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

Advertisements

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

2018 IN PICTURES – AUGUST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenavon v Linfield

George Ezra live at Custom House Square

George Ezra live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Bangor Street Art

Bangor Street Art Photo Album

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Edinburgh Street Art

Edinburgh Street Art Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Kasabian live at Custom House Square

Kasabian live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square

Turin Brakes live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Travis live at Custom House Square

Travis live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

2018 IN PICTURES – APRIL

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

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

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

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

Smithfield

Smithfield Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

East Belfast Wall Of Fame

East Belfast Wall Of Fame Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Power live at The Limelight

John Power live at The Limelight Photo Album

Shed Seven live at The Limelight

Shed Seven live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster v Edinburgh Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

2018 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

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

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

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

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

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

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

London Street Art

London Street Art Photo Album 1

London Street Art Photo Album 2

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden

Turin Brakes live at Fopp Covent Garden Photo Album

Millwall v Rochdale

Millwall v Rochdale Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

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.

Photo Album

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

/