Linfield did their best to pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by blowing the title with a 0-0 draw at home to Crusaders just as they did a few days after it was signed.

At least in 1998, they created enough chances and could feel aggrieved about the result. Not so much in this game.

Just need Wes Lamont to come out of retirement for Coleraine to seal the deal.

Having cut Larne’s lead at the top to five points in the last matchday, they were feeling confident of a remarkable title win.

All they had to do was win their final five games and they needed just one result to go their way. It has happened before, in 2017.

As fans left Dungannon a few weeks previously, there was a sense of frustration that Larne weren’t Linfield’s first opponents after the split. It turned out to be a sense of relief after these ninety minutes.

Linfield’s starting eleven was unchanged from their 5-0 win at Dungannon. Not that unsurprising.

The substitutes bench raised a few eyebrows, with a welcome return for Stephen Fallon.

There wasn’t a lot of attacking options though. The most obvious ones if needed would be Andrew Clarke, Max Haygarth and a welcome return after injury for Eetu Vertainen.

Linfield had two headed chances in the early stages of the game.

Sam Roscoe headed just wide from a corner while Jimmy Callacher headed over from a free-kick just a few yards out.

My initial reaction was that it was a bad miss. In truth, it wasn’t as easy a chance as it looked.

It was one of those where you had to stick a head on it, there was no time to set yourself up, he just had to stick his head on it.

If there was anyone on a blue shirt you would want on the end of a cross, it would have been Jimmy Callacher.

Those two chances would suggest that it was a bright and positive start from Linfield. It was anything but.

It was mostly even, but Linfield were slow and lethargic, creating very little in open play.

What made it worse, was that there was two weeks preparation for this game.

The previous three games had seen a trophy, a goal difference boost of twelve and, most importantly, Larne’s gap at the top reduced.

News travels fast. If Linfield could get an early goal while Larne were drawing 0-0, everybody at Inver Park would have known about it.

Linfield were dealt a blow when Jamie Mulgrew went off injured, with Kyle McClean coming on to replace.

Even though Stephen Fallon was available, he was never going to come on at this early stage. If you’re going to play him for 70 minutes, you might as well start him.

Crusaders had the first real effort on goal of note when a free-kick from Jordan Forsythe hit the bar.

It was obvious that this was a game where the first goal would be vital.

You felt if Linfield got it, they would comfortably go on and win the game.

If Crusaders got it, you honestly couldn’t saw with any confidence that Linfield could come back to even got a draw. Not the way the game had been going.

Linfield hadn’t created anything of note in open play.

In fact, the one big chance they had was gifted to them by a defensive mix-up, but when Joel Cooper got the ball out wide, he was unable to get himself into a position to either cross or shoot.

0-0 at half-time in a game that Linfield needed to win. Even more so as the half-time scores announced saw Larne leading 2-0 against Glentoran.

Normally, news of Glentoran trailing at half-time would raise a cheer, but not tonight.

Linfield needed to vastly improve in the second-half.

That response didn’t exactly appear in the opening minutes of the second-half. There was no improvement. It was still lethargic from Linfield.

Thankfully, Crusaders didn’t punish Linfield for that, being mostly restricted to long range shots.

It just needed one of them to get lucky though.

Linfield thought they had gotten lucky when Kyle McClean finished from close range but Ethan Devine was judged to be offside in the build-up as he headed .

There wasn’t much celebrations as the flag went up straight away.

The replay of it is hard to tell.

It was becoming obvious with each passing minute that Eeru Vertainen would soon be entering the pitch.

You had the feeling he was being kept until the hour or if Crusaders went 1-0 up, whichever came first.

Turns out that feeling was wrong, his appearance was to come just after the hour, as part of a double substitution which saw Stephen Fallon return from injury. Ironically, his last appearance was a 0-0 draw at home to Crusaders in November.

The changes didn’t have an immediate impact.

Linfield’s best chance came when Sam Roscoe headed against the angle of post and bar from a free-kick. That was one each in terms of woodwork related frustration.

That looked like being Roscoe’s last major involvement in the game as he was set to be substituted for Andrew Clarke. A last minute signal from Daniel Finlayson that he was struggling with injury soon changed that, and it was he who made way instead.

Although, this changed seemed to confuse the person in charge of the LED Board, who signalled for Finlayson to replace Roscoe.

That change meant Chris Shields coming back into defence to accommodate Clarke in midfield.

Linfield’s formation was now basically bodies. As many in the box as possible. The problem was, getting that right pass. No point in having bodies if you can’t get the ball to them.

It was disappointing not to see Max Haygarth come on. It might have worked, it more than likely wouldn’t have, but Linfield just needed something different. They were too predictable and easy to play against.

There was still time for one more chance for Linfield, in injury time. Kirk Millar managed to cut inside and find space but his shot hit his own player.

That was only ever going to be the only conclusion to that situation. It was one of those nights.

Except, you couldn’t say it was “One of those nights”. Linfield didn’t do enough to justifiably have such a grumble.

There was never a moment in the game where you thought a Linfield goal was imminent. That was the problem.

Linfield should have been going at Crusaders from the start, taking the initiative and laying down the gauntlet. They should have been playing like a team battling for the title.

Even when news filtered through that Larne were 2-0 up, the mission was now keeping in touch rather than cutting the gap. You can’t cut the gap if you don’t keep in touch. There would still be four more matches left to cut the gap.

It’s strange for a team that are the top scorers in the League to complain about a lack of goals. The problem is, the goals haven’t come when they’ve been needed.

The biggest stat to back this up is that Linfield have drawn 0-0 with four of the other five clubs in the Top Six.

And the one they haven’t had one against are next at Windsor Park.

Photo Album


Another Tuesday night, another defeat in North Belfast.

Three games, no goals, with one trophy gone and another potentially slipping away.

Linfield never got going from the start, with Crusaders on the attack straight from kick-off.

Adam Lecky gave an early warning when got to a cross first a few yards out, but his instinctive header went just wide.

It was a warning that wasn’t heeded, as within a few minutes, Crusaders went 1-0 up.

Jordan Forsythe made the most of being unmarked in the penalty area to put Crusaders 1-0 up with a free header.

Having blown a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 in the last two seasons, Linfield were hoping this would be some sort of reverse omen they could make the most of.

If this was going to happen, there wasn’t many signs that it was going to. There was no immediate response from Linfield.

Passes were either going astray, or they weren’t advancing Linfield into any decent attacking position.

A shot from Eetu Vertainen after a nice turn which swerved well wide was the best that Linfield could offer.

Adam Lecky then made space for himself in the box, far too easily, and saw his shot from a wide angle punched over for a corner.

Even at this early stage, and with Linfield having 45 minutes attacking towards their own fans, they were going to be in big trouble if they went 2-0 down. It was non negotiable.

Linfield suffered a blow in the final minutes of the half when Jamie Mulgrew went off injured, but it did create the opportunity for a tactical reshuffle with Kirk Millar making a much awaited return from injury, to boost numbers in the attacking area of the field.

It was much needed as Linfield had offered very little as an attacking outlet.

At the interval, there was another enforced change, with Chris McKee coming on for Andrew Clarke.

Michael Gault, watching the game as a spectator, was probably going to be asked if he could find his boots for Saturday at this rate.

The early minutes of the second-half saw Chris McKee hit the post when played clean through.

He was flagged offside though (I didn’t think he was at the time but replays proved that he was) but he still should have scored the chance.

It was far better from Linfield, although it couldn’t get much worse than it was.

For the first time in the game, there was a sustained period of pressure on the Crusaders goal.

Although, it didn’t result in a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Crusaders were too smart for that. They had the knack of winning cheap possession to snuff out any attack.

And if they ever lost the ball, it was in areas where Linfield couldn’t do any damage.

Having survived the spell of Linfield pressure, Crusaders struck. As good as the strike from Philip Lowry, it was a goal from Linfield’s own doing.

Daniel Finlayson failed the clear the ball, conceding a cheap throw in his final third. The resulting throw saw the ball worked out to Philip Lowry, who fired home spectacularly from outside the penalty area.

In the first-half, it was clear that Linfield were going to be in trouble if they went 2-0 down. There was nothing offered to suggest that wouldn’t be the case now it happened.

The response was to throw on as many strikers as possible and hope that it worked.

Linfield did start creating chances. More because they had to. Too late, the damage was already done.

Ethan Devine had a scuffed shot on the stretch saved. If it landed at his feet, he surely would have scored.

Robbie McDaid then had a low volley easily saved by Tuffey.

The best moment came when Ethan Devine got on the end of a cross but fired over from six yards out.

It was that point you knew this wasn’t going to be Linfield’s night.

They had played awful but suddenly had created enough chances to be level. They needed to take them, and soon.

Contrary to what was said previously, if they could get a goal, you felt they could push on to get at least a point if they made the most of the momentum it brought.

Getting that first goal was the problem.

And so it proved, as Crusaders saw the game out to comfortably win 2-0.

Another poor night for Linfield against a Top 6 team.

One goal in seven matches against Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville.

They’d better start to win big matches. They have quite a lot of them coming up.

Photo Album


November began with a trip to Shamrock Park to see Linfield eventually beat Portadown by a score of 3-0.

By this point, I was using up Annual Leave, so I went on a day trip to Dublin and got some Street Art photos.

That was then followed by two trips to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville and Glenavon.

Another Linfield match, this time on the road, to Ballymena.

The next day, I made the most of a football free Saturday morning to head to Lisnabreeny Hill to get some Sunrise photos.

Then that night, I made my first visit to the newly rebuilt Mandela Hall to see John Power in concert.

November ended with two Linfield matches, both at home, against Larne and Crusaders.

Portadown v Linfield

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glenavon

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisnabreeny Hill

Lisnabreeny Hill Photo Album

John Power live at Mandela Hall

John Power live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Crusaders


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 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


The first weekend of March 2022 saw me visit Carrick to see Linfield win a rearranged game, then the following morning, head up Cavehill.

Then the rest of the month was Linfield matches, against Ballymena United, Crusaders, Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town.

With the match against Warrenpoint Town being a lunchtime kick-off and the weather being nice, I decided to head to Warrenpoint Beach for some photos. I also headed to Carlingford, but I didn’t get any photos there though.

The month ended with my first Northern Ireland match in over two years, the friendly at home to Hungary.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield


Cavehill Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Costa Del Warrenpoint/Costa Del Carlingford

Costa Del Warrenpoint/Costa Del Carlingford Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album


Another clean sheet and another game unbeaten, but a frustrating draw at home to Crusaders meant that Linfield’s revival suffered one step back after making a lot of steps forward.

Linfield suffered a blow with the absence of Kirk Millar, alongside the already absent Joel Cooper and Jordan Stewart, which meant they had no natural wingers, having to resort to 3-5-2 with Matthew Clarke and Daniel Finlayson playing as wingbacks, literally having to make the most of who was available.

Linfield had a lot of the ball in Crusaders final third in the opening minutes, but not really doing much with it. An all too familiar tale.

With this game being a 5.30pm kick-off, the narrative of this game was always going to be dictated by scores elsewhere.

Larne losing 2-0 at home to Coleraine on Friday night will have been noted by both clubs, knowing that this game presented an opportunity to cut the gap on Larne.

When there are five teams in a title race, you can’t just worry about Larne. With Cliftonville (v Newry) and Glentoran (v Portadown) winning their 3pm kick-offs as expected, three points were needed to keep up with them as well.

It was Crusaders who had the first attempt on goal, with Sam Roscoe forced into a block of a goalbound shot.

Linfield were then dealt an injury blow when Stephen Fallon went off injured when trying to get an attack going.

I was expecting Mike Newberry to come on with Chris Shields being pushed into midfield.

Chris Shields would be pushed into midfield, but it would be to accommodate Ethan Devine with 3-5-2 becoming 4-3-3, with Clarke and Finlayson pushed back.

The change almost brought an instant result when Robbie McDaid was played in behind Crusaders defence, through on goal but in a wide position, but he fired wide.

Even though he was in a wide position, he really should have scored, especially with the keeper well out of his goal.

Soon after, McDaid had another opportunity from a wide position on the edge of the box but he volleyed wide.

Again, he should have scored.

Paul Heatley made space for himself to get into a shooting position from long range, but his shot was easily and spectacularly saved by Chris Johns.

I was sat at the opposite end and thought it was going in. Turns out there was never a danger.

It soon became one each in terms of injuries with Robbie Weir going off.

His replacement raised some eyebrows, Declan Caddell, who retired in May.

He hadn’t lost it, getting a yellow card soon afterwards for a late tackle on Jamie Mulgrew.

Adam Leckey headed just wide for Crusaders, but it was a frustrating half for Linfield who dominated possesion but missed the only glorious opportunity they created.

The game was there for the taking.

You could feel that Joel Cooper was being sorely missed.

Cameron Palmer was forced into a block from Billy Joe Burns early in the second-half as Crusaders actually decided to show some attacking intent, with Chris Johns making a close range save from the follow-up.

Daniel Finlayson again went off with injury, and was replaced by Conor Pepper, as I had expected to happen on Tuesday.

Hopefully, he would have the same impact as Mike Newberry had against Larne.

Injuries had meant there was a lack of attacking options on the bench for Linfield, even more so as Ethan Devine was brought on earlier than anticipated.

One option they did have was Liam McStravick, who came on and scored on his debit as a substitute against Annagh United in the NIFL Cup.

I wasn’t at this game but I heard good reports on him, comparisons with Paul Smyth both in terms of stature and play.

There was nothing to lose by throwing him on, and there was no surprise when he was Linfield’s final sub, coming on for Chris McKee a day before his 18th birthday.

I’m actually old enough that I can remember matches on (or closest to) footballer’s dates of birth. Linfield beat Limavady United 4-1 on the day Liam McStravick was born.

He showed some nice touches but Linfield couldn’t get him on the ball enough.

It is a bit of a freak occurrence to have three players in the one position all injured at the same time.

This was a game that was crying out for a little bit of magic from Jordan Stewart or Joel Cooper, or for Kirk Millar to ping a cross onto someone’s head. Just once, that’s all that was needed.

With very little happening in open play, Linfield needed to make the most of their set pieces.

On player taking them the entire game, they were too predictable, cleared by Crusaders or any headers that were won by Linfield were too far out to threaten the goal.

If you were hoping for an injury time winner like in March when Crusaders last visited Windsor Park, you would be disappointed.

For a start, there was nowhere near enough, just the standard three minutes despite Crusaders persistant timewasting and numerous free-kicks and stoppaged.

In the end, they had to settle for a point. At least it keeps the unbeaten run going and it’s another clean sheet, seven in nine games.

That run was preceded by conceding nine in three goals.

Small steps.

Trying to get back into the title race was never going to happen inside four or five games, it was always going to be a long-term challenge.

If we go on another winning run, this result will be forgotten about.

Even though it feels like it was two points dropped against a team who were there for the taking.

Photo Album


I really hope this new kit, as wonderful as it is, isn’t going to be a jinx, as Linfield blew a 1-0 lead for the second successive season. Just like in November 2021, it leaves them with a bit of work to do in the title race, but no need to panic.

It could and should have been so much better. Defeats in their last two games had seen Crusaders slip out of two cup competitions. A third in a row could have seen any hopes of the League title slip away, even at this early stage.

The three points in the bag puts them very much back in the race, as well as the damage to Linfield as Glentoran and Cliftonville were now being presented with an opportunity to pull clear.

No surprises in Linfield’s starting eleven, but the subs made for interesting reading with a lot of attacking options and not much defensive cover.

It was an even start, with both sides having attacking moments but no real opportunities, although Crusaders were getting slightly further into Linfield’s third than Linfield were getting into Crusaders third.

Linfield weren’t really helping themselves with some sloppy passing, giving the ball away far too easily.

Eventually, Linfield began to flex their attacking muscle when a quick counter-attacking move saw Robbie McDaid put the ball over on the stretch from a few yards out.

During various stages of the attack, it might have been better for Joel Cooper or Kirk Millar to shoot instead of passing, especially Millar.

A shot across the goalkeeper would surely have resulted in a goal.

McDaid would be denied again when he ran on to a through ball but his low shot under pressure was well saved.

Linfield were now putting on the pressure,but needed a goal to show for it.

Sam Roscoe was denied from a header as another chance went astray for Linfield.

No need to panic for Linfield at half-time with the score at 0-0.

I did think to myself that if Crusaders went 1-0 up, there would be no need to panic as Linfield were more than capable of getting the goals to win the game, and that if Linfield could get 1-0 up, there would be no way Crusaders would be able to come back.

Spoiler alert, that observation would turn out to be spectacularly off the mark.

The second-half started perfectly for Linfield, with a goal inside the opening minutes, just as against Moyola Park three days previously.

Just as against Ballymena (twice) it came from a cross from Stephen Fallon on the left hand side, who worked space for himself despite having two defenders for company, straight to Joel Cooper to hook the ball home from close range.

To describe it as a dream start to the second-half would be an understatement. Now to push on and wrap up the three points.

Well, not quite. Not only did Linfield disappear as an attacking force, Crusaders started to get back into the game and were denied when Jimmy Callacher had to block a goalbound shot after Chris Johns dropped a cross under pressure.

The reprieve didn’t last long with Philip Lowry finishing from close range after a corner that Linfield simply couldn’t clear. Crusaders always seemed to be one touch ahead of them.

All the good work at the start of the second-half was now undone.

Just fifteen minutes earlier, it was looking like a matter of how many Linfield would win by. Now you would have happily taken a draw.

Even at this early stage, it was obvious that changes in personnel were needed.

There were plenty of options to freshen things up front, while there was Jamie Mulgrew and/or Niall Quinn to freshen things up in midfield.

However, there was no activity from the away dugout.

As the personnel stayed the same, so did the flow of the match.

If you hoped that the Crusaders goal would waken Linfield up, it would turn out to be false hope.

Crusaders continued to be on top as they pushed for a winner.

It was Linfield who had the next big chance of the game when a Jimmy Callacher header from a corner was agonisingly saved.

With just under ten minutes to go, Crusaders took the lead, and it was a self inflicted blow from Linfield.
Stephen Fallon lost possession and the cross from the resulting attack was scuffed into the net by Jordan Forsythe to put Crusaders 2-1 up.

The goal had been coming.

Eventually, Linfield made some changes, a bit late, you could say, bringing on every striker they could find.

As a result, Linfield had no shape, and were basically just hitting and hoping.

In fact, it was Crusaders who looked most likely to score when they countered.

For the second successive season, Linfield threw away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Seaview.

This was three points thrown away, against a side who was there for the taking, before the match and during the game.

Crusaders had went into this game without a win in three, including losing their last two games, exiting two cup competitions.

We could have killed off their season, now it has breathed new life into it.

Two defeats already and a game in hand to play, Linfield are having to make up a lot of lost ground.

It’s not an impossible task though.

Hopefully, a traffic jam at the top will distract Linfield’s rivals and present an opportunity to blast through it.

Although getting into the Top 6 would be a start, as they sit in 7th.

Win the game in hand and it’s up to 4th, only four points off the top.

When Linfield lost at Seaview last season, Cliftonville had threatened to pull away as they did in the Winter of 2012-2013.

Linfield beat them the following week, reeled them back in, and used it as a launchpad for a run of results that sent them top for the first time in the season, where they (apart from a few weeks in February) stayed there.

It’s not Cliftonville they need to overhaul, it’s Glentoran. There’ll be an opportunity to reel them in a few weeks time, we’ve got two opportunities to get points on the board by then,

That game will be Linfield’s first home match in nearly two months. We’ll be needing directions to Windsor Park by then.

Should have been at home to Larne on the Tuesday after this, but it was postponed due to International Call-Ups, having been originally postponed due to clashing with Linfield’s European games.

Then the match at home to Cliftonville the weekend after this, but that match has been postponed due to both clubs playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Unfortunately, i’ll be going to Northern Ireland v Kosovo so will miss Linfield’s trip to Buckie Thistle.

Plus, it’s an absolute nightmare to get to, the logistics might have defeated me anyway.

Fingers crossed we get a win and a favourable draw in the next round.

This is now the second of three away defeats in the League.

We’d better sort out the away form, as we’re slap bang in the middle of nine away games in a row in all competitions.

Photo Album


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


March’s football watching began with a trip to see Linfield labour to a narrow win over Carrick Rangers.

The following weekend, that was followed by another laboured win, this time at home to Crusaders with a dramatic injury time winner.

That was followed by a more comfortable home win, against Dungannon Swifts.

Then is was a road trip on a beautiful sunny. The weather didn’t match the football, but Linfield did manage to scrape a late win away to Warrenpoint.

The month saw me make a return to watching Northern Ireland, in a new location in the Railway Stand, for the friendly against Hungary.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album


November 2021 was a mixed bad for Linfield with away trips, to Portadown, Crusaders and Glenavon.

Oh, and there was a home match against Cliftonville sandwiched inbetween that, before a midweek home match against Carrick Rangers on the last day of the month.

Portadown v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Carrick Rangers