GLENAVON 0-1 LINFIELD 4.8.2018

It had been a long three months since Linfield ended 2017-2018 in embarrassment and failure. A glorious World Cup might have distracted us but that is now a distant memory, not even Glenavon having the same kit as France can keep the memory of events in Russia alive.

If Linfield wanted an easy start to ease them into the season, the Fixture Computer didn’t deliver. You have to face your rivals at some point, might as well issue a statement of intent in the opening month of the season.

What will have given Linfield fans cause for optimism was their side’s recent record at Mourneview Park. They won twice there last season (Glenavon responded with two wins at Windsor Park, a draw in one of those games would have secured European football for Linfield), which made it three successive League wins there, with an Irish Cup Semi-Final win against Dungannon Swifts sandwiched in that run.

The last time they failed to win at Mourneview Park was the 2-2 draw in November 2016, coming from 2-0 down after playing with nine men for 80 minutes with an outfield player in nets. It felt like, and was celebrated like a win. There would be no Mark Haughey heroics in nets today though. More of that later.

Before that game, was a dead rubber last game of the season win in April 2016. Overall, it’s a run of five wins and one draw in the last six visits to Mourneview Park.

The last time Linfield lost in Lurgan was a 3-2 defeat in November 2015. The two goalscorers for Glenavon that day, Joel Cooper and Daniel Kearns were lining up for Linfield this afternoon.

One of the problems Linfield had last season was the unavailability of key players through injury and suspension. 2018-2019 didn’t get off to a much better start, with Jamie Mulgrew, Mark Stafford, Ryan McGivern, Mark Haughey, and Robert Garrett all unavailable for selection. The team picked itself, because there was nobody else available in defence or midfield.

That was further evident in those taking their place on the bench, a bench which will now include seven players, with only one of the six outfield players, Benny Moller Nielsen, not being an attacking player.

Seven players on the bench now means there is no excuse for not having a goalkeeper amongst the subs, with Gareth Deane taking his place on the bench today, meaning it is unlikely that Mark Haughey will be repeating his goalkeeping heroics any time soon. Unless a goalkeeper gets injured or sent-off and all three subs have been used. Haughey’s own injury means it could be a while before he is on the pitch himself, in whatever position.

It was a surprise to see Benny Moller Nielsen on the bench, even though he signed in the week leading up to the match, as he had been with the club in pre-season and was already part of the squad. That meant that it was Niall Quinn and Andrew Mitchell lining up in centre midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the run-in last season, Linfield were decimated with suspensions. It’s easy to say the players need to watch themselves, but Linfield had six yellow cards today in a game where there was barely a bad tackle, as the referee seemed to be booking Linfield players for the first foul.

I was held up getting into the ground and missed the first minute. As I arrived, there was a corner kick being prepared for with Linfield’s attackers in the box and a flamboyantly dressed goalkeeper on the line.

Linfield on the attack, good to see, I thought to myself.

It turned out that Jonathan Tuffey was at the other end of the pitch dressed relatively coservatively in a colour best described as orange highlighter, while it was Roy Carroll who was dressed head to to in what can be best described as yellow highlighter.

As is unwritten tradition at Mourneview Park, Glenavon attack the end where Linfield fans are situated. It was a sizeable away crowd of Linfield fans. To give you an idea of how much, all the seats that could be filled (The end of the stand has no access in order to create a buffer zone between opposing fans) in the stand were filled, while the overspill covered the whole way across, and was a couple of rows deep.

Those that were stood behind the goal were watching Glenavon on the attack, with a penalty being awarded for a handball by Chris Casement. Not for me.

Last season, Linfield’s Andrew Mitchell was prolific from the penalty spot. Thankfully, Glenavon’s one was not, blasting his shot over the bar, meaning any debate as to wether it was a penalty didn’t matter.

On Friday, NIFL posted an article on their website advising clubs how to minimise the risk of spectators being hit by footballs. Mitchell’s penalty was so high, no Linfield supporters were in danger of being hit by the ball. Shoppers in Lurgan Town Centre may have had to duck for cover when the ball eventually landed.

If the award of the penalty felt like a return to the bad vibes of 2017-2018 for Linfield, the miss and the manner of it might have felt like luck was returning in their favour.

It certainly felt that way a few minutes later when Chris Casement, booked for his involvement in the penalty incident, was lucky to avoid a second yellow for a foul as Glenavon fans screamed for a second yellow.

Linfield rode out the early pressure and came into the game. Their first attacking moment of note saw Jimmy Callacher head home from a free-kick, only for celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.

If that was a wearning to Glenavon, they didn’t heed it, as a free-kick from a similar position on the opposite side of the pitch fell to Daniel Kearns who was able to stick his foot on it and finish under pressure.

Mark Sykes, on his 21st birthday, got into space and was played in, but his shot was saved by Roy Carroll, who made himself big.

Linfield finished the half strongly, but couldn’t get the second goal they needed, the best moment coming when Joel Cooper fired a long range shot just over.

In the opening minute of the second-half, it looked like that much needed second was going to come in bizarre fashion when Jonathan Tuffey tried to head clear, but it hit Andrew Waterworth, who shot towards the empty net from a wide position, but a Glenavon defender was able to get back onto the line and clear the ball.

Mark Sykes was not enjoying his birthday, as he was played through, lobbed the ball over Carroll into the side netting when he really should have scored.

Jordan Jenkins, off the bench, had two shots saved by Carroll. The second of which was parried into the six yard box straight to Chris Casement, who cleared.

You get the feeling that if that happened last season, it would have fallen straight to a Glenavon player to equalise, and they would have won it in injury time.

Linfield were able to see the game out in a sizeable amount of injury time and get three points on the board at the first attempt. It was the forth successive opening game win for Linfield. I can remember when we used to always drop points on the opening day.

The four other games all produced winners, with no shock results. Two of today’s winners, Coleraine and Cliftonville meet next Saturday, meaning that Linfield will have an opportunity next weekend to go into a lead over one or two teams expected to be in the Top Six.

Linfield’s game next weekend at home to Institute has been brought forward to Friday night, which is inconvenient for me as i’ll be at George Ezra. Hopefully, it goes a bit better than the last time I missed a Linfield match to go to a concert, in May this year.

Unless George Ezra gets a sore throat next Friday, I won’t be at Windsor Park until September.

The game against Institute being brought forward does mean that Linfield have the opportunity to lay down an early gauntlet to their title rivals by getting six points on the board and then putting their feet up on the Saturday afternoon while they are trying to keep up. It must be taken.

My Saturday plans will now be a trip to Bangor Vintage Market as part of Open House Festival and to see the mural of John Lydon.

The Fixture Computer for Clandeboye Park next Saturday will see Glentoran travel to Ards. I’ll give that a miss.

It has been a busy week of comings and goings at Windsor Park, with Benny Moller Nielsen, who played in pre-season, joining permanently. I was only at one of the matches he played in and he did ok, mopping up in front of the defence.

In case you’re wondering, he’s Richard’s grandson, whose record at Windsor Park was one win, one defeat and one draw. Hopefully, Benny’s win percentage will be a lot better.

Joe Crowe left the club by mutual consent, which was a bit surprising with Mark Haughey injured. I rated him and he was decent defensive cover. It was clear though from pre-season games that Chris Casement was going to start the season at right-back.

Despite his departure and the injury to Haughey, we have Andrew Mitchell as cover for that position.

Alex Moore went out on loan to Dungannon Swifts, which is a brilliant move for both parties, with a good young goalkeeper getting the opportunity for regular top flight football.

Eamon Scannell has went out to Warrenpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Strain went out on loan before September, with Cameron Stewart going out on loan in January when he recovers from injury in January.

The morning of this match was spent getting a ticket for the game at Seaview in two weeks.

I know the date was only confirmed on Thursday due to Crusaders elimination from the UEFA Cup.

Could those responsible not have begun ticket sales a week or two weeks ago with the disclaimer that the game could be postponed, instead of inconveniencing fans with short notice sales.

There is also a game at Solitude that will need ticket sales in the coming weeks. There is no reason why these couldn’t be on sale now, to allow fans to purchase tickets on a Saturday morning.

Especially so with only one home match before these two games.

Not everyone is able to get to Windsor Park during the week.

Next Friday night could be fun with Institute tickets, Season Tickets, Crusaders Tickets and Cliftonville tickets all on sale at the same time.

With a bit of planning, those in charge could have had Crusaders and Cliftonville tickets on sale last week or the week before, making it more convenient for supporters to purchase on a staggered basis rather than in one swoop on a matchday.

That game away to Crusaders will be my next Linfield match. Later that night, i’ll be going to see The League Of Gentelemen. I’ll let you insert your own joke.

My next football will be at Ainslie Park when i’m at the Edinburgh Festival to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The two sides met today in League Two, with Edinburgh City winning 4-0.

This weekend last year, I was at Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City lose 3-1 to Montrose. Today, Montrose unfurled a flag for winning League Two. At least one team in blue I saw last season had something to celebrate.

Hibs and Rangers will both be in UEFA Cup action on the weekend i’m there, but away from home. Useless showers.

So Linfield are looking to improve on last season’s 4th place finish and get 2018-2019 off to a winning start.

Then you check the League table, and they sit 5th. Oh for crying out loud.

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April’s football watching began with a trip to Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday to see Linfield grind out a 3-2 win away to Glenavon.

That was followed on the Saturday afterwards by going to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

Good start to the month, but that was as good as it got, as Linfield could only managed one point from their next three games against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville, which would cause them to eventually miss out on European football.

There was only one match for me in May, a trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Watford.

And that, was the 2017-2018 over for me.

Here’s to more football and photos in 2018-2019.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me with a midweek trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

That was followed four days later by Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

Two away games followed for Linfield on the following weekends, against Cliftonville and Ards, before finishing the month with a midweek home match against Glenavon.

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January 2018’s football watching was supposed to start at Coleraine on the first day of the month, but the weather saw to that, so I had to wait a week to visit Taylor’s Avenue for my first game of the month, to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Carrick Rangers.

There was another postponement in the middle of the month, at Warrenpoint, which meant I had to wait a whole week for my next match. It wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield lost 3-2 to Glenavon.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to London for a short weekend away. Naturally, I hoped to take in a game while I was there, and the game I chose was Millwall v Rochdale.

My final game of the month was a trip to Coleraine, which should have kicked off the month, to see Linfield score two late goals to secure a dramatic draw.

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

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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

GLENAVON 2-3 LINFIELD 3.4.2018

Linfield faced Glenavon on Easter Tuesday, just as they did last year. The goal was a lot different.

You’ll be hearing comparisons to last year, it’s the same fixture list. Curiously, the venues for all five games are different from last year.

The goal for Linfield was now 3rd place, which would guarantee European football if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

Linfield were sandwiched in 4th, three points behind Glenavon and two ahead of Cliftonville. A win for Linfield would see them level on points with Glenavon. A three goal win for Linfield would see them overtake Glenavon. Most of us would be happy with just a one goal win.

It wasn’t just a new housing development near Mourneview Park called Linen Fields as they walked to the ground (Yes, a housing development near a football ground named after a rival team) that made Linfield fans feel at home, it was four wins and a draw from their last five visits to Lurgan.

There were two changes to Linfield’s starting eleven, both enforced through suspensions, with Josh Robinson coming in for Jimmy Callacher and Andrew Mitchell coming in for Robert Garrett.

Linfield started the game on the attack, resulting in Kirk Millar getting in behind Glenavon’s defence inside the first minute, only to be denied by a tackle, which fell to Stephen Lowry, whose shot was saved, then hit the post, before a Mark Haughey shot went behind for a corner. Linfield’s season summed up in one move.

The positive was, Linfield were up for it and Glenavon looked off the pace. Linfield had to take advantage of it.

That is what they did from the resulting corner, when Mark Stafford headed goalwards. It probably would have been cleared, but for Kurtis Byrne finishing it off and heading home from a few yards out to give Linfield the lead.

Linfield didn’t stop there, continuing to attack Glenavon. Just like in the meeting at Mourneview in November, Glenavon’s defence were in fear of Andrew Waterworth, panicking every time the ball went near him, or he went near them in search of the ball.

He knew there was a goal, or goals, to be had for him.

Andrew Mitchell was next on the scoresheet. Unfortunately, it was the Glenavon one and not the Linfield one.

It was Glenavon’s first real attack of note, a simple header won and an easy finish from close range.

Linfield dusted themselves down and were straight on the attack, winning a corner.

That corner was punched clear to Andrew Mitchell, the Linfield one. He had the option of a first time cross or a pass to Niall Quinn, who was free and in space.

Mitchell went for the cross, but it was poor. He got lucky though, as the clearance fell to Niall Quinn, whose cross was headed home by Andrew Waterworth to put Linfield back in front.

That lead saw some moments of threat during the rest if the half, with Matthew Clarke having to make a goal line clearance, while Andrew Mitchell headed over in the final moments of the half.

Glenavon started the second-half strongly, Linfield couldn’t get out of their half. It was no surprise when Glenavon made it 2-2 on 54 minutes when Bobby Burns finished a cross from close range.

Glenavon had all the momentum and looked set to go on and win the game. Or so they thought.

Straight from kick-off, Linfield were straight on the attack, and a low cross found Stephen Lowry, who scored from the rebound after his shot was saved.

Incredibly, Linfield had scored just over a minute after the game kicked off, for the third time.

If you were to compile a list of the silliest games in the Irish League over the past four years, Glenavon would feature prominently. This was another to add to the list.

Linfield have more than enough silly games this season. Thankfully, they were on the right side of the silliness.

Linfield needed a two goal lead just to be sure. They had a glorious opportunity when Andrew Waterworth was played through.

He had two options, to finish low, or to pass it left and give Niall Quinn an open net. He did neither, as Tuffey saved his shot.

Linfield fans had a sense of deja vu. We’d seen this all before. We knew what the ending wuld be. A last minute Glenavon equaliser, and we’d all be ruing that missed opportunity.

Glenavon had attempts on goal, but nothing that worried Linfield. The only real moment of worry came a Glenavon threw himself to the ground after a cross in injury time. You are always that way with Irish League referees.

Linfield had their chances on the counter, with Andrew Waterworth and Niall Quinn hitting the side netting from tight angles.

Linfield weren’t to regret those chances, as they saw out the game to win 3-2. It wasn’t the three goal win that would have put them 3rd, but it did put them level with Glenavon. Cliftonville won 3-0 away to Ballymena to remain two points clear of Cliftonville. It’s just as tight between 3rd and 5th as it is between 1st and 2nd.

The three goals that separate Linfield and Glenavon are more than retrievable. Unfortunately, so are the three goals and two points that separate Linfield and Cliftonville.

There’s even the possibility that Linfield and Cliftonville could be level on points with identical records. Imagine if they finished joint 3rd and Coleraine win the Irish Cup. That would be some fun arranging a Play-Off to avoid playing in the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Realistically, it’s between Linfield and Cliftonville for 3rd. Glenavon look shot.

After the game, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton criticised the referee’s performance. But he definitely definitely definitely wasn’t putting the referee under pressure for Glenavon’s next match.

I doubt Coleraine fans were too unhappy to hear his comments.

One result that did work in Linfield’s favour on Saturday was Crusaders drawing 1-1 at home to Coleraine. It keeps the title race alive, which is handy as Crusaders face Glenavon and Coleraine face Cliftonville on Saturday. Meanwhile, Linfield are at home to Ballymena United.

You would expect at least one of Glenavon and Cliftonville, possibly both, to fail to win. Saturday’s fixtures represent a great opportunity for Linfield to get points on the board in the race for 3rd. We have to take advantage of it.

The Saturday before this saw the Irish Cup Semi-Finals go the way as expected. Cliftonville’s game against Loughgall was always going to be unbearable, whatever the result.

The fact that Cliftonville had the game won in six minutes made the Quarter-Final worse. That really was one thrown away.

Hopefully, by the time the Irish Cup Final comes around, Linfield will be in a position to have some benefit of Coleraine.

What will I be doing that day? Going to see David Hepworth at CQAF.

Slightly off topic, but i’ve got a real random urge to go travelling somewhere. I don’t know where, but I just want to go somewhere.

One trip i’m hoping to do in August, isn’t too far, but needs a few things to fall into place.

Embrace are confirmed as headlining Stendhal Festival in Limavady in August. Now, I just need a few things to fall into place. I would need it to be Saturday 11th August, and for Linfield to be away to Institute that day. That would be a very tempting day trip. Then I just need to sort out accommodation.

Last Sunday, Sunday Life reporting that the UEFA Cup Play-Offs would be taking place at Windsor Park on Saturday 12th May, a day long event of football at Windsor Park with the first match kicking off at 12pm and the last game at 7.45pm, meaning teams having two or possibly three games in one day.

And then you check the date, Sunday 1st April. April Fool. The worrying thing is, this is Irish League football, you could almost believe somebody proposed it.

And so, we leave on a sad note, with the death of Adam Coates, the voice of Irish League football when I was growing up.

I remember at The Oval, they wouldn’t bother playing music at half-time, but just play Sportsound over the tannoy, and when they did the half-time report of the match at The Oval, the fans of the team that were winning would let out a big roar when the score was announced.

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LINFIELD 0-2 GLENAVON 27.2.2018

When Glenavon won at Windsor Park at the end of January, with two games in hand and still to play Crusaders and Coleraine twice, they looked set to be in a position to launch a late title charge.

Draws since then against Warrenpoint Town, Cliftonville and Coleraine have since forced them to reevaluate their ambitions. Now they were looking to get three points to try and secure 3rd place.

They kicked off only three points clear of Linfield, but with a game in hand. With the two sides having to meet twice before the end of the season, Linfield knew they had 3rd place in their own hands.

Finishing 3rd could be so important. If Coleraine win the Irish Cup, it will secure automatic European football, and avoid the farce of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Though, both teams were still in the Irish Cup at kick-off, they had that avenue to qualify automatically.

Linfield had been unbeaten since that defeat to Glenavon the previous month, though the form wasn’t sparkling with four wins and three draws.

This game should have been played last October, but was postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup. It wasn’t ideal to be playing it in the midweek before the Irish Cup Quarter-Finals, but as documented in previous blogs, this was a fallout from the delays of confirming if the away game against Cliftonville was going ahead.

Linfield started well, Achille Campion fired over from close range when he should have scored, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot saved.

The good start was undone when Glenavon took the lead through Josh Daniels, who took out four defenders with one touch before firing home.

Linfield had a brief flurry after that, but it soon died down. They were restricted to half chances. They didn’t help themselves with poor decision making.

They almost gifted Glenavon a goal from one of their own throw-ins whenever Stephen Lowry misread a throw from Joe Crowe, which set up a Glenavon attack, where Stephen Murray was played clean through but his shot was saved.

It was noticeable how quickly Glenavon attacked and how alive they were every time Linfield played a stray pass.

Linfield fans could only enviously look on and wish their team could do the same.

With ten minutes to go, a shot from Marc Griffin went over Gareth Deane to make it 2-0. Windsor Park began to empty, not that it was anywhere near full to begin with.

A few weeks earlier, Linfield made a late comeback to secure a point from 2-0 down against Coleraine. This was never going to happen this time.

A win would have seen Linfield jump level with Glenavon, giving them the opportunity to try and finish the season in 3rd, giving the, two possible avenues for automatic European qualification. Now, they only have one.

That, is the Irish Cup. Their Quarter-Final at home to Cliftonville was postponed due to the weather. Nobody knows the actual reason why.

It’s maybe not a bad thing for it to be postponed. It wasn’t ideal to have this match in he build-up, especially with Cliftonville having the midweek off.

It will be played ten days later than expected, we have to be ready for it.

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LINFIELD 2-3 GLENAVON 20.1.2018

With Coleraine and Crusaders going head to head, Linfield and Glenavon faced each other at Windsor Park knowing that a win could give them the opportunity to keep their faltering title challenges just about alive.

It was Linfield who made the perfect start to the game. Kurtis Byrne looked like he was going to get in behind Glenavon’s defence but was denied by an interception. It would only be a temporary reprieved for Glenavon as the resulting corner was punched away by Jonathan Tuffey, only as far as Byrne, who returned the ball into the box, and it went straight back into the back of the net.

It looked like a speculative effort rather than a shot, but it didn’t matter, Linfield were 1-0 up. It also meant goals in successive games for Byrne. It was the third game I had seen Byrne play in, and the third time I had seen him score. In the two previous games, the team he was playing for went on and won. So, time to put the feet up then.

Well, not quite. Glenavon responded, and were level after six minutes whenever Simon Kelly headed home from a corner. Linfield players were appealing for a foul on Roy Carroll. They can ask questions about a foul all they want, but questions have to asked of them as to why Carroll wasn’t protected by them, and why he was allowed to head the ball unchallenged.

All the good work of the opening minute was undone, and we were back to square one.

Roy Carroll was injured in that incident. What is it with Linfield Goalkeepers and Glenavon?

Mark Haughey must have been stood there thinking to himself “Oh for fuck sake, not again”.

You’ve guessed it, no sub keeper on the bench again. Why do we leave ourselves vulnerable like this? Especially when Roy Carroll has had various injury scares during matches this season. We’re allowed to have five substitutes, we should be utilising all of those to make sure all areas of the pitch are covered.

Thankfully, Carroll was able to continue, and was protected by his defence, although Josh Robinson gave him a dodgy backpass when passing to Mark Haughey was the glaringly obvious option.

If Carroll was being (mostly) protected, Jonathan Tuffey was untroubled at the other end due to a combination of poor passing and poor set pieces, the most bizarre of which was one to Jimmy Callacher in the Left Midfield position which went out for a throw.

Linfield finished the first-half strongly but couldn’t get back in front.

Elsewhere, Crusaders were 2-0 up away to Coleraine. Due to the amount of injury time at the end of the first-half, Linfield v Glenavon would be kicking off a bit later than the other games.

By the time the teams re-entered the pitch for the second-half, Coleraine would have already pulled their game back to 2-1. Linfield were hoping to get an early second-half goal as well. However, that is what Glenavon would do.

A cross came in from the right which was bundled home by Andrew Mitchell, the Glenavon one rather than the Linfield one, who was on the bench.

I was at the other end and was wondering what on earth happened. It got worse when you saw the TV replays, as Josh Robinson set him up by standing on the ball.

Have we conceded a decent goal all season? Every goal we’ve conceded this season has been farcical. If we bring out a Season Review DVD, it should be presented by Danny Baker.

One that goal went in, there was a grim inevitability about where the three points would be going.

There was no direct response from Linfield, or even a delayed response. Once it went to 2-1, there was never a period in the game when Glenavon had their backs to the wall. There was never a moment when you thought that a Linfield goal was only seconds away.

Andrew Waterworth came off the bench for Ryan Strain. Strain was hobbling at the time, but it was a substitution that needed to be made, injury or no injury.

In fact, it was Glenavon who were more likely to score the next goal, Stephen Murray being denied by Roy Carroll when put through on goal.

Glenavon’s likliness to score was aided by more shoddy defending from Linfield. They’re simply not doing the basics right. You can’t blame disruption or unfamiliarity when you consider it was three of last season’s back four, the only change being a player who has won two Irish League medals in the previous three seasons, and spent last season playing professionally in England.

They weren’t even clearing the ball properly, inviting more attacks onto them when they should be starting the attacks for Linfield.

Jordan Stewart and Stephen Fallon were introduced from the bench for Kurtis Byrne and Robert Garrett. Achille Campion rather than Kurtis Byrne looked the more obvious player to leave the pitch as Byrne had the more goal threat of the two.

With ten minute to go, Glenavon made it 3-1 with yet another farcical goal from a Linfield point of view, as Josh Robinson fell over having been beaten on the touchline, giving Stephen Murray the space to cross for Marc Griffin to score.

You don’t want to single players out, but that’s two goals where Josh Robinson’s contribution was questionable. It wasn’t just the Glenavon goals where his contribution was questionable. His passes usually went astray. He wasn’t the only one in a blue shirt.

The three points were now heading to Lurgan, and nobody could say they didn’t deserve it.

In fact, Glenavon were still the most likely team to score at 3-1 just as it was at 2-1, with Roy Carroll having to save from a Bobby Burns volley.

Glenavon were showing the type of attacking urgency and creativity that Linfield were so badly lacking.

Those who stayed until the end had to endure five minutes of stoppage time, we not quite bad enough yet for officials to take pity of us and only play one or two minutes.

As the clock hit ninety-five minutes, Andrew Waterworth made it 3-2 to muted celebrations in the stands and on the pitch. Nobody believed that it was going to be the start of a comeback, even allowing for Glenavon’s reputation for silliness in recent seasons.

This result was made even worse by the score from Coleraine, where Coleraine and Crusaders drew 3-3. If Linfield had won, they would have been level on points with Glenavon. More importantly, we would have known that winning our games in hand would have put us only nine points off the top, the margin we came back from in February last year. It could have given us that glimmer of hope for the rest of the season.

Even worse, we’re now 5th behind Cliftonville, who are awful, backed up by a record of eight points in twelve matches against Top Six opponents. That’s embarrassing. Our record, if you care, is a slightly better but still awful twelve points from eleven matches. Even more embarrassing, is the fact we have lost the same amount of matches as Glentoran. That is not the company we want to be keeping in the table.

Glenavon fans and players know that if they win their games in hand, they are only six points off the top and have to play the top two twice, and have a decent goal difference that can be overturned in their favour in the run-in. They’re fancying this. They’re not out of the title race.

If we’ve given up on the title prior to this game, that is unforgivable.

It’s pretty damming that Coleraine have won only one of their last four matches, and still extended their lead over us in that time.

You can cut and paste from any game over the past two months. Even worse when you see a recurring theme of throwing away leads. Eleven points thrown away from winning positions in the last five weeks. We’d be looking to win our games in hand to go joint top with those points.

The last two home League matches, early leads not built on. Last season, we had goal flurrys and killed off opponents before they had a chance to get their bearings.

Add in the Ballymena game in November, there’s nine points thrown away from being 1-0 up inside the first ten minutes.

It’s clear we are missing Jamie Mulgrew and Paul Smyth, but there is no point having them on the pitch when defenders are not marking opponents, standing on the ball or falling over.

There are also problems at the other end of the field as well due to a lack of creativity. It’s a strange thing to say about a team that has scored in every League match this season. The problem is, we are having to score a lot of goals in order to win matches. That shouldn’t be the case.

We may be missing Mulgrew and Smyth, but we made signings in the summer designed to have a squad to cater for injuries and suspensions. Players aren’t coming in and stepping up when they come into the team.

Mark Haughey, Sean Ward and Ross Gaynor stepped up and had to change position during that infamous game at Mourneview Park in November 2016. Cameron Stewart stepped up when Aaron Burns and Paul Smyth were injured. Chris Casement stepped up when Mark Stafford was injured during the run-in. Alex Moore and Gareth Deane stepped up when Roy Carroll was unavailable.

There are very few examples this season of a player coming into the team and making the place their own.

Up next, are trips to Ballymena and Coleraine, weather permitting.

That Coleraine match is on Tuesday week. Never mind the bad results on the pitch, this has been a crap season for away trips with ten (Ards, Crusaders, Warrenpoint, Ballymena, Glenavon, Carrick Coleraine, Warrenpoint, Cliftonville and Ballinamallard) taking place on a weeknight. We’ll come to the last three of those later on.

This week, saw the second postponement of the NIFL Cup Semi-Finals. This has a knock-on effect for Linfield as we are scheduled to be away to Cliftonville on the weekend the Final is scheduled for.

If Cliftonville do win their Semi-Final, that match will need to be rescheduled for a later date.

Glenavon are scheduled to be away to Crusaders that weekend, but they will be inactive in League terms regardless of the Dungannon v Crusaders result as Crusaders are scheduled to be away to Inverness in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Yep, you read that right.

The NIFL Cup Final is scheduled on the same weekend as the Scottish Cup Challenge Semi-Finals. There were two clubs who could have been affected by this, and we’re 90 minutes away from a shitstorm.

Crusaders fans who have booked travel and accommodation will have every right to be fuming if their game against Inverness is postponed.

If it was postponed because of the weather, that would be unfortunate, it’s an occupational hazard of being a football fan. Matches being postponed due to scheduling incompetence is another matter.

I’ve been highlighting this a lot this season. There’s a potential shitstorm brewing. Watch this space.

The other Semi-Final between Ballymena and Cliftonville is scheduled for 6th February, meaning that Linfield’s trip to Solitude will only be confirmed ten days before the match. You’d like to think provisional plans are being put in place for ticketing for a 16th February game.

If it is Cliftonville who reach the Final, hopefully, we can make the most of a free weekend by bringing forward our rearranged home match against Glenavon.

Last week, Linfield should have been away to Warrenpoint, a match that was postponed at 1.30pm for a 3pm kick-off. I’ve no issue with the match being postponed, but it was the way it was postponed.

Nobody wants to see matches postponed, and you don’t want to postpone a match too early, but is clear from the tone of the Tweets on Warrenpoint’s Twitter page that the match was unlikely to go ahead.

Sitting in Applegreen refreshing Twitter in order to find out if a match is on isn’t acceptable, and I wasn’t the only one there doing that. On the plus side, my lunch was nice.

We all have our different matchday arrangements and I was lucky that I could turn around at Lisburn. Others would have been further ahead. Having a postponement so late simply isn’t good enough.

The away trip to Ballinamallard in March has been brought forward to the Friday night. Even though there is two and a half months notice, this isn’t good enough, and for different reasons.

The reason for this is because Northern Ireland have arranged a home friendly against South Korea on Saturday 24th March at 2pm. I’ve no issue with this friendly, i’m actually looking forward to it. My issue with, is that domestic football has been shunted to accommodate it.

It is shabby, rude and disrespectful to the clubs. The worst part was, the rearrangements weren’t part of the announcement of the game, but made a few hours later.

I get why this game is a 2pm kick-off, for South Korean TV, but were clubs given an option when to play their match.

Some clubs might have preferred to play a Saturday evening game to allow fans the opportunity to go to two matches in one day. Some clubs might have preferred to play on Sunday afternoon.

We’re always getting told about how clubs have to be innovative with matchday arrangements, but here we are going with the same old Friday night.

Or even better, could Northern Ireland not have played on the Sunday afternoon instead?

Talking of Northern Ireland, this Wednesday will see the draw for the UEFA Nations League, and Northern Ireland will play one of Austria, Wales, Russia or Slovakia and then one of Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland.

Anyone but Republic of Ireland please. Wales away on a Monday or Tuesday in October would be great.

Meanwhile, North Korea and South Korea are sending a joint team to the Winter Olympics. Just watch the “WE NEED ONE TEAM!!!” brigade suddenly becoming experts in Winter Sports. Keep dreaming, it ain’t happening.

On Monday night previously, Linfield had a behind closed door 6-3 friendly win over Sligo Rovers at The Dub. I wouldn’t have minded going as it is a ground i’ve never seen a match at. Even when we get a convincing win, we manage to concede 3 goals.

On Saturday morning, I did a tour of Windsor Park, which was nice, getting to see behind the scenes. It was announced this week that Windsor Park will bid to host the European Super Cup Final in 2020.

It would be amazing if this happened.

There is one slight problem. Part of the criteria is for stadiums to be smoke free. It will be a right laugh when Bid Inspectors visit Windsor Park and see a dedicated and signposted smoking area.

When the stadium was being designed, someone looked at the plans and thought “You know what, we’re not really catering for smokers here”. Seriously, fucking hell.

If we miss out again, we know who we can blame. If it doesn’t win, I hope Nice wins. Give me an excuse to go back. Loved the city when I visited for Euro 2016. Will be roasting in early August though.

The bad news for Kurtis Byrne is that I won’t be going to the Linfield match next weekend as i’m in London for a short break. I’ll be hoping to take in a game on the Saturday when i’m there. The choices are : Millwall v Rochdale, Brentford v Norwich City, Bormley v Halifax and Leyton Orient v Aldershot Town.

I’m leaning towards the Millwall match as it is only £15.

I’ll end with some good news. When I went to see United take on Bournemouth, my flight home was delayed by three hours. The compensation I got meant that the trip was essentially a freebie.

It would be nice if Linfield could stop giving out freebies.

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 – APRIL

April began for me with a trip to Lurgan for the Irish Cup Semi-Final, to see Linfield secure a late 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

The following weekend was another 1-0 win for Linfield and just as important, a League win against Crusaders that blew the title race wide open.

April saw the launch of a new mural in Belfast City Centre, in the Cathedral Quarter, which I went and got photos of.

On Easter Saturday, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield beat Ballymena 2-0.

On Easter Monday, I cycled to Lisburn to get some Street Art photos from the City Centre.

The following night, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield secure vital win over Glenavon.

On the following Saturday, the football continued, heading Coleraine to see Linfield beat Coleraine and finally get to the top of the Irish League.

Towards the end of the month, a mural of The Two Ronnies appeared in Belfast City Centre, so I headed out to get photos of this.

The penultimate day of the month saw me head to Solitude where Linfield needed to avoid defeat in order to win the Irish League. It didn’t look good at half-time, but a Andrew Waterworth hat-trick in the second-half saw the trophy head to Windsor Park.

Immediately after the game, there was a celebratory event at Windsor Park so that supporters unable to get into Solitude could join in the celebrations. Naturally, I was there getting photographs.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Pure Here, So It Is

Pure Here, So It Is Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

And It’s Goodnight From Me

And It’s Goodnight From Me Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album