GLENTORAN 1-2 LINFIELD 26.12.2022

It’s not the turkey or the presents that makes Christmas, it’s the match the next day. For the first time since 2018, Linfield fans will be marking Christmas as a good one.

They arrived at The Oval (two turnstiles in operation for a large crowd again, just like in February) in expectation of that being the case, a perfect storm of Linfied being on a long unbeaten run and Glentoran losing three in a row as part of a run of one win in eight, a change in roles from when the sides met in the League in October.

Linfield were hoping results would go their way and push them up to 2nd. Glentoran were fearing that results could go against them and they could end up 6th.

It’s almost as if celebrating winning the League in October angers the Football Gods.

You know me, i’d rather play a Glentoran side who have won ten games in a row rather than one who have lost ten games in a row. The theory of “They’re due one”.

Linfield’s starting eleven showed two changes, with Daniel Finlayson and Robbie McDaid coming in for Conor Pepper and Chris McKee.

That was probably harsh on both players but the team didn’t feel weakend. That’s why you have a large squad.

There was a bit of a shock as the teams were getting ready to kick off, with a change of usual ends, with Linfield attacking the goal where their support is based in the first-half instead of the second-half.

I presume it was to do with the wind. Linfield would be playing against it when attacking it. Glentoran were obviously wanting to try and score every advantage they could get.

It would also mean Linfield wouldn’t be attacking that end in the second-half if they were chasing the game. Although Glentoran wouldn’t be attacking their own fans either. I don’t know why, but the ball always seems to bounce perfectly for them when they attack that end.

Linfield dominated possession in the opening minutes but didn’t create any clear opportunities.

That looked like changing when Cameron Palmer began a counter attack, fed Joel Cooper and got a return pass but his cross was intercepted at the cost of a throw.

Palmer was to endure more cross related frustration when an interception denied him just as he was making a run to get on the end of a Robbie McDaid cross.

There was even more frustration for Palmer as he tried his luck from range, only to see his effort easily saved by Aaron McCarey.

And then he was beaten to the ball by a Glentoran defender as he looked to get on the end of a Chris Shields.

Despite this frustration, Linfield just needed to keep doing what they were doing and eventually one of them would fall into place.

They really needed a goal to make the most of their superiority.

Joel Cooper was next to be frustrated as he created space for himself but dragged his shot well wide.

Eventually, Linfield would have an opportunity to take the lead when Eetu Vertainen burst into the box but was taken down by Patrick McClean, a clear penalty.

Despite having a lot of the ball in Glentoran’s half, Linfield hadn’t really created a clear opportunity. Thie would be their best chance of the game. They simply had to take it.

It was probably a good thing that Chris Shields missed a penalty against Ballymena United last month. Might as well get one out of the way when it didn’t matter.

This one definitely mattered, and Shields made no mistake to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With Glentoran’s confidence so fragile, and with just under ten minutes of the half remaining, there was still time for Linfield to get a second that would surely kill the game.

Just one, but you’d happily take a 1-0 lead at half-time, especially when the weather was against you.

Early in the second-half, it looked like Linfield were going to get that much needed second goal when Joel Cooper made space from himself but he was at too wide an angle to score, his effort going wide.

Out of nowhere, Glentoran got an equaliser when a header from Jay Donnelly dropped into the back of the net.

It felt like a repeat of the previous season’s encounter.

The game had suddenly changed. Linfield were now sloppy with their passing.

Glentoran almost got an instant second with a shot from Bobby Burns which had to be diverted out by Jimmy Callacher.

Despite having far too much of the ball for Linfield’s liking, Glentoran weren’t creating any clear opportunities.

They were largely hitting speculative shots from distance that were easily saved by Chris Johns.

As we all know, they benefitted from a speculative shot that got deflected when the sides met in October.

It was clear that Linfield needed some fresh injections from the bench, but they were not forthcoming.

Eetu Vertainen had a rare sight of goal but his effort went wide of the post.

Patrick McClean attempted a long range shot which went just over.

Eventually, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Andrew Clarke and Kyle McClean for Cameron Palmer and Robbie McDaid.

That was followed a few minutes later by Chris McKee coming on for Chris Shields, who was struggling with injury.

Andrew Clarke thought he was going to win it for Linfield with a few minutes remaining but his goalbound effort was blocked and deflected wide by his own team mate for a goal kick.

As the game set to meander to a draw, some Linfield fans decided to head home early to bizarre chants of “Cheerio Cheerio” from the home support.

Are you not supposed to sing that when you are winning comfortably?

Callacher’s accidental block was a temporary reprieve for Glentoran.

From the resulting goal kick, Linfield won possession and Chris McKee played in Eetu Vertainen to finish with his left foot first time.

Further proof of where Glentoran are at now. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. How sad.

He barely touched the ball in the second-half. I would have had him subbed by now. Just goes to show that I know nothing,

The goal prompted him to rip off his shirt, getting a yellow card. Worth it.

He couldn’t get his Under Armour back on, and had to play on in short sleeves.

For only a minute or two, with Ethan Devine coming on for him to see the game out.

Which is what Linfield managed to do, getting a massive three points.

Not just in terms of putting pressure on Larne, but pulling away from Glentoran.

The win temporarily moved Linfield into 2nd due to this game being an early kick-off.

As this game was finishing, other games were reaching half-time.

The one that Linfield fans were looking out for was at Seaview, where Crusaders led Cliftonville 2-0, before eventually winning 3-0.

That result that Linfield were now 2nd, two points behind Larne.

It would be three as Larne could only draw.

From where they were in October, it was always going to be a long way back for Linfield.

Even if they went on a winning run, I didn’t expect it to be February or March before they even got close to the top.

The big games keep on coming, with Coleraine, on a nice run themselves, due at Windsor Park on Monday, with Larne travelling to Solitude.

That game at Solitude will see something go in their favour.

What matters most is that they help themselves. It’s all they can do.

Photo Album

Boxing Day 2013

Boxing Day 2014

Boxing Day 2015

Boxing Day 2016

Boxing Day 2018

Boxing Day 2021

2022 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October was a busy month, right from the very start, heading to Dungannon on the first day of the month to see Linfield get a win at Stangmore Park.

That was followed a few days later by another away day, to a very wet Wilgar Park to see Linfield grind out a 1-0 win over Dundela.

The following night, it was the Ulster Hall to see Beabadoobee in concert.

Back on the road the following Saturday to see Linfield draw with Coleraine.

Then it was back to Ulster Hall to see Paul Weller.

Two days after that, it was Linfield v Glentoran, the less said of that the better.

The following day was a lot more enjoyable, making the most of a football free Saturday to check out Murlough Bay.

Over the next seven days came two Linfield home matches, against Glenavon and Larne.

The following week, I was off to Manchester, my first visit to see Erik Ten Hag’s United in the flesh, against Sheriff Tiraspol.

While I was there, I got some photos from a stroll along a canal, some Street Art (of course) and a walk up Hartshead Pike.

The month ended with a trip to Newry to see Linfield get some much needed three points.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Dundela v Linfield

Beabadoobee live at Ulster Hall

Beabadoobee live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Murlough Bay Nature Reserve

Murlough Bay Nature Reserve Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield v Larne

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester Canal Walk

Manchester Canal Walk Photo Album

Manchester United v Sheriff Tiraspol

Manchester Untied v Sheriff Tiraspol Photo Album

Hartshead Pike

Hartshead Pike Photo Album

Newry City v Linfield

2022 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April began with a football free Saturday, so I headed to Scrabo Country Park, got lucky with the weather and got lots of nice photos.

The rest of the month was all about football, the next two weekends saw me attend Linfield’s matches against Cliftonville and Glentoran.

With two Public Holidays for Easter, I decided to go for walks up Cregagh Glen and then up Cavehill.

That was then followed by Linfield’s matches against Crusaders, Larne and Coleraine.

Just hours after seeing Linfield winning the League against Coleraine, I headed to Custom House Square to see Echo and the Bunnymen, my first concert of 2022.

Scrabo Country Park

Scrabo Country Park Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cregagh Glen/Lisnabreeny Hill

Cregagh Glen/Lisnabreeny Hill Photo Album

Cavehill

Cavehill Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom Hosue Square

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom House Square Photo Album

2022 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February was all about football, taking in four Linfield matches, two of which were against Larne.

The other two were against Glentoran and Portadown.

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

LINFIELD 0-3 GLENTORAN 14.10.2022

It was far too early to be described as must-win, but it was certainly do not lose. Where do you even start with this shitshow?

After ten away matches in a row, Linfield finally had a home match.

Their last match, that match against RFS that shall never be spoken of again.

They were, however, defending a perfect home record in the League. A statistic skewed because they had only played one match, against Portadown in August.

Going back even further, they were unbeaten at home in the League in front of a crowd since August 2019.

Yes, you can use Lockdown to manipulate statistics to your own advantage.

Glentoran also head a decent record at Windsor Park of their own, unbeaten in their last four visits, three draws and one win.

Linfield’s starting eleven showed that they were continuing with 4-5-1 despite it not working at Coleraine the previous week, with Chris Shields coming in for Jamie Mulgrew.

Inside the first minute, Kyle McClean got a yellow card a few minutes later.

A few minutes later, Shay McCartan went into the book for a dive.

From where I was sat (at the opposite end) it looked like a clear dive, and TV replays backed me up. There was a brief scare when the Referee whistled and pointed so quickly, I thought he had given a penalty.

The fact that Glentoran players didn’t protest eased my worries. They knew that their man had been scooped.

Matthew Clarke also got a yellow card in the opening ten minutes.

It was becoming obvious that this Referee was card happy.

That made it so important to remain disciplined and not get cheap yellow cards.

It’s easy to say after the event, but inside the first five to ten minutes, it was obvious that one or both of the teams weren’t going to finish with their full compliment of eleven.

Linfield had to make sure they weren’t that team.

With their first attack of note, Linfield had a glorious chance to take the lead when a free-kick fell to Kyle McClean a few yards out but Aaron McCarey made himself big to deny him.

It was one of those that had to be hit first time, but if he had put it to the keeper’s right, Linfield would have been 1-0 up.

For all their possession, Glentoran were really just firing crosses into the box. Linfield needed to start creating chances and take them when they came.

It was Glentoran who had the next chance of the game when Patrick McClean hit the top of the crossbar after flicking on a free-kick.

Jay Donnelly was then frustrated when his shot was blocked by Sam Roscoe. Linfield really needed to start wakening up.

Especially when the game swung massively in Glentoran’s favour after Mike Newberry got a second yellow card.

That came for a foul on Ruairi Donnelly.

A very harsh second yellow, he couldn’t get out of the road, and wasn’t given the same level of leniency that David Cushley got when on a yellow card in the game at Carrick in August.

The real stupidity was the first yellow card for pulling back Jay Donnelly when he was nowhere near goal and had defensive cover backing him up.

When it was so obvious that the ref was card happy, to get a cheap yellow and put yourself in a situation where one mistimed tackle could get you sent-off was absolute stupidity.

Even though there was the option of bringing Jimmy Callacher off the bench, it was decided that Chris Shields would be moved back into defence from midfield.

Linfield were up against it now, but it was not a new situation, a far too regular occurrence in recent weeks, but they have come out the other side with a win.

First was against Buckie Thistle at 0-0, then they went 1-0 down and came back to win 2-1.

Then against Dungannon (A red card which was eventually rescinded), they had a 1-0 lead which they held onto.

Even though it is an adversity they have come through in recent weeks, it’s not a habit you want to get into.

One thing was certain, Linfield had to improve their ball retention. Even with eleven men on the pitch, they were making it hard for themselves with far too many sloppy passes. The red card came from a sloppy pass.

Just a few minutes earlier, it looked like the game was going to swing in Linfield’s favour when Joel Cooper lined up a shot on the edge of the penalty area only to be denied by the crossbar.

Despite Glentoran’s possession, it was Linfield who had the two best attacking moments of the half so far.

With only ten men on the pitch, it was important for Linfield to see out the half 0-0, regroup and get ready to manage the second-half.

They almost didn’t manage that, when a long ball saw Conor McMenamin get in behind the defence and Chris Johns came out to meet him, but it was Matthew Clarke who denied him, getting back to block his goalward shot from a wide angle.

Whatever Linfield’s plans for the second-half were, it fell to pieces inside two minutes at the start of the second-half when a shot from Bobby Burns took a massive deflection and went in to put Glentoran 1-0 up.

I was sat at the opposite end and knew straight away it was going in when I saw the deflection.

From the replay, it looked like it wasn’t going in, either going well wide or easily saved by Chris Johns.

It was already looking like one of those nights where everything that could go wrong was going wrong.

And there was more to follow when Stephen Fallon went off injured, replaced by Jamie Mulgrew.

Linfield needed a new approach, because the current one wasn’t working.

There was no attacking threat.

This wasn’t due to being down to ten men, this had been the theme for a number of recent matches. The attacking set-up isn’t right, there’s never enough numbers up front when you need it.

Three in midfield has it’s merits. but there comes a time when you have to cut loose from it.

Glentoran were never put under pressure, there was no intensity to Linfield’s attacks.

Any chance that Linfield had of getting something from the game soon disappeared on 77 minutes when Danny Purkis headed home from a corner, getting to the ball before Chris Johns.

As much as Johns didn’t cover himself in glory, there were plenty of outfield players in the penalty area that could have put in a challenge for the ball.

In injury time, it got worse when Danny Purkis made if 3-0. Linfield’s defence was all over the place.

Suddenly, we had some Linfield attacks, the best of which was a Joel Cooper shot which needed tipped over the bar.

A bit too late, 90 or even 45 minutes too late.

It was a night where anything that could go wrong did go wrong, but it was going wrong before the red card.

Not creating many chances, not taking those that came their way.

Lack of goals is a worry. Christy Manzinga was the only Linfield player to get double figures last season.

It’s almost as if Linfield have too many options in midfield, and David Healy is trying to fit them all in, to the detriment of the shape of the team.

I can understand going three in midfield in some games, but there comes a point when you have to go for it.

If we went for it in Coleraine, wave after wave of attack in front of our own fans, they would have got that vital goal.

Coleraine were comfortable and just had to avoid doing something stupid and hope for some luck at the other end.

One against Crusaders, one against Dungannon, one against Dundela, none against Coleraine, none against Glentoran.

You’re not going to win many matches if you don’t score more than one goal.

Even when games were going against them, it was a case of bringing on as many strikers as possible and hoping for the best.

Too late in the case of Eetu Vertainen. I’m not sure what he can do in under ten minutes.

It’s time to get back to basics. Learn to keep the ball, make it work for us.

A lot of the key moments in the game came from Linfield giving the ball away. Their own worst enemy.

Even work on set pieces. When down to ten men, they became so key.

Over the past few games, possibly even longer, they’ve never looked like scoring.

Even when there is pinball in the box, there never seems to be a Linfield player getting there first.

All is not lost, we came back from a similar situation to win the League in 2017.

Glentoran had three defeats at this stage last season and went on to win the Top In February Cup.

Maybe not recreate their form afterwards.

I actually think a traffic jam above us will benefit Linfield, put a bit of pressure on the other teams.

Going on a winning run would probably be a bit more beneficial to be honest.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

This is it, the title run-in.

I was there, getting photos of Linfield’s last five games of the season, against Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders, Larne and Coleraine.

It had a happy ending, as Linfield won the League. I managed to get some photos of the celebrations.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began at Inver Park to see Linfield crash out of the Irish Cup. The less said about that, the better.

Four days later, and it was to Windsor Park, to see Linfield have a much better result against Larne.

Although that was followed up three days later with a defeat at The Oval.

My last football match of the month was to see Linfield scrape a win at home to Portadown.

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

It was hoped that December’s football watching would begin at Lansdowne Road, but I had to make do with Coleraine Showgrounds. It doesn’t really matter where you watch your football as long as you’re watching Linfield win.

Although, Linfield did undo that with a draw at home to Warrenpoint Town the following Saturday.

And then, they made up for it by beating Larne away for the first time since 2008, and then beat Ballymena United to go top for the first time all season.

Before undoing that by drawing at home to Glentoran on Boxing Day.

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Glentoran

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

Due to matches being postponed due to International Call-Ups, September’s football watching took a while to get going, having to wait until the middle of the month for my first match, Linfield’s trip to Portadown.

For me, like a lot of others, it was a first away trip since March 2020.

It was, eventually, an enjoyable trip with Linfield winning 3-2.

That was then followed by a home match against Coleraine, and trips to Glenavon and Glentoran.

Portadown v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Glentoran v Linfield

LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 15.4.2022

Linfield blinked, but they slightly got away with it because Cliftonville blinked as well, meaning it’s as you were in the race for the Irish League title, with both sides feeling a sense of frustration and relief.

Past experience means that Linfield fans know how Cliftonville fans feel. Twice in fact.

In 1999 (Linfield 1-1 Coleraine, Glentoran 1-1 Cliftonville) and 2009 (Glentoran 3-3 Distillery, Linfield 2-2 Cliftonville), Linfield were chasing and dropped points in the run-in, only to see Glentoran had dropped points as well.

You end up relieved the gap hasn’t increased but frustrated that an opportunity to cut it or go in front wasn’t taken, because you won’t get many more.

Cliftonville went from being the frustraters to the frustrated.

The absence of Christy Manzina through injury presented a start for Jordan Stewart, hoping to kick on after recent impressive cameos.

For Glentoran, this was their last chance to push for the title now that the gap was six points and an inferior goal difference working against them as well. Defeat would theoretically, if not mathematically finish them off.

Ending Glentoran’s title challenge wasn’t Linfield’s main aim, it was boosting their own. Things can be a bit distracting when there are three teams in the race. It was about keeping ahead of Cliftonville.

The scheduling of this game gave Linfield the opportunity to do just that, and really put the pressure on Cliftonville.

Well, the pressure would have been on Cliftonville anyway regardless of the result, but a Linfield win would have left them with no margin for error.

Inside the opening minutes, some decent passing out the left worked space for Matthew Clarke but his cross to Kirk Millar was cut out by a defender. A good promising early opening.

From then on, Glentoran had a lot of the ball but not really doing a lot with it. Linfield were getting a lot of goal kicks from overhit passes by Glentoran.

No need to panic, but it did need to get sorted. Far too often Linfield were losing the ball as soon as they were winning it.

Michael O’Connor hit the outside of the post from a corner while Jay Donnelly was unable to connect with a through ball. Things were getting very concerning for Linfield.

Even more concerning when Conor McMenamin was played clear out right only to see his low shot was easily saved by Chris Johns.

Not only were Glentoran having more of the ball, they were actually now doing something with it. Linfield needed to step up their game.

Within a few minutes, they issued a welcome response that was needed, when a cross from Jordan Stewart evaded everybody and went straight into the net.

It might have been a fluke and undeserved based on the way the game had gone so far, but you’d take it. You’ll take anything at this time of year.

This came a few minutes after he worked space for himself on the edge of the box but fired over.

Considering how brittle Glentoran’s confidence was after a 4-0 hammering by Crusaders, it was disappointing that Linfield hadn’t gone at them from the start instead of letting them bed into the game.

Now Linfield had the game in their control now, they needed to push on.

Well, not quite. Within a few minutes, Glentoran were level when Conor McMenamin was able to cut in from the right and smash the ball home with his left.

Having survived a similar situation earlier in the game, Linfield couldn’t say they weren’t warned.

Whilst not the best performance, it was still frustrating to go in at half-time level having taken the lead and given it away so quickly.

The second-half didn’t start off much better, they were still giving the ball away cheaply.

Thankfully, that was only for the first couple of minutes, and things did start to pick up.

Despite that, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Eetu Vertainen and Jake Hastie for Chris McKee and Kirk Millar. It was a glaringly obvious substitution to make.

It almost had an instant impact when Vertainen created space for himself on the edge of the box to shoot, but hit the side netting.

With four assists in his last three appearances, I was glad to see Hastie on the pitch but disappointed that he wasn’t on corner kick duty.

On a night where not everything was going to plan, they should have been getting him on corners, especially if he delivered one like he did for Ethan Devine’s winner at Warrenpoint.

If he was frustrated at not taking corners, he was further frustrated when his header was saved by Aaron McCarey with nobody able to follow up. It was already looking like a frustrating evening for Linfield.

It could have got worse when Conor McMenamin burst towards goal from a counter-attack, but his effort hit the side netting.

Having scored a couple of important late goals from the bench, Ethan Devine has developed a bit of a reputation for himself for this sort of thing.

As the minutes ticked by, we were getting closer to Devine Time.

And so, he was summoned from his warm-up, the home crowd began to get excited at the prospect of another late goal in Linfield’s favour.

It looked like that goal was going to come, but from an alternative source, when Jordan Stewart had a shot saved but his follow-up header neither went goalwards or to Ethan Devine who was following up, the ball going just wide.

Full-time, 1-1. It can only be described as two points dropped when you have a lead so slender.

That meant Linfield fans were going to be spending their Saturday afternoon hoping Larne could get something at Solitude, which they did.

As a result, it was as you were, with both Linfield and Cliftonville feeling a sense of frustration and relief.

Of course, if they both won their matches, it would still be the same gap at the top without any of the emotional turmoil.

Talking of Larne, their visit to Windsor Park has been put back to a 5.30pm kick-off.

To be honest, I was surprised that it was a 3pm kick-off in the first place.

I presumed that the BBC were waiting until after Easter Tuesday before deciding which game to show. In the end, they’re showing both Linfield and Cliftonville’s games at the same time.

Let’s hope they’ll be capturing something decisive in Linfield’s favour.

Before then, a trip to Seaview.

If there’s two lessons to take into this game, it’s play better, and if you can get in front without playing well, stay in front.

And if you do that, you’ll do that in the title race.

Photo Album