goal.

Linfield responded by bringing on Matthew Shevlin for Bastien Hery, as they attacked a goal where the Ballboys had mysteriously disappeared, being stood down, their work for the day was done.

Naturally, given the situation, Linfield had more of the ball, but never really did enough with it, all they could offer was a Jimmy Callacher header and a hooked Matthew Shevlin effort that didn’t force Chris Johns into a save.

Coleraine held out for the win, increasing their lead over Linfield to five points, and giving them a three point lead over Crusaders, although Crusaders could have overtaken them with a large win over Glenavon in a 5pm kick-off. They drew 2-2, which made this result even more frustrating.

Linfield’s two games in hand mean that if they win them, they will go top.

Trips to Ballymena and Larne won’t be easy, but they are mid table teams, we should be believing we will beat them if we want to win the League, especially as Coleraine and Crusaders are yet to beat them.

The table is now starting to take shape.

Carrick Rangers, Institute and Warrenpoint Town are now marooned as the bottom three.

It’s hard to assess Glenavon. Presently, they are in a relegation fight, but if they win their two games in hand (or even get four points), they will join Dungannon Swifts, Ballymena United and Larne in the race for 6th.

The top five are starting to pull away from the rest.

Despite one point from four games against the sides above them, Glentoran are only six points off the top. You have to count them in the title race. If they had beaten Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts in August, they’d only be one point off the top

Like Cliftonville, currently one point off the top, i’d expect them to be a bit further back by the time everybody plays each other twice.

It is interesting to note that Crusaders have gone four games without a win. If that was Linfield, it would be front page news.

Crusaders also concede goals. 4 x Coleraine, 2 v Coleraine, 2 v Glentoran and 2 v Glenavon twice.

It makes our failure to score against them this season even more frustrating.

It’s Coleraine that Linfield really have to worry about.

Their doing better than expected as I thought it might take a season to get back on track after their 2017-2018 team was decimated.

Three defeats out of three to Coleraine and Crusaders is a concern, especially the manner, a lack of creativity after falling behind to bad goals each time. In games of fine margins, we have to make everything count.

One positive is that Oran Kearney will win Manager Of The Month, which will jinx him.

If it does, we have to take advantage. Thankfully, we’ve got a generous run of games coming up in November.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-4 COLERAINE 17.8.2019

When you’re playing The Limelight days before you headline Glastonbury, the rules are the same, you have to perform no matter where you are playing.

This was more drunken karaoke down the pub than Queen at Live Aid.

The first 13 seconds were awful. The remaining 89 minutes and 47 seconds weren’t much better.

Coleraine kicked off and were straight on the attack, a long ball seeing Ben Doherty get clear of Jimmy Callacher and run towards goal. I was sat at the opposite end and could see that he was setting himself up to shoot on his left foot.

However, the three defenders around him couldn’t see it, backing off and giving him to shoot and put Coleraine 1-0 up.

At least there was still plenty of time to put it right.

Amazingly, it wasn’t the earliest goal I’ve seen Linfield concede, with Gary McCutcheon scoring in 12 seconds in 2013.

The response from Linfield? There wasn’t really one. A lot of build-up play but no final ball.

Coleraine were well organised, so Linfield needed to do something special to break them down. It just wasn’t happening for them.

Midway through the first-half, things got worse when Coleraine went 2-0 up from a corner.

I was at the other end and thought it went straight in. It was much worse than that.

There were no Coleraine players attacking the ball, Ryan McGiven headed the ball into his own net from a few yards out, beating Daniel Kearns to the ball just as he was about to clear it.

Surely McGivern would have seen Kearns and let him clear it? Running to head the ball away when facing your own goal always has a risk, he should have let Kearns take control of the situation.

As with the first goal, there was still time to put it right, but they didn’t look like doing so.

They did have history to look back on for recent inspiration, with Linfield coming from behind to draw and win against Coleraine in recent years, as well as Coleraine throwing away 1-0 and 2-0 leads to draw against Cliftonville and Glentoran in the opening week of the season.

All that Linfield could offer in response was a speculative long range shot from Jamie Mulgrew.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield had their best moments of the game, all being relative. A lot of possession and situations but very few chances. The only moment of concern for Coleraine was a shot from Joel Cooper which deflected into the side netting.

Even if Linfield had pulled it back to 2-1 during those final minutes, it wouldn’t and shouldn’t have changed the half-time team talk.

The response at the start of the second-half wasn’t quick in coming, and David Healy wasn’t prepared to wait for it, bringing on Kirk Millar for Jordan Stewart just three minutes into the half, after Stewart lost an aerial tussle he was favourite to win.

Just before the hour, Matthew Clarke made way for Shayne Lavery, with Linfield now going to three at the back.

Within a few minutes, the ball hit the back of the net, and it was Coleraine who got it when Stephen O’Donnell headed home from a free-kick.

Again, it was poor defending from Linfield, as Ryan McGivern switched off to give O’Donnell a free header when he was favourite to clear it.

Having already blown 1-0 and 2-0 leads this season, there was no way that Coleraine were going to blow a 3-0 lead.

The irony is, if McGivern attacked the ball as he did for Coleraine’s 2nd, he would have cleared it. And of course, if he left the ball for Coleraine’s 2nd as he did for their 3rd, Daniel Kearns would have cleared it.

Linfield responded with a Kirk Millar effort that was saved, before a teed up Joel Cooper free-kick went low into the back of the net to make it 3-1.

The goal wasn’t celebrated as a consolation strike, it was celebrated as the start of a comeback, there was time left to come back.

The crowd were further geed up by the introduction of Bastien Hery before the game restarted.

Then, a header from Shayne Lavery made it 3-2 and an unlikely comeback looked on.

Within minutes, those hopes were dashed when Ryan McGivern got a second yellow card as Eoin Bradley headed towards goal. All he needed was to have missed a penalty to get a full set.

The resulting reshuffle saw Kirk Millar have to go into a full-back position to cover the defence, and blunted Linfield as an attacking force.

Even though there was only one goal in it, the red card and reshuffle killed all of Linfield’s momentum.

There was time for one more goal in this game. Kirk Millar, usually reliable for an assist set up a goal in injury time. Unfortunately, it was for Coleraine, as his stray backpass was seized upon by Emmett McGuckin who rounded Rohan Ferguson and toepoked the ball into the open net before Ferguson could chase after him.

McGuckin was only brought on minutes earlier as a substitute to see the game out.

It summed up Linfield’s day as Windsor Park began to empty as soon as the ball hit the back of the net. Those that stayed saw Joel Cooper have a header saved.

Curiously, the last time August 17th fell on a Saturday, Linfield lost 4-2 at home, this time to Cliftonville. You will be glad to hear that August 17th won’t be a Saturday until 2024. Feel free to start making alternative plans for that day.

What went wrong for Linfield? Everything.

The fightback was too little, too late. You can’t turn up 60 minutes into the game. You can’t even relax for the first 14 seconds, you have to be on it straight from kick-off.

You could argue that the changes to the started line-up disrupted Linfield’s momentum. It wasn’t Swifts players being brought it, it was players such as Cooper, Kearns, Callacher and Waterworth, who were all regular starters when the team picked itself at the start of last season.

We can’t really use Tuesday night’s exertions as an excuse, as there were ten top flight teams in action on Tuesday night, one of those being Coleraine.

As disappointing as this performance and result was, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective and not to panic. If we win our game in hand, we’ll only be three points off the top.

With no game next weekend, and the following weekend’s game pushed back to the Monday night, we could be in the relegation zone by the time we next play a League match.

That would be a hilarious juxtaposition if we were in the groups stages by the time we play at Larne.

It would not be hilarious if we were still in the relegation zone by the end of September though, just for clarity.

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney stated when being interviewed on the BBC after the game that the game was postponed, even though his side got the three points.

I’ll have to disagree with him on that. I can understand postponing the Warrenpoint game, as disappointing as it is, as it is such an exceptional situation.

In terms of fixture scheduling, things are manageable and there is no need to panic, but we can’t let things build up.

If we get through to the group stages, playing League matches on the Sunday after will have to be looked at seriously, as we can’t let the outstanding games pile up.

Whilst we may have games in hand, other clubs will have points in the bag, which is far more preferable.

Next week’s fixture list sees two matches between teams with top six ambtions – Crusaders v Larne and Ballymena United v Glentoran which will hopefully see points droppage that we can take advantage of when we return to League action.

I’m hoping that this performance was purely to lure any Azeri spies into a false sense of security ahead of Thursday night’s game.

Qarabag have recent European pedigree. They know how to reach the groups stages of competitions, mostly the UEFA Cup, though they haven’t got past the group stage or looked like doing so.

A win against Anderlecht and draws with Saint Etienne (twice), Inter Milan, Monaco and Atletico Madrid (twice) in recent years commands respect, but not fear.

The second leg will be played at Azerbaijan’s national stadium, Tofiq Brhramov Stadium.

It’s a stadium that has evaded David Healy in his career. He was suspended when Northern Ireland played there in 2004. By the time they returned in 2017, he was retired from playing.

Hopefully, by the time he eventually gets there on Thursday week, it will be worth the wait.

Photo Album

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.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching was spent at Windsor Park, where I spent every Saturday of the month.

It began with Linfield exiting the Irish Cup to Crusaders, then come from 2-0 down to beat Coleraine with a last minute winner, beat Ballymena United to win the NIFL Cup, and then beat them again in the League.

The month ended with a trip to Newry to see Linfield secure a late and dramatic 1-0 win.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Ballymena United (NIFL Cup)

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United (League)

Newry City v Linfield