LINFIELD 1-2 SKODA XANTHI 25.7.2013

It might not yet be August, but i’m already excited and optimistic about the new season, despite the first disappointment of the season.

Having seen off Fuglafjordur, Skoda Xanthi represented a step up to a higher level, a level to which Linfield stepped up to in the first leg, winning 1-0 away.

No offence to Fuglafjordur, but the tie was over after the first leg. Despite the away win in Greece, this wasn’t.

Xanthi started the game strong, as you expected they would. So strong, Linfield couldn’t get out of their half for the first couple of minutes. When they did, winning a throw in Xanthi’s final third, it was cheered like a goal.

The crowd, biggest in a while for a European game (few few seats in the Sout, or Kop Upper Tier) knew that the team needed them.

Linfield eventually got a grip in the game and started to hold their own, having a few attempts on goal. Neither side had many chances, more situation, though Xanthi had a clear shot on goal well saved by Jonathan Tuffey.

About midway through the first-half, I began to think myself that Linfield might actually be able to hold out. Within minutes, Xanthi went 1-0 up, levelling the tie on aggregate.

It could have been so easy to feel sorry for themselves, but Linfield just dusted themselves down and got on with it.

Towards the end of the first-half, the game came to life when Xanthi had a player sent-off. I was sat behind the goal and didn’t get a clear view of it, but judging by the reaction of Linfield players, it must have been a shocker. I got the chance to watch it again on UTV, and it was.

Against ten men, Linfield started the second-half strongly but couldn’t get the goal.

The game became tense, it looked as though there would only be one more goal, if any, in it. Both sides had situations rather than chances as it headed towards extra-time.

At the interval between full-time and extra-time, a loud roar went around Windsor Park as the crowd showed appreciation for the effort for the previous 180 minutes in the tie, and to try and drive them though the remaining 30 minutes.

The start of extra-time went along the same lines of the second-half in normal time …….. and the moment we were waiting for.

A cross came in and was headed out as far as Michael Gault, who hit a beautiful volley into the back of the net, and Windsor Park erupted. I let myself believe that it was going to happen.

The important thing was to hold out to half-time in extra-time, but Linfield couldn’t. Worst of all, it was a poor goal, a corner not cleared finding it’s way to the taker to blast in. To add insult to injury, it was in the last minute of the first-half of extra-time.

I’ve no doubt if Linfield had held out and gone through.

2-1 up, Xanthi strangled the game and killed it.

Beaten, but not disgraced. The way the team played, the way the new players have played, and most importantly, the fight displayed, have given me so much optimism for the new season. Time to build on it.

Photo Album

 

LINFIELD 3-0 IF FUGLAFJORDUR 10.7.2013

The last time I was at Windsor Park, I left fed up and disillusioned, having witnessed Linfield end a pathetic season with a pathetic run of form. What a difference a few months make.

New kit (it’s rather nice), new players (all in the positions which needed strengthened) and Linfield going into the game 2-0 up led to a mood of positivity, not seen at Windsor Park for a while.

The crowd was better than expected, considering it’s a UEFA Cup game, and the opposition not being well known and the tie being as good as dead. Not only that, there was a queue in the club shop before kick-off. Not sure if it was for the new shirt or a Season Ticket, but it was good to see.

For most of the first-half, both teams were, to use a pundits phrase, feeling each other out. IF had attacks but never really threatened. Anytime they got into a shooting position, there was usually a Linfield player getting in the way.

Linfield played well in spells, even *Gasp* playing it out from the back. New goalkeeper Johnny Tuffey seems to be fond of running off his line, but the important thing is, he spotted the danger, and dealt with it, every time.

Eventually Linfield took the lead towards the end of the first-half with a Michael Gault header, before a quick double from Jamie Mulgrew and Phil Lowry killed the game and the tie, if it wasn’t dead already.

The rest of the game was exhibition stuff, though there was a frustration of a lack of subs, to give players some game time, especially with only one friendly played, and no other friendlies scheduled before the next round.

That game is against Xanthi of Greece, who I know little about, but I know they will be better than IF. It was great to be back watching football again, and not only that, great to be enjoying football again.

Photo Album

 

2012 IN PICTURES – JULY

Not a lot happening in this month. Attended three football matches, Linfield and Crusaders in Europe (and a pre-season friendly), as well as getting some graffiti towards the end of the month.

Linfield’s European match against B36 Torshavn didn’t bring any goals, but it did provide some OK photos.

Crusaders match against Rosenborg brought some far better photos, including some sunset photos of Seaview. I was happy with this as i’d always wanted to get a sunset shot of a football stadium.

Hopefully, one day, i’ll be able to get one of Windsor Park

My final match of the month was Orangefield OB v Linfield. Great shooting position, poor shooting conditions.

Enjoy.

Linfield v B36 Torshavn

Crusaders v Rosenborg

Crusaders v Rosenborg Photo Album

A Tone Of The Times

Orangefield OB v Linfield

CRUSADERS 0-3 ROSENBORG 5.7.2012

Was at Seaview on Thursday night for the UEFA Cup tie between Crusaders and Rosenborg.

It was my sixth tie attended in this competition in the last four years. My last game in this competition was at Old Trafford between two sides with seven European Cups between them.

Crusaders were heavy underdogs and the scoreline wasn’t much of a surprise. Rosenborg were a class above their opponents.

Crusaders were restricted to mostly long range efforts, most of which were on target but never really troubled the keeper.

Even if they did, Rosenborg could easily have stepped up a gear if they needed to.

Crusaders will feel aggrieved about a penalty claim being turned down with the score at 1-0, and then Rosenborg score from the resulting counter-attack, but in truth, the better team won.

Declan Caddell was sent-off, marking it my first red card seen of the season (I also saw him sent-off in person last season too) and Gareth McKeown missed a penalty, though that wasn’t my first seen this season. Somebody at the FA must have distributed a copy of ‘How To Take A Penalty Like England Players’ to Irish League clubs preparing for Europe .

Random stat, but all three games I’ve been to in 2012-2013 have had a penalty. If you include he Irish League v Manchester United XI game in May, that’s four successive games I’ve been to where there has been a penalty.

So, my football watching season is off and running, though it might take a month long break depending on Linfield’s result this Tuesday.

Managed to get some good photos from this game. There was a brilliant sunset at half-time too.

Enjoy

Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2011-2012

After enjoying a month by month review of the past season, feel free to vote for your favourite photos from the following selected photos.

Corner

This photo was taken at the Hearts v Spurs UEFA Cup tie. I like it purely for the composition as Hearts fans look on helplessly as their team tries to restore some pride. They were 5-0 down when the corner was taken.

Statue

Again, the composition just makes this photo for me. Taken outside Old Trafford prior to a game against Sunderland on 5th November 2011

High Feet

Taken during a friendly between Derriaghy CC and Linfield in July. Again, the framing and composition just work for me.

Gaffers

Another one taken from Derriaghy CC v Linfield, I like this one showing Derriaghy’s management team watching the game, trying to see if there is anything they can spot which can help their team.

Lazy Summer Day

I used the pinhole effect in my camera for this shot, taken during a hastily arranged pre-season game between Linfield and Carrick Rangers.

I like the way it just captures watching football on a summer’s day. Even the Carrick Rangers subs appear to be relaxing while watching the game.

Linesman

Carrick Rangers again, this time a lot colder and darker, and more competitive, in a league match at their temporary home of Seaview.

I like this shot for the composition of the linesman, and the way the light reflects off Crusaders plastic pitch.

Boxing Day

This photo, taken on Boxing Day unsurprisingly, shows the crowd with their eyes fixed on Linfield taking a corner (taken, I think, by Rory Patterson) during a match against Glentoran.

Windsor Park

Taken prior to a match against Dungannon Swifts in January, I like this for the composition and the way the supporter’s shadows reflect.

Flag

Taken in Rotterdam while I was in Holland in February, Excelsior Rotterdam fans wave flags and release streamers as their side enters the field for a match against VVV Venlo

Cameraman

A TV cameraman captures the action during the Eredivise clash between Excelsior Rotterdam and VVV Venlo

Sunset

Photo outside Old Trafford prior to a UEFA Cup tie against Ajax on 23.2.2012

Old Trafford

Portrait shot of Old Trafford after the UEFA Cup tie against Ajax on 23.2.2012

City End

Linfield fans at The Oval, taken during a match against Newry City on 14.4.2012

Watson

Albert Watson, surrounded by supporters, is interviewed for TV after Linfield lift the Irish League title

Of ones not taken by me, there are two which stand out.

This one, credited to Getty Images, shows Kenny Dalglsh’s celebration just after Andy Carroll puts Liverpool 2-1 up in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Everton.

The composition and framing, capturing the emotion whcih makes it a fantastic photo.

I’m no lover of Liverpool FC, but credit where it’s due, that’s a fantastic photo.

The second photo, is of Ross Glendinning trying to save a shot during a friendly between Linfield and Rangers in May. It was credited to Pacemaker Press.

Like the Dalglish one, is the emotion and the framing which makes it, as Glendinning strains to try and stop the ball going into the back of the net.

For the record, the ball ended up in the back of the net.

I am aware that my natural footballing loyalties shouldn’t have me complimenting a photo of a Liverpool goal or a goal against Linfield, but, you’ve just to to appreciate good photography.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JULY

Welcome to the first in a series looking back at the football season just past.

In this blog post, we look back at July, when the preparation for the new season was beginning.

Managed to get some shots of Linfield’s games against Carrick Rangers, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Derriaghy.

My favourite shots came in the Derriaghy game. Was great getting to visit a new stadium and get easy access to the pitch for photo taking.

Was visiting Abbey Centre and passed Seaview on the night Crusaders played Fulham. Wasn’t able to get a ticket, but managed to get some shots of the stadium.

Linfield Pre-Season Games

European Football

Derriaghy v Linfield

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON

You can thank @philmojones4 for the inspiration for this pointless blogpost, when he commented on how many matches he’d been too during the 2011-2012 season, and it got me thinking, then I thought some more, and came up with this statistical analysis of the football season just past (I know technically the season is still going, but for me, it is over)

Matches Attended : 44

Goals Seen : 120

Red Cards : 5

Hat-Tricks : 2

Aaron Burns (Linfield v Dungannon Swifts) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Newry City)

(Last season I witnessed hat-tricks by Dimitar Berbatov and Lionel Messi)

Hat-tricks missed due to being on holiday : 1

Phil Lowry (Linfield v Donegal Celtic)

Hat-tricks missed due to not being arsed with Irish Cup ties v lower league opposition : 2

Rory Patterson (Linfield v Ballyclare Comrades) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Coagh United)

Highest scoring match : 7 (Linfield 7-0 Newry City)

Countries seen football in : 4

England, Holland, Northern Ireland, Scotland

(Last season, it was 4 as well – England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Spain)

Teams seen play : 28

Aberdeen, Ajax Amsterdam, Ballymena United, BATE Borisov, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Derriaghy CC, Donegal Celtic, Dungannon Swifts, Excelsior Rotterdam, Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Heart of Midlothian, Linfield, Lisburn Distillery, Manchester United, Newry City, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portadown, Serbia, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Utrecht, VVV Venlo

Competitions Watched : 8

Eredivise, Euro 2012, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish Premier League, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup

Stadiums Visited : 14

Amsterdam Arena, Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballyskeagh, Coleraine Showgrounds, Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Seycon Park, Shamrock Park, Solitude, The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park, Woudestein

NB: Stats do not include last night’s Manchester United v Irish League XI game. My visit to Amsterdam for the Holland v Northern Ireland game will be counted towards 2012-2013 statistics.

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 AJAX AMSTERDAM 23.2.2012

Was at Old Trafford last night for the UEFA Cup Last 32 tie between Manchester United and Ajax.

I’d planned on going to see United in action in Europe after Christmas, what I didn’t plan on, was that it would be in the UEFA Cup.

Interestingly, it was my 5th game attended in this competition since 2009, in comparision with 2 in the European Cup during the same time.

It was my second time seeing Ajax this month, having already seen them at the start of the month when I spent a weekend in Holland (booked long before the draw)

They were a lot better than when I saw them previously.

I flew over on the Thursday morning and spent some time in the city before heading over to Old Trafford, where I managed to get some sunset shots of the stadium.

My seat was right by the corner flag at the Stretford End, an excellent view and great for photography, except when teams were attacking that end, they always went down the other side.

United went 1-0 up early on and looked set to run away with the tie, but Ajax pulled back level before half-time.

Ajax started the second-half the better team, but didn’t go 2-1 up until the 86th minute.

The night was ending a lot more nervously than it should have been. If Ajax had scored during their early second-half dominance, it would have been a lot more nervous.

Thankfully, United held on and went through.

Amazingly, it was my 42nd game at Old Trafford, and the 1st time I saw United lose. The only other competitive defeat I saw was a 4-3 defeat against Blackburn in 2006. Add to that, a friendly defeat against an International Select at Windsor Park in 1995.

Anyway, here’s some photos.

Photo Album

UEFA CUP IN PICTURES

As the UEFA Cup restarts tonight, this time next week, I shall be at Old Trafford for the second leg of the tie between Manchester United and Ajax.

That will be my 5th game attended in the competition since the 2009-2010 season, at various stages.

It’s sad that the competition is so maligned, as it’s enjoyable to follow. Not only that, the syndicated highlights programme on ITV4 and Channel 5 is the best football highlights programme on TV. Other broadcasters should take note.

I would really love it if United were to win it this season, purely so United could complete the hat-trick of European trophies after previously winning the European Cup (1968, 1999, 2008) and European Cup Winners Cup (1991)

Not only that, I have a UEFA Cup branded keyring. I am so cool.

So, I thought i’d share some of my photos from the last few years of the competition.

That season, I went to see the Second Leg of Linfield v Randers. If you think United playing in the UEFA Cup is a culture shock, it’s the same for Linfield playing in the competition as well.

Randers were 4-0 up from the first leg, but I headed down anyway, as I enjoyed the novelty of playing a home match away from Windsor Park.

As Windsor Park’s pitch was being relaid, Linfield used Mourneview Park for their solitary home match that season.

Mourneview Park is very friendly for amateur photography, so I managed to get some nice shots.

The following month, I was in Edinburgh for the festival. I arrived in the city on a Thursday afternoon, and by chance, Hearts were at home to Dinamo Zagreb that evening, so I headed to Tynecastle and managed to get a ticket.

Hearts were 4-0 down, but managed to pull back 2 goals to win 2-0.

Was a fantastice atmosphere, and if Hearts had managed to get a 3rd soon after their 2nd. They might have been able to get the tie to Extra-Time at least.

My next match in the competition was the following season in the Final in Dublin between Porto and Braga.

Was a poor game, but it was great to go to a European Final.

My next game came earlier this season, again at Tynecastle, as I managed to blag a ticket for Hearts v Spurs.

Was a fantastic atmosphere …….. for the first five minutes until Spurs went 1-0, then were 3-0 up inside 20 minutes.

After that, the match was a non-event, but still enjoyable to be at for a neutral.

Hope you enjoy this photo round-up, and that I can get some more photos this evening.

Hearts v Dinamo Zagreb Photo Album

Porto v Braga

Porto v Braga Photo Album

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur Photo Special

STLFTEM ROUND-UP 2011

Seeing as it’s the end of the year, almost, I thought I’d keep you all up to date with my STLFTEM for 2011.

For those who don’t know, STLFTEM is basically Something To Look Forward To Every Month.

I started it in 2009, and it basically is to have something to go, see or do every month, and look forward to it.

The only rules are that it has to be something seen in person. Therefore, watching Euro 2012 on TV won’t count for June next year.

Also, I can have more than one STLFTEM each month. In fact, I can have as many as I wish.

January was a bit of a cheat, as I went to the Linfield v Glentoran match postponed from 26th December 2010. But, my lifestyle ethos, my rules.

February was a bumper month as I went to Barcelona for a weekend, and then the following Wednesday, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Scotland.

March was also a Northern Ireland match. A 0-0 draw v Slovenia. Yep, that was well worth the wait.

April was a bumper month with a title showdown for Linfield against Crusaders and three matches against Glentoran, one of which was an Irish Cup Semi-Final. Not only that, but there was also the matter of Beady Eye’s first concert in Belfast.

Four wins, and an excellent concert made it a worthwhile month.

May was all about travelling as I went to the UEFA Cup Final, and Manchester United’s last match of the season, against Blackpool.

June was quiet, but I did go and see 3OH!3

July was also quiet, but Linfield playing in Europe and a pre-season friendly against Derriaghy were enjoyable. As I stated earlier, some months are a struggle.

August was busy with the start of the new Irish League season and trips to Edinburgh and Brighton.

September was the Arthur’s Day concert at Ulster Hall (Any my ticket was free)

October was another concert at Ulster Hall, Noah and the Whale. There were fantastic.

I’d hoped that November would be going to the MTV EMAs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a ticket, so I had to make do with a trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Sunderland.

December will be the Boxing Day match at The Oval. If that bites the dust because of the weather, I’ll make it the Ulster v Aironi match two weeks ago (Again, a free ticket)

Well, that is how i’ve managed to have STLFTEM throughout the year, but I’ve already got some lined up for 2012.

In January, I’m going to see Roy “Catchphrase” Walker as part of the Out To Lunch Festival.

February will be a busy month as I’ll be taking a break to Amsterdam from 3rd-6th, then going to see Noel Gallagher at The Odyssey on 16th, before flying to Manchester on 23rd.

I’m hoping to see United v Ajax. I’ve no ticket sorted as yet, but I’m confident I’ll get one.

Pretty tempted to go and see The Beat at The Limelight in March. Undecided as yet.

August of course, will see me head to Edinburgh for the Festival. If I could afford to, I’d spend the whole month there.

So that, is how I’ve managed to enjoy myself at least once a month this year and how I plan to do so next year.

If you have any suggestions for any of the months, feel free to get in touch and suggest.