PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2017-2018

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look back at the 2017-2018. The less said about what happened on the pitch, the better.

I took a lot of photos, so i’ve rounded up my favourites.

Feel free to vote for your favourite.

PLATT LANE

This was taken in June last year when The Oval was being used for filming a movie about Bert Trautmann, and was decorated to look like Maine Road. I went to get some photos.

I specifically wanted one with 1950s Maine Road and 2017 Oval both in the same shot, and this was my favourite from that day.

CLANDEBOYE

You have roadworks to thank for this photo.

I was held up heading to Ards v Linfield and missed the first couple of minutes.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered, a crowd with their eyes fixated on the pitch on a warm summer evening.

GARRETT

I like the composition of this photo.

You may be surprised that Robert Garrett is attacking and not defending, he had just kept the ball in play and was now being surrounded by two Dungannon defenders.

PHOTOGRAPHER

I just like the composition of this shot. Taken during Spartans v Linfield in Scottish Challenge Cup.

RAINBOW

Me being arty farty. I love trying to get pictures of rainbows over football grounds. Taken at half-time during Ballinamallard v Linfield in November. A rare time that afternoon when it wasn’t raining.

HAUGHEY

Same match, everyone huddled in the stand to avoid the rain. I like the composition of this shot.

FLEGS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Switzerland match in November, green and white flags were left out before the game for fans to wave. I decided to take a shot as they were being waved and got lucky.

CELEBRATION

Everything fell into place for this shot, the sky, a well worked goal, and the whole team coming together to celebrate.

GOAL

I like this shot because it captures the emotion of a last minute equaliser as part of a late comeback that never looked like coming.

TIPTON

I was heading to the exit for a quick getaway (in my defence, it was an away game on a weeknight) and stumbled upon this framing as Matthew Tipton looked on as Warrenpoint took on Linfield.

CAMPION

Taken during Cliftonville v Linfield in February, the guy in the red coat makes it makes it with his celebration as Linfield players celebrate in front of their fans.

Advertisements

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

Football watching in March got off to a delayed start, due to Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville being postponed due to snow.

I had to wait a week to get to a match, Linfield’s home game against Carrick Rangers.

The following midweek, was that postponed Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, resulting in a defeat for Linfield.

It didn’t get better the rest of the month as Linfield had to come from behind to get draws against Glentoran and Ballinamallard United.

At least the month ended on a high note, beaming with parental pride (sort of) as Paul Smyth came off he bench to score the winner for Northern Ireland against South Korea on his debut.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glentoran

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football watching began with a long trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield beat Ballinamallard 6-0 in the pouring rain.

Up next, was Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off against Switzerland. The following day, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield take on Ballymena, giving me two disappointing results on successive days.

Results took an upturn in the final weeks of the month, as I headed to see Linfield beat the top two in the League, Coleraine and Glenavon, in successive weeks.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 2-2 LINFIELD 23.3.2018

At this same weekend in 2016 and 2017, Linfield faced Ballinamallard and ground out a tense 2-1 win on each occasion.

Those two times, they were going for the title. This time around, it was 3rd place and possible automatic qualification for the UEFA Cup.

Linfield were aided in the build-up to this on the Tuesday night when Cliftonville lost 2-1 at home to Ballymena, meaning that Linfield had a four point lead over Cliftonville.

This match was supposed to be on the Saturday, but it was brought forward to the Friday night due to Northern Ireland playing South Korea in a friendly.

That has been covered previously on this blog and will be touched on again later.

I had to take some excess carry over Annual Leave and chose this day before this game was rescheduled. I was originally intending to go and see Paloma Faith at The Odyssey. I decided to give that as miss as the concert was all seater, which was a bit wank. She doesn’t do music that you can enjoy sitting down.

So that was the motivation for Linfield, at least be a more entertaining option than Paloma Faith.

There were two changes for Linfield. One was enforced, with Andrew Mitchell coming in for the injured Jamie Mulgrew, and Achille Campion coming in for Kurtis Byrne.

Linfield began putting pressure on the Ballinamallard goal. Achille Campion was played in but couldn’t control the ball, but did enough to set up Niall Quinn, whose shot was blocked by a defender.

Quinn was denied again as he looked to head a cross into an empty net, but a Ballinamallard defender got the ball before him and denied him.

Linfield couldn’t keep the pressure up and Ballinamallard came more into the game. Alex Moore was forced into a save from a long range shot by Stephen O’Flynn.

Moore had a few dodgy moments from goal kicks, going straight out of play, as if he was putting the ball out for a line out. I suppose that’s what happens when you go to a rugby school.

There was also some confusion in defence by not making himself available for backpasses.

There were no complaints about his shotstopping, Linfield were giving him enough opportunities to showcase his shotstopping.

He did manage to hit a Copper on the head with one of his clearances.

It was the only thing of note a Linfield player did in the first-half.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Linfield began to have more attacking cohesion. Niall Quinn went agonisingly wide. Andrew Waterworth put the ball in the back of the net from the rebound. Unfortunately, it was after the ball bounced back into play.

48 minutes, Linfield had finally turned up.

Naturally, the way this season had been going, Ballinamallard were going to score, which they did when a cross was headed in by Ryan Curran.

Linfield responded with some good play down the left which saw a low shot from Matthew Clarke be saved, as Stephen Lowry came off the bench to replace Andrew Mitchell.

The next big moment from a Linfield player came from Alex Moore, as Sean Noble ran through on goal only to see his shot saved by Moore.

Clarke was then replaced by Kurtis Byrne as Linfield went in search of an equaliser.

That came when Mark Stafford headed home from a free-kick to make it 1-1, his first goal against his former club. With twenty minutes to go, there was still time for Linfield to push on and get a winner.

The opportunity for that came soon afterwards when Linfield got a penalty, awarded for a handball by Stephen O’Flynn. It was soft, but we’ll happily take it.

Andrew Waterworth’s last two penalties had been chipped in, Panenka style. This was not really the time for such a thing. Thankfully, he didn’t, blasting it low into the back of the net to put Linfield 2-1 up.

Kurtis Byrne then had a low shot tipped around the post as they looked to make it 3-1 and secure the points, while Jimmy Callacher saw a header bounce over the bar, just as he did against Carrick Rangers a few weeks previously.

Sandwiched inbetween that, was a red card for Ballinamallard substitute Joshua McIlwaine for a late tackle on Niall Quinn just a few minutes after coming on.

Everything was falling into place for Linfield.

Or so we thought, as 91 minutes approached, a sloppy pass from Robert Garrett went to Ryan Curran, who played in Sean Noble, who made it 2-2.

I was at the other end, and it was clear Noble was going to score as soon as he got the ball. One pass was all it took from Ballinamallard, it was yet another bad goal to concede.

You don’t want to single players out, but that’s the third time this season Garrett has lost possession late in the game that has led to a goal.

Points lost to Cliftonville (September), Coleraine (October), Warrenpoint (December), Glentoran (December) and now Ballinamallard to last minute goals.

It can’t be bad luck, it can’t just be coincidence. There’s something wrong this season that Linfield can’t see games out, or push all the way to the end.

To make it worse, Garrett was under no pressure when he had the ball.

There was still time for Linfield to win the game, but Ballinamallard held out. It got even worse when results from elsewhere came through.

Glenavon lost 3-2 to Dungannon Swifts while Cliftonville beat Ards 3-0.

Linfield are now three points behind 3rd place Glenavon and two points ahead of 5th place Cliftonville.

Even though Linfield closed the gap to 3rd, this was two points dropped. Linfield should be comfortably in 3rd the amount of points that Glenavon have dropped in the last two months.

As stated in the Glentoran write-up, it pains me to say that Cliftonville are going to finish 3rd. They have the momentum. Even when they managed to lose to Ballymena on the Tuesday before this, they still ended the week in a better position. It’s all coming up Milhouse for them.

Linfield are five goals better than Cliftonville and five worse than Glenavon in terms of goal difference.

If Linfield beat Glenavon over Easter, they will go level on points with them, and will only need to make up three goals over four games in order to finish 3rd.

If they beat them by three goals, they’ll jump into 3rd.

I don’t think the players realise the importance of getting 3rd, as it could possibly get us automatically into Europe (Irish Cup results dependent) meaning we get to skip the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

That may not be what we wanted at the start of the season, but that’s where we are. Time to focus minds.

There was doubt in the week leading up to this game as to wether this game was going ahead.

On Sunday night, rumours circulated that the game would be postponed to enable Ballinamallard to play Ballymena instead if 6th was still to be decided, to allow Glentoran and Ballymena to play their 33rd game simultaneously, against each other.

This was backed up by Linfield having to put out a statement to clarify the situation on Monday.

The fact that NIFL even considered this option was ridiculous.

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard needing to be rearranged is a fallout from the saga of Ballymena United v Cliftonville in the NIFL Cup. I bet you thought this was long resolved.

Ballymena United v Ballinamallard United was due to be played on Saturday 10th February, but was postponed so that Ballymena could play Cliftonville instead.

The new date for Ballymena v Ballinamallard was Tuesday 13th March, but it was postponed again to accommodate Ballymena’s postponed Irish Cup tie against Larne.

I spotted it at the time, that Ballymena will have to play their 33rd game after the scheduled date. Did nobody at NIFL spot it?

Glentoran and Ballymena United have been scrapping it out for 6th place all season. Did nobody at NIFL not spot that it might need to be decided by their meeting on Matchday 33?

Even more ridiculous, was the expectation that Ballymena would have to get arrangements in place for a home game at three days notice, as well as Ballinamallard players having to change their arrangements from a home match to an away match on a working day.

And lastly, there are the fans of Glentoran, Ballymena United and Ballinamallard United. It’s always the fans who are lastly.

It got even more ridiculous. The proposed date suggested for a potential rearrangement of Ballinamallard United v Linfield was Monday 26th March.

Surely, if it had to be rearranged, they could have used Saturday 31st March as both sides will have a free Saturday due to being out of the Irish Cup.

And on that note, I know the Irish Cup Semi-Finals are on the same weekend as last year, but surely someone would have noticed it was Easter Saturday?

Why could they not be played on Saturday 7th April? It would still leave a four week turnaround between the Semi-Final and Final.

In 2015, the Irish Cup Semi-Finals were moved out of their traditional weekend as it fell on Easter, so it could have been done.

Why are clubs not involved in the Irish Cup not given the opportunity to play their Easter Tuesday games on the Saturday instead?

Warrenpoint are playing Dungannon in a rearranged game, so it could have been done.

Linfield’s post split fixture list is complete, and will be (All in April, Home games in CAPITALS)

04 Glenavon
07 BALLYMENA UNITED
14 Crusaders
21 COLERAINE
28 CLIFTONVILLE

Now that Ballymena finished 6th, they would be going in on a decent run of form, and could do us a favour by getting something against Cliftonville, who will then face Crusaders or Coleraine on April 7th.

We still need to get results to help ourselves.

Ironically, Linfield closed the gap on Glenavon in 3rd. You would have taken that at the start of the night. It was the manner of this result though. We didn’t have many chances, but we took them, only to present Ballinamallard on when they didn’t look like getting back into the game.

How many times this season have we said “We didn’t look like drawing/losing ….” but we did?

There’s ten days until the next match, and this result is going to stink the place out until then.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER 2017

November began with a long trip to Fermanagh to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard. It was raining goals and raining rain as Linfield won 6-0.

From going West, it was going East that was next on my agenda, as Northern Ireland took on Switzerland with the aim of going to Russia. They lost 1-0.

The following day, it was a trip to Ballymena, to see Linfield lose 2-1.

The following Friday, the entertainment was of a musical variety, as The Killers came to The Odyssey.

The photos continued on a musical theme, getting photos of a Run DMC mural in Belfast, as well as some Street Art beside Apache.

It was back to football, seeing Linfield beat Coleraine and Glenavon.

The last day of the month saw me cycle to Lisburn to get some Street art photos, including a mural of Top Cat.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

The Killers live at The Odyssey

The Killers live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Run DMC/Apache Mural

Run DMC Mural Photo Album

Apache Mural Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March 2017 began for me with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders in an Irish Cup tie. That was followed a few days later by my first concert of 2017, seeing Blossoms at The Limelight.

It was then back to football for a Monday night match between Linfield and Cliftonville, and then returning to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ards.

I was then out on the trail of Street Art, getting photos of a mural of a Dancer in Belfast City Centre.

The following weekend, I headed to Fermanagh to see Linfield get a late win against Ballinamallard.

I then headed out again in search of Street art, getting photographs of a new mural of East Belfast legends.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Norway in a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Blossoms live at The Limelight

Blossoms live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

The Dancer

The Dancer Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

East Belfast Wall Of Legends

East Belfast Wall Of Legends Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

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 : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway 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

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1-2 LINFIELD 25.3.2017

Matchday 33 is one of the milestone points in the Irish League season. Everybody has played each other three times, and now top and bottom are ready to breakaway, as the final five games of the season approach.

For Linfield, the fixture computer dealt them a repeat of the opening day of the season, an away trip to Ballinamallard.

As well as the fixture being the same as the opening day of the season, we even got August weather. The picnic area at Ferney Park would have been perfect if it had a view of the pitch, although the fact it didn’t would have been definite plus point in the opening 45 minutes.

It wasn’t a day for picnics and sunbathing in the Fermanagh sunshine, it was a day for three points. Vital at any time of the season, especially at this time of year.

Linfield began the game on the attack, Paul Smyth causing problems for Ballinamallard. When Ballinamallard had their first attack, they were more effective, with Ryan Mayse forcing Gareth Deane into a save. Dean was deputising for Roy Carroll, who has been called-up to the Northern Ireland squad for the match against Norway. Shane McGinty also forced him into a save, as Ballinamallard set about reminding Linfield that this was not going to be a stroll in the sunshine for them.

Kirk Millar had Linfield’s first attempt on goal, but his volley from inside the penalty area went over.

Linfield fans went into panic when Gareth Deane went walkabout, losing possession to Ryan Mayse in the left back position, his goalward shot only hitting the side netting.

Jimmt Callacher had a header saved as Linfield looked to find an end product that their pressure and possession had so far failed to provide.

Ballinamallard took the lead when Ryan Curran got enough space to fire a shot past Dean from just outside the penalty area. It had been coming. It was the first time that Ballinamallard had ever led Linfield at Ferney PArk. What a time for it to happen, at both ends of the table.

Linfield responded. They had to. Andrew Waterworth broke into the penalty area and had his shot saved. Mark Haughey had a penalty appeal turned down, before heading over.

Niall Quinn was next to have a header over as Linfield started to play, thirty minutes later than they should have. He was then followed by Kirk Millar. Both should have forced the keeper into a save.

A careless pass set up Ryan Mayse to have another shot. Ballinamallard were making the most of the ball when they attacked, Linfield weren’t. Linfield were relieved to go in at half-time only 1-0 down.

As the left the pitch, news emerged that Crusaders were trailing 1-0 at Coleraine.

It brought back memories of April 1999 (Glentoran 1-1 Cliftonville, Linfield 1-1 Coelraine) and April 2009 (Glentoran 3-3 Lisburn Distillery, Linfield 2-2 Cliftonville), when Linfield had been chasing Glentoran for most of those seasons, waiting for them to slip up, and when they did, being unable to take advantage.

Linfield fans had been marking this game in the fixture list as a potential Crusaders slip-up, and when it came, their side wasn’t taking advantage of it.

David Healy turned to his bench at half-time, bringing on Aaron Burns for Paul Smyth. A bit surprising that Smyth left the field, though it was later revealed by Stephen Lowry that he was feeling ill at half-time.

It was no surprise that Burns would be brought on, perhaps a bit earlier than some would have expected.

The second-half had a flurry of Linfield pressure, the ball was mostly in Ballinamallard’s half.

Linfield got their reward when Andrew Waterworth chased down a through ball and managed to get a cross from the byline, missed by a Ballinamallard defender and fell perfectly for Aaron Burns to finish from close range.

Waterworth giving a lesson as to why you should always chase a “lost cause” and that, if you do, you make your own luck.

Waterworth had a flick saved while Niall Quinn had an effort cleared off the line, as Linfield chased the lead.

David Healy again turned to his bench, bringing on Josh Carson for Kirk Millar. Not that surprising to see Carson come on, I thought it would be for Niall Quinn.

With ten minutes to go, there was almost a dramatic winner …… for Ballinamallard. Mark Stafford left a kick upfield for Gareth Deane, unaware that Jason McCartney was behind him. There might have been twenty-two players on the pitch and hundreds in attendance, but now, there was only two people in Ferney Park, Jason McCartney and Gareth Deane.

Time stood still. McCartney lobbed Deane, but the ball hit the bar. Linfield fans were relieved to see the ball go over.

The incident only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity for both sets of fans.

The game was now at the “goal the winner stage”. If Ballinamallard had scored, there would surely have been no way back for Linfield.

It was surely going to be Linfield day now. There was no way a team could survive a moment like that and not come away with three points.

With just six minutes left, Linfield got the breakthrough. A cross was headed clear, falling to Stephen Lowry on the edge of the box. I screamed for him to keep his shot low, but he fired it high, and into the back of the net. Once again, it was proved that I know nothing about football.

Some people got so excited, they ran onto the pitch to celebrate. They thought it was over, but it wasn’t quite.

You can never settle on a one goal lead, but Ballinamallard never looked like getting an equaliser, as Linfield saw the game out.

As they left the pitch, the full-time whistle blew at Coleraine where the home side beat Crusaders 1-0 to reduce the gap at the top of the table to four points. It was the breakthrough that Linfield had spent months waiting for.

Crusaders are Linfield’s next League opponents on April 8th at Windsor Park, with Linfield knowing that a win will reduce the gap to one point, and really put the pressure on Crusaders.

Linfield will have nothing to fear. They’ve won three and drawn two of the five games against Crusaders. It really should be five out of five.

The remaining fixtures are :

April 15th : Ballymena v Linfield, Cliftonville v Crusaders

April 18th : Linfield v Glenavon, Crusaders v Coleraine

April 22nd : Ballymena v Crusaders, Coleraine v Linfield.

April 29th : Crusaders v Glenavon, Cliftonville v Linfield.

These games were arranged before the split. Using the formula to devise the fixtures, Crusaders should have been facing Coleraine rather than Cliftonville on April 15th.

Call me a cynic, but it seems odd that Crusaders avoid facing in-form Coleraine the week after facing Linfield, but instead will face out of sorts Cliftonville. Odd. Very odd.

Linfield will take a break from League action to face Dungannon Swifts in an Irish Cup Semi-Final at Mourneview Park.

Football is a numbers game. The numbers this morning were seven (points off the top at kick-off) and four (point off the top at full-time). The numbers this evening were seven (hopefully the number of games remaining this season) and three (the number of trophies Linfield hope to win this season)

Linfield still don’t have the title destiny in their own hands, they still have to win and hope. What they are hoping for, is a lot less than it was this morning.

Photo Album