PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2017-2018

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look back at the 2017-2018. The less said about what happened on the pitch, the better.

I took a lot of photos, so i’ve rounded up my favourites.

Feel free to vote for your favourite.

PLATT LANE

This was taken in June last year when The Oval was being used for filming a movie about Bert Trautmann, and was decorated to look like Maine Road. I went to get some photos.

I specifically wanted one with 1950s Maine Road and 2017 Oval both in the same shot, and this was my favourite from that day.

CLANDEBOYE

You have roadworks to thank for this photo.

I was held up heading to Ards v Linfield and missed the first couple of minutes.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered, a crowd with their eyes fixated on the pitch on a warm summer evening.

GARRETT

I like the composition of this photo.

You may be surprised that Robert Garrett is attacking and not defending, he had just kept the ball in play and was now being surrounded by two Dungannon defenders.

PHOTOGRAPHER

I just like the composition of this shot. Taken during Spartans v Linfield in Scottish Challenge Cup.

RAINBOW

Me being arty farty. I love trying to get pictures of rainbows over football grounds. Taken at half-time during Ballinamallard v Linfield in November. A rare time that afternoon when it wasn’t raining.

HAUGHEY

Same match, everyone huddled in the stand to avoid the rain. I like the composition of this shot.

FLEGS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Switzerland match in November, green and white flags were left out before the game for fans to wave. I decided to take a shot as they were being waved and got lucky.

CELEBRATION

Everything fell into place for this shot, the sky, a well worked goal, and the whole team coming together to celebrate.

GOAL

I like this shot because it captures the emotion of a last minute equaliser as part of a late comeback that never looked like coming.

TIPTON

I was heading to the exit for a quick getaway (in my defence, it was an away game on a weeknight) and stumbled upon this framing as Matthew Tipton looked on as Warrenpoint took on Linfield.

CAMPION

Taken during Cliftonville v Linfield in February, the guy in the red coat makes it makes it with his celebration as Linfield players celebrate in front of their fans.

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

Football watching in March got off to a delayed start, due to Linfield’s Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville being postponed due to snow.

I had to wait a week to get to a match, Linfield’s home game against Carrick Rangers.

The following midweek, was that postponed Irish Cup tie against Cliftonville, resulting in a defeat for Linfield.

It didn’t get better the rest of the month as Linfield had to come from behind to get draws against Glentoran and Ballinamallard United.

At least the month ended on a high note, beaming with parental pride (sort of) as Paul Smyth came off he bench to score the winner for Northern Ireland against South Korea on his debut.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Glentoran

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v South Korea

Northern Ireland v South Korea Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park, a place where I would spend four of the five Saturdays during the month, to see Linfield scrape a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

Postponements would then frustrate my football watching, as Linfield’s trip to Carrick was postponed, as was the FA Cup Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers, which I had planned on attending.

The reason for this was that I was in North-West England to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

I then headed to Windsor Park on successive Saturdays to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville.

That was then followed by a Boxing Day trip to The Oval, the less said about that, the better.

After that, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Crusaders. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Manchester Untied v AFC Bournemouth

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

September’s football watching began for me in Edinburgh, seeing Linfield take on Spartans in the Scottish Challenge Cup. That was followed two days later with World Cup action, as Northern Ireland took on Czech Republic at Windsor Park.

After that, it was all about Irish League action, taking in Linfield’s matches against Glentoran, Crusaders, Ballinamallard and Cliftonville.

Spartans v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Cliftonville v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON: JUNE/JULY

For me, the 2017-2018 football season began at Maine Road in the 1950s. I know what you’re thinking. Did I build a time machine?

Not quite. The Oval was being used to film scenes for a film about Bert Trautmann, and I went down to have a look at it being dressed up as Maine Road.

I then reverted back to the present day, to see Linfield take on La Fiorita in the European Cup.

The football became less competitive, as I ventured to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Hearts in a friendly.

The following Friday, it was back to the European Cup for Linfield, but more Scottish opposition in the shape of Celtic.

Maine Oval

Maine Oval Photo Album

Linfield v La Fiorita

Linfield v Hearts

Linfield v Celtic

LINFIELD 1-1 GLENTORAN 17.3.2018

Linfield and Glentoran faced each other at Windsor Park with a lot of things in common on St Patrick’s Day.

Both sides were coming off the back of Irish Cup exits in midweek. Despite that, they both still had something to play for in the League, though maybe not quite that they had in mind at the start of the season.

Linfield were only four points off 3rd place, which could potentially be good enough to qualify automatically for the UEFA Cup if Coleraine win the Irish Cup.

If Linfield had ambitions of playing in Europe next season, Glentoran’s were more modest and short-term, to play Linfield next month, as they currently occupy the last place in the Top 6 ahead of Ballymena United.

It was Ronnie McFall’s first visit to Windsor Park as a visiting manager since August 2015. Back then, Warren Feeney was in the Linfield dugout. It wasn’t even a dugout, it was a couple of seats in the bottom deck of the North Stand, as it took place halfway throughout the development of Windsor Park.

McFall is the only Irish League manager that David Healy hasn’t beaten. In fact, he hasn’t even managed a point, losing twice to McFall’s Portadown side during the 2015/2016 season.

In fact, McFall has a good recent record against Linfield. Since David Jeffrey stepped down as Linfield manager in 2014, McFall had a record of five wins and a draw in eight matches against Linfield.

It wasn’t just against Linfield that McFall was hoping to continue a decent run, having only lost one of his four games in his second spell as Glentoran manager. I’m not going to laugh at that reappointment, because it will probably come back to haunt me when Linfield reappoint David Jeffrey for the final weeks of the 2033/2034 season.

The cynic could suggest that Glentoran’s recent run of form isn’t as impressive as it looks. They got a win against a team who traditionally struggle at The Oval, followed it up with a win against a team at the bottom whose manager was preoccupied with taking McFall’s old job at Portadown, before throwing away two points in the last minute against a team coming off the back of being on the end of a cup upset and a 6-1 defeat.

The two previous meetings this season had seen one win each, each win bringing back happier memories for the respective fans.

For Linfield, it was their fifth successive win at the start of the season. For Glentoran, the win on Boxing Day was the highlight of their season.

The weather was cold enough to be Boxing Day. As well as the cold, it was so windy, the 2017 Champions flag was flying high. Might as well enjoy that for the next six weeks.

If Linfield were hoping to make a positive start, they didn’t get one. Just seventeen seconds were on the clock when a sloppy pass from Kirk Millar set up a Glentoran attack which resulted in a speculative shot easily saved by Alex Moore.

This wasn’t the positive start that Linfield were hoping for. They did reply with an Andrew Waterworth shot that was easily saved by Elliott Morris, but it was Glentoran who would dominate the opening minutes.

Just two minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Marcus Kane, who fired home from long range past Alex Moore to put Glentoran 1-0.

As spectacular as the goal was, there was still questions to be asked of Linfield’s players. Linfield were yet to get into the game. Glentoran had the better of the game and were full of confidence, and knew that Linfield were sluggish.

If Linfield had started the game strongly, there’s no way Kane would fancied a specultive long rang shot.

Both teams had went out of the Irish Cup in midweek, but the contrast in starts was clear to see. Glentoran were looking to boucne back, while Linfield were feeling sorry for themselves. Too many players were second to too many balls.

Nine minutes in Curtis Allen hit the bar from a free-kick. Linfield were almost out of the game before they had even got into it.

That was the wake=up call that shook Linfield into action. We finally got to see them as an attacking force.

Mark Stafford had a header blocked by Marcus Kane, while Andrew Waterworth had a low shot saved.

The golden opportunity came when a counter attack saw the ball come to Kirk Millar, who set himself up to cross for Kurtis Byrne to head straight at Elliott Morris from six yards out. It was harder to miss, but he managed.

Linfield don’t really help themselves at both ends of the pitch when they miss opportunities like this. No Linfield attacking player can complain that they haven’t had enough opportunities to score this season.

Mark Stafford was next to be denied when his header was cleared off the line. I thought it was over, but the TV footage is hard to tell. No VAR in the Irish League.

Kirk Millar then saw a cross evade everyone as Linfield put more pressure on Glentoran’s goal. You got the feeling that if Linfield could get one, they could go on an win the game quite comfortably.

The problem, as has so often been the case this season, was just getting that one goal.

As soon as they went 1-0 up after 2 minutes, Glentoran were timewasting at every opportunity, kicking the ball away at any free-kick won or conceded.

They were only encouraged to do so by the inactivity of referee Keith Kennedy, whose yellow card remained in his pocket, allowing Glentoran’s players to timewaste at will. There was one incident where Elliott Morris was allowed to hold up a free-kick being taken because he needed to fix his gloves. Yes, really.

Amazingly, there was two minutes of injurty time at the end of the first-half, with the Forth Official actually watching the game rather than doing the standard for the first-half and three minutes for the second-half.

Do you remember a story from 2012 about FC Magdeburg fans standing behind the goal and pointing cardboard arrows in the direction of the goal to assist their struggling team?

I’m very tempted to do this at Linfield matches.

It’s getting so bad, the idea of David Healy coming out of retirement to show the team how it’s done doesn’t sound that silly.

At the start of the second-half, Curtis Allen fired just wide from a cross, to premature cheers from the North Stand. I don’t know why, it never looked close to going in.

Linfield fans responded by mocking their rivals. It was the loudest cheer they had all afternoon.

Linfield fans thought they were cheering a goal a few minutes later when Jimmy Callacher headed over following a corner. It was another opportunity that was wasted.

Eventually, Linfield got the goal their dominance deserved, after Elliott Morris flapped at a cross under pressure from Andrew Waterworth, before Robert Garrett headed into the empty net from a few yards out.

He couldn’t miss. Though there were a few situations in the first-half where you could have said that but they managed to miss.

With forty minutes remaining on the clock, there was still plenty of time for Linfield to go on and win the game.

It was noticeable that this was the first Linfield attack where there were bodies in the box and options for the player crossing.

Kurtis Byrne headed agonisingly across goal, before making way for Achille Campion.

Campion had a chance soon after coming on. It wasn’t a clear chance, but he was in a shooting position. He had to blindly shoot. If he did, he would have been rewarded. He chose to pass, and the opportunity was lost.

Andrew Waterworth thought he was going to head home from a cross, but an outstretched leg from a Glentoran defender denied him.

Stephen Fallon came on as a substitute for the injured Jamie Mulgre as Linfield searched for a winner.

They had five minutes of injury time in which to do so. Well, they were supposed to, but one minute was lost to a Glentoran player being treated for an injury, and only half of it was added on, the game finishing as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

This result was bad enough, it got even worse when results from elsewhere came through. Glenavon drew 0-0 at home to Ballinamallard United, meaning that Linfield missed an opportunity to cut the gap on Glenavon to two points.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville beat Carrick Rangers 1-0. Three weeks ago, they were six points behind Linfield, now they could be just one point behind Linfield if they beat Ballymena United on Tuesday night.

Linfield will be hoping for a favour from Ballymena, just as they got last season. No matter how big or small, favours are always to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, it looks like Cliftonville have the momentum that Glenavon (2016) and Coleraine (2017) had when they stormed to 3rd, ironically at the expense of Cliftonville.

Up next for Linfield, is a trip to Ballinamallard on Friday night, shifted to accommodate Northern Ireland v South Korea on Saturday afternoon.

As stated at the time, there are better timeslots for this, such as Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon.

It might have been worth exploring the possibility of playing it on the same weekend as the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, though I do understand that might not be feasible due to Supporters Clubs already having booked buses for a Friday night game.

I’ve got excess Annual Leave from work that needs used before the end of March, so I was planning to be off on Friday, which is lucky for me.

I had actually planned on going to the Paloma Faith concert at The Odyssey, but it’s all seater, which is wank, so i’m giving that a miss. She’s doing a lot of outdoor concerts in August, so i’ll gamble on her playing CHSQ.

No pressure Linfield, give me a performance that is worth missing Paloma Faith for.

Talking of the Irish Cup Semi-Finals, they will be played on Saturday 31st March, which is Easter Saturday. I didn’t realise this until this week.

What an absolute farce. We have a Bank Holiday Weekend, and only four top flight (Warrenpoint face Dungannon in a rearranged game that day) teams are in action. A lot of floating fans will be lost because of this.

There is absolutely no reason why League games could not be scheduled that day, and Irish Cup Semi-Finals played on Saturday 7th April. That would still give four weeks between the Semi-Final and the Final for arrangements to be made.

Keep an eye out for this, as it’s a real possibility. Cliftonville could be at home to Linfield in the Final of the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, a match arranged at three to four days notice. Yep, buses and tickets. At four days. I know they managed it in seven days last month, but three to four days will result in a lot of anger. Watch this space. This is the official home of predicting future farces in Irish League football.

David Healy said in his post-match interview on Final Score that it was a good performance. That is true, from the tenth minute onwards. Linfield’s slow start cost them two points today.

If we keep creating chances, we’ll get our reward. Surely. We’ve been saying that a lot this season. Hopefully the tide will turn in our favour at Ballinamallard on Saturday.

Photo Album

GLENTORAN 2-1 LINFIELD 26.12.2017

It’s the most wonderful time of year apparantly. I doubt Andy Williams saw his team lose on Boxing Day to a deflected last minute winner.

It was the traditional Boxing Day clash of Linfield and Glentoran, and with it being an odd numbered year, it was at The Oval, because well, they’re a bit odd in the East of the city.

Defeat wouldn’t ruin Linfield’s Christmas, it could potentially ruin their season, as they need points, kicking off fourteen points behind morning leaders Coleraine, albeit with two games in hand.

Linfield fans will have had good memories of their most recent League visit to The Oval, in February, kicking off nine points behind Crusaders with nine games to go, winning 1-0 to kickstart a winning run that saw them lift the title.

In fact, Linfield fans will have enjoyed a lot of their recent visits to The Oval, winning their last eight away League visits to Glentoran.

There was the Irish Cup tie there last season, a home match against Crusaders there in April 2015, a League Cup tie won on penalties in October 2013, then a penalty shoot-out win in the Big Two Challenge in July.

Linfield have won a lot of games at The Oval recently. So many, we can’t actually agree on how many.

I was running late and missed the opening minutes of the game. I didn’t get to see any of Jamie Mulgrew, as he was substituted through injury in the opening minutes, replaced by Stephen Lowry.

I arrived in the ground to see Elliott Morris lying on the ground requiring treatment. Standard.

Mark Haughey had a header headed off the line as Linfield piled on the pressure looking for the breakthrough.

That pressure was rewarded when Cameron Stewart was played in and finished low into the bottom corner to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Minutes later, her was played through again but dragged his shot wide. Near post or far post would have brought a goal, but he hit neither. Even more baffling that it came from a player who had just scored and should have been full of confidence.

Linfield were left to rue that chance when Curtis Allen snuck in from a free-kick to fire home to make it 1-1.

Questions have to be asked about the defending, why a goal threat was allowed to get a free run at a loose ball.

It wouldn’t be the only time a loose ball in the penalty area fell to a Glentoran player.

Before the half was over, Mark Stafford would have a header easily saved by Elliott Morris.

It was one of many Linfield set pieces aimed at the back post. It was predictable. Even if a Linfield player got on the end of it, they were stretching for it, or were too far away from goal to have a realistic chance of scoring. It was predictable, and because it was predictable, it was easy for Glentoran to defend.

And when Glentoran weren’t able to defend it, they were able to get the second ball.

Linfield began the second-half strongly, with Andrew Waterworth having a shot go just wide and Mark Haughey having a header saved. They couldn’t get the goal. Glentoran were able to ride out the pressure.

On 66 minutes, Mark Stafford was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after squaring up to a Glentoran player after a wild tackle. Dylan Davidson was booked for his part in it.

As well as being predictable at set pieces, Linfield were predictable in open play, far too often just hoofing it up. Their decision making was poor. There are eleven players on a pitch which is quite big, yet Linfield players couldn’t find the right pass. Glentoran players didn’t have to make a last gasp tackle.

Ross Clarke, matchwinner in 2012, came on for Niall Quinn, as Linfield chased a winner.

Josh Robinson headed just wide in a rare free header. He should have got it on target. If he did, it was a goal.

Kirk Millar then came on for Stephen Fallon. I could understand bringing on one of the two wingers, but not two of them.

The third sub should have been Louis Rooney. Granted, it hasn’t happened for him this season, nobody can dispute that, but Linfield needed something different. A second winger off the bench, when Linfield had barely played it wide all game was not the answer.

A striker coming on from the bench with a point to prove could well have given Linfield that spark for the final minutes.

Ross Clarke fired just over when played in. If he kept it low, he would have scored. It was another poor decision. Poor decision making has been too frequent in Linfield’s season.

As injury time approached, Linfield lost possession when attacking, once again a Glentoran player was first to a loose ball, beginning a counter attack which saw a speculative shot deflected in by Curtis Allen. Linfield were now losing a game they never looked like losing.

Dylan Davidson was sent-off for a second yellow card in the aftermath of the goal.

90 minutes too late, Linfield now had urgency and a drive towards goal.

It’s easy to have drive and urgency when it is 1-2. It should have been there at 0-0, 1-0 and 1-1. If it was there at 1-0, there might not have been a 1-1.

It almost brought a reprieve for Linfield when Mark Haughey finished from close range after a free-kick. It was disallowed for offside, cutting the celebrations short. False hope, the story of Linfield’s season so far.

Looking at the replay on the TV coverage, it’s hard to see where the offside is.

Here’s a stat for you. When was the last time Linfield lost a League game to Glentoran after taking the lead? 12th October 2002. That’s pretty damming.

With Coleraine drawing, the damage is only one point, and if Linfield win their games in hand, they will have the same defecit they overcame last season.

However, with a traffic jam at the top of the League, we didn’t lose a point to Coleraine, we lost three points to Crusaders and Glenavon.

When opportunities present themselves to you, you have to take them.

At the moment, Linfield aren’t in the chasing pack. They are in the also-ran group with Cliftonville. That is not the sort of company we want to keep, because Cliftonville are awful.

That can change with wins in the net two games.

The season isn’t over. There is still a lot to play for. There’s still the Irish Cup and securing European football.

The last time we had a season like this was in 2012-2013. We ended that season with a whimper. It was a hangover that continued into the opening month of the following season. You could arugue that it cost us the title.

If we don’t win the League, we have to finish the season strongly. Anything less will not be tolerated

It hasn’t been a great Christmas for Linfield, with Linfield Swifts losing to Newington in the Steel and Sons Cup Final.

Waking up at 10am and seeing the rain outside, I think I made the right decision in not going.

It was amusing to see one Newington player describe it as the club’s greatest moment, meaning that a win over Linfield Swifts was a greater moment than a win over Glentoran.

Up next, is Crusaders at home. Hopefully, we go 4-4-2, stand up to them and attack them. None of this showing respect to them and playing 4-5-1 and standing off them bollocks. Get tore into them and attack them. They’ve been sneaking wins and conceding goals the past few weeks. They learnt the had way at Ballymena last April that you can only get away with that for so long.

I do fear that today’s result might make 4-5-1 the easy option.

Whatever formation they line up on Saturday, expect a change in personnel.

Any player who played today who doesn’t start on Saturday can have no complaints.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

September 2017 began with a road trip, and a long one at that, to Edinburgh, to see Linfield take on Spartans in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Two days later, it was another football match with an international feel, an actual international, as Northern Ireland took on Czech Republic at Windsor Park.

The following weekend was busy, taking in Ryan Adams at Ulster Hall and then Linfield’s match against Glentoran.

There was more football to follow, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Ballinamallard.

The following weekend was football free but not photo free, as I was out capturing Culture Night, and Street Art painted as part of Hit The North.

The month ended with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield take on Cliftonville. The less said about which, the better.

Spartans v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic Photo Album

Ryan Adams live at Ulster Hall

Ryan Adams live at Ulster Hall

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Culture Night 2017

Culture Night 2017 Photo Album

Hit The North 2017

Hit The North 2017 Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

2017 IN PICTURES – JUNE

June 2017 began for me chasing after murals, starting with one of Northern Ireland legends outside Filthy McNasty in Botanic.

From there, it was across South Belfast to get a photo on Lower Ormeau Road of a mural by Emic.

There was more Street Art photos as I followed the progress of a mural of music legends in Hill Street.

In the middle of the month, I headed to Ormeau Park for Belsonic, to see The 1975 in concert.

That weekend, I headed to Manchester in the 1950s. Sort of. The Oval was dressed up to look like Maine Road for a film, so I went and got some photos of it.

The month ended with some football, heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on La Fiorita in the European Cup.

Filthy McMural

Filthy McMural Photo Album

Emic Mural

Emic Mural Photo Album

Hill Street Wall Of Fame

Hill Street Wall Of Fame Photo Album

The 1975 live at Ormeau Park

The 1975 live at Ormeau Park Photo Album

Maine Oval

Mine Oval Photo Album

Linfield v La Fiorita

2017 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2017 began for me in Manchester, heading over to see United take on Hull City, while also getting some Street Art photos.

Back in Northern Ireland, I was on the road to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute in the Irish Cup.

The next day, I was out on my bike for my biannual (usually February and August) visit to Belfast Peace Wall to get some photos of the Wall Art on the walls.

The following Saturday, another road trip, to Carrickfergus to see Linfield at Taylor’s Avenue

The following weekend, it was back to Windsor Park for Linfield, and a disappointing draw against Portadown.

The morning after, I was out on my bike to get photos of a Jamie Dornan mural in Belfast City Centre.

Later that day, it was another cup final, the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena and Carrick.

The following weekend, I was Oval bound to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Be My Valentine

Be My Valentine Photo Album

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield