2016 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville in the Irish Cup, and get their first win there for four years.

The following week, Glentoran were the opponents, but the result was the same, a 3-0 win for Linfield.

After that, it was Solitude again, with Linfield only managing a 2-0 win this time.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, and decided to make a trip of it between Bristol and Cardiff, getting some Street Art photos, and see Bristol Rovers take on Cambridge United.

Upon my return, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Slovenia.

The next day, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint, ending a busy Easter period of football watching.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 1

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 2

Cardiff Street Art

Cardiff Street Art Photo Album

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

BRISTOL ROVERS 3-0 CAMBRIDGE UNITED 25.3.2016

As I was in Cardiff for the Wales v Northern Ireland match, I decided to make a weekend of it and stay afterwards in the South-West of England.

I was spoilt for choice when it came to matches, with Swindon Town, Cheltenham Town and Bristol Rovers all in close proximity to where I was staying. I plumped for Bristol Rovers, and it turned out to be a good choice.

The match against Cambridge United was a sell-out, with Rovers fans hopeful of a second successive promotion. As recently as February 27th, a 1-0 defeat at Wycombe left them 10th, but five successive wins had now seen them kick-off in the third automatic promotion place.

With Good Friday not being a Public Holiday in Northern Ireland, the 3pm kick-off went this was the first time i’d been to a football match during a working day.

Bristol Rovers had envisaged that by March 2016, they’d be playing at a brand new UWE Stadium. It’s not names after Uwe Rosler, it’s so named as it is in collaboration with the University of Western England.

For various reasons, that fell through, so Rovers are still at The Memorial Ground, their home since 1996, that they used to share with Bristol Rugby, until they moved out in 2014. The entrance to the ground still references it as the home of Bristol Rugby.

The ground is named as a tribute to local Rugby players who died in World War I, and there is a memorial to them as you enter the ground.

Prior to that, Rovers played at Twerton Park in nearby Bath for ten years after having to leave Eastville in 1986 due to financial difficulties.

Stadium issues were the last thing on people’s minds, it was all about three points and promotion.

I managed to get to the ground a bit later than hoped due to buses running a reduced service. I literally just got off at the same stop as people in Rovers shirts, and managed to make my way to the ground with no problem.

My ticket was behind the goal, in the North Terrace.

As I was relatively late, a lot of the good spaces were taken, I had to take what I could get, a spot beside the corner flag.

Rovers fans packed into the North Terrace were expectant of victory, but had their watch their side be on the back foot in the opening minute, with Cambridge testing their keeper with a shot. On of many nervous moments for Rovers in the opening minutes.

There was some Northern Ireland interest in this match, in the shape of Rovers defender Mark McChrystal.

Rovers fans were soon celebrating, when Billy Bodin (Son of Paul, who missed that penalty for Wales against Romania in 1993) got enough space to fire a speculative shot goalwards, which went under Cambridge’s keeper and put Rovers 1-0 up.

It was poor goalkeeping, not that Rovers fans cared.

Soon after, it was 2-0, Bodin again, after he got enough space in the penalty area to head in via the crossbar.

After scoring with their first two chances, it was fair to say that any nerves Rovers would have had were now gone.

Now playing with a swagger, they almost made it 3-0 close to half time, when a Clarke volley narrowly went over the bar.

Cambridge had some attacking possession in the second-half, but never looked like scoring. The next goal was always going to be a Rovers one, and it came on 73 minutes, when Matty Taylor created space in the box to fire home to make it 3-0.

The game won, Rovers fans went into party mood, singing “Wael Wael give us a wave” at the club’s new owner, Wael Al Qaid. He obliged.

They then sang “Wael Wael, give us a dance”. He didn’t oblige.

The next song, was “We’re Man City in disguise” – a reference to their bank account perhaps and not their recent form, as they’re doing a bit better than Man City at the moment.

The next chant aimed at the Owner was “We want Messi”, suggesting a possible transfer target, before a more modest “We want Easter”, aimed at their manager urging him to bring Jermaine Easter off the bench. They got their wish.

He couldn’t get the goal they wanted at the time of year he shares a name with. Three points was more than enough for them.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football began for me on the first day of the month, with a road trip to Lurgan to see Linfield take on Glenavon, hoping to end a run of three successive defeats, which they did, on a very wet day.

The following weekend, I was at Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Dungannon Swifts.

The Saturday after, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield throw away two points in a 2-2 draw against Glentoran.

Back on the road the following weekend, to Warrenpoint, to see Linfield pull off a late escape to record a dramatic 2-1 win.

November ended with a trip to the North-West of England, primarily to go to Old Trafford to see United take on Hull, but I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Accrington Stanley for their match against Exeter City.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Linfield v Glentoran

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2014

So, my football watching is over for 2014. Time to look back at the year just gone. And what better way to do it than with a load of stats.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 164

Red Cards : 17 (includes Rhys Marshall getting sent-off after the final whistle, but not Gary Hamilton being sent-off as a substitute before he entered the field)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 1 (Robin Van Persie, Manchester United v Olympiacos)

Teams Seen : 37

Accrington Stanley (1st time), AIK Solna (1st time), Ards, B36 Torshavn, Ballinamallard United, Ballyclare Comrades (1st time), Ballymena United, Bangor, Bray Wanderers (1st time), Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Cowdenbeath (1st time), Crusaders, Drogheda United, Dungannon Swifts, Everton (1st time), Exeter City (1st time), Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders, Heart Of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hull City (1st time), Institute, Leyton Orient (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Northern Ireland, Olympiacos (1st time), Peterborough United (1st time), Portadown, Real Madrid, Sevilla (1st time), Tottenham Hotspur, Warrenpoint Town,

Stadiums Visited : 19

Ballymena Showgrounds, Brisbane Road (1st time), Cardiff City Stadium (1st time), Carlisle Grounds (1st time), Coleraine Showgrounds, Crown Ground (1st time), Drumahoe (1st time), Ferney Park, Milltown (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, Tynecastle, White Hart Lane (1st time), Windsor Park

Competitions : 15

County Antrim Shield, European Championship, European Cup, European Super Cup (1st time), FA Premier League, Football League One (1st time), Football League Two (1st time), Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, League Of Ireland, Northern Ireland League Cup, Scottish Championship (1st time), Steel and Sons Cup, UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiosities this year. There were two twins on opposing sides, but i’d already seen it. Other than that, a player setting up a goal with no boots. It was a poor year for curiousities.

UEFA 100 Club : Everton, Sevilla (now at 32 clubs)

ACCRINGTON STANLEY 2-3 EXETER CITY 28.11.2014

In the North-West of England and with a spare evening to kill, the logical thing to do, would be to go to a football match. I was in luck, as Accrington Stanley (one hour away from Manchester) were at home.

I was in double luck as it were, with the match kicking off at 7pm, as the last bus out of Accrington is at 9.41pm. If the match kicked-off at a more standard 7.45pm, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

I did say it was one hour away from Manchester, the journey ended up taking close to two hours due to roadworks and peak commuter levels of traffic on the roads.

The ground was relatively easy to find from the town centre, I got told to walk up a hill for 20 minutes then follow the road signs. The ground itself, wasn’t particularly modern, with still using wooden seats. I don’t mean to put it down, i’m not fussed about the ground as long as I get to watch some football.

I ventured into the club shop, which included a poster urging people to vote for Stereo Kicks on X-Factor, as one of them came from Accrington.

Stanley kicked-off in 12th, four points off the play-offs and one point behind their opponents.

I was sat in the stand along the side of the pitch, unreserved seating, meaning I could moved from one end to the other when Stanley were attacking.

Surprisingly, Stanley attacked their own fans (the end behind one of the goals houses away fans) in the first-half. Stanley did well in the first-half, playing slightly better, with their “Ultras” behind the goal claiming a goal when Exeter’s keeper caught the ball on the line with his feet behind it.

In first-half injury time, Exeter took the lead when Liam Sercombe hit a lovely finish after a cross from the left.

From there, I retired to the bar at half-time, to get a bit of heat, before venturing out for the second-half.

If Stanley needed a good start to the second-half, they didn’t get it, falling 2-0 down when Alex Nicholls fired home from outside the box.

From there, the game looked set to go out on a bit of a whimper, until John O’Sullivan fired home from long range. Within minutes, Exeter regained their two goal lead, through a lovely free-kick from Matt Grimes.

Once again, the game seemed set to just fizzle out, before Shay McCartan, a Northern Ireland Under 21 player, flicked the ball past a defender, before running through on goal and finishing from the edge of the box.

There was just under twenty minutes to go. There was a Stanley flurry in the final minutes, but they never really looked like scoring. Four minutes of injury time seemed to annoy Stanley manager John Coleman, who screamed “FOUR GOALS AND SIX SUBS!!!!” at the 4th Official when he held up his board.

They could have played all night, they were never going to score.

And yes, I managed to write about Acrington Stanley without referencing Ian Rush and/or Milk. Well, until now.

Photo Album