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.

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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

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

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 1-2 LINFIELD 6.8.2016

I’ve enjoyed the past three months spending my Saturdays going out cycling. Not as much as I enjoyed jumping back into the madness of a new Irish League season.

The fixture computer gave Linfield a trip to Ballinamallard to begin with. Not that surprising perhaps, as barring 2012-2013, Linfield have travelled to Fermanagh in the opening two months of the season.

Of the new signings, Chris Casement (second debut) and Roy Carroll were the only starters, with Josh Carson on the bench.

It was a man who has fond memories of Ferney Park, Stephen Lowry (he scored his first goal for the club there), who put Linfield into the lead when he headed home from a Ross Gaynor free-kick after 8 minutes.

It was the first goal anywhere in the new Irish League season.

Ballinamallard were letting Linfield know they were in a game and that a two goal lead was needed just to be sure.

It almost came when a crossfield pass played in Kirk Millar whose shot was tipped onto the side netting, though the referee gave a goal kick.

Linfield were getting a lot of joy from crossfield passes and playing balls in behind Ballinamallard’s defence.

Paul Smyth got in behind the defence but couldn’t get enough room for a shot, allowing for a Ballinamallard tackle.

Ballinamallard got an equaliser when a failed overhead kick fell to Ryan McConnell, who fired home. This was not in Linfield’s plans.

It was a ball in behind the defence that brought about Linfield’s second goal, as Ballinamallard’s keeper cleared the ball from the left-back position as Andrew Waterworth chased for possession, the ball landing perfectly for Kirk Millar on the halfway line, who returned the ball into the back of the net.

There was a moment of tenstion as the ball was in mid air, someone near me even gasped as the ball went goalwards. The tension was over as soon as the ball hit the back of the net and Linfield fans celebrated.

The second-half, like the first-half, saw Linfield need a two goal margin. They couldn’t get it. Their best moment came early in the second-half when Kirk Millar fired goalwards from a tight angle, but his shot was smothered.

Like in the first-half, Ballinamallard were reminding Linfield that while there was a one goal difference, the game was far from won.

Josh Carson came on from the bench and looked lively.

With 10 minutes to go, Linfield had a flurry of attacks as they sought the goal that would secure the win, with Stephen Lowry and Niall Quinn going close. Smyth and Carson were the focal point of Linfield’s attacks.

Ballinamallard went closer, with a Laffery header going just wide. He was free in the box.

Only one game in, and Linfield were doing this to their fans.

As well as the Lafferty header, Linfield had to survive a nervy corner kick.

You can be comfortable in the final minutes with a one goal lead. Linfield weren’t.

As much as Ballinamallard deserve credit, all they needed was more luck or better decision making to get a point.

Still, have to take a win, especially considering Linfield’s recent record on the opening day of the season. We’ve been used in recent years to being two or three points off the top of the league, so we’ll take this.

It wasn’t a great performance, but it was enough to say Linfield deserve the points.

It’s all about getting wins, it doesn’t matter it you grind out an away win or rack up the goals at home to compliant opposition like Ballymena.

The games come thick and fast, with Coleraine visiting Windsor Park in the now traditional (you can call three years a tradition?) Wednesday night fixture list for matchday 2, before games against Crusaders and Glenavon before the end of the month.

Coleraine’s match being postponed today means Neil McCafferty will be suspended on Wednesday, so it will be ok to concede a free-kick in injury time if we’re a goal up.

I’d prefer it if we did the business well in advance of the 90th minute to be honest.

Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2015-2016

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look at the 2015-2016 season just past. The 2016-2017 is only a matter of days away. Scary, I know.

Before I wrap up the 2015-2016, it’s time for my favourite photos. Hopefully, you’ll agree. Feel free to vote for your favourite.

BRAY

Taken at my very first game, back on 27th June 2015, I like the composition and framing of this.

TAYLOR’S

Taken on my first visit to Taylor’s Avenue, I love how everyone is focused on the player with the ball (I think it’s Guy Bates)



FANS

Taken at Ballinamallard in September. I don’t know why I love this photo, I just do.

ENCOURAGEMENT

I was taking a photo of the corner, but this guy just got up and started to encourage Linfield players, which made the photo for me.

A photo of just the corner kick would actually have been boring.



GREECE

Taken on that famous night against Greece just after Davis first goal, and trying to capture what it meant.

RED SKY

No filtering or magic tricks, that’s what the sky was like when Linfield travelled to Ballymena in December. Just had to get a snap.

CELEBRATIONS

Taken after the Irish Cup tie at Solitude in March, what it means to win at a ground you haven’t won for four years, and to do so in a convincing manner.

TERRACES

Taken at Dalymount Park, terracing that isn’t used anymore, other than to hang flags on. I like the composition of this.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – SEPTEMBER

My football watching for September began in sunny Fermanagh, watching Linfield get a 1-0 win away to Ballinamallard, to keep up their 100% start to the season.

Two days later, it was Windsor Park to see if Northern Ireland could get the win they needed to reach Euro 2016. They didn’t get it, but a late 1-1 draw sent the crowd home more than happy.

The following Saturday, I went to Seaview to see Linfield lose their 100% start to the season with a 3-0 defeat.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to return to winning ways over the next two Saturdays, getting wins against Warrenpoint Town and Glenavon at home over the following two Saturdays.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Glenavon

2015 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

September began for me on the road to Fermanagh, to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard, and get a 1-0 win on a lovely sunny day.

From the road to Fermanagh to the road to France. My next football match came two days later when I saw Northern Ireland take on Hungary in a Euro 2016 Qualifier, knowing that a win sound them to France.

They didn’t get the win they wanted, but a late draw kept them on course to qualify.

Inbetween those two football matches was some graffiti spotting around Belfast.

Two days after that, I was at The Odyssey, now renamed The SSE Arena, to see Florence and the Machine perform the first concert at the newly renovated venue.

Back to Irish League action the following Saturday, a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders, the less said about, the better.

The following Friday, was the highlight of the year in Belfast, Culture Night, and I was out with my camera snapping the action.

I recovered from Culture Night in time the following day to head to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint.

The following day, I undertook a post Culture Night tradition by checking out the newly painted Street Art on North Street and the surrounding areas.

The final weekend of the month saw me head to Windsor Park to see Linfield edge past Glenavon 4-3.

Like the previous weekend, I headed to North Street to get a look at the Street Art painted for Culture Night, as some pieces were still being worked on when I went down the previous week.

I also headed to City Quays Walk for the first time, to see some Street Art that had been painted there.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Belfast Street Art

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album

Florence and the Machine Live At The Odyssey

Florence and the Machine Live At The Odyssey Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Culture Night

Culture Night Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

North Street Art

North Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

North Street Art Part 2

North Street Art Photo Album Volume 2

City Quays Walk Street Art

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 0-1 LINFIELD 5.9.2015

Linfield took their 100% start to the season to Ballinamallard on a sunny day, but it was three points they wanted rather than a suntan, at a ground where a draw in January derailed their title challenge last season.

Not a lot happened in the opening stages, much to Linfield’s frustration. They couldn’t get a clear sight on goal.

Ballinamallard had a couple of speculative long range shots on goal which caused concern for Linfield, even if Ballinamallard never actually looked like scoring.

Linfield’s first moment of note came when an Andrew Waterworth header hit the crossbar. Waterworth was involved again soon after when he poked the ball home from close range, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

Throughout the first-half, it wasn’t really happening for Linfield’s forward players.

As the half ended, Linfield had a late rally, but the ball never bounced for them, and they had to make do with drawing 0-0 at half-time.

Linfield started the second-half better, and nice passing between Andrew Waterworth and Guy Bates presenting a shooting opportunity for Matthew Clarke, but his shot was fired over.

Ballinamallard were able to see off Linfield’s attacks, until Sean Ward had some space 30 yards out, just enough to fire home and give Linfield the lead.

If Linfield had waited a long time for the goal, so had Ward, as it was his first for the club since joining in the summer of 2013.

The game threatened to boil over after that with some fiesty challenges coming in.

Linfield took control of the game as they aimed for a 2nd goal with a Bates shot just going wide and a Clarke free-kick being well saved.

Unable to get the 2nd goal that would have killed the game, Linfield were able to keep possession enough that the final moments weren’t as nervy as they should be when you’re defending a 1-0 lead, as they got the win that saw them keep up their 100% start to the season.

Crusaders 1-0 win at Solitude meant Linfield moved 5 points clear, but it also mean they’ll face a Crusaders team on form with 4 wins in a row.

However, we should be letting Crusaders worry about facing a Linfield team on form who have won 6 games in a row.

The most pleasing aspect, was the clean sheet. That’s 4 out of 6. A dramatic improvement considering that clean sheets were in short supply last season.

The more clean sheets, the better a chance you have of winning games, especially games like this, where they might be only to get one goal. Linfield found that out the hard way when they were 1-0 up at Ballinamallard in Janaury.

As mentioned, Linfield go to Seaview on Saturday, five points clear. When Linfield last visited Seaview in January, they were four points clear, lost, and it gave Crusaders the momentum to go on and win the league.

It’s the first big test for this Linfield team, and if they pass it, they’ll be eight points clear of one of their rivals before the middle of September.

Hopefully, lessons will have been learnt from last season, the biggest of which is, kill off your rivals when you have the chance. Linfield have that chance on Saturday.

Before then, I have another match to go to, the small matter of Northern Ireland v Hungary. You know a match when it is billed as “the small matter of”

Hopefully, there’ll be wins for Northern Ireland and Linfield in those two games. If there is, it will make 2016 potentially a year to remember.

Photo Album