2019 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR …..)

December’s photo adventures had to wait a full seven days, when I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Cliftonville.

A few days later, I headed to Ulster Hall for my final concert of the year, to see Primal Scream.

The following Saturday, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.

That was followed by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw 1-1 with Crusaders.

December so far hasn’t been that busy so far, but there’s still some photo adventures to come in the final week.

It’s unlikely that i’ll be at Seaview tomorrow for the Steel and Sons Cup Final, but i’ll be at The Oval on Boxing Day. As if i’d be anywhere else.

Boxing Day is the start of three busy days, as i’ll be heading to Ulster v Connacht the day after, and then Coleraine v Linfield the day after that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed by look back at my photo adventures in 2019. Of course, there’ll be more photo adventures in 2020.

In terms of concerts, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Blossoms and Badly Drawn Boy are already on the horizon.

Travelwise, Manchester and Bray are confirmed. I’m planning to walk up Bray Head. While in Bray, i’ll sneak in a trip to Dublin. I’m hoping to see a Euro 2020 game while i’m there, but i’ll definitely catch some League Of Ireland action.

May is the new date for Hit The North, so i’ll be photographing that, and any other Street Art I spot during the year.

And i’ll be crossing my fingers for some snow to photograph at some point because i’m a big kid.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall

Primal Scream live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

LINFIELD 1-1 CRUSADERS 21.12.2019

The Saturday Before Christmas. It sounds like a novel which has been turned into an animated movie which fills up mid afternoon schedules every year, funnily enough, on the Saturday before Christmas.

For Linfield in recent years, the Saturday before Christmas has usually had a happy ending.

2014 saw a come from behind win (with a last minute penalty save added in) against Portadown which was one of the highlights of Warren Feeney’s brief spell as Manager.

2015 saw another come from behind win, against Ballymena United, which really kickstarted David Healy’s reign as Manager. A year later, came a dramatic and vital injury time win against the same opponents.

Even the wretched 2017-2018 season saw a dominant win over win over Cliftonville.

Last year, wasn’t as memorable, a 0-0 draw against Glenavon as they were trying to keep up with Ballymena United.

On 45 minutes, this was The Nightmare Before Christmas. By full-time, it wasn’t quite a Christmas miracle, but an unexpected and greatly appreciated early present of a point.

The pre-match scenario was similar to when Linfield faced Crusaders in December and January last season, with Crusaders a couple of points behind, and Linfield knowing they could pull clear of them with a win.

Linfield’s starting eleven was the same as the previous week at Warrenpoint, lining up 4-4-2.

The deviation from 4-2-3-1 was not that surprising with Kirk Millar suspended and Daniel Kearns recovering from injury, so they had to make use of the players that were available.

Bastien Hery continued to be rested, having been playing all year with the League Of Ireland playing Summer football.

Linfield enjoyed a lot of the ball in the early minutes, but a free-kick from Chris Casement was all they could offer.

On 7 minutes, Crusaders scored with their first attack when a Philip Lowry cross was headed home by Declan Caddell from six yards out.

The home fans waited for an offside flag. It didn’t come as he wasn’t. Chris Casement and Josh Robinson switched off and left him unmarked.

Caddell became the first opposition player to score a League goal at Windsor Park since August, a goal that was key if recent form in this fixture was anything to go by, as Linfield hadn’t come from behind to beat Crusaders since April 2014.

What we got after that, was a repeat of the bad old days when Linfield go a goal behind against Crusaders, being scared of them and forgetting how to play football.

When Linfield had the ball, Crusaders had everybody defending, and Linfield didn’t have the imagination to break through. They had the players to do it.

When the ball went to them, there were swarms of Crusaders players around them. Far too many times, Linfield players were second to the ball, or when they got it, easily outmuscled in possession.

Most of Linfield’s possession in the first-half saw Josh Robinson and Jimmy Callacher passing it to each other as they had nobody else to pass it to.

Sometimes, they involved Rohan Ferguson, passing it back to him. Every backpass was cheered louder than their goal by the Crusaders fans. Strange bunch.

Hesitancy in defence from Josh Robinson allowed Jamie McGonigle in behind Linfield’s defence. As Jimmy Callacher anticpated a cross, it left space for McGonigle to shoot, only to be denied twice by Ferguson.

Every time Crusaders counter-attacked, Linfield’s defence was stretched and had no support. You would have been happy to take a 0-1 scoreline at the break, and get it remedied in the second-half.

However, Linfield would turn out to be disappointed by that score as they finished the half showing more of an attacking threat than they had previously.

Joel Cooper had a shot spilled by Gerard Doherty, who was able to recover with Shayne Lavery sniffing around.

Cooper would then have Linfield’s best chance of the half when the ball fell to him six yards out but he smashed it against the bar. Even though there were a lot of Crusaders bodies in the penalty area, he really should have scored.

Like in other recent matches, the presence of Shayne Lavery in the six yard box at corners had an offputting effect on defenders and goalkeepers. Linfield couldn’t exploit that, usually not beating the first man.

With no opportunities being created in open play, Linfield simply had to make the most of set piece opportunities that came their way.

The highlight of Linfield’s corners came when they got one, everybody was waiting in the penalty area but nobody was going over to take it so the ball just sat by the corner flag.

0-1 at half-time, and probably thankful to still be in the game. There was no need to panic. When Linfield did attack Crusaders, Crusaders looked shaky, they just weren’t attacking them enough. There were goals in this for Linfield, they just needed to step it up.

The lack of urgency was summed up by two minutes of injury time being signalled, but they were seeing out the half instead of pushing for a late equaliser that would change the mood in both Dressing Rooms.

This was summed up by Gerard Doherty having to play the ball outside his penalty area, but nobody putting pressure on him.

Linfield responded at half-time by making two substitutions, with Mark Haughey coming on for Chris Casement and Daniel Kearns coming on for Andrew Waterworth.

It was Haughey’s first appearance since May 2018, and the biggest compliment you can pay is that it looked like he had never been away. I thought it might have taken a few games to ease him back in. Especially when there were four Linfield players on the pitch when he joined the action who he had never played alongside before.

Waterworth had needed treatment during the first-half, so his withdrawal may have been due to injury, but the switch allowed Linfield to revert to 4-2-3-1, which they enjoyed so much success against Crusaders last season.

There was no immediate pressure on Crusaders goal. Joel Cooper had a speculative shot from a wide angle saved by Doherty before Stephen Fallon hit the bar, the ball didn’t come down quick enough for Shayne Lavery to head in, a Crusaders player managing to clear.

With each passing minute, it became obvious that Linfield needed Bastien Hery from the bench.

He is supposed to be getting rested, but unfortunately, Linfield keep needing to get him out there.

It looked like Matthew Clarke was going to equalise when he went for a loose ball in the penalty area, but was denied by Billy Joe Burns at the expense of a corner.

Burns was involved from the resulting corner, conceding a penalty after handling.

When conceding the corner, it looked like Clarke had fouled Burns. Finally, a stroke of luck which went in Linfield’s favour.

When a penalty is awarded, you can sometimes get a sense what the outcome will be. You didn’t get the sense that a goal was incoming when Bastien Hery stepped up.

And so it proved, as Gerard Doherty saved his low effort, at the same end where he saved a penalty from Jordan Stewart last season.

Whenever a penalty is missed, the team who survives the penalty miss is usually galvanised. Unusually, it was Linfield who were galvanised by the penalty miss, the crowd urging them on in search of an equaliser.

They didn’t have long to wait, as Joel Cooper picked up the ball and fired home spectacularly from outside the penalty area to make it 1-1.

Literally just seconds earlier, across Belfast, Cliftonville had gone 1-0 up against Coleraine in the other match between teams in the Top 4.

Midway through the second-half, I had a feeling that Crusaders would tire, and Linfield could capitalise, as they had conceded decisive late goals in their last two matches against Ballymena United and Glentoran.

Linfield fans were immediately thinking of winning the game. Apart from me, I was immediately having flashbacks to the Irish Cup game in February when Linfield conceded a late winner just after scoring a late equaliser.

Both teams had late chances to win it.

Jamie McGonigle had a shot saved by Rohan Ferguson at the expense of a corner, and a corner was awarded. You weren’t too sure, considering the last time a Linfield player denied McGonigle from scoring in injury time, a goal was awarded anyway.

With just 30 seconds left in injury time, Linfield had a free kick out wide. It was set up perfectly for Josh Robinson or Jimmy Callacher to power home a dramatic winner.

Santa would not oblige, as Crusaders cleared the danger to secure a 1-1 draw.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Linfield. Frustration at not being able to pull clear of Crusaders and Coleraine, but relief that Crusaders haven’t pulled closer.

Glentoran have pulled the gap to five points, which will give them encouragement ahead of Boxing Day.

Just like this match, it is don’t lose, but let’s go and win it. No point being in a traffic jam when we can charge ahead, especially with Crusaders and Cliftonville playing each other, and Coleraine facing an in-form Ballymena United.

How very convenient that Ballymena hit form just as they are due to play Coleraine and Glentoran.

This week, it was announced that the County Antrim Shield Final on 21st January will be held at Windsor Park.

Not ideal, as it rules out that date for scheduling in the rearranged home match against Dungannon, even though that would mean two home games against the same opposition in four days. We could still schedule in a trip to Larne for that date.

Handy for me personally though as i’ll be in England that date and won’t miss a home game.

There’s no need to panic regarding the two outstanding games, there’s still plenty of time to slot them in.

Even though it disappointed me from a travelling and groundhopping point of view, the decision not to enter the Scottish Challenge Cup has been totally justified.

Without the nine points acquired against Cliftonville, Dungannon Swifts and Institute, we’d be 5th, seven points off the top with five games to schedule in. Possibly a sixth if we reached the Semi-Final.

Elsewhere, Friday saw the release of the 2020 League Of Ireland fixtures.

It works out well for me, as there’s a full fixture list on the Monday night that i’m in the Dublin Area next June. I’ll have the choice of St Patrick’s Athletic v Cork City or Bohemians v Shelbourne.

First Division fixtures are yet to be announced, so i’m hoping that Bray are at home that night.

I’m toying with the idea of a break in Tallinn over the July Holidays. They play Summer football so I can take in a game, and sneak in a day trip to Helsinki. Will definitely be giving that serious consideration.

More immediately, I probably won’t be going to the Steel and Sons Cup Final on Christmas Day. Of course, good luck to Linfield Swifts.

I can’t sign off without wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Even to Glentoran supporters, but I hope they have shitty Boxing Day.

Dare you ask what I want for Christmas? I’ll give you a clue, i’m happy to wait until April and May 2020 for it.

Would it be rude to ask Santa for a pre-season trip to Stranraer?

Photo Album

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 – APRIL

April 2019 began for me with a trip to Ballymena to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 1-0 to all but secure the Irish League title.

The next day, I made the most of a football free Saturday by heading to East Belfast to get some photos of some newly painted Street Art.

The following Saturday, I was back on the football trail, seeing Linfield secure the point they needed, against Crusaders, to become Champions.

The week after, came the trophy presentation, following a forgettable 4-0 defeat against Glenavon.

My last Linfield game of the season was a lot better, a 5-1 win over Cliftonville on Easter Tuesday.

April ended with a trip to Lisburn to Island Arts Centre for an art event where murals were painted live.

Ballymena United v Linfield

East Belfast Street Art

East Belfast Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield Title Celebrations

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield Title Presentations

Linfield v Cliftonville

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

2019 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began with a first concert at Elmwood Hall for me, to see KT Tunstall.

A few days later was my first football match of the month, as I travelled to Mourneview Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

The football didn’t get much better, as I headed to Seaview to see Linfield lose the County Antrim Shield Final to Crusaders.

Thankfully, things got a bit better as Linfield beat Institute 2-0.

There was a flurry of football as the month ended, with three games in four days, with Linfield’s trip to Dungannon Swifts being sandwiched inbetween Northern Ireland’s opening Euro 2020 Qualifiers, at home to Estonia and Belarus.

KT Tunstall live at Elmwood Hall

KT Tunstall live at Elmwood Hall Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Institute

Northern Ireland v Estonia

Northern Ireland v Estonia Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

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

2019 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2019 began for me with a trip to the seaside on the very first day of the year, to Clandeboye Park to see Linfield take on Ards as they aimed for three points in the title race.

Eleven days later, was my first trip of the year to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Warrenpoint Town.

That was then followed a week later by a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders.

A month that was mostly spent watching football saw me return to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Glentoran in a televised game.

The next day, I headed to Manchester. Guess what? It was for a football match, as Manchester United took on Burnley.

While I was there, I got photos of Street Art in Manchester and Salford Quays, while I also snuck in a day trip to Sheffield, where I got more Street Art photos.

While I was in Manchester, it snowed, so I got some photos of that, including snow outside Old Trafford.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

Manchester Snow

Manchester Snow Photo Album

Sheffield Street Art

Sheffield Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

CRUSADERS 1-0 LINFIELD 4.10.2019

A first live Friday night TV Game of the season saw Linfield head to Seaview looking to close the gap at the top of the table. Unfortunatley, it got bigger, but there is no need to panic.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s starting eleven was the same as the one that began the previous match, a 7-0 win over Glenavon.

There was one surprise at the start of the game, as Linfield attacked the Shore Road in the first-half where their fans were based. I think the last time that happened was April 2014.

Those fans that were at that end didn’t see a lot of attacking action from Linfield. There wasn’t a lot of attacking action from Crusaders thankfully, bar a Jordan Owens shot that was blocked.

Linfield’s first real attacking moment of note came from a Mark Stafford header under pressure that went wide.

The main talking point, and recurring theme of the half, was the number of yellow cards for fouls on Jamie Mulgrew. It’s not often you can put brains and Crusaders in the same sentence, but they had the brains to do it on a rotating basis in order to avoid getting a second yellow.

Billy Joe Burns hit the side netting in Crusaders next attacking moment of note. You would have been disappointed if the keeper was beaten from there.

Stephen Fallon then had an inswinging cross that went just wide and Matthew Clarke had a shot saved as Linfield ended the first-half strongly.

They couldn’t get the goal. The better team but not dominant, but good foundations to build on for the second-half.

Those foundations tumbled in the opening minutes when Kirk Millar’s misplaced pass was seized upon by Rory Hale who curled home from outside the box.

Within a few minutes, Joel Cooper had a shot blocked while a Crusaders counter attack saw Ross Clarke’s low shot blocked by Rohan Ferguson.

That effort from Cooper was Linfield’s only response in the aftermath of the Crusaders goal.

David Healy turned to his bench in search of an equaliser, bringing on Andrew Waterworth, Matthew Shevlin and Daniel Reynolds from the bench.

Despite those three options, as I said a few weeks back, the attacking options from the bench don’t seem as plentiful while Jordan Stewart and Daniel Kearns are unavailable.

As we approached injury time, it looked like Linfield were going to get their big chance when the ball fell perfectly for Daniel Reynolds on the edge of the penalty area, but his low shot was saved by the legs of Gerard Doherty.

It confirmed that it was going to be a frustrating evening for Linfield, even more so when Shayne Lavery was laughably booked for being barged over in the left win position.

Stephen Fallon had a long range shot go wide in the final seconds as Linfield’s six match winning run ended.

It was a frustrating result on so many levels. Crusaders were there for the taking. Not just in the first-half. Crusaders had conceded eight goals in their previous three games and were vulnerable. We didn’t work their defence enough in the second-half.

If Linfield had as much urgency as we did in the final minutes much earlier, they would have got something out of this game.

There is no need to panic. Crusaders aren’t as far away as they seem. If Linfield win their games in hand, they will only be two points behind Crusaders.

There was nothing in this game that suggested Crusaders are a team to be feared. I’d be very disappointed if Linfield don’t get at least seven points from the remaining three League games.

A run of three defeats in four against Crusaders is worrying. A recurring theme, not taking your chances and not blocking speculative long range shots.

We have to do what we did after the Coleraine match in August, dust ourselves down and go again. That will involve two trips to Dungannon in four days.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville won 1-0 at The Oval while Larne could only beat Glenavon 6-0. As I type, Coleraine lead 4-1 at Carrick.

It might not be a bad thing for there to be a traffic jam at the top of the League. Linfield can take advantage of other teams playing under pressure and taking points off each other.

Frustratingly, Ballymena United are out of the Scottish Challenge Cup, as if they were involved, their match against Crusaders would have been postponed, giving Linfield an opportunity to but the lead.

A disappointing night but no need to panic. Having three games postponed in August/September meant that the climb to the top was always going to be a long climb. This is just a stumble rather than a fall.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WHEN SATURDAY COMES – SEPTEMBER 2011

A trio of English players – Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) and Phil Jones (Manchester United) are the cover stars of When Saturday Comes, incredulously questioning each other’s recent big money transfers.

The South-West of England gets profiled, most specifically Devon, with the fortunes of Exeter City, Plymouth Argyle, Truro City and Torquay being the subject of a full page article.

The future location of Liverpool is the subject of a feature, as the club debates wether to stay at Anfield or move to a new stadium.

Steve McLaren gets profiled as he aims to rebuild his reputation, having just been appointed the new manager of Nottingham Forest. He only stayed in the job until October.

There is a look at the role of Social Media in modern football, after a Norwich City supporter had become the first supporter to be banned from a football ground, after posting racist tweets about a Norwich player.

AFC Wimbledon are the subject of this month’s Photo Feature, having been promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history, just nine years after being formed.

With there being no men’s tournament this year, it was the Women’s World Cup that occupied supporter’s attention during 2011, with a review of this tournament being featured.

With it being the summer, there is a look back at a bygone age when footballers kept themselves fit during the summer by playing cricket.

There is a look at Carlos Tevez career in England as he looks set to leave Manchester City. He didn’t leave City that summer, but did have a six month exile during the 2011-2012 season, before eventually leaving for Italy in 2013.

There are three pages dedicated to the Match Of The Month, this month was the UEFA Cup tie between Crusaders and Fulham, written by BBC Northern Ireland journalist Robbie Meredith.

There is a review of the recent Copa America, focusing on the performances of Argentina and Brazil.

Staying in South America, there is a fond look back on Argetnine attacker Walter Rojas short spell in Scotland, 20 years after signing for Dundee United.

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.