PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, a match which resulted in a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Linfield.

It was then the Irish Cup for me, heading to The Oval to see Linfield get an extra-time win over Glentoran.

The following Saturday, another away game for Linfield, this time to Glenavon, and another 2-1 win for Linfield.

It was back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My football watching for the month ended with a trip to Stangmore Park to see Linfield secure a 4-1 win against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United 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

LINFIELD 3-0 GLENAVON 18.4.2017

There were low levels of excitement in the second-half at Windsor Park on Tuesday night, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as Linfield had the game wrapped up at half-time. At this time of year, it’s all about results, not excitement. Linfield are getting the results. Unfortunately, so are Crusaders.

Glenavon started the game strongly and it was Linfield were looked nervous, struggling to clear crosses and putting themselves under unnecessary pressure. The bets that Glenavon could offer during this time was a free-kick straight at Roy Carroll.

Linfield then got a grip of the game and started creating chances. Paul Smyth had a shot saved from a wide angle, while Jamie Mulgrew burst into Glenavon’s penalty area and saw his shot saved, Glenavon being able to clear from the rebound.

It was a night when the first goal would be vital. If Glenavon had got it, there would still be every chance Linfield could still come back to win, but it would have been a long and uncomfortable evening. If Linfield had got it, Glenavon’s early confidence would have been dented, and Linfield could charge forward and take advantage of it.

Just before the half hour, Linfield were gifted the opportunity to take the lead when a stray backpass played Andrew Waterworth through on goal, he rounded the keeper and was brought down. A penalty was awarded, but only a yellow card.

You could see it now. Tuffey saves the penalty and has the game of his life in a 0-0 draw.

Aaron Burns was now on penalty duty and made no mistake from the spot.

Just as they finished celebrating that goal, Linfield fans were celebrating another goal, this time across the city at Seaview as Coleraine took a 1-0 lead against Crusaders.

And just as Linfield fans had finished celebrating that goal, they were celebrating another goal from their own team as Mark Haughey headed home to make it 2-0.

Linfield weren’t happy with that, and wanted a third before half-time, and began to put more pressure on Glenavon’s goal.

That third goal came in the final minutes of the half when a flick on played in Paul Smyth clean through, and he made no mistake.

It was all going well for Linfield. At Windsor Park at least. By this point, Crusaders had already gone into a 2-1 lead.

Linfield made a sloppy start to the second-half, but the best Glenavon could offer was a long range shot over the bar.

At half-time, Sean Ward came on for Jamie Mulgrew while Mark Stafford came on for Mark Haughey in the early minutes of the second-half.

I’m not sure how serious their injuries are, but David Healy wasn’t taking any chances and rightly so. There’s no point risking players when you’re 3-0 up, especially when there are capable and direct replacements on the bench.

Linfield’s final sub in the final minutes was Kirk Millar for Aaron Burns. I would have brought on teenage striker Ryan Strain just to give him some game time.

Having been denied by a foul from Jonathan Tuffey, Andrew Waterworth was determined to get on the scoresheet. He burst through Glenavon’s defence but his shot was saved. He then beat Tuffey with a later shot but a defender on the line denied him this time.

In the end, Linfield had to settle for 3-0. A lack of extra goals didn’t matter for Linfield. If the League is to be decided on goal difference, Linfield’s advantage is too much for Crusaders to turnaround in one match.

At the final whistle, Linfield players did a lap of honour, as it was the last home game of the season.

Unfortunately, Crusaders got a 3-2 win against Coleraine, maintaining their lead at the top to one point. Despite that, it is still all to play for.

Linfield fans will be hoping that they can repeat what Cliftonville did in 2014 and storm to the title in the Split. There is the fear that it could be a repeat of 2009 when they missed out on the title by a point.

The other result in the Top Six saw Ballymena United beat Cliftonville 4-1. Seeing Ballymena get a confidence boosting win ahead of their match against Crusaders on Saturday is no bad thing.

In the bottom half, Portadown’s relegation was confirmed, meaning that Linfield won’t drop costly points against Portadown on a Friday night in February 2018.

After the game, I spent an hour queuing for tickets for Linfield’s final game of the season at Solitude next Saturday. The queue was so slow moving, I was worried about not making kick-off for that match.

It’s an occupational hazard of being a football supporter is that you can buy a ticket to a match expecting it to be a match with it all to play for, only to find there is nothing to play for.

That will be the case if Linfield lose at Coleraine on Saturday and Crusaders win at Ballymena.

Linfield fans remain hopeful that Crusaders will slip up. There are only so many times a team can get away with coming from behind.

All that matters is that Linfield get the three points to take the title race to the last day.

It would be nice if Linfield could enter the pitch at Solitude on the last day as league leaders. All we want, is for them to leave the pitch that day as Champions.

Photo Album

GLENAVON 1-2 LINFIELD 14.1.2016

After the Irish Cup last week, it was back to League action for Linfield and a trip to Mourneview Park, a ground that was once kind to them but they have now struggled at – their last meaningful win (they did win on the last day of last season, but it was two reserve teams with nothing to play for) there coming in November 2014 – as they aimed to keep pace with Crusaders at the top of the table.

Glenavon have blown hot and cold this season. Even if they were 4-0 up in stoppage time, you’d still be expecting Linfield to get something. Linfield fans have already seen Glenavon’s ridiculousness this season first hand, blowing a 2-0 lead against nine man (for 80 minutes) Linfield in November.

After that game, Linfield trailed Crusaders by four points. At kick-off, it was seven. It simply couldn’t get any bigger.

Sean Ward came in for the suspended Jamie Mulgrew, while Kirk Millar and Ross Gaynor were rewarded for their substitute appearances at The Oval last week with a start today.

Linfield made a good start to the game, and I don’t mean by going through the first ten minutes without a red card.

Ross Gaynor forced Jonathan Tuffey to tip his cross over the bar, just as Aaron Burns was ready to pounce. Andrew Waterworth had a snapshot from the edge of the box, similar to his goal at Mourneview Park in November 2014, but this time, it was turned around the post for a corner.

Aaron Burns and Mark Haughey both had headers wide from close range as Linfield’s pressure continued without reward.

They did eventually get their reward when an Andrew Waterworth flick played Aaron Burns through on goal. As he ran through, there was no doubt that he was going to score. I thought he was going to fire it across goal, instead he just blasted it in at the near post. Linfield fans didn’t care, their team had got the goal their play deserved.

With the half-time whistle approaching, Linfield searched for the second goal that would change the dynamic of the half-time team talk. They thought they had it when Mark Stafford finished from close range, but it was ruled out belatedly for a handball in the build up.

It looked like a handball by a Linfield player from where I was sat, the only issue was that the referee waited so long to make a decision instead of blowing his whistle instantly, especially as Stafford had taken his time to compose himself and score.

Having failed to make their superiority count in the first-half, Linfield were hoping not to pay for it in the second-half as they chased the second goal that would surely have secured the three points.

The pressure continued with Andrew Waterworth firing just wide, and Aaron Burns having an instinctive close range shot saved.

With there being only one goal in it, it was only natural that Glenavon would start to feel that a point would be there for the taking.

Despite having an increase in possession, Glenavon didn’t look like scoring. They got an opportunity from a soft penalty awarded for a handball by Mark Stafford, as he slid in to block a cross. Andy McGrory made no mistake from the spot to make it 1-1.

Naturally, Glenavon had their heads up. They had a few attacking situations but nothing that looked like getting a goal. Having ridden out the storm, Linfield now set their sights on getting a winner.

The game soon switched in Linfield’s favour when Ciaran Martyn got a second yellow card, the forth successive league match where there had been a player sent-off.

David Healy turned to his bench to try and take advantage of the extra man. It looked set for the introduction of former Nigeria international Kevin Amuneke. Instead it was Cameron Stewart, coming on for Kirk Millar, who was as bad and infuriating today as he was good last week. There’s a footballer there, it’s trying to get him on the pitch every week that’s the problem.

Stewart’s introduction saw Aaron Burns moved out wide. It was Stewart’s best performance in all of his brief cameo appearances for Linfield so far.

On 75 minutes, Linfield took the lead again when a through ball found it’s way to Andrew Waterworth who fired home via the help of a deflection.

You sensed there would be no way back for Glenavon, this late, and with ten men.

With only one goal in it, Linfield couldn’t get complacent in the final moments. As the game neared it’s end, it was Linfield who looked like getting the next goal, with Ross Gaynor having a free-kick just wide, while Sean Ward forced Tuffey into a save, which just about went out for a corner.

2 minutes and 40 seconds into 3 minutes injury time, it probably would have been better if Ward had fired it high, wide and out of the ground. It didn’t matter, as Linfield saw the game out in the final 20 seconds to record a 2-1 win with an Andrew Waterworth winner for the third successive Saturday.

So that’s where Linfield went wrong against Coleraine, it was on the wrong day of the week.

It made no difference in terms of the league table as all of the top four won. Linfield remain seven points off the top and three points clear of Cliftonville in third. There’ll be a chance to increase that lead next week when Cliftonville lie down for Crusaders at Seaview. It won’t be easy as Linfield welcome Ballymena United to Windsor Park, but having beaten them twice this season, there’s nothing to fear.

Most of the other football news this week has been dominated by cup competitions. It might have been a generous FA Cup draw for United (Wigan at home), but it means Wigan’s match against Norwich on 31st January has been postponed, meaning it’s unlikely i’ll get to see two games when i’m over for the Hull match on 1st February as there’s no other games in Greater Manchester on that night.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that from 2026, the World Cup will increase to 48 teams. There’s not enough facepalms to describe this idea. 32 teams was the right number and a simple format. 16 groups of 3 will lead to more negative football and more dead rubber games on matchday 3, as well as more potential Austria v West Germany type games if a team has suffered a heavy defeat in matchday 1 faces a team who won on matchday 1. That is despite the slight improvement in Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying, with Europe now having 16 teams from the current number of 13.

Though there will be the same amount of games as a 32 team tournament, the increased amount of teams will reduce the number of countries who can possibly host the tournament due to the increased infrastructure required.

Meanwhile, the venue for the final of the County Antrim Shield was decided this week as being Ballymena Showgrounds on 7th February. It should have been The Oval, but the venue holds good memories for Linfield fans, as it was where Linfield beat Crusaders in the 2014 Final.

There could be a potential symmetry to this. as the 2014 win was David Jeffrey’s last trophy as Linfield manager. This will represent an opportunity for David Healy to get his first trophy as Linfield manager. It could even be the springboard for a second or third in a few months time.

The venue of the end of one era could potentially host the start of a new one.

It was a bumper week for cup final venue announcements, with Seaview being confirmed as the venue for the League Cup Final. Tempted to try and get a ticket for the Carrick end. I bring them good luck when I see them in big games.

Next week, sees Linfield return to Windsor Park for the first time since that defeat to Coleraine. A lot has been written about Linfield’s poor home form this season. The truth is, it’s no worse than any other time over the past four seasons.

There was always going to be teething issues when the Windsor Park redevelopment was complete. It was always going to be a case of trial and error. Unfortunately, there seems to be more errors than expected.

For me, i’d like to see TVs into the new Viewing Lounge. Part of my matchday ritual was to check half-time scores from England and Scotland, and then rewatch what I have just witnessed on Final Score NI.

I even miss the social awkwardness of people waiting and looking at the bar staff, hoping that someone plucks up the courage to ask “Can you put on 101 please?”

I’d also like to see supporters be allowed to view the game from the balconies.

It is also worth trialling for a few games having Linfield fans having the option of being in the Railway Stand. It will take minimum effort and changes in terms of matchday operation, and will give the team a boost at matches seeing their fans behind on of the goals.

We’ve all seen it at away games when Linfield are chasing a goal and have fans behind the goal urging them on. It’s an advantage we’ve given away teams over the past three seasons, why are we denying ourselves this?

After Ballymena sees a run of games on the road over the next few weeks – Dungannon, Institue, Ballymena (to face Crusaders) and Carrick.

The last thing you do before going on a road trip is make sure everything is fine before you leave home. No better way to prepare for a series of road trips than to make a start in remedying poor home form.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2016 began with an eventful trip to Lurgan to see Linfield recover from being both two goals and two men down against Glenavon to secure an unlikely draw.

It was followed by a busy week. I was out on the road again to see Linfield take on Ballymena, before heading to The Odyssey to see Bastille in concert.

Two days later, I was at Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Azerbaijan, before heading back on the road to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

I then headed to near the Royal Mail’s office to photograph a new mural of various popculture icons such as David Bowie, Christopher Walken, Kes and Adam Ant.

The following midweek, I was back at Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Croatia in a friendly, before heading back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

November ended with a weekend in Manchester, going to see United take on Feyenoord and West Ham, see Bury take on Millwall via Broadhurst Park, as well as capturing Street Art in Manchester and Salford Quays, and some stickers left by Feyenoord fans around the city.

Those trips to Old Trafford were my first since Jose Mourinho became United manager.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Bastille live at The Odyssey

Bastille live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Down By The Royal Mail II

Down By The Royal Mail II Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Feyenoord Stickers Photo Album

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United 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

2016 IN PICTURES – MAY

May 2016 began for me by going to see Space. Not the planet, but the band, doing a gig at The Empire.

The following day, was the Irish Cup Final between Linfield and Glenavon, the less said about that game, the better.

The following weekend, I was in Manchester and managed to get some Street Art photos, including one of a mural of David Bowie in the Northern Quarter.

It certainly made up for not seeing any football, after the Manchester United v Bournemouth match that I travelled over for was postponed.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Belarus in their final home game before heading to Euro 2016.

Two days later, I headed to Dublin on a day trip, taking lots of Street Art photos and going to see Bohs take on St Patrick’s Athletic, my first visit to Dalymount Park in six years.

Space live at The Empire

Space live at The Empire Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Glenavon Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Bohemian FC v St Patrick’s Athletic

Bohemian FC v St Patrick’s Athletic Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February began for me seeing Linfield beating Dungannon Swifts 6-0, a good start to the month.

The following weekend, I was on the road to Shamrock Park, to see Linfield lose 2-1.

Back on the road the following weekend, this time to Coleraine, with a better result, with Linfield coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

The next day, I made the most of a free ticket to see Ulster take on Scarlets. Unfortunately, the game ended up in an agonising one point defeat for Ulster.

Two days after that I headed to The Limelight to see Foxes in concert.

The month ended with me heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Glenavon, a match that saw an outfield player go in goal and save a penalty.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster v Scarlets Photo Album

Foxes live at The Limelight

Foxes live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon