DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-4 LINFIELD 19.8.2017

The weather might have been inconsistent and unpredictable, but Linfield weren’t, as they strolled to victory in the sun, rain and everything inbetween in Tyrone.

It was Linfield’s third successive win of the season, third clean sheet, and to keep on a trilogical theme, results elsewhere meant that the five clubs with perfect starts at kick-off were now a top three, with Linfield sandwiched inbetween Glenavon and Coleraine, all on nine points.

For the early part of the game, the ball was in midfield a lot, neither side creating a noteworthy effort. Linfield’s best effort came from a speculative long range effort from Jordan Stewart.

Linfield weren’t helping themselves with numerous stray passes.

That was until Linfield’s first real attack of note was started and finished by Paul Smyth, who headed home after Dungannon keeper Stuart Addis missed a cross.

Within minutes, Dungannon had a clear shot on goal saved by Roy Carroll, a reminder that the game was far from won.

It took a free-kick for Linfield to get their second when a tee-up saw Niall Quinn fire a spectacular effort into the top of the net. It was a goal that deserved Alan Partridge commentary, it was that good. For Quinn, it was a case of Play Your Cards Right, and didn’t he do well.

The final minutes of the half saw Linfield get a third when a corner was headed in. From where I was, it looked like Mark Haughey who scored, but video replays showed that it was headed into his own net by Seanan Clucas.

For the third successive match, the three points were secured by half-time. People should only be charged £6.50 into Linfield matches at this rate. I guess those who set admission prices would disagree and say that The Price Is Right.

I was hoping Linfield would rack up a lot of goals in the second-half, mainly due to the awful Now That’s What I Call Shit Dance Music 1999 CD that Dungannon were playing on the PA System.

Unsurprisingly, the second-half was a non event, with Linfield utilising their subs bench and allowing Aaron Burns, Stephen Lowry and Matthew Clarke to get some game time.

In the final minutes of the game, Linfield got a penalty for a push on Mark Stafford. Linfield fans celebrated the award, until they realised it would probably be missed.

At 3-0 up against a Dungannon side coming to terms with the loss of Andrew Mitchell to Glenavon, it was perhaps a bit cruel of Linfield to get their own Andrew Mitchell to take the penalty.

He stepped up, and Addis got a hand on it. Before the crowd could utter “Oh for crying out loud …” at another miss, the ball hit the back of the net and it was 4-0.

An even bigger relief was to finish the game with 11, due to the card happy nature of the refereeing for both sides.

Goals are coming throughout the team for Linfield, which is handy considering Andrew Waterworth’s absence through injury. It will be great to get him back fit, but it’s just as great that others are stepping up to the mark in terms of goalscoring.

Elsewhere, Glentoran couldn’t make the most of a generous run of games with a 1-1 draw at home to Carrick. They’re so bad these days, they can’t even give their fans false hope.

Also drawing 1-1 were Cliftonville at Ballinamallard, and they are now five points behind Linfield. I never viewed them as title challengers despite the return of Joe Gormley (Remember, he scored 40+ goals in his last season at the club, and they finished 5th)

They’ve become a team who draw at Ballinamallard. Teams in the bottom six view them as a team they can get points against. It’s something that is hard to shake off. Yesterday’s results will only give those sides confidence when facing them.

Crusaders lost 2-1 at home to Coleraine. For once Crusaders got a last minute goal, and it didn’t matter. It was perhaps apt that it was a player called Forsythe who scored.

Meanwhile, Glenavon won 6-1 at Ballymena. Not going to lie, Ballymena’s poor start is making me nervous ahead of their visit to Windsor Park next Saturday.

That means Glenavon, Linfield and Coleraine are the top three, with three wins out of three. Though Linfield might be second, they cut the gap in goal difference to the top of the League from four goals to three goals.

After the Ballymena game, Linfield won’t have a League match until September 9th. That means if we can win on Saturday, the worst that will happen while we are inactive (in League terms) on 2nd September is that we would be three points off the top with a game in hand.

Next Saturday also sees Cliftonville play Crusaders, meaning they can pull further clear of one or both of them.

That inactivity is due to the trip to Crusaders on 6th September being postponed due to international call-ups. There’s positives and negatives to this.

September will be a busy month and this will ease the fixture congestion.

However, when you see Matchday 3 results and the fact Crusaders will be coming off the back of a North Belfast Derby, they would be there for the taking.

No point moaning about it. It is what it is, might as well get on with it.

Linfield won’t be playing in the League on 2nd September because they are scheduled to be playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup, the draw taking place last week.

The draw was convenient in terms that it gave Linfield an away tie in the Central Belt, but inconvenient in the fact that we don’t know who we are playing.

Linfield were drawn away to Albion Rovers or Spartans. Albion beat Spartans but are being investigated for fielding an ineligible player.

After spending years writing about wanting to go to Ainslie Park, I could be going there twice in the space of a month, having seen Edinburgh City play there two weeks ago.

It would be a nice novelty to be in Edinburgh and not to have flyers shoved in my face.

It would be hilarious if Albion were thrown out, seeing as Crusaders had to replay Livingson last season after Livingston fielded in ineligible player.

It doesn’t really leave much time for this resolved, with the next round scheduled for two weeks time.

My hunch is that Albion and Spartans will replay on 2nd September, and Linfield’s tie being played between then and the next round date on 8th October.

I think Linfield’s tie will be two to three weeks after to give Linfield a chance to make arrangements and supporters to do likewise.

Linfield have home games scheduled on 9th (Glentoran) and 16th (Ballinamallard) and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was played on one of those weekends, with the League game postponed, possibly the 16th.

That’s just a hunch, I have no inside info. This is Scottish football we are talking about, so anything could happen.

If that is the case, we will be two games behind schedule, making it important to keep picking up wins.

As supporters exited Stangmore Park, the music improved, with Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis coming on the stereo.

Linfield fans won’t be looking back on this game in anger, just as a job done.

Photo Album

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PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2016-2017

So, the 2016-2017 season is over for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic look back at the season just gone.

I’ve selected some of my favourites, so feel free to vote for the one you like the best.

POLSKA

Taken back in June 2016 at Northern Ireland v Poland, I like the composition, how everyone is fixated on the action at the other end of the pitch, and the colour co-ordination of both sets of fans.



WILGAR

Taken at a pre-season game between Linfield and Dundela, it captures the joys of going to football matches in pre-season, sunshine and relaxation ahead of the hard slog ahead.



SEAVIEW

I like the framing of this, as the crowd is in position, awaiting kick-off in a big match.



CELEBRATION

Linfield fans celebrating Jimmy Callacher’s winner against Glentoran in October. I just like this for some reason other than the obvious.

PALMERSTON

There’s just something about the architecture of old football grounds that does it for me. This is out of use turnstiles at Palmerston Park, home of Queen of the South.

APPEAL

Linfield fans appeal in unison, all making the same hand gestures, for a goal to be allowed. The goal was disallowed for a foul.



ELF

Taken at the Steel and Sons Cup Final. Some people like getting dressed up for Christmas.

GAYNOR

I like the composition of this, from Ross Gaynor’s posture, to substitutes chatting to each other while the game goes on.

UNITED

I like the composition of this, all eyes fixated on the penalty area and the incoming corner.

SPOT THE BALL

I like the composition of this shot, it looks like a Spot The Ball image, except that the ball is in the shot, with two players getting ready for an aerial tussle.



COLERAINE

I love the framing and seeing players in the background running to join the celebrations.

WATERWORTH

Celebrations after Andrew Waterworth’s second goal against Cliftonville, capturing the joy of the event and the achievement just about to happen.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, a match which resulted in a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Linfield.

It was then the Irish Cup for me, heading to The Oval to see Linfield get an extra-time win over Glentoran.

The following Saturday, another away game for Linfield, this time to Glenavon, and another 2-1 win for Linfield.

It was back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My football watching for the month ended with a trip to Stangmore Park to see Linfield secure a 4-1 win against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

On the first weekend of August, I headed to Ballinamallard for Linfield’s opening league match of the 2016-2017 season.

It was a flurry of Linfield matches in August, seeing them in action against Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts before the month was over.

Balinamallard United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-1 LINFIELD 1.4.2017

Football is all about improvements, and doing better than you had previously. Last season, Linfield were Runners-Up in three competitions.

This season, they’ve already won one of those competitions, the County Antrim Shield, and kicked-off at Mourneview Park still in contention to win the other two trophies that eluded them last season. That was still the case when they left the pitch today.

For the record, we’ve just accepted that we’re never going to win the League Cup ever again and will be out of the competition by October each season.

Linfield got a lot of joy attacking down the left hand side in the first-half, with one cross agonisingly missing everyone in the box, while another resulted in an Andrew Waterworth cros that was deflected behind for a corner. It looked like being only a matter of time until Linfield scored.

Dungannon were able to ride out that storm and came more into the game, their bets opportunity coming when Dougie Wilson headed over for a corner.

Neither side had a shot on goal of note in a goalless first-half.

This wasn’t a new situation for Linfield, having faield to scored a first-half goal in any of the previous rounds in this season’s Irish Cup.

Linfield started the second-half better and had a glorious opportunity to take the lead when a penalty was awarded for a foul on Jamie Mulgrew.

Having scored four penalties out of four in recent weeks, Stephen Lowry was due a miss, and so it proved when Andy Coleman saved his shot, and Lowry and Andrew Waterworth managed to miss the rebound between them.

Dungannon fans would have had some justification in believing this was the sort of thing that happens when it is your day.

Paul Smyth and Niall Quinn were next to be frustrated as Coleman saved left foot shots from both of them, while Aaron Burns had a goal disallowed for a foul.

It was the sort of game that could only finish 1-0. The longer it stayed 0-0, the more you got that feeling.

David Healy turned to his bench by bringing on Kirk Millar for Niall Quinn.

You also got the feeling that Dungannon were going to get a moment. That came when Peter McMahon burst through and had a deflected shot look set to go in, only for Roy Carroll to pull off a dramatic save.

As extra-time loomed, a cross found Stephen Lowry, who found just enough space to place the ball home from inside the six yard box. Linfield had the lead in a game that looked destined to finish 1-0.

Dungannon never looked like equalising. In fact, Linfield almost got a second on the break when a Paul Smyth shot went just wide, as they saw out the game to set up a Final against Coleraine on May 6th. Hopefully, a repeat of 1982 and 2008 rather than a repeat of 1975 and 1977.

Elsehwere in football this week, Edinburgh City have announced that they will be playing at Ainslie Park, home of Spartans for the next three seasons while Meadowbank Stadium is redeveloped.

I’m curious to see what Meadowbank Stadium will look like. At the moment, it always seemed like a grim place to watch football, which is why never gave Edinburgh City any consideration when I visit Edinburgh every August.

Edinburgh in August can wait, it’s all about next week and Crusaders at home.

The games can’t come soon enough.

Photo Album

DUNGANNON SWIFTS 1-4 LINFIELD 28.1.2017

Four as very much the number that mattered today as Linfield began the first of four games on the road, hoping that results would go their way and the gap at the top of the table would be reduced to four points. The got four goals, but the gap remained at seven.

It was Dungannon who had the better of the play in the opening minutes, causing Linfield more problems with their attacks than Linfield were causing them, a couple of corners having to be cleared and Ryan Harper firing a shot just wide.

However, it was Linfield who took the lead with their first attack when Mark Haughey headed a Stephen Lowry freekick into the net. As soon as it left his head it was going in, Dungannon’s keeper didn’t stand a chance.

Haughey had put Linfield 1-0 up when the teams met in August, but Linfield put in a disjointed performance and only managed a 1-1 draw. Their performance today prior to the goal mirrored the performance that day. They were hoping this time they would kick on and put in a performance similar to their visit to Dungannon in November.

Unfortunately, we got a repeat of the performance in August, the biggest moment of worry coming when a misplaced Jimmy Callacher pass almost presented Dungannon with an opportunity.

Linfield were dealt a blow just after the half hour when Aaron Burns came off with a shoulder injury. Surprisingly, it was Cameron Stewart who got the nod to play upfront ahead of Kevin Amuneke.

A few minutes later, they were dealt and even bigger blow when Dungannon equalised after Ally Teggart scored from close range. It was too easy for Dungannon, from playing it out from the left-back position, to getting the ball crossed from a right wing position. It was deserved for Dungannon.

The only positive for Linfield was, that this situation came in the first-half when they could do something about it at half-time, instead of in the second-half when there was no chance to rectify the situation, as when the sides met in August.

Linfield had their chances to go in at half-time in front when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot blocked behind by a Dungannon defender, but for some reason a goal kick was awarded.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s performance improved at the start of the second-half, with Andrew Waterworth volleying over in the penalty area, before getting on the end of a Stephen Fallon cross to fire home from close range to put Linfield back in front.

Within a minute, Cameron Stewart took advantage of a mix-up in Dungannon’s defence to head home from close range to make it 3-1.

That was the game almost won for Linfield. They had to make sure they did nothing stupid in defence to make the final moments more exciting than they should be.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Jimmy Callacher finished from close range to make it 4-1. That definitely was the game won for Linfield.

The game became a non event in the final minutes, as Linfield ran out 4-1 winners.

Wins for Crusaders and Cliftonville meant hat nothing changed at the top of the table, Linfield sit 7 points off top and are 6 points clear of 3rd.

Next week (for everyone barring Ards and Carrick) the league takes a break. Linfield face the bottom five in five of their next six games. That is an opportunity to go on a winning run and gather some momentum. If we don’t, we don’t deserve to win the league.

All we can do is keep winning and hoping. The title race is far from over.

Next Saturday, is Institute away in the Irish Cup.

For me, there is a midweek trip to England to see Manchester United take on Hull on Wednesday night. I’ll be there from Tuesday to Thursday. I’d planned on going to Wigan v Norwich on Tuesday night but that has been postponed, but now i’m toying with the idea of Burnley v Leicester. Still undecided.

I know what you’re thinking, BURNLEY CAN FUCK OFF.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

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

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

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

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

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

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall

Belfast Peace Wall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Madness live at Titanic Belfast

Madness live at Titanic Belfast Photo Album

Catfish and the Bottlemen Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at Titanic Belfast

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

Red Hot Chili Peppers live at Boucher Road Playing Fields

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

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

2016 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster v Scarlets Photo Album

Foxes live at The Limelight

Foxes live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon