2018 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

August 2018 was a busy month, and it began at Mourneview Park for the start of the 2018-2019 season as Linfield beat Glenavon 1-0.

The following weekend, I headed to Custom House Square to see George Ezra in concert. That was followed by a day trip to Bangor where I squeezed in some Street Art photos, including a mural of John Lydon.

It was then back to the football as I went to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup while on a short break in Edinburgh. I also managed to get some Street Art photos while in Edinburgh.

Upon my return to Belfast, was a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

The next few days were spent at Custom House Square, seeing Kasabian, Turin Brakes and Travis in concert.

The following Saturday was a trip to Solitude to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

Glenavon v Linfield

George Ezra live at Custom House Square

George Ezra live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Bangor Street Art

Bangor Street Art Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Kasabian live at Custom House Square

Kasabian live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Travis live at Custom House Square

Travis live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

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2018 IN PICTURES – JULY

My first photo adventure of July came on the weekend of the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in Russia, it was closer to home, at Wilgar Park as Linfield began their pre-season preparations.

The following weekend, I headed to Dublin over the July Holiday, got some Street Art Photos, and went to see Shelbourne take on Drogheda United.

The month ended with two more pre-season friendlies for Linfield, away to Knockbreda and PSNI.

Dundela v Linfield

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Shelbourne v Drogheda United

Shelbourne v Drogheda United Photo Album

Knockbreda v Linfield

PSNI v Linfield

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : MATCH – 23.12.1989

Clive Allen is the cover star of Match’s 1989 Christmas issue, as one decade ends and a new one is set to begin.

Mark Bright, Teddy Sheringham, Gary Mabbutt and Steve Ogrizovic are asked what they want for Christmas, with Mabbutt revealing he would like to spend Christmas Night with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Kerry Dixon does a double page interview with Match, where he reveals he is concentrating on Chelsea, and has given up hope of an England recall.

There is a poster of Bryan Robson’s recent goal for England against Yugoslavia, the fastest ever at Wembley, coming just 38 seconds into the game.

Match then dedicates a page to a statistical analysis of the clubs with the best defences in the English league.

Clive Allen gets a double page profile, where he reveals his favourite singers are Billy Joel and Phil Collins.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without bad presents, and Match canvasses various footballers for what their worst present is.

2018 IN PICTURES – MAY

May 2018 began for me by chasing Street Art, getting photos of Murals at Bankmore Square and Bank Square.

That was then followed by a trip to The Odyssey to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

The following weekend, I headed to Manchester to see United take on Watford, as well as getting some Street Art photos, both in the City Centre (mostly, Northern Quarter) and then Pomona Wharf.

On the Bank Holiday Weekend at the end of the month, I headed to Titanic Slipways for BBC’s Biggest Weekend where I saw Manic Street Preachers, Beck, Ash and Franz Ferdinand.

The end of the month was dominated by Street Art, going to check out Street Art on Bruce Street, and attending Wardrobe Jam.

Bankmore Square Street Art

Bankmore Square Street Art Photo Album

Bank Square Street Art

Bank Square Street Art Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

Manic Street Preachers live at Titanic Slipways

Manic Street Preachers live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Beck live at Titanic Slipways

Beck live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Ash live at Titanic Slipways

Ash live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Franz Ferdinand live at Titanic Slipways

Franz Ferdinand live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Bruce Street Art

Bruce Street Art Photo Album

Wardrobe Jam

Wardrobe Jam Photo Album

LINFIELD 4-1 CRUSADERS 8.12.2018

This winner of this match was never going to automatically go on a title charge, and the loser was never going to be out of the title race. However, it is Crusaders who are trying to take that positive spin, as Linfield put in a display that was more exciting than a branch of Primark opening.

At one point this season, Linfield’s points lead over Crusaders was in double figures, but dropped points over the past eight weeks had seen that reduced to five, giving Crusaders a sniff at the title when Linfield should have been out of sight. A win here, and they would be two points behind Linfield and right into the mix.

Linfield were straight on the attack, winning a corner inside the first minute that Josh Robinson was unable to get on the end of an repeat his feat of scoring in the first minute of this fixture, as he did last season.

Meanwhile, Chris Casement had a free-kick go over while Kirk Millar and Jordan Stewart were unable to get on the end of a Jamie Mulgrew cross.

Eventually, Linfield took the lead when Stephen Fallon played in Joel Cooper in acres of space. Crusaders defenders backed off him, which only invited him to shoot, doing so, and putting Linfield 1-0 up via a deflection.

Just like on Crusaders last visit to Windsor Park, Linfield got an early goal and were on top. That day, they couldn’t get a second goal and let Crusaders away with it. Not today, they were thirsty for more.

A few minutes later, another attack saw Jordan Stewart run at Crusaders defence. He had options left and right but decided to shoot, his effort deflecting out for a corner.

That resulting corner saw Jimmy Callacher head home to put Linfield 2-0 up, just as he did against Crusaders at Windsor Park on New Year’s Day 2016.

The uncertainty in Crusaders defence not being helped by announcing the signing of a new goalkeeper on Thursday night, with the current occupant knowing he has a month of games to play before being replace in January. It clearly had an effect. Not that Linfield were worried by that.

When Crusaders hit crossfield balls, they went out for a throw. When Linfield hit crossfield balls, they would find somebody, usually Joel Cooper. Kyle Owens, playing despite being sent-off last week (I assume his red card was successful in appeal, or it has been appealed in order to stall the ban) being dragged out wide, and looking as comfortable as you’d expect a big lump playing at full-back to look.

Paul Heatley had a speculative shot go wide. That was as close as Crusaders got in the first-half, barring a shot which looked to be going over, but dropped down and hot the top of the net.

Andrew Waterworth chased a through ball, getting to the ball ahead of a defender, but his quick shot hit the keeper and went out for a corner.

Linfield knew if they got a third, it would secure the points by half-time, but they just couldn’t get it. Just as importantly, they kept Crusaders out, the main significant difference between this game and the game against Cliftonville a few weeks back.

Even if it was 2-1, Linfield still would have left the pitch confident of getting the points.

Crusaders were all over the place defensively. A couple of throw-ins from Sean Ward saw Crusaders losing the ball in areas where you don’t want to lose the ball. Every time there was a break in play, Crusaders defenders were having an impromptu conference.

At half-time, Billy Joe Burns and Philip Lowry came off the bench as Crusaders looked to get a goal back. All they offered in the early minutes was a shot from Paul Heatley which was easily saved by Roy Carroll.

Soon after, Linfield got the third when Crusaders couldn’t clear a free-kick, and it fell for Josh Robinson to smash home.

A few minutes later, Joel Cooper nutmegged Sean Ward and played in Jordan Stewart. If it was me, I would have smashed it in, but decided to go around one defender and the keeper before firing into the empty net.

It was like a cover version of his goal against La Fiorita last season.

What stands out the more you watch the video of the goal, is that Billy Joe Burns gives up and doesn’t chase back as soon as the ball goes to Stewart. If he did, he might have been able to stop him from scoring, or put him under pressure.

His season, like his Linfield career, has taken a while to get going. Now to keep this up.

Crusaders pulled a goal back when Philip Lowry scored from close range after a corner. You never got the feeling that it was going to be the start of a comeback, and so it proved, as Linfield held out for the 4-1 win.

It would have been nice to get a first clean sheet in nine games though.

They almost won 5-1 when a counter attack saw substitute Michael O’Connor unable to get on the end of a cross.

Appropriately, the match ended with Linfield keeping the ball for the final minute of injury time and Crusaders unable to get it. It was like that the entire game.

Not only does this win put Linfield eight points clear of Crusaders, they went six points clear of Glenavon (albeit with a game more played). They still remain behind Ballymena United. With home games for Ballymena against Institute and Newry City between now and Boxing Day, you’d expect their winning run to continue. And it gave their goal difference a boost.

You can’t really rule out a team until Linfield go ten points clear of them. Linfield only have that gap from Coleraine, but Coleraine have a game in hand.

The truth is, Linfield are looking up and have a cushion from the teams below them.

Next Saturday, sees a trip to Newry, which has been pushed back to Saturday from Friday night due to Linfield’s involvement in the NIFL Cup.

You have to say fair play to Newry regarding that, as they would have been entitled (and probably tempted) to tell Linfield to clear off when asked to move the game. The 1pm start gives Linfield a chance to put points on the board early in the day and put the pressure on their rivals as they enter the pitch for their 3pm kick-offs.

Before that, is a trip to Stangmore Park in the NIFL Cup with a place in the final up or grabs. Feeling pessimistic about this, Dungannon are due one against us. I’m not saying we are awful in this competition, but it was so long ago since we won it, Glenn Ferguson scored the winner.

Talking of negative optimism, Glentoran haven’t won in eight matches (seven in the League).

The thought of them going into Boxing Day without a win in nine fills me with dread. You know what will happen.

Since my last blog, the fixtures for Euro 2020 Qualifiers have been announced.

Estonia and Belarus at home first. That’ll do. Then the return games in June 2019. We simply need to have twelve points on board before we face Holland and Germany.

The first games against those two, in September and October, are standalone fixtures. Unfortunately, UEFA rules state that teams must play a friendly on free dates, which is inconvenient, as Northern Ireland would be better off concentrating on that one Qualifier and not have a friendly in the way.

I imagine there will be a friendly arranged before the June double header in order to stop players going stale after so long without a game for their clubs. A random game in a random English ground, like Qatar in Crewe would be great.

The away game in Holland will be in Rotterdam. I’ve been to Rotterdam, and listened to Rotterdam by The Beautiful South on my ipod as I entered. I went to a match there, between Excelsior Rotterdam and VVV Venlo, which even had a player eligible for Northern Ireland playing. I visited De Kuip to have a look around, though there was no match on.

The home match against Holland will be on Saturday 16th November at 7.45pm, so it will mean Linfield will be away that weekend, though the date is still to be confirmed. Previously, when Northern Ireland have been at home on a Saturday night, there have been 3pm games that day. Hopefully, Linfield won’t have a long trip that day if they do play.

Another draw this week was the Irish Cup. You always want a lower league team away. We got one at home. I would have been all over Ballyclare away, even though my last visit there was a defeat in 2014.

And finally, the game against Glentoran on the 26th is live on Sky. That’s 26th January, and it’s now been moved to Monday 28th January. I fly out to Manchester the next day. Good job it’s not an early morning flight.

That will be Linfield’s second appearance on Sky Sports this season. Let’s hope for a third one in mid February.

Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April 2018 began for me with a trip to Smithfield, to snap a new mural commemorating Smithfield Market.

Two days later, on Easter Tuesday, it was a trip to Lurgan for me to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

It was a month dominated by football, as I went to Linfield’s matches against Ballymena, Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville.

The month ended as it started, with me checking out some Street Art, well, mostly the now finished garden at CS Lewis Square which featured a tribute to famous East Belfast people and landmarks.

Smithfield

Smithfield Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

East Belfast Wall Of Fame

East Belfast Wall Of Fame Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March 2018 began for me photographing snow. Yes, you read that right, the snow came down in the early days of March 2018.

That snow caused the postponement of Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, so I had to wait a week for my first football match of the month, as Linfield took on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed up the following midweek by Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville.

Two days later, I headed to The Odyssey to see Stereophonics in concert.

St Patrick’s Day was spent watching Linfield draw 1-1 at home to Glentoran.

The following Thursday, I headed to The Limelight to see Feeder in concert.

Off work the next day due to needing to use up excess Annual Leave, I made the long journey to Ballinamallard to see Linfield drop two points in the last minute.

That weekend, and the month, ended with me heading to East Belfast to get photos of some new murals that had appeared during the month.

Belfast Snow March 2018

Belfast Snow March 2018 Photo Album – Thursday 1st March

Belfast Snow March 2018 Photo Album – Saturday 3rd March

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey

Stereophonics live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

East Belfast Street Art

East Belfast Street Art Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2018 began with a trip to The Limelight, a first proper concert of the year, to see Shed Seven supported by John Power.

That was followed the following midweek by a trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

The following Saturday, was Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

The following week was very busy, with Paul Weller at Ulster Hall followed by Ulster v Edinburgh and then Cliftonville v Linfield.

The weekend after that was a trip to the seaside, to see Linfield take on Ards.

That was then followed by a midweek trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

Around that time, it was getting cold. So cold, there was the possibility of snow. That didn’t come until March 1st, so you’ll have to wait until next month’s round-up to see that.

John Power live at The Limelight

John Power live at The Limelight Photo Album

Shed Seven live at The Limelight

Shed Seven live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster v Edinburgh Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

2018 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2018 was supposed to start for me heading to Coleraine, but the weather saw Linfield’s match on New Year’s Day postponed.

I had to wait a week for a photo adventure, heading to a very wet Carrick to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win.

A week and a bit later, it was my first visit of the year to Windsor Park, to see Linfield take on Glenavon.

The following weekend, I headed to London. Unsurprisingly, I was out with my camera, capturing a lot of Street Art, going to see Turin Brakes do an instore concert at Fopp, and seeing Millwall take on Rochdale in the FA Cup.

Upon my return from London, it was to Coleraine, to end the month with a rearranged game that should have kicked off the month.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

London Street Art

London Street Art Photo Album 1

London Street Art Photo Album 2

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden Photo Album

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-1 LINFIELD 1.12.2018

It was supposed to be the second meeting in four days between Ballymena United and Linfield, but the weather on Tuesday meant that it wasn’t. There was never a danger of this match being postponed, but Linfield ended up wishing that it was.

Linfield were the last team to beat Ballymena, in late September. It is doubtful that even the most optimistic Ballymena fan would have predicted the return fixture being a top of the table clash, with Linfield kicking off one point ahead of their hosts.

It was slightly surprising that this game wasn’t regraded as a County Antrim Shield Semi-Final in order to get it wrapped up as soon as possible and stop it dragging on. I’ll be covering fixture scheduling, a favourite topic of mine, later on.

Having played Midweek-Saturday for the last few weeks, I don’t think Ballymena were too unhappy with the postponement, to give them a break going into this game, and Ballymena were sharper in the opening minute when a header fell to Adam Lecky, who fired over from close range when he should have scored.

It was poor defending from Linfield. Firstly, in not winning the header even though it wasn’t going to be an attempt at goal, and then nobody tracking Lecky.

If Linfield weren’t sharp at one end, they were sharp at the other, when Stephen Fallon got to the ball on the byline before crossing for Andrew Waterworth to finish from close range to put Linfield 1-0 up.

The question now, was would Ballymena capitulate. They didn’t, going in search of an equaliser and having a goal disallowed for offside, while Linfield also had a goal disallowed for offside.

The theme of the first-half for Linfield was sloppy passes. Far too many were going astray, giving the ball away, stopping promising attacks. and conceding soft possession. On most occasions, it came when they were under no pressure. It was really basic stuff.

On one occasion where Linfield lost the ball when put under pressure, it set up a Ballymena shot which was turned around for a corner by Roy Carroll.

Stephen Fallon was involved in Linfield’s two main attacks of note in the later moments of the half, stabbing the ball goalwards from a corner, and then narrowly being unable to get his head on a Jimmy Callacher flick on.

As the team’s left the pitch at half-time, Linfield fans will have had a smile on their faces with this scoreline, and with scorelines elsewhere, with Glenavon and Crusaders drawing their respective matches.

Linfield went in search of a second goal they needed at the start of the second-half, and almost got it when a goalmouth scramble saw the ball blocked on the line. In the aftermath of that, there was a kerfuffle which saw Josh Robinson booked.

I have been critical of Robinson this season for getting involved and getting yellow cards where he doesn’t need to be involved, but he did nothing wrong in this incident. He went for a ball that was there to be won. It seems that the reaction of the Ballymena players got him booked. I can’t help but wonder if he has now made himself a marked man amongst referees.

Ballymena got an equaliser when a free-kick was headed home by Johnny Addis, with Roy Carroll coming out and not getting the ball.

It’s easy to ask questions of Carroll, but there were two Ballymena players fighting to win the header unchallenged. If they score a free header and Carroll stays on the line, we’d all be asking just as many questions.

We had enough bodies to defend it, yet there were two Ballymena players unmarked in the box.

Soon after, Ballymena went 2-1 up with a strike from Leroy Millar. It was a repeat of the meeting at Ballymena in November 2017 where an early Linfield goal was cancelled out by a quick Ballymena double in the first fifteen minutes of the second-half.

They had two further chances on the breakaway with Linfield in search of an equaliser, Roy Carroll keeping Linfield in the game twice with superb saves.

Linfield never really looked like making them pay for it, apart from when a header from a corner which went just wide.

Jordan Stewart, surprisingly left on the bench for Robert Garrett, came on for Joel Cooper. That was then followed by a belated Linfield debut for Lorcan Forde, coming on for Kirk Millar.

Despite all the pressure on Ballymena’s goal, the ball just never bounced in Linfield’s favour, as Ballymena held out for the win, and it got better for them when they heard the scores from elsewhere, with Glenavon and Crusaders both drawing.

That makes it worse for Linfield, they could have pulled away from the team’s below them. Even a draw wouldn’t have been a bad result when you combined with the other results.

Crusaders had two players sent-off. I would not be surprised if they appealed them purely to delay the suspensions ahead of the visit to Windsor Park next Saturday. They seemed to be quite affronted that a referee from Latvia should come over hear and not tolerate their thuggery.

It’s a setback, but not a disaster. Two points is retrievable, and there are plenty of games left in which to do it. The gap can’t get any bigger.

Ballymena have a generous run of games coming up, and we’ll need to win to keep up with them.

Up next is a trip to Portadown in the League Cup, potentially, the second of five away games in seventeen days. A fixture pile up which isn’t our fault, but we’ll have to get on with it.

Two Cup Finals and pulling clear of Crusaders and Glenavon is the prize on offer. That should be enough to get through this run of games.

And the draw for the Irish Cup is this Thursday. A crap lower league team away please.

Laptop battery issues mean that this blog is going out later and the draw for Euro 2020 has been made, and it’s a nightmare for Northern Ireland. We are really paying the price for out Nations League performance. It gets worse when you see Austria’s group.

We shouldn’t finish lower than 3rd, which should be good enough for a Play-Off, but may not be. We’ll also be keeping an eye out on Austria and Bosnia’s group. Meanwhile, one of Georgia, Belarus, Macedonia and Kosovo will be guaranteed a place in the finals regardless of where they finish in their qualifying groups.

The spin we had which was repeated by some Northern Ireland fans is that it gives us a better chance to qualify.

Remind me, how does the UEFA Nations League give Northern Ireland a better opportunity to qualify?

To make it worse, there’ll be no new teams for me, having already seen Holland, Germany, Estonia and Belarus.

That will start in late March 2019. Hopefully by then, Linfield will be back on top of table.

Photo Album