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

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MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 FEYENOORD 24.11.2016

Recently, I headed to Old Trafford for the first time this season, my first glimpse of Mourinho’s United in the flesh, for the UEFA Cup tie against Feyenoord.

This was a game that United needed to win just to stay in the competition. Although a draw still would have had United’s destiny in their own hands in the final game, defeat would have eliminated them from the competition, following Fenerbache’s win over Zorya at teatime. with a game to spare.

Their recent record against Dutch clubs wasn’t great, losing three and drawing one of their last four games against Dutch clubs. One of those defeats came in their open group game, away to Feyenoord in September.

It is the away form that left United in this situation, even a draw in either Rotterdam or Istanbul would have made life so much easier going into this game.

This Jeckyll and Hyde form in Europe isn’t a Mourinho problem, Moyes and Van Gaal also endured it.

United haven’t lost at home in Europe in 14 matches, dating back to 2013, but have only won 1 of their last 10 away matches, dating back to 2013.

This match meant I had seen United take on Holland’s “Big Three” at Old Trafford. I had seen Feyenoord before, at the end of the last century in 1999 taking on Liverpool in a Pre-Season Friendly.

My excuse is that I was there to watch Linfield v Glentoran which had taken place before, and then just decided to stay, like when you are a fan of the support act at a concert but just decide to stay for the headliner anyway.

United went straight on the attack, issuing a statement of intent, Paul Pogba heading over in United’s first attack.

It was very much attack v defence, most of United’s play coming through some Scottish lad making his debut called Henry McItarian.

You got the feeling that if United could get one early on, they could power through and win the game with something to spare. The problem was, just getting the one.

I had great view of it, in the front rows of the Stretford End. The downside was, I almost got hit by a wayward Paul Pogba shot.

Feyenoord looked like getting a goal on the counter against the run of play, but Sergio Romero was forced into a double save, the second with his legs.

The goal United fans craved wasn’t long in coming when Wayne Rooney burst down the left wing and played it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who waited, and waited, before playing Rooney in, to dink it over the keeper.

It briefly looked offside (it all happened very quickly) from where I was, but TV replays showed that it wasn’t.

More United pressure followed and continued into the second-half, with Henryk Mkhitarian hitting the side netting, before Juan Mata eventually made it count by finishing from close range to make it 2-0, his last involvement in the game before being subbed for Marcus Rashford.

United then made it 3-0 with a Brad Jones own goal, even though Ibrahimovic will try to claim it.

At that point, United fans taunted their rivals with “You’re just a shit fucking Ajax”.

If you come to Old Trafford and sing You’ll Never Walk Alone, you’d better be good, Feyenoord were not good.

Jesse Lingard made it 4-0 in injury time, as United head to Zorya for their final game knowing that a draw will be enough to go through.

Hopefully, United can win that game and top the group (need Fenerbache to slip up in Rotterdam though) while Dundalk win their last game to finish second. You know what i;m thinking?

Thursday 6pm game, book a day off work and be in bed at a reasonable time.

First of all, just get the result in Ukraine.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-3 SPARTAK TRNAVA 23.7.2015

Linfield hosted Spartak Trnava at Windsor Park aiming to overcome a 2-1 first leg defecit, and in doing so, reach the 3rd Round of the UEFA Cup, something they had narrowly failed to do in the previous two seasons.

Supporters arriving in the North Stand will have noted new seats, both in design and colour, as the North Stand is now synced to look like the Railway Stand and South Stand, as the redevelopment of Windsor Park gathers pace.

There was a slow start to the game, with not a lot happening in the early moments. As the half went on, Spartak Trnava were nervous in defence. So nervouse, that their defenders were Linfield’s best attacking outlet at times.

Aaron Burns intercepted a loose pass, running down the wing, but Trnava were able to clear the cross. It was a sign of encouragement for Linfield.

Frequently during the half, Trnava gave the ball away and lost soft tackles. They were giving Linfield a lot of the ball, but not a lot of clear scoring opportunities.

Guy Bates was causing problems for an already nervous Trnava defence, forcing them into mistakes and conceding cheap throws and possession.

There was a penalty shout when Bates went down in a tussle with a defender. I didn’t get a clear view of it. The referee said no.

Stephen Lowry had a shot at goal, created by Bates, which hit the post, a Trnava player, and landed straight in the goalkeeper’s arms.

Lowry had better luck later on when he fired home in the penalty area after a scramble. Linfield now had the lead on away goals.

Linfield were the better team in the first-half without dominating. All they had to do now was hold out for 45 minutes.

Trnava didn’t offer much in the first-half. Most of their attacks came down their right, which Linfield managed to deal with. Their best chance came when a header was well saved by Ross Glendinning.

Trnava were on the attack immediately in the second-half, it was a sign of intent, that this would be a different team Linfield would be facing.

Linfield needed to keep it 1-0 for as long as possible and frustrate Trnava. They weren’t able to, as a strike from outside the box made it 1-1 on 53 minutes.

It didn’t change a lot in the tie, if Linfield made it 2-1 the tie would have gone to extra-time, but it swung the momentum in Trnava’s favour.

Linfield were shellshocked, but managed to recover to have some attacks, one of which brought a goal. Unfortunately, it came for Trnava.

A defensive header denied a certain Linfield goal, Trnava counter-attacked and scored within seconds.

It’s easy to say that Stephen Lowry should have fouled his opponent with hindsight. If he did, people would have complained about him picking up a soft foul on the by-line of the halfway-line.

In truth, it wasn’t Lowry not fouling that was the cause of Trnava’s second goal, it was the pace and power of the run. When he was one on one with only Glendinning to beat.

From being hopeless in defence to ruthless in attack in the space of 15 minutes. Trnava dealt Linfield a harsh lesson.

Trnava hit the post a couple of times soon afterwards and showed their class in attack. The tie was over, Linfield were now crying to hang in there and avoid a thrashing.

Linfield had a chance to equalise when a Trnava offside trap from a free-kick failed, allowing Chris Hegarty to be through on goal. He didn’t realise it, and his cross was behind the two strikers running in.

Soon after, there was a Trnava red card for a second yellow. Nobody in Windsor Park believed that Linfield could use the one man advantage to get the 3 goals that would send them through.

Trnava made sure of the tie with 10 minutes remaining, when they passed Linfeld to death, breaking through Linfield’s defence, before an attacking player rolled the ball into an empty net.

For all their good attacking play, Trnava were suspect in defence. Their goalkeeper flapped a high ball to present Aaron Burns with a half-chance, but they managed to get bodies in the way.

Ross Clarke got in behind their defence but fired over when clean through.

After that, the game fizzled out and reached it’s inevitible conclusion.

Linfield didn’t push Trnava as far as they pushed Xanthi and AIK, but it’s still frustrating having been 45 minutes away from glory.

Trnava gave Linfield a lesson on why you need to be ruthless in front of goal.

Now Linfield’s attention turns to domestic matters, and the visit of Ballymena United to Windsor Park on 8th August.

The day before the match, I received some good news in the form of an e-mail informing my that my application for Euro 2016 tickets was partially successful, getting a ticket for a Group E match in Stade De France on 13th June from the 3 matches I applied for.

To say i’m delighted is an understatement.

This weekend sees the draw for the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. Of the top seeds, i’m hoping for an away match against England on a Sunday night in March 2017. A weekend in London, see a League One or League Two match before going to Wembley.

If not England, then Wales. Same again, away match on a Sunday night in March 2017. Assuming it’s in Cardiff, go to see Newport County, Bristol Rovers or Bristol City (if they get relegated) on the Saturday.

So Linfield’s European bid ends with yet another heroic defeat. Here’s hoping that next season’s heroic exit is in the European Cup rather than the UEFA Cup.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

After a two month break, my football watching for 2014-2015 began in early July, with the World Cup still going on (on the night of the first two Quarter-Finals) in Bray.

I was over there for a concert, and decided to take in a game as there was one on while I was there, a bottom of the table clash between Bray Wanderers and Drogheda United.

Carlisle Ground is a nice stadium for watching football in when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, when I was there, it was raining. A lot.

It was still an enjoyable game, with Drogheda winning 3-1.

On the night of the now infamous World Cup Semi-Final between Brazil and Germany, I was at Mourneview Park for the UEFA Cup tie between Linfield and B36 Torshavn, my first experience of seeing a Warren Feeney managed Linfield team in the flesh.

The following week, I was back at Mourneview Park again, for the next round against AIK, to see Linfield secure a fantastic 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat meant Linfield’s European hopes were over for another year.

Two days later, I was Bangor bound, as Linfield used Clandeboye Park for a friendly against Cowdenbeath.

My main reason for going was to check out the facilities at Clandeboye, which had recently had some renovation work and a new 3G pitch.

That was my football watching for July, the league season not long away from starting. It was great to be back watching football.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

2014 IN PICTURES – JULY

July began for me with a trip to Dublin, then Bray, primarily for a concert headlined by James and Paloma Faith, a bit of football to see Bray Wanderers, and some Dublin Street Art.

The following week, Linfield’s season was back up and running with the second leg of the UEFA Cup tie against B36 Torshavn at Mourneview Park, my first time seeing Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

A 1-1 draw was enough to giver Linfield a tie in the next round against AIK, again at Mourneview Park, where and Andrew Waterworth goal secured a 1-0 win. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat in the away leg eliminated Linfield.

Two days later, it was back on the football wagon for Linfield’s friendly against Cowdenbeath. The only reason I went was to see Clandeboye Park, after having had some work done.

The month ended with another Wonder Villains gig, an instore at HMV.

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United

Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United Photo Album

James – Live At Killruddery

James – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery

Paloma Faith – Live At Killruddery Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Linfield v AIK

Linfield v Cowdenbeath

Wonder Villains Live At The Loft Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-0 AIK 17.7.2014

After seeing off B36 last week, there wasn’t time for Linfield to relax, as they faced another, but vastly superior, Nordic opponent, in the face of AIK at Mourneview Park.

The match, was Linfield’s 100th in European competition. It was Swedish opposition they faced in the 1st.

(In case you’re wondering why an even numbered milestone is in a first leg tie, it’s because the second leg of a match against Vorwarts wasn’t played, as the East German side had Visa issues)

It might have been as high profile as a European Cup Quarter-Final, or as headline grabbing as beating European Cup Winners Cup holders Manchester City, but it was a worthy result and performance for the occasion.

Scandinavian opponents are quite common for Linfield in Europe. In fact, there’s been matches against Swedish teams in the last decade, against Halmstad (2005) and Elfsborg (2007) which have brought hope, and ultimately heartbreak.

Matches against Norwegians and Danes such as Rosenborg (2010), Randers (2009) and Viking (2002) weren’t much better. Don’t even start me on Copenhagen.

Having lost at this stage in extra-time to Skoda Xanthi, there was a desire amongst players and fans to better that. There was a bigger crowd than last week, with most of the stand Linfield usually use being filled. We were even allowed to sit as far as the corner flag at the Crescent End, such as the demand for tickets.

AIK brought a couple of hundred fans, situated in the traditional home end, very noisy, indulging in vocal sparring with Linfield fans.

There wasn’t really much to the first ten minutes, but Linfield came more into it, having a few situations and winning a few corners and attacking free-kicks.

In games like this, you often look at milestone minutes, at keeping the score 0-0. With each passing minute, it became more about “Can we take the lead?” as opposed to “Can we keep it 0-0?”

Linfield’s best chance came when Peter Thompson got behind the defence but fired over. Despite having a couple of defenders chasing him, it looked like a great chance. We’re all Lionel Messi on the terraces (or, in the case of Mourneview Park, stand) aren’t we?

As the second-half began, the feared backlash from AIK didn’t materialise, as Linfield continued to hold their own.

There were no clear cut chances, but situations and shots at goal. The ball was just not bouncing for Linfield. Crosses were just going wide, shots weren’t going where they should have.

It looked like being a frustrating night, that could be ruefully look backed on in seven days time.

Linfield’s best attacking moment came when a Sean Ward shot from the edge of the penalty area was saved and put behind of a corner. Seeing how the players were endeavoring to take a lead to Sweden, the crowd raised the voices in appreciation.

Most of Linfield’s support where in the stand they usually sit at Mourneview. All bunched together, it helped to create and atmosphere that would spur the players on.

When playing higher ranked opponents, you always fear they will score with every attack they have, even if they haven’t done anything in the game to merit that fear.

AIK’s best attacking moment saw them hit the post, only for Chris Hegarty to block the rebound. It summed up one of the more noticeable aspects of the early games of Feeney’s Linfield – that extra percentage.

In the B36 game, Aaron Burns strove to play a wide cross back across the penalty area, and was rewarded with an assist. Earlier in the AIK game, Michael Carvill pressurised a defender shepherding the ball out for a goal kick, and ended up winning possession in AIK’s penalty area and kept an attack alive, albeit, it eventually came to nothing.

Games are decided on such small margins. IF AIK went 1-0 up, despite not playing well, they would have seen the game out and taken a lead, and away goal(s) to Sweden.

Just when it looked like being a frustrating 0-0, Linfield got the winner. A goal kick up the field was flicked on to Andrew Waterworth. He got a space away from his defender. He wouldn’t have been able to get a run on goal, he had to hit it first time, which he did.

Mourneview Park went wild as players ran to the stand where Linfield fans were. Linfield supporters on the grass bank behind the goal walking towards the exits celebrated. A valuable lesson learnt about why you should never leave a football match early.

The goal, was a smash and grab. The result, was anything but.

AIK’s fans weren’t slow in showing their displeasure at their team’s performance. Linfield fans, applauded their team off the pitch.

A lead and a clean sheet going to Sweden. We have a chance. More than many people thought we’d have at the halfway stage of the tie.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-1 B36 TORSHAVN 8.7.2014

Before Tuesday night, the last Linfield match I was at was at Mourneview Park. It was perhaps symbolic or symmetrical that my next should be at the same venue. In the nine weeks that have passed, people have left Linfield, and people have joined Linfield.

The most obvious, is in the dugout, with Warren Feeney as new manager, replacing David Jeffrey, who was in attendance on Tuesday as a supporter. Since you ask, the last Linfield match I attended where David Jeffrey wasn’t manager? A 0-0 draw v Glentoran on December 26th 1996.

Change on the pitch, in the dugout, and change at or of the club, Linfield playing home European ties (Until September, when we’re in the group stage, of course) at Mourneview Park, due to redevelopment of Windsor Park.

It’s two months and one day until an actual home ground there, against Warrenpoint on September 13th. Looking forward to that one, just to actually see in person the changes at the ground.

If you had to choose an alternative home ground, Mourneview Park wouldn’t be a bad choice. Not only is it the perfect size and modern stands, Linfield have an excellent record there. Though, the last time they played a European tie (v Randers in 2009, due to Windsor Park’s pitch being relayed) it resulted in a 3-0 defeat.

Linfield went into the game with a 2-1 first leg lead against familiar opponents, having beaten B36 in a penalty shoot-out in the European Cup in 2012. Linfield supporters were expecting this tie to be advanced without the need for a penalty shoot-out.

For me, and a few others I guess, this was my first viewing of Warren Feeney’s Linfield in the flesh.

B36 started the game with a few shots on goal, but shots you would expect Jonathan Tuffey (despite his wobbly moments last season, and even last week) to save.

Linfield then started to play some nice passes. There was some long passes, but the had a purpose. Players being proactive and running onto flicks, or running past defenders. Attackers were even prepared to run at defenders.

Linfield seemed to be able to get round the back, but not getting the bounce. You got the feeling if there was an early goal, it could end up 3 or 4-0.

The early goal came just after the quarter hour. A cross came in which looked to be overhit. It was great play by Aaron Burns to seize the opportunity to keep the move alive to get his foot onto it and play it across goal for Michael Carvill to score, who appears to be a penalty box poacher these days.

For the rest of the first-half, Linfield looked the most likely to score, without creating clear cut opportunities. 1-0 at half-time, things are going well so far.

In football, things can change in an instant, and B36 got a penalty in the opening minutes of the second-half, which they scored. Suddenly, it’s now a different game.

For a while after the goal, Linfield appeared nervous, but B36 never really looked like scoring. Despite that, you can never be too careful when there’s only one goal in it.

Eventually, Linfield regained their composure and got back into the game, but just couldn’t get that 2nd goal that would have made the final minutes a lot less nervous.

There were plenty of positives, there were plenty of negatives. One big positive was Peter Thompson off the bench. Hopefully, he can stay fully fit throughout the season. As the cliche goes, it would be like a new signing.

The final whistle went, and Linfield were through, to face AIK Solna next Thursday. A Massively improved performance will be needed against the Swedes to have a chance of keeping the tie alive before the trip to Stockholm.

Photo Album

Linfield v B36 – 2012

PHOTO OF THE SEASON 2013-2014

So, another football season is over, time to look back. It’s taken in four countries and various stadiums, teams and levels. There was a lot of pictures, so here are my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours :

FUGLAFJORDUR

Taken just after the final whistle of Linfield’s match with Fuglafjordur as fans applauded, the composition and framing just works for me which is why I love the photo.

SKODA

Taken before Linfield’s match with Skoda Xanthi, again, the composition and the light works for me, as supporters walk to The Kop, ready for the 90 (well, in this match, it was 120) minutes that await.

JEFFREY

Like the other two, it’s all about the composition, as David Jeffrey observes the action during a pre-season match against Derriaghy CC

RICHMOND

Taken during my trip to Dublin, I took in a St Patrick’s Athletic game. The colours just make this photo for me, as is the fact you came see a rainbow over the stadium.

CAMERAS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Portugal match, the two cameras, focused on the action in sync does it for me, alongside the composition of the players, so small in comparison with their surroundings.

BRISBANE ROAD

I’m a sucker for arty pics of football stadiums. I took this during a trip to London, when I took in a match at Leyton Orient.

THE OVAL

Linfield fans looking on, under the floodlights, as their side has a free-kick against Glentoran at The Oval.

ROONEY

Manchester United fans looking on as Wayne Rooney prepares to take a free-kick against Olympiacos.

SEAVIEW

Linfield fans looking one at a match at Seaview. Seaview is always good for photos.

BLUE

Arty one, take of seats in the South Stand at Linfield’s last game at Windsor Park before redevelopment, which the South Stand will be one of the main areas getting redeveloped.

CLARKE

Taken on the last day of the league season, love the composition, especially of the two players, one with the ball, and one trying to win the ball back,

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JULY

The 2012-2013 season couldn’t end soon enough for me. A couple of months later, refreshed and ready for the new season, I headed to Windsor Park in early July to see Linfield face IF Fuglafjordur in the UEFA Cup, winning 3-0 to secure a place in the next round.

Two weeks later, I was back at Windsor Park for UEFA Cup action, with Linfield once again defending a lead from the away leg. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, as Skoda Xanthi ran out winners after extra-time.

With the UEFA Cup run over, it was back to earth with a bump, as pre-season friendlies resumed, Linfield facing Derriaghy CC and running out easy winners, getting some nice shots at a photo friendly ground (When the sun shines)

Good to be getting back in the match going habit.

Linfield v IF Fuglafjordur

Linfield v Skoda Xanthi

Derriaghy CC v Linfield

2013 IN PICTURES – JULY

Now into July, there was lots of warm days but not much photography.

No concerts, but I managed three football matches, two of Linfield’s European games and a friendly against Derriaghy CC.

The extra light in the evenings helped me with my football photography, so I made the most of it.

Got some Street Art around Belfast as well during the month, managing to get one of a snowman throwing a petrol bomb.

Linfield v Fuglafjordur

The Snow And The Sun

Linfield v Skoda Xanthi

Derriaghy CC v Linfield