PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2018-2019

2018-2019 is now over and consigned to history. I hope you’ve enjoyed my month by month look back. I thought i’ll end with a look through some of my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours.

NEWFORGE

Taken during a Pre-Season Friendly, I like arty farty shots in the style of Stuart Roy Clarke, so I unashamedly try to copy him.

MOURNEVIEW

I like this shot because of the way everybody is lined up, and how everybody has their eyes fixed on Kirk Millar, being the man in possession

COLERAINE

This shot came about by fluke, I was hoping to capture a Linfield goal, but again, it’s the fans who make the picture for me, all heads in the one direction.

DUNGANNON

Got some good photos this day due to generous Winter Sun. Dungannon is always good for photos. I like the framing, getting the terraces in alongside the pitch.

JORDAN

Jordan Stewart makes it 4-0 against Crusaders in December. I like being able to capture the celebrations on the pitch and in the stand. Even a Steward joined in.

CLANDEBOYE

That spot at Clandeboye Park is handy for getting photos, as long as something interesting happens at that end during the game. Thankfully, Linfield scored while I was at this end. Not just in terms of phototaking, but the match, as it was looking like a frustrating afternoon against opponents who had already proved tricky earlier in the season.

SNOW TRAFFORD

Having got snow photos of Windsor Park in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck when Manchester was hit with snow the day after United’s match against Burnley. Staying close to the ground, I was straight out with my camera to get photos.

McCLEAN

An explosion of emotion. 2-0 down and looking to be pegged back in the title race, to 2-2 and being frustrated, then a last minute winner, I managed to capture the reactions, of fans and players both going wild in unison.

RAIN

A weather based photo that just works. Bleurgh, an awful night for weather and football.

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April 2019 meant the run-in was approaching, and my first football match of the month saw Linfield get a crucial 1-0 win against Ballymena United to virtually secure the Irish League title.

The following week, Linfield got the job done with a 0-0 draw at home to Crusaders.

A week later, Linfield lifted the title, on a day they lost 4-0 at home to Glenavon.

My last Linfield match of the season was a lot better, a 5-1 win over Cliftonville on Easter Tuesday.

That wouldn’t be my last match of the season, as I headed to Old Trafford in mid May to see Manchester United lose at home to Cardiff City. Not the way I wanted the season to end.

Tomorrow, you’ll get your chance to vote for your favourite.

So, that’s 2018-2019 over. Here’s to more football photos in 2019-2020.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield Title Win Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield Title Celebrations Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Cardiff City

Manchester United v Cardiff City Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

I had to wait a while for March’s football watching, but it wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield slumped to a League defeat at Glenavon then lost the County Antrim Shield Final to Crusaders.

Thankfully, the month got a bit better when Linfield defeated Institute 2-0 at Windsor Park.

The month ended with a flurry of games, three in four days, with Linfield’s trip to Dungannon Swifts being sandwiched inbetween Northern Ireland’s opening two Euro 2020 Qualifiers, both at home, against Estonia and Belarus.

Glenavon v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Northern Ireland v Estonia

Northern Ireland v Estonia Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Ballymena on the first of the month and a top of the table clash, which Linfield lost 2-1.

Thankfully, the rest of the month did get better, including the following Saturday, where Crusaders were disposed of 4-1.

Postponements meant I wouldn’t be at another match for two weeks, as Linfield drew 0-0 with Glenavon, though it was still better than Crhistmas shopping.

The next match was a bit decent, as Linfield thrashed Glentoran 4-0 on Boxing Day.

The month, and the year, of football watching ended with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield secure a 2-0 win.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

August began for me with the opening game of the 2018-2019 season, as Linfield travelled to Mourneview Park to take on Glenavon.

My next match was in the Scottish Challenge Cup, taking in Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers during a short break to Edinburgh.

Upon my return, it was back to Irish League football for me, with successive trips to North Belfast for Linfield, against Crusaders and Cliftonville.

Glenavon v Linfield

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

LINFIELD 0-4 GLENAVON 20.4.2019

Let’s not mention the score.

After 35 matches trying to win the League, Linfield had done just that, and now came the presentation.

Glenavon had the greater need, chasing every point as they aim to overtake Ballymena United into 2nd place and automatic qualification for next season’s UEFA Cup.

With the title won, David Healy took the opportunity to give games to players who haven’t featured regularly all season, or in recent weeks, such as Mark Stafford, Kyle McClean, Stephen Fallon, Kirk Millar and Marek Cervenka.

In the early minutes, Linfield had a lot of pressure on Glenavon’s goal, with Stephen Fallon having a shot go wide while Ryan McGivern had a header go just wide.

However, it was Glenavon who took the lead with a long range shot from Robert Garrett, the second time he had scored a spectacular goal at Windsor Park as an opposition player, having done so for Portadown in September 2016.

Curiously, Garrett has played enough games for Linfield to get a title medal, though he wasn’t involved in the post-match festivities.

He left in January in search of games, a bitter irony is if he stayed he would have got them due to injuries presenting an opportunity, which was taken by Kyle McClean.

It wasn’t that surprising that he was allowed to leave, it was more surprising that it was permanent rather than on loan, as a loan would have stopped him playing against us, but freed him to play against Crusaders and Ballymena United.

Garrett didn’t play when Glenavon faced Linfield in March, and his goal in this game wouldn’t be costly for Linfield in terms of the title race.

However, Linfield didn’t want to lose on their big day, and set about finding an equaliser.

Kirk Millar had a shot go just wide while Marek Cervenka fired over from close range.

It felt like it was only a matter of time before Linfield equalised, so naturally, Glenavon made it 2-0 when Conor McCloskey fired home.

The scoreline was harsh on Linfield, but the truth was, Glenavon were more ruthless with their finishing.

Josh Daniels then hit the bar as Glenavon looked to go in at half-time 3-0 up.

Despite being 2-0 down, Linfield hadn’t played that bad.

However, they needed to step it up if they were to produce a Champion comeback.

It didn’t come. Glenavon went 3-0 up around the hour when Eoin Wearen waltzed through Linfield’s defence to fire home.

Michael O’Connor had only just come on for Marek Cervenka, a welcome return to action for him, David Healy responded by bringing on Jamie Mulgrew and Jordan Stewart for Kyle McCelan and Joel Cooper.

The game was already over, the substitutions didn’t inspire a comeback. Glenavon made it 4-0 when Rhys Marshall smashed home from close range.

A day to forget for Linfield. Having made positive records all season, this was a negative record breaker, as this was Linfield’s biggest League defeat since 2009, and worst home League defeat since 1995

It was now time for the presentation.

For a change, and a good change, it was close to the touchline at the South Stand end of the ground, which was an improvement on previous presentations which have taken place on the halfway line with the photos showing the players in front of an empty North Stand.

Everybody got a chance to see the trophy, and fans got to get their photos and selfies, etc, if you’re that way inclined.

This week, saw the finalisation of an Irish Champions League style competition, with Linfield taking on the 2019 League Of Ireland Champions, most likely Shamrock Rovers or Bohemians in November.

I was hoping it would be Waterford, so I could revisit the city like I did in November 2018.

It’s looking like Waterford won’t be given a licence to play in next season’s UEFA Cup, and their place will be taken by St Patrick’s Athletic, which is handy as i’ll be in Dublin on Thursday 11th July, so would hope to take in their tie if they are at home.

Linfield, of course, will be in the European Cup. If you’re into forward planning, the Final will be in the Ataturk Stadium on Saturday 30th May 2020.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville beat Crusaders 2-0. You may be interested to know that Crusaders have lost as many games this season as Linfield did last season,

You have heard it here first, that Crusaders chopping and changing their team for the final five matches of the season will spectacularly bite them on the arse on 4th May.

Ballymena beat Coleraine, meaning the race for 2nd is between them and Glenavon.

Up next for Linfield, is a home match against Cliftonville.

Let’s make it through a season without losing at home to Cliftonville, for the first time since 2011-2012, and not have a great season end in a sloppy manner.

Overall, today was a good day, from 5pm onwards. 3pm to 5pm was a bit forgettable.

Photo Album

2017 Title Celebrations

2012 Title Celebrations

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 12.3.1977

Peter Shilton and Frank Stapleton, going for an aerial challenge, are Shoot’s cover stars in early March 1977.

A series of footballers are asked to describe the moments that changed their career, with pep talks from other goalkeepers being beneficial to the careers of Jimmy Rimmer and Joe Corrigan.

Glenn Hoddle, a rising star at Spurs, credits Martin Chivers for helping Spurs sign him, after he presented medals at a schools cup final that Hoddle played in.

Meanwhile, Scotland announced away friendlies in 1977 against Chile and East Germany.

In other news, the price of this year’s FA Cup Final programme has increased from 20p to 50p. The reason given that it will be a special bumper edition as it was the year of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Beside that, getting only a few column inches, Alex Ferguson has changed his status manager of St Mirren to full-time.

Billy Murray scored five goals in a game for Portadown against Dundela, while Jim Harvey of Glenavon is attracting scouts from clubs in England.

Kevin Keegan uses his column to warn that early international call-ups can prove damaging to young players in the long-term.

Aston Villa defender John Gidman gets a full page profile, where he is described as “Liverpool’s present to Aston Villa”, having been turned down by the Anfield club as a youngster.

England’s recent friendly against Holland gets a double page photo piece, with a further two pages being given to post match analysis from various football figures.

Gordon Hill uses his column to state that he wants Manchester City to win the league.

Football in Argentina gets a full page profile, with just over a year until they host the World Cup.

In world news, there was a minute silence before a game for an official in Peru, only for it to emerge that reports of his death were erronious.

GLENAVON 2-0 LINFIELD 8.3.2019

As Linfield fans entered Mourneview Park on the opening day of the season, if you said to them that when they returned in March, a win would put them 12 points clear, they’d probably be a bit disappointed because they believe we should be 20 points clear. We’re a demanding bunch.

Exiting the Irish Cup allowed Linfield to have an unofficial mid season break, with a gap of ten days between this and their last match.

Last time out, they left it late to secure all three points at Newry, to give themselves a nine point lead at the top of the table. With Ballymena having a game in hand, it was always deceptive, you have to always assume that games in hand will be won, meaning it would always be viewed as a six point lead.

Good to have, but not enough to be comfortable, a lot of work still needed to be done to secure the title.

That work for the final run-in began at Mourneview Park on Friday night, for an away match against Glenavon which was selected for live TV coverage. This gave Linfield the opportunity the open up a twelve point lead, and really put the pressure on Ballymena United ahead of their trip to Coleraine.

Glenavon had most of the attacking play in the opening minutes, but the best they could offer was speculative shots on goal, on the stretch.

Linfield’s first attacking moment of note came when Andrew Waterworth dispossessed Caolan Marron, with the Glenavon defender being booked for a foul in the full back position.

The resulting free-kick was cleared. On a night when clear chances were rare, Linfield had to make the most of their set piece opportunities, especially as Jonathan Tuffey was struggling with the wind at times, nobody was really getting in front of him or near him to cause problems.

Linfield were now having pressure on Glenavon’s goal, but they needed to make it count. If they got the first goal, they could really push forward against a team that was there for the taking.

Their first real strike at goal came from a Jordan Stewart shot from a wide angle, which Tuffey turned around for a corner. Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s next attempt on goal, flicking on a header from a corner.

Daniel Kearns frustrated when he got the ball in an attacking position, usually taking too many touches meaning the opportunity was missed to take advantage of the possession.

Just before half-time, a neat passing move created Linfield’s first clear chance of the half, but Kyle McClean saw his low shot excellently turned around by Tuffey.

0-0 at half-time, and Linfield were frustrated by not making the most of their set pieces, and having the weather in their favour. However, there was nothing to suggest that Linfield couldn’t go on and win the game in the second-half.

A minute into the second-half, things changed when Glenavon took the lead after a long range shot from Aaron Harmon. The goal came out of nowhere. Suddenly, from trying to win the game, Linfield were now having to turn around a deficit.

Linfield responded immediately, with Jordan Stewart being denied again by Tuffey from a wide angle when a cross to players running into the penalty area.

Jimmy Callacher later headed over from a corner as Linfield searched for an equaliser.

David Healy then turned to his bench, bringing on Marek Cervenka and Kirk Millar for Jordan Stewart and Daniel Kearns. The removal of Stewart didn’t go down too well with some supporters.

Cervenka’s main contribution was to gift Glenavon soft free-kicks in their defensive thirs with stupid fouls, stopping the game when Linfield needed the game to be alive.

Millar endured a frustrating evening, never really getting a clear opportunity to get a cross in.

It looked like Linfield were going to get that elusive equaliser when Andrew Waterworth lined up a shot in the penalty area, only to hit the post.

Marek Cervenka then had a half chance on the edge of the penalty area but he blasted over.

Lorcan Forde was then brought on for Kyle McClean as Linfield chased an equaliser.

It was Marek Cervenka who had Linfield’s next best opportunity, when he was played through on goal but his shot was saved by Tuffey. He really should have scored. On a night of few clear goalscoring opportunities, Linfield had to make the most of the ones that came their way.

You had the feeling if Linfield got an equaliser, they could push on and win it 2-1. With 81 minutes on the clock at that stage, there would have been plenty of time to make it happen.

Jimmy Callacher was next to be frustrated when he headed over from a corner. With 85 minutes on the clock, there would still have been time for Linfield to push on and win it.

Within a minute, Linfield’s task got a lot harder when Josh Robinson misjudged a header, allowing Josh Daniels to sneak in and finish low to make it 2-0.

You shouldn’t allow yourself to think it, but that was it, it was not going to be Linfield’s night.

A frustrating night against a team that were there for the taking. Despite the chances created, Glenavon’s goal was never under siege, which was the most frustrating thing.

With both Linfield and Ballymena United having tricky away games this weekend, you had the feeling there was going to be a plot twist in the title race. It would be Linfield getting pulled back rather than pulling away.

There’s no doubt that this result gave Ballymena a boost before their game at Coleraine, which they won 4-0.

Coleraine will use the red card at 0-0 as an excuse, but in truth, the defending for three of the goals was awful. Ballymena were more alert and eager on every occasion.

Ballymena’s second goal was given despite not crossing the line, much the Coleraine’s anger. Oh the irony of Coleraine complaining about a goal being given despite not crossing the line.

Coleraine fans found out the hard way that bad refereeing decisions aren’t so funny when it affects you’re own team.

It was a game that Linfield were hoping for a favour, but we should know by now that you don’t get any favours in a title race, you have to help yourself. Linfield didn’t do that at Mourneview.

A sense of perspective is needed. It brought to an end a run of 10 League wins in a row. Linfield’s record since losing at Ballymena in December is 16 wins from 19 games in all competitions.

The next eight games will determine if this is just a blip or the start of a slump. It is up to the players to make sure it is just a blip.

However, in recent weeks, Linfield have been getting away with it an scraping by.

The fixture list gives Linfield two games against Bottom Six teams, who must be beaten before the split if Linfield are to have realistic title ambitions.

Even though they have a goal difference in their favour, they don’t want to have to use it.

Crusaders let Coleraine back into it from a similar position this time last year though, but just about managed to get over the line.

Over the next few weeks, our attacking players need to step up. The stats are damming.

Michael O’Connor hasn’t scored since January 28th. Neither has Jordan Stewart. Andrew Waterworth hasn’t scored a League goal since January 12th. Marek Cervenka has only got one goal. Even Jimmy Callacher is experiencing a goal drought.

We just need to get back to basics. Joel Cooper’s absence is a loss but that can be overcome, we have the personnel to deal with it.

We might have versatile players, but we don’t need to constantly change formation and personnel. Our success this season has been based on having a settled line up. Let’s go back to 4231, and if we keep winning, keep the starting eleven.

The squad has served us well this season, but now is the time for minimal disruption.

Elsewhere, in unsurprising news, Larne confirmed their promotion to the top flight. I haven’t been to Inver Park since 2005, so it’ll be good to visit there again. Hopefully, Linfield will be visiting there next season as League champions.

With a County Antrim Shield Final in midweek, hopefully, Linfield will be entering the pitch ahead of their next League game, against Institute at Windsor Park next Saturday with another trophy in the bag.

Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – DECEMBER (SO FAR ….)

December began with a top of the table clash on the first day, but not the result I wanted as Linfield lost to Ballymena United.

The following Saturday was a lot better, as Linfield thrashed Crusaders 4-1.

No football the following Saturday, meant a gap in photo adventures, before seeing Ash at The Limelight, followed by Linfield’s match against Glenavon.

Of course, there are still two more football matches for me this month, Linfield’s games against Glentoran (26th) and Cliftonville (29th).

Hope you’ve enjopyed my photographic look back at 2018, here’s to more in 2019.

Already booked for 2019 – Chvrches, Razorlight and a short break in Dublin.

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ash live at The Limelight

Ash live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

LINFIELD 0-0 GLENAVON 22.12.2018

Linfield took on Glenavon sandwiched inbetween two milestone points of the season, Matchday 21 (though due to postponements and rearrangements, this was both sides 20th game) inbetween the halfway point (Matchday 19) and the point when everybody should have played each other twice (Matchday 22)

The previous meeting came at that most eagerly awaited of milestone days, the opening game. Fans of both sides arrived at Mourneview Park wanting to know if their team were capable of making a title challenge.

Four and a half months later, both sides were in a title challenge, the two main challengers to surprise leaders Ballymena United, who have started to become comfortable in that role since going top three weeks previously, sitting two points clear of Linfield, who were one point clear of Glenavon.

With two postponements since their last game, it had felt like ages since Linfield last played. Unsurprisingly, they were unchanged since their last League game, a 4-1 win over Crusaders.

There was a boost though in the shape of Daniel Kearns being able to take a place on the bench after two months out through injury.

In the opening minutes, Jamie Mulgrew was able to run unchallenged towards Glenavon’s goal, but fired over. Mulgrew had scored the winner when the two sides met at Windsor Park exactly eleven years previously, and he was in the mood to repeat it. It wasn’t the only time during the game that Glenavon let him run free at their goal.

A neat passing move down the left almost set up Joel Cooper to lob into the net, but Jonathan Tuffey was able to catch it.

Glenavon had their chances, gifted to them by Linfield. A defensive mix-up presented Andrew Mitchell with a clear strike at goal but he fired over, not as far over as his penalty on the opening day, but he still should have scored.

Another mix-up saw Stephen Murray hit the bar, while the woodwork was also hit when Roy Carroll dropped a corner into the post, to shocked gasps from both sets of fans.

Carroll had to run out of his penalty area to clear some danger, but the resulting shot from far out went wide.

Linfield had their own pressure on Glenavon’s goal, with Joel Cooper firing over, before Linfield thought they had taken the lead when Jonathan Tuffey fumbled a shot straight to Andrew Waterworth, whose quick reactions got him a goal, only for the offside flag to deny him.

The end of the half saw some Linfield pressure and a flurry of corners, the most dangerous of which saw a Glenavon defender head out for a corner, just as Jimmy Callacher look set to score in front of The Kop for the third successive home game.

In a game that looked like it had no more than one goal, Linfield’s set pieces were generally poor at a time when they needed just one to get right.

The start of the second-half saw an opportunity for each time, Glenavon hitting the bar followed by a low Joel Cooper cross evading two team-mates running in.

With each passing minute, it became obvious that Daniel Kearns would be introduced. That happened just after the hour, perhaps earlier than some expected, as part of a double substitution which saw Michael O’Connor join the action. With half an hour to go, Linfield had introduced two of their three attacking options from the bench in search of the win, especially with Ballymena United 2-0 up against Ards, and being so in front, they could afford to miss two penalties.

A quick counter attack saw Stephen Murray have a shot saved before both teams were frustrated by goal-line clearances.

Daniel Kearns tried to sneak the ball in fro a tight angle, but his shot was saved by Tuffey, before Kearns set up two late chances, pulling back for Stephen Fallon who fired just wide under pressure, while Joel Cooper couldn’t get to the ball before Tuffey.

It was a contradiction of a game, both teams had chances but neither looked like scoring, it was one of those games.

Elsewhere, Ballymena won to go four points clear. They can be overtaken but the lead can’t be allowed to get bigger.

I said at the start of the month that Ballymena had a run of winnable games, and so it has proved.

I wouldn’t put much hope on the, slipping up against Coleraine and Crusaders, considering that both have had four goal defeats recently against Top Six opposition.

Crusaders are now three points behind Linfield but I wouldn’t be too concerned, as Linfield have a game in hand.

Cliftonville meanwhile lost 6-4 to Institute and now don’t have a keeper for Boxing Day. I doubt Brian Neeson’s ban will be more than one game, which is a pity ahead of next Saturday.

And on to Boxing Day, I suppose we’re due a win, having failed to win the last two meetings, although facing a Glentoran team without a win in two months does worry me, if you know what I mean.

In truth, we should be beating them. The current state of the table dictates that we must, regardless of other results.

The day before that, is the Steel and Sons Cup Final between East Belfast and Sirocco Works. At the minute, I don’t plan on attending, but you never know.

Having discovered that Sirocco’s ground is on the Connswater Greenway, I’ll be adding them to the pre-season wishlist, alongside East Belfast.

Last weekend, Linfield should have been playing away to Newry, but it was postponed due to the weather.

Curiously, with a meeting scheduled for the weekend of the League Cup Final, it meant that Linfield had two away games against Newry postponed in the same week.

There’s still four months of the season left, so there’s no need to panic.

Finding new dates for games seems to be a thing, with the County Antrim Shield Semi-Final against Ballymena being postponed for the second time.

I don’t think either club will be unhappy with that, the match should never have been scheduled going into a busy Christmas period.

Though, it is now scheduled for Tueaday 8th January, so it’s now at the end of a busy period.

There’s absolutely no reason why it couldn’t have been played on Tuesday 15th January.

Now, I know the Final is scheduled for Tuesday 22nd January, but there’s no reason why a venue couldn’t be arranged now to cover for the seven day turnaround.

If it is Linfield v Crusaders it wil be played at xxxxxxx, and if it’s Ballymena v Crusaders, it will be played at xxxxxxx.

There is recent precedent for the County Antrim Shield Final date being put back, it has happened in 2010, 2014 and 2017.

This week saw the League Of Ireland fixture list for 2019. I’ve booked a two night stay in Dublin on 11th and 12th July as I’ll be off work. There’s no top flight games on the 12th, but Bray and Shelbourne are both at home. Bray is looking the most tempting at this moment in time.

Northern Ireland have announced a friendly against Luxembourg for October 2019. I’ll pass on that, but I’ll be entering competitions for a freebie, of course.

Not the result we wanted, but there are positives. The biggest of which, was the first clean sheet in nine matches. That would be a good habit to get into again.

Daniel Kearns is back from injury and Mark Haughey, Ryan McGivern and Cameron Stewart are all due back from injury, which is effectively like four new signings.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blogs, and I’ll be intending to post more crap in 2019 and beyond.

So, Merry Christmas to you all, even Glentoran supporters. Though, in their case, I hope they have a horrid Boxing Day, especially between the hours of 3pm and 5pm.

Photo Album