GLENTORAN 0-1 LINFIELD 25.2.2017

After yet another disappointing at Windsor Park against Portadown, Linfield will have been glad to be on the road. If they could choose any ground to visit, it would be The Oval. To say that Linfield have a good record there in recent years is a bit of an understatement.

Form in recent years would suggest this good run would continue. In the past two years, Linfield have gifted Glentoran a point at Windsor Park and then won the remaining fixtures. Glentoran’s league position suggested that a fourth League meeting between the sides at Windsor Park in April won’t be happening.

As supporters entered The Oval, there was one name that the away fans were talking about, Alex Moore. Who? I hear you say. Don’t worry, I asked the same thing. He’s an 18 year old goalkeeper making his debut after (i presume) injuries to Roy Carroll and Gareth Deane rather than a pie related disciplinary issue at the club.

To add to the goalkeeper crisis, the unofficial third choice goalkeeper Mark Haughey was also injured. Coincidentally, his penalty heroics against Glenavon was a year ago this weekend.

Haughey missed the Portadown match and was replaced by Chris Casement. Casement was then demoted to the bench and replaced by Reece Glendenning, who scored a hat-trick against Portadown in a reserve game last week. I don’t that that’s what he was in the team for today, but it would be nice if he did that.

Moore played in the Steel and Sons Cup Final over Christmas, so he had some sort of big match experience going into this. It was telling that Jamie Mulgrew won possession in his defensive third in the first minute and headed back to him, just to give him an early touch of the ball.

He would get further touches of the ball in the early minutes by having to keep out a speculative shot from the byline and having to come out and catch a low cross in the six yard box. Jimmy Callacher probably would have cleared, Moore was not taking any chances and dealing with the danger himself.

Linfield were slow getting into the game, but their first moment of quality almost brought a goal when Niall Quinn got clear and his low cross evaded both Cameron Stewart and Andrew Waterworth.

Paul Smyth wasn’t really getting into the game. For some reason, Linfield attack stands rather than sides. For example, left in the first-half and then right in the second, or the other way around. All the attacking in the first-half by Linfield was down the left hand side, meaning Smyth wasn’t involved as much.

Glentoran’s tactic was to stop Linfield by stopping Jamie Mulgrew, usually by illegal methods as he extended his lead at the top of the Most Fouled Irish League Player In History Chart.

They weren’t even honest fouls, they were cynical fouls with no intention of getting the ball, just to stop the man. While the referee’s yellow card stayed in his pocket, it only encouraged Glentoran more.

It was clear that, like in the recent Irish Cup tie, Glentoran were set up to try and snatch a 1-0 lead in the first-half and then hold onto it in the second-half.

That 1-0 lead that Glentoran desired almost came a counter attack when Steven Gordon knocked the ball past Moore, only to see Reece Glendenning get back in time to clear it on the goal-line.

Stephen Lowry fired agonisingly wide from the edge of the box while Linfield should have had a penalty for a handball from a Niall Quinn cross. A football match had finally broken out, 40 minutes late.

Despite ending the first-half well, Linfield needed to play so much better to get the points in the second-half.

Linfield were much better at the start of the second-half, not that it was hard. Paul Smyth was getting more and more involved in the game. The correlation between getting Paul Smyth on the ball and Linfield looking more likely to score is a very simple one to understand.

It looked like Jimmy Callacher would be the man to give Linfield that lead when his header came back to him, perfectly set up, but he volleyed the ball over.

Paul Smyth then fired just wide as Linfield’s pressure began to increase.

Ironically, Linfield got the goal just when the pressure had died down, a header from a free-kick falling perfectly to Andrew Waterworth to just about finish from a few yards out. As long as Linfield did nothing stupid in the final half hour, it should be enough to secure the points.

Sean Ward came on as a sub for Stephen Lowry, and he had a header go wide from just inside the box as Linfield looked for the second goal that would secure the points.

Aaron Burns made a welcome return off the bench after a month out through injury, while Ross Gayno came on for Paul Smyth. It seemed that Niall Quinn would be the obvious player to go off for Gaynor to come one.

Quinn did go off. Not subbed or sent-off, but injured. The end result being that Linfield would play the final minutes with only ten men. They started to get defensive, inviting unnecessary onto themselves.

The best that Glentoran could offer were a couple of speculative shots in the same attack, one which was blocked by their own player, and the other saved by Moore.

Thankfully, Linfield held onto the ball and made sure Glentoran couldn’t hurt them, seeing out the game to win 1-0.

It was Linfield’s ninth successive win at The Oval, eight in the League and ten if you include the “home” match against Crusaders in April 2015. Thirteen unbeaten against Glentoran there and fourteen if you consider the 2012/2013 County Antrim Shield Final to be a draw. Isn’t it great to be arguing about winning/unbeaten run stats?

Considering our poor results at Windsor Park in recent months, perhaps we should play all future home games at The Oval. (Clarification. Just a joke. For the avoidance of doubt, just a joke)

The only two teams to win a League match at Windsor Park this season, Cliftonville and Coleraine played out a 0-0 draw at Solitude, meaning Linfield extend their lead over 3rd place Cliftonville to eleven points.

I would expect that even if our title challenge fails, at least Linfield won’t be having to participate in the ridiculous UEFA Cup Play-Offs.

Even if Linfield lose to twice to Cliftonville in the run-in (We won’t. I know we’ve lost twice to Cliftonville this season, but we won’t lose the next two to them. They’ve downed tools since their Irish Cup exit and are preparing for Play-Off games in May, just like last season) it will be hard to see Cliftonville overturn those remaining five points considering they have only won two (five draws and three defeats, if you care) of their last ten games. Two out of twelve if you include friendlies against Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers.

It also maintains Coleraine’s unbeaten run, albeit ending a run of eight successive wins. The only reason I want Coleraine to maintain their good run of form is that they play Crusaders at the end of March.

Just Crusaders luck to avoid playing Coleraine while they are on a winning run of form. Even bigger luck that their postponed (due to Ballymena’s involvement in the League Cup Final) taking place in the midweek before that game.

Talking of Cliftonville, they will be Linfield’s next League opponents, on Monday 13th March, a game you can see live on Sky Sports. The problem is, it’s up against Chelsea v Manchester United on BBC One at the same time.

It’s great that games are on Sky Sports but I don’t think they’ve picked a good one. Unless Glentoran are visiting on Boxing Day, any game at Windsor Park will be showcasing empty seats in the North Stand due to the camera position.

It would have been better if Sky had waited until the live FA Cup games were picked by BT and BBC before picking an Irish League game that weekend to show.

The bad news for Linfield is that Cliftonville had two players, Paul Finnegan and Jamie McGovern, sent-off. For some reason, Linfield always play badly against teams who have multiple players missing through suspension and/or injury

As I type, the teatime kick-off between Portadown and Crusaders finished 1-1. I know, i’m as shocked as you are, that a team who got a heroic result against Linfield followed-up with a result that helps Linfield.

The gap at the top of the table is now back to seven points, as you were from last Friday teatime but two games further on. When you and a rival both drop points in a title race, you’re caught between agonising over points thrown away and relieved at the situation not being worse.

Linfield get a break from League action next weekend, but it’s not a weekend off, as they travel to Seaview in the Irish Cup. It’s a game that Linfield will have no fear in due to the head to heads this season.

If we play like we do in the previous four meetings this season, we’ll be fine.

Linfield have written the book on how to play against Crusaders this season. Other clubs are more than welcome to have a read. Hopefully, there’ll be another chapter added next weekend.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT 19.2.1977

Match action from Ipswich Town v Leeds United is on the cover of Shoot, but it is four other clubs – Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Queens Park Rangers – who are the main focus, as the League Cup reaches the Semi-Final stage.

In news, 16 year old Alan Currie was set to leave Cliftonville for Luton Town, Leeds and Wales would be meeting in a Testimonial for Gary Sprake. Staying in Yorkshire, Sheffield United want to sign Vic Moreland from Glentoran following Peter Dornan’s return to Linfield.

Neil Warnock, a player at Barnsley, has just passed his referee’s exam and is now a qualified official.

Finally, Radio City in Liverpool have signed up Duncan McKenzie and John Toshack for a Sunday afternoon radio show.

The second legs of the League Cup Semi-Finals are preview, both of which are level after the first legs. The first leg of the QPR v Aston Villa game took place too late to have a reaction from both teams, the game was delayed due to postponements.

Bolton had got a draw at Goodison Park. Bolton manager Ian Greaves commented that his side would now have to manage expectations after the draw at Goodison.

Everton won the second leg 1-0 to go through 2-1 on aggregate.

After a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road, QPR and Aston Villa drew 2-2 in the second leg at Villa Park. There were no away goals in those days, so it went to a replay at Highbury, with Villa winning 3-0.

After needing three games to win their Semi-Final, Villa would need three games to beat Everton in the final, winning a Second Replay 3-2 at Old Trafford.

Kevin Keegan uses his column to talk about tackles from behind, which he describes as “The curse of English soccer”

Shoot does a full page article on the goalscoring record of clubs in the history of league football, with Aston Villa the team with the best goals to game ratio, between 1888 and 1977.

In foreign news, Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalon stadium is set to become the second stadium in West Germany (after the Olympic Stadium in Munich) to get undersoil heating.

South American qualifiers for the 1978 World Cup (in South America) are due to get underway, and Shoot gives it a double page, with interviews from players based in Spain from Brazil, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Shoot dedicates two pages to the issue of sponsorship in football, canvassing Chairman, Managers, Players, including Derek Dougan, who got into a spot of bother for trying to get Kettering Town to wear shirt sponsorship.

Gordon Hill uses his column to write about his love of hunting, accompanied by a picture of him and Steve Coppell jokingly pointing a shotgun at Tommy Docherty.

Kenny Dalglish talks about celebrity fans in his column, and namedropping famous faces he has met at matches, such as Jackie Stewart and Rod Stewart.

On the back cover, there is a poster of Graeme Souness of Middlesbrough. In it, he has facial hair, but it is of the beard variety, rather than his trademark moustache.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : WORLD SOCCER – NOVEMBER 1998

An expensively assembled team in Sky Blue are featured on the cover of this edition of World Soccer, but it’s not Manchester City, it’s Lazio.

In Jersey, there is an experiment taking place where a referee can move a free-kick forward ten yards if a defending player shows dissent or engages in unsporting behaviour.

In this edition, World Soccer has an article on satellite channels and receivers that can pick up football from around the world. One of those clubs you could watch, is Anderlecht, who get a page feature about their recent downturn in form.

Drugs were a major issue this month, with rumours of failed tests in Serie A being covered up, and one journalist suggesting that referees should be subject to random testing like players.

There is an article based on a quote from Ray Clemence that there are too many foreign goalkeepers in England, looking at the shotstoppers of the twenty Premier League clubs, noting that the two most promising English prospects, Steve Simonsen and Richard Wright, are playing outside the top flight.

Lazio get a four page profile, having spent £70m to try and win the Serie A title. They did manage it in 2000, but not since. One of those player in the expensively assembled sky blue outfit ……. was Roberto Mancini.

Two of those pages are used for an interview with Christian Vieri, who left Lazio the following summer in a big money move, becoming the world’s most expensive player when he signed for Inter Milan.

German football is in crisis with the departure of Berti Vogts as national team manager, and the DFB being rebuffed, for various reasons, in their attempts to appoint Otto Rehhagel, Christoph Daum, Jupp Heynckes, Franz Beckenbauer, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Roy Hodgson and Paul Breitner, before eventually settling on Erich Ribbeck.

Davor Suker, top scorer at the summer’s World Cup gets a double page profile, while Croatia’s Euro 2000 Qualifying opponents, Yugoslavia, get a double page spread.

It’s not just Germany who had a change in manager, the departure of Spain manager Javier Clemente after a 3-2 defeat to Cyprus in their opening Euro 2000 Qualifier got a double page spread. He was immediately replaced by Jose Antonia Camacho.

Across the border in France, Vikash Dhorasoo gets a full page feature, as the most exciting prospect in French football.

Back in Germany, Keir Radnedge reports on the success of the two Munich clubs, currently first and second in the Bundesliga.

In England, Aston Villa are top with an almost all English team (Mark Bosnich from Australia being the only foreigner in their regular starting eleven) and have money to spend following the sale of Dwight Yorke. World Soccer suggest that money could be used to bid on another English player, Andy Cole of Manchester United.

A former manager of Cole, George Graham, has new employment, as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, a move that has divided the club’s fans, given his long association with Arsenal.

In Scotland, Marco Negri is in dispute with Rangers, with manager Dick Advocaat accusing him of lying to the media about his transfer situation.

Northern Ireland’s news is dominated by the resurgence of Linfield and Glentoran, looking to win their first title in 5 and 7 years respectively, but already pulling away from the chasing pack at the top of the table.

Also in dispute with their club like Marco Negri, was future Rangers players Frank and Ronald De Boer, who want to leave for Barcelona.

Bruce Grobbelaar made a comeback of sorts, playing for Zimbabwe at the age of 41, as well as being part of their coaching staff.

Brian Glanville uses his column to question Alex Ferguson’s record in the European Cup and World Cup, in the aftermath of a TV documentary where he referred to Paul Ince as “A big time charlie”

Glanville also uses his column to question the wisdom of those who want Terry Venables to return as England manager following England’s poor start to Euro 2000 qualification.

GLENTORAN 1-2 LINFIELD 7.1.2017

There may have been sixteen ties in the Irish Cup today, but there was only one which took top billing as Glentoran and Linfield faced each other at The Oval, hoping to avoid an early exit in a season that hasn’t gone to plan for both clubs.

Linfield’s season was best summed up in the past week, by cutting the gap at the top last Saturday at Seaview, then seeing all that work undone with a defeat to Coleraine. It wasn’t quite make or break for Linfield today, but the fallout from an early Irish Cup exit was a distraction they could do without.

As well as the disappointing result on Tuesday, Linfield would go into this game without Jimmy Callacher, their matchwinner on their last visit to The Oval in October, through suspension as a result of his red card. Perhaps surprisingly, Jamie Mulgrew coming in for him was the only change from Tuesday’s team.

Linfield had a lot of possession in the early moments of the game but didn’t really do much with it. A familiar theme this season.

Linfield didn’t help themselves with misplaced and sloppy passing. One of those sloppy passes, from Aaron Burns, set up Glentoran’s first attacking moment of the game as Curtis Allen raced towards goal but Linfield’s defence was able to see off the danger.

Allen made no mistake when he was able to get a shooting position outside the box to put Glentoran 1-0 up. The goal came from more sloppy passing from Linfield, losing possession to set up a Glentoran chance, not once but twice, having already cleared an original attack, they gave Glentoran another try.

Instead of passing to each other, they were passing at each other, with predictable results.

With each passing minute, the introduction of Ross Gaynor from the bench, back after missing recent matches, was becoming a better and better idea.

It was actually a relief that Linfield were only 1-0 down at half-time, was an indication of how poor the performance was.

Linfield’s best moment in the first-half came when some nice passing played in Andrew Waterworth, whose shot beat Elliott Morris but hit the post.

I was already celebrating when the ball went past Morris. I wasn’t the only one. It’s one of those cheap laughs when opposition fans prematurely celebrate a goal. Sadly, Linfield fans were the punchline on this occasion.

Niall Quinn fired a free-kick over from a wide position as the half neared it;s end. That was as good as it got for Linfield.

Early in the second-half, Linfield made changes out wide, bringing on Ross Gaynor and Kirk Millar for Jonny Frazer and Niall Quinn. The substitution had an instant impact.

A cross from Millar forced Glentoran to concede a corner, which was cleared, and then played back to Gaynor, who got to the byline, even managing to see off a Glentoran defender trying to shepherd the ball out, to play it back to Kirk Millar to cross it in for Stephen Lowry to volley home from close range.

I had originally thought it was Aaron Burns who scored, not realising until I got home. It didn’t matter, Linfield were level.

Glentoran were sitting back and hoping to get a second on the counter or by forcing a mistake from Linfield’s defence as they chased a goal. Now they had to come up with a different gameplan.

Even if Glentoran had got a second on the counter, their recent home results (2-3 v Ballymena and 2-2 v Dungannon after being 2-0 up in both games) would have given Linfield hope, it was not an avenue they wanted to explore.

Linfield failed to build on the game swinging in their favour, all they could get was a snapshot by Andrew Waterworth straight at Morris, while Aaron Burns missed out on a goalscoring opportunity by taking a touch when he should have shot instantly.

Linfield fans thought their team was going to pay for this in the final moments as a free-kick was deflected past Roy Carroll, but just wide of the post. Glentoran are so bad these days they can’t even be jammy.

Just like on Boxing Day, it finished 1-1 after 90 minutes. Unlike on Boxing Day, there had to be a winner. Extra-time would be needed. Linfield fans went through this at this stage last year against Ballymena United. They were hoping for a similar, but less nervy outcome.

It was goal the winner. Not literally, but the way the game had gone, whoever went 2-1 down was never going to pull it back.

We had a dramatic start to extra-time, but not a goal, a delay due to a problem with the nets at the Sydenham End.

The next action at that net was a goal for Linfield when Stephen Lowry found enough space in the box to cross for Andrew Waterworth to put Linfield 2-1 up.

Within a minute, Waterworth’s game was over, as he was substituted for Sean Ward, who was unlucky not to start today in place of Chris Casement.

I can only assume Waterworth had an injury. Even though Cameron Stewart was on the bench, it wasn’t the game for a young converted defender to be leading the line. Aaron Burns and Kirk Millar took on that role with Ross Gaynor supporting.

Thankfully, Kevin Amuneke will be eligible to offer more options in attacking positions, especially with Paul Smyth still injured.

In the second-half of extra-time, you would have thought it was Linfield chasing a goal with Ross Gaynor, Aaron Burns and Stephen Lowry having chances to score. All Glentoran could offer was a Chris Lavery shot which went well wide.

Kirk Millar was played through and had a toepoke saved by Morris despite having time to run through and set himself up to shoot.

Aaron Burns as he ran on to a through ball, clear on goal with only Morris to beat, not by Elliott Morris, but by a referee’s whistle pulling the game back for a foul on a Linfield player.

All the ref had to do was to wait a few seconds. Burns might have missed, he might have scored. Elliott Morris might have got to the ball first. It would have been good to know.

As the game entered the final minutes, a section of Linfield supporters taunted their rivals by chanting “YOU’RE SEASON’s OVER, WHY DON’T YOU GO HOME?”

They were tempting fate. They didn’t need to worry, Glentoran weren’t going to make them look silly as Linfield held out for the win.

At half-time in extra-time, I had a quick look on Twitter for other scores, and an update during Ballymena United v Cliftonville game of a Ballymena player avoiding a second yellow card from a lenient referee.

Who was that referee? Raymond Crangle, who refereed Linfield v Coleraine on Tuesday. A second yellow instantly brandished or a final warning? Depends what colour of shirt you’re wearing.

The draw for the next round was done, giving Linfield an away trip to Institute. I shall be travelling to that one, one of the relatively easier North-West grounds to get to.

Linfield fans will be seeing a lot of Northern Ireland’s motorways over the next few weeks, with away trips on four of the next five Saturdays.

That means the match against Ballymena on 21st January will be only chance over the next few weeks to purchase Every Other Saturday, a book chronicling Linfield’s history from 1986 to 2016.

I held off in the hope that Santa would bring it to me, but he didn’t, and I was too peeved leaving the ground after the last two home games to call into the shop afterwards. Ie – I forgot.

Up next in the league is a trip to Glenavon in a must-win. If we can get through the first ten minutes with eleven men on the pitch, that would be a good start.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 26.12.2016

Five was very much the number on people’s minds at Windsor Park today. Linfield were looking to get two wins this week to reduce Crusaders five point lead at the top of the Irish League, and get a win over Glentoran in the traditional Boxing Day fixture for five years in a row.

The festive period had already got off to a good start for Linfield. The first team had a dramatic late win last weekend, while a very young Linfield Swifts team won the Steel and Sons Cup on Christmas Eve, against a team from East Belfast.

One of the goalscoring heroes from Christmas Eve, was rewarded with a place on the bench for this game.

It was a slow start from Linfield, all of the play was in their half, as Glentoran dominated possession.

Eventually, Linfield began to take control of the ball, almost scoring when an attempted Glentoran clearance hit the top of the crossbar.

Aaron Burns and Marj Haughey then went close from a corner.

Soon after, Kirk Millar broke away. A tee up to Stephen Lowry seemed the obvious opportunity but he flashed it across goal, Elliott Morris parrying the ball to Aaron Burns, who fired over via a Glentoran defender. He really should have scored.

It didn’t matter, as Mark Haughey headed home from the resulting corner to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Aaron Burns then created space for himself but fired wide via a deflection. It looked like being a matter of time before Linfield made it 2-0.

It looked like happening when Andrew Waterworth created space for himself, but he shot wide, or when Aaron Burns fired a shot goalwards, which was saved.

Glentoran had moments in Linfield’s half, but nothing to worry Roy Carroll.

Linfield had a deserved half-time lead, but couldn’t get a two goal lead that surely would have secured the points.

A slow start to the second-half by Linfield allowed Glentoran back into the game. They might not have had a chance, but if Linfield weren’t going to kill them off, all it needed was for one chance to come their way.

Just before the hour, a headed clearance fell perfectly for Aaron Harmon to head into the net.

Linfield couldn’t say they weren’t warned. The only positive was that they still have half an hour to do something about it.

There was a brief flurry from Linfield after the goal, but not enough to suggest a 2nd goal was inevitable. David Healy turned to his subs bench, bringing on Josh Carson for Kirk Millar, who suffered an injury in a challenge.

Even if he wasn’t injured, Millar would have been a prime candidate to be substituted, having endured a frustrating afternoon.

Cameron Stewart came on from the bench, hoping to get a second vital goal in just over 48 hours.

Chris Casement fired a free-kick wide as Linfield searched for a winner. They weren’t getting the bounced. They weren’t making their own luck like against Ballymena United the previous week.

On 86 minutes, Stephen McAlorum was sent-off for a late tackle. It was the second Boxing Day game in which he had been sent-off in. At least he lasted 80 minutes longer today than he did in 2012.

Linfield couldn’t make the most of the one man advantage. For all of the ball being in Glentoran’s defensive third, they never looked like putting it in the back of the net. There would be no repeat of last Saturday’s dramatic late heroics.

It was two points dropped. Failing to kill the game off when on top and then giving away a soft goal.

With Crusaders winning 4-0 at Solitude, it means Linfield trail the leaders by seven points.

Not all hope is lost. Linfield travel to Seaview knowing that a win will reduce the lead to four points, meaning they will be one point better off than at kick-off today. Small progress, but it is to be welcomed.

There is no reason why Linfield can’t beat Crusaders. Both meetings this season have finished 0-0, with Linfield being the better team on both occasions. There is nothing to fear. A vast improvement in performance is needed though.

It’s bad enough the other ten clubs in the league having defeatist attitudes against Crusaders, that should never be the Linfield way.

Meanwhile, i’m still digesting the League Of Ireland fixture announcement. I’m looking at Friday 14th July 2017 as a game to go to.

Being off work on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th, it seems a bit pointless to come in that day.

I might book it off and try and find a reasonably priced hotel and spend Friday and Saturday in Dublin. The fixtures scheduled that day are Bray v Cork, St Pat’s v Derry and Shelbourne v Wexford Youths.

The first two games could be postponed due to European commitments, meaning I go to Shelbourne v Wexford Youths by defeault. Still, it would mean one last trip to Tolka Park before it gets consigned to history.

July can wait, it’s all about Saturday now. Time for Linfield to step up.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield take on Glentoran, play awful but grind out a 2-1 win.

The following Saturday, I went to see Northern Ireland take on San Marino, the first game at a fully redeveloped Windsor Park.

I then went home, and got a bit of sleep, before an early morning boat to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United.

Two days later, I was Limelight bound to see Feeder in concert.

There were then two frustrating weekends as I was then Coleraine bound the following Saturday to see Linfield held to a frustrating draw, just as they were at home to Crusaders the following Saturday.

The month ended by going to see KT Tunstall in concert at Mandela Hall.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April 2016 began for me at The Odyssey to see Muse in concert.

The following Saturday, I headed for Seaview to see Linfield lose to Crusaders, a match that killed off their title hopes.

Another concert soon followed, this time it was to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Ulster Hall.

Back to football, and a double whammy of convincing Linfield wins, over Coleraine and Glentoran.

The match against Coleraine allowed me to check out the facilities in the South Stand for the first time since it was officially opened.

Towards the end of the month, Prince died, and Belfast wasn’t slow in paying tribute, a mural appearing within a day of his death.

I then headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

Around that time, I purchased a new camera as my camera was broken beyond repair. I was still getting used to it, so that’s why some photos towards the end of the month are a bit different.

Muse live at The Odyssey

Muse live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Purple Rain

Purple Rain Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

2016 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville in the Irish Cup, and get their first win there for four years.

The following week, Glentoran were the opponents, but the result was the same, a 3-0 win for Linfield.

After that, it was Solitude again, with Linfield only managing a 2-0 win this time.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, and decided to make a trip of it between Bristol and Cardiff, getting some Street Art photos, and see Bristol Rovers take on Cambridge United.

Upon my return, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Slovenia.

The next day, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint, ending a busy Easter period of football watching.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 1

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 2

Cardiff Street Art

Cardiff Street Art Photo Album

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

GLENTORAN 1-2 LINFIELD 1.10.2016

Gary Haveron made his debut as Glentoran manager when Linfield visited The Oval today, hoping to do a bit better than Scott Young managed on his debut against the same opponents in 2010.

Strangely, I was nervous going into today’s game. Glentoran have been so bad this season they were surely due to have a good performance?

When they’ve faced Linfield top of the league or challenging for the title, I never felt as worried going into the game as today.

An early goal would have been a dream start for Linfield. They should have had it when Ross Gaynor was played in behind Glentoran’s defence but his cross went straight to Elliott Morris when attacking players were queuing up for a pass.

Over the past 14 years, everyone except referees have got used to Elliott Morris timewasting. Doing so inside the first 10 seconds was impressive, going down and making the most of a Paul Smyth challenge..

Admittedly, a naughty challenge by Smyth, you would expect a keeper to stay on his feet and look his opponent in the eye to say that he’s not going to be pushed around. Bizarre.

There wasn’t long to wait for a Linfield goal, as Kirk Millar returned a cross after his corner came back to him, and his cross was put into his own net by Marcus Kane.

Glentoran’s nervousness in defence was clear to see, conceding soft throws and corners from poorly executed clearances. It was almost as if they were inviting Linfield to score.

Chris Casement looked set to reciprocate the defensive generosity when his clearance played in Steven Gordon, but his shot was blocked by Mark Stafford. That’s the sort of thing that happens to teams that are struggling at the bottom of the league.

Aaron Burns was looking to score in his 4th successive game, and had two headed chances that he couldn’t get on target. Mark Stafford was another who couldn’t get a header on target, while Sammy Clingan had a long range shot parried out for a corner.

It might sound like Linfield were playing brilliant. They weren’t, barely creating anything in open play.

Kirk Millar stayed on his feet when he could have got a penalty if he went down, and wasn’t rewarded for his honesty as his shot dragged wide.

In a way, I was glad that Linfield were only 1-0 up. If they were 2-0 up, they could have got complacent and conceded, giving all the momentum to Glentoran.

At least at 1-0, Linfield would have known they needed to kill the game, and could focus on the job in hand.

That was the plan. What the reality was, Linfield continued to play as poor as they did, but Glentoran were playing better, and in a mood to make Linfield pay.

Roy Carroll was forced into a save from a wide angle, with a goal kick being surprisingly awarded.

A few minutes, later a wrong decision benefited Glentoran when a corner was awarded when it should have been a goal kick to Linfield. They made the most of it when Curtis Allen fired home from a yard out. It had been coming. It made his last minute equaliser at Windsor Park last season look like a long range effort.

This game had mirrored the pattern of meetings in November 2014 and October 2015 when Glentoran scored last minute equalisers after Linfield played poorly and invited them on.

The only positive for Linfield, was that there was still 35 minutes to rectify the situation.

Though, the only team that looked like winning were Glentoran.

All Linfield could do, was to try and ride out the storm. They just about did.

David Healy turned to the bench, bringing on Andrew Waterworth for Paul Smyth. The scene was set for him to get a late winner. As far as Linfield were concerned, anyone would have done.

Soon after, Kris Bright came on for Ross Gaynor, but it was Glentoran who had the next big chance when Calum Birney headed wide.

Again, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Niall Quinn for Aaron Burns. Personally, I would have brought on Stephen Fallon.

On 87 minutes, Linfield had one last push, winning a corner. From that corner, Jimmy Callacher headed home to put Linfield 2-1 up.

As poorly as Linfield had played, there was no way that Glentoran were going to come back from that. All Linfield had to do was keep their nerve in the time remaining to get the points.

That time remaining would include 5 minutes of injury time after a Glentoran player suffered a head injury.

It was Glentoran rather than Linfield who were failing to hold their nerve in the final moments when Calum Birney was sent-off for a reckless challenge on Niall Quinn.

It was stupid on so many levels, as Quinn wasn’t going towards goal, and it ate up so much time when time wasn’t on Glentoran’s side.

Linfield looked the most likely to score in injury time from breakaways. Kris Bright was played in but his low shot was straight at Elliott Morris.

If you’re going to miss at that time of the game, at least sky it so it will kill some time. Thankfully, it wasn’t costly for Linfield as the final whistle blew and they celebrated 7 successive league wins against Glentoran at The Oval, 8 successive wins at the venue if you include the ‘home’ match against Crusaders in 2015.

It was a smash and grab by Linfield. In some ways, it was probably more satisfying that winning 4 or 5-0.

Elsewhere, Crusaders beat Cliftonville 4-3. I had heard that Cliftonville were 3-0 up, then I heard it was 4-3 to Crusaders.

I’d no mobile internet due to Vodafone being a rip-off shower and double charging me for data. It was a nice throwback to the days of hearing 50 different scores of the same match.

When Cliftonville were winning and Linfield drawing, Cliftonville would have been 4 points behind Linfield with them to come to Solitude later this month, and Cliftonville playing next Saturday while Linfield are in Scotland to face Queen of the South.

Today’s result ended Cliftonville’s slight title chances, if they weren’t over already.

It’s a break for Linfield in league terms, travelling to Palmerston to take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

October will be a busy month for Linfield, playing Weekend-Midweek from next weekend onwards.

When you get a late winner at The Oval, the games can’t come soon enough.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – APRIL

April’s football watching began at Seaview, seeing Linfield lose to Crusaders in a game that ultimately killed off their title ambitions.

The following week, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the first game that Linfield fans would be using the South Stand.

The month ended with two more Linfield games, both 4-0 wins against Glentoran and Cliftonville.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville