LINFIELD 3-1 INSTITUTE 10.8.2019

By a quirk of fate, Institute visited Windsor Park on 10th August, just as they did last year.

In 2018, it was Matchday 2, with Linfield looking to build on an impressive win at Mourneview Park, and banish the memories of a humiliating season which saw no trophies and no European football.

In 2019, it was Matchday 1, and the opening game of a title defence which Linfield fans will be hoping will be a lot better than 2017-2018. How apt, that on International Duran Duran Day, they get an opportunity to see if their team are Hungry Like The Wolf.

Presently, Linfield’s ambitions are both local and international, with this game being sandwiched inbetween a UEFA Cup tie against Sutjeska. The first leg saw Linfield get an impressive 2-1 win away from home.

The result was even more impressive as Jimmy Callacher, Andrew Waterworth and Joel Cooper were all absent.

Callacher was back to start this game, while Waterworth had to make do with a place on the bench.

Linfield had some early pressure in this game, but the decent build-up play fell down with the final pass.

It was Institute who had the first chance of the game when Bastien Hery lost possession (I guess he’s human after all) to Joe McCready who was fouled by Rohan Ferguson as he tried to go round him.

There was never any danger of it being a red card, but you always have that slight doubt. Thankfully, it was only a yellow card.

Joe McCready stepped up to finish to put Institute 1-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes. This was not what we had in mind for the opening day of the season.

Linfield’s first attempt at remedying the scoreline came from a Chris Casement free-kick.

There wasn’t long to wait for an equaliser, as a neat passing move resulted in a Shayne Lavery cross being missed by Daniel Kearns, but it fell perfectly for Kirk Millar to blast home from close range for his third goal this week, equalling his total for last season already.

It’s been a good week for him, all he needed was to have his birthday sandwiched in amongst all these goals. Oh wait ……

Not much else happened for a while, apart from Institute players losing their discipline in a dispute over kicking the ball out of play for an injury, an incident which resulted in three of them getting booked.

Just when Linfield needed some inspiration, they got it from Jordan Stewart, whose long range shot looked to be going just over, and then dipped in to give Linfield a 2-1 lead, taking everybody by surprise, even though he’s capable of doing such a thing.

Linfield came out for the second-half determined to kill the game off, with Kirk Millar hitting the bar from a shot.

There wasn’t long to wait for a third goal for Linfield, that came when Ryan McGivern headed home from a corner to make it 3-1.

It wasn’t quite three points in the bag, but it left Linfield in a very strong position.

If it went to 4-1, that would have been it

Linfield had enough opportunities to make it 4-1. Daniel Kearns hit the post while Jordan Stewart missed an open net after earlier scoring from 30+ yards out, while Andrew Waterworth headed over as well.

Linfield were almost made to pay for not making it 4-1 when Institute had a period of pressure with around ten minutes to go, hitting the post, and almost making it a nervous finale for Linfield.

Linfield got the three points, a fifth successive season that they have started with a win. I can remember when Linfield used to usually drop points on the opening day.

Larne’s 6-0 win over Warrenpoint made them the first leaders of the new season, while a late goal for Crusaders to give them a 3-0 win over Carrick Rangers saw them overtake Linfield into 3rd, the only three teams to win on Matchday 1.

There’s not much time for clubs to contemplate their opening day results, with the return of the now traditional midweek Matchday 2, after a season absence.

Not for Linfield though, as they’ll be involved in UEFA Cup action, meaning the scheduled trip to Ballymena has been postponed.

It’s a situation that will have to be monitored if we progress further in Europe as we can’t afford to have a backlog of fixtures. That makes it even more important to pick up as many points early on if we are going to be a couple of games behind other teams.

It’s not just League matches that will be affected. If Linfield get past Sutjeska, the League Cup tie at Ballinamallard will have to be postponed. That’s two matches that will need new dates and we won’t even be out of August.

Suddenly, you can see the thinking behind not entering the Scottish Challenge Cup, as disappointing as it is.

The fixture list is quite kind to us in terms of other Top 6 teams/teams with Top 6 ambitions playing each other early on. We will have Cliftonville v Glenavon, Glentoran v Coleraine, Cliftonville v Crusaders and Larne v Ballymena United in the next seven days, so hopefully nobody will pull away while Linfield are inactive in League terms.

After this match, I headed to HMV in Belfast City Centre to see Feeder. It was advertised as a signing session but I turned up in the hope that they might do a few acoustic songs. Turns out it was only a signing session, which was disappointing as they were playing live at other instore appearances in England.

Up next for Linfield is Sutjeska in the UEFA Cup on Tuesday night in the second of three successive home matches. Hopefully, the second of four successive home matches.

To quote Buck Rogers by Feeder, I think we’re going to make it.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

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

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

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

Glenavon v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Northern Ireland v Estonia

Northern Ireland v Estonia Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November 2018’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

It didn’t get much better the following Saturday, as I headed back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The weekend after, was a double header, the first of which was a first trip to The Brandywell, to see Linfield take on Institute. The next day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

The following weekend, it was yet another trip to Windsor Park, but finally a home win, as an Andrew Waterworth hat-trick saw off Cliftonville.

My football watching for the month ended with a midweek trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on BSC Young Boys in the European Cup, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-0 INSTITUTE 16.3.2019

And relax, all is well. Panic over.

After two defeats which saw their lead at the top cut and a trophy slip away, there was a danger that if it became three in a row, questions would start to be asked if Linfield’s season was about to fall apart.

With two games before the split to come against Bottom Six teams, this represented an opportunity for Linfield to get back to winning ways ahead of the crunch trip to Ballymena in early April.

This was a rare Saturday 3pm game, for numerous reasons. Institute hadn’t played at Windsor Park in that timeslot since 2011, 2008 in the League, while Linfield haven’t played at 3pm on a Saturday since 23rd February, and won’t do again until 13th April.

On the back of two bad results, Linfield will have been glad to be facing a side they had a lot of joy against this season, winning the previous three meetings by an aggregate of 12-1.

That form guide that Linfield were the only team to truly overpower Institute this season, who’ve had a comfortable first season back in the top flight, having to get used to a new ground, but never ever being in relegation danger, instead having ambitions of 7th place, and a possible wildcard opportunity of European football next season.

For Linfield, it was a welcome return to 4231, but no Kirk Millar, who was absent through suspension.

As well as the formation, there were two welcome returns with Jamie Mulgrew returning after suspension, and Joel Cooper returned after a month out through injury, a period where he was badly missed. Andrew Mitchell got the nod in midfield ahead of Kyle McClean.

The two previous League games had been milestone points in Cooper’s season. The first League meeting in August saw him make his home debut and mark it with a goal. By the time Linfield headed to The Brandywell in November, he had lost a bit of form and was on the bench for the first time as a Linfield player, but briefly found it again in a brief cameo, which laid the foundations for his performance against Cliftonville the following weekend when injury presented him with an opportunity to return to the side.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield were on the attack straight from the start, with Andrew Waterworth and Daniel Kearns having shots saved.

Institute had their moments, usually on the counter attack, but the attack was usually sniffed out before it became any major concern to Linfield.

The game died down as Linfield tried to get the lead, wanting to avoid giving Institute something to hold on to, usually finding themselves frustrated by their own wayward or overambitious passes.

The game then burst into life again in the final minutes of the half, with Chris Casement usually involved.

First he had a header well saved from six yards out when it looked like he was going to score, before having a free-kick hit the bar, before Andrew Waterworth’s instinctive rebound shot being saved, though an offside flag rendered that irrelevant.

To end, he had a cross flash across the six yard box and evade everybody, to complete a frustrating half for Linfield, which ended 0-0.

Despite that, there was no need to panic, especially as Linfield were extending their lead at the top as Ballymena United were surprisingly trailing Glentoran 1-0 at home.

It looked like the deadlock was broken in the early minutes of the second-half when Jimmy Callacher headed home, but he was denied by an offside flag.

Having been denied by the crossbar earlier in the game, Chris Casement tried his luck again with another free-kick, going just over.

Just after the hour, Linfield finally took the lead. After a series of Linfield crosses always seemed to be blocked by an Institute foot, Andrew Waterworth was able to control the ball, but not really getting into a clear position to strike at goal, but inadvertently set up Jordan Stewart to blast it into the roof of the net.

All the pressure was off Linfield now, and it showed. Joel Cooper looked to chip the ball in but it was headed off the line by Caoimhin Bonner. The TV footage was inconclusive though Linfield fans were screaming for it.

They don’t have VAR in the Irish League, and I don’t think SSAR (South Stand Assistant Referees) is going to be implemented any time soon.

Linfield’s hunt for a second goal ended when Josh Robinson headed home to make it 2-0, to as good as secure the points.

Institute responded by bringing on Paul Smyth from the bench, but there was no need for Linfield fans to panic, it wasn’t that Paul Smyth, he was somewhere in the North-West of England bemoaning the fact that Accrington Stanley’s match at home to Rochdale was postponed.

Coincidentally, there’s an interview with him on Stanley’s website, you can read it here.

David Healy then introduced some substitutions, starting with Matthew Clarke for Joel Cooper, cue the obvious poetry joke, before Marek Cervenka and Michael O’Connor coming on for Daniel Kearns and Andrew Waterworth.

Cervenka had an opportunity to score but would have needed a right foot curler, he waited too long and Institute were able to see out the danger.

His other main contribution was to get a yellow card to a sliding tackle that everybody in the ground could see a mile off, causing Caoimhin Bonner to show some pace for the first time in his career to get involved, resulting in a yellow card for himself as well.

If it was ten minutes earlier, of if the game was still up for grabs, he would have been an absolute cert for a second yellow card.

Gareth Deane was forced into a save in the final minutes, saving Linfield from a nervous end to the game.

The final whistle blew, and it was a 2-0 win for Linfield, a welcome win, and a welcome clean sheet after conceding six goals in two games.

The news came through from Ballymena that they had lost 2-0 at home to Glentoran. I’ll be honest, that is not a result I saw coming.

That means that Linfield are nine points clear, but Ballymena’s game in hand means it is effectively six points.

You’ll be glad to know that game in hand is on Tuesday, meaning that we’ll be level in terms of games played, meaning i’ll shut up about effective leads.

Institute are the opponents. As well as Institute played when it was 0-0, I can’t really see them taking anything at Ballymena, but I thought the same about Glentoran.

Up next for Linfield is a trip to Dungannon, on the Friday night, giving Linfield a chance to extend their lead before Ballymena kick-off on the Saturday.

Hopefully, we take that opportunity, unlike against Glenavon a few weeks back.

When the Dungannon game was announced for TV coverage, Dungannon were on a decent run of form. That has tailed off in recent weeks.

Despite that, Linfield fans will have seen for themselves that their two visits have needed a last minute winner, and a cup win after extra-time.

Before that, it is the return of international football, as Northern Ireland face Estonia in their opening Euro 2020 Qualifier, and the start of the long road to England/Germany/Italy/Azerbaijan/Russia/Romania/Holland/Republic Of Ireland/Denmark/Spain/Hungary/Scotland begins.

I’m planning on being in London on the weekend of the Final. It would be great to pick up a ticket, but it’s more about the weekend away. I’ll also hope to sneak some time in Brighton as well.

Unfortunately, the kick-off for the Dublin games aren’t known yet, but i’ll try to sneak down to one of them in the Finals.

That’s a long way in the future, take each game at a time. Six points for Northern Ireland and three more for Linfield to aid their respective ambitions please.

Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

From Warrenpoint to Waterford, as the following week I spent a few days in Waterford seeing Waterford Walls, with a brief stop-off in Dublin.

The day after my return to Belfast, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The following weekend, a new ground for me to visit for the first time, as I headed to The Brandywell to see Linfield take on Institute.

The day after, it was a return to Windsor Park, and another bad home result, as Northern Ireland lost to Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

On the following weekend, I headed to The Limelight to see Cast in concert.

That was then followed by a good home result at Windsor Park, as Linfield beat Cliftonville 4-2.

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on BSC Young Boys and get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Waterford Walls

Waterford Walls Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

INSTITUTE 1-4 LINFIELD 17.11.2018

As a mid season slump continued last weekend with a 2-1 defeat at home to Coleraine, Linfield will have been glad to be facing a team they have beaten twice this season by an aggregate of 8-0, but maybe not so glad that they would be facing them at a ground they haven’t won at since the 1960s.

Damage to Drumahoe caused by flooding in the Summer of 2017 meant they will be playing this season at The Brandywell (Soon to be renamed Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium), which meant there would be a new ground for me to visit.

The Brandywell wasn’t a new ground for Linfield, with a flurry of visits between 2005 and 2012. They didn’t bring joy for Linfield, with three draws and two defeats from those five games, though they were awarded a 3-0 win when Derry were thrown out of the Setanta Cup in 2009-2010. If anyone asks, I scored a hat-trick.

Jamie Mulgrew and Robert Garrett started the last time Linfield played at The Brandywell, but only Mulgrew would be doing so in this match, with Garrett dropping down to the bench with Michael O’Connor, Josh Robinson and Stephen Fallon coming into the team.

Joel Cooper was one of those who dropped to the bench, having suffered a dip in form since being kicked out of the game at The Oval a few weeks back. Purely coincidental.

O’Connor missed last week’s game against Coleraine due to suspension, in farcical circumstances due to the club having to flag it up. We might have disadvantaged ourselves against Coleraine, but it would have bitten us in the arse later down the line, so honesty was the best policy.

Linfield were almost punished again for a poor refereeing performance thee months later.

Pre-match arrangements meant meeting at Drumahoe Park and Ride, just past Drumahoe as you drive into Derry City Centre.

A 1pm kick-off wasn’t surprising, but if it was a 3pm kick-off, I would have headed up early and spent some time in the City Centre.

Popping to a local shop to get some lunch meant that I didn’t get a chance to have a nosey around the ground, which stands abandoned. Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

Linfield struggled in their first visits to Drumahoe, losing their first two visits and drawing their third, which was almost costly in the title race in 2004. Since then, they’ve been unbeaten there.

I had visited Drumahoe three times, all of which were tricky games for Linfield, a 1-1 draw in 2014, a 1-0 win in 2015, and a 2-0 win in 2017 which sounds a lot more comfortable than it was.

Those with a sense of humour will have noticed that Linfield were lining up at The Brandywell wearing red and white, in a game that had a slow start, the first real attacking moment of note coming when Chris Casement found space down the right, but Andrew Waterworth couldn’t get on the end of his cross.

A few minutes later, a quick Institute counter attack saw Michael McCrudden fire home after a shot was saved by Roy Carroll.

The goal was timed at 13 minutes. It was the fifth successive Saturday that Linfield had gone 1-0 down. Four of those were in the first twenty minutes. I keep saying it, it’s a bad habit to get into, and we don’t appear to be getting out of it. We won’t come from behind every time we go 1-0 down, the last four weeks have shown this.

This week was different, the response from Linfield was more positive. They actually looked like scoring in response.

Jordan Stewart and Andrew Waterworth both had shots saved as Linfield searched for an equaliser.

It wasn’t all one way traffic, as Michael McCrudden curled an effort just wide. For a moment, it looked in from where I was.

It was already tough enough coming from 1-0 down, we really could have done without going 2-0 down.

Crosses were coming in quicker, not giving Institute a chance to defend it properly, and second balls were being picked up, usually by Jamie Mulgrew.

One of those saw a goalbound shot which was denied by a world class save, before a run was halted by a foul on the edge of the penalty area.

Chris Casement and Niall Quinn were around the ball, but it was set up perfectly for Quinn. It wasn’t a clean strike, but it was enough for the ball to go into the back of the net for 1-1.

Importantly, it meant that unlike the previous four Saturdays, Linfield had remedied the 0-1 deficit in the first-half.

They almost went in at half-time in front. They had enough chances, with a Kirk Millar header from the byline being unable to be finished, while Michael O’Connor headed just wide.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Andrew Waterworth finished from close range, only to be denied by an offside flag to little progress.

There was a roar from Linfield’s fans, to urge their team on, but that soon changed to a goal roar, as the Referee overruled the Linesman and awarded the goal. TV footage revealed this to be the correct decision as the ball hit an Institute defender last.

Andrew Waterworth had a shot deflected over while Kirk Millar had an overhead kick saved as Linfield searched for a third goal that would surely secure the points.

It was Millar who got that goal when he headed home from close range to make it 3-1.

Millar was then replaced by Joel Cooper, who went straight on a run which set up a shot for Jordan Stewart, as he looked to recover his form to get back into the starting eleven.

Jamie Mulgrew fires just wide as Linfield searched for a fourth goal.

Robert Garrett then came on for Stephen Fallon who was superb, usually making himself available for a pass, or making things happen when he got the ball.

One final sub for the closing minutes, as Matthew Clarke came on for Jordan Stewart to see out the game.

As the final minutes approached, Andrew Waterworth was played in by Michael O’Connor to make it 4-1. It’s a pity the goal didn’t come before the third sub, as a 4-1 scoreline could have given Daniel Reynolds or Brandon Doyle some gametime.

One advantage of the 1pm kick-off was that as Linfield fans were leaving The Brandywell, other games were just about to kick-off.

The fixture list was kind to Linfield in terms of other games, as there were two games between clubs in the Top Six. Linfield had the points in the bag, and would be able to sit with their feet up.

As it turned out, Crusaders beat Glenavon while Ballymena United beat Cliftonville.

That means Linfield leapfrog Glenavon at the top, though Glenavon have a game in hand. Ballymena United play twice before Linfield play again, and two wins will send them top.

Those games are against Glentoran and Newry City. I’d be surprised if they weren’t.

Linfield are now eight points clear of Cliftonville. A win next Saturday against them, will make that eleven, and we’d be almost out of sight in relation to them.

One result that didn’t happen today was Bohemian v East Fife in the Scottish Challenge Cup, which has been postponed indefinitely due to scheduling conflicts. What an absolute farce.

Surely the Scottish FA could have had something in place for scheduling a Quarter-Final involving an Irish team. It also craps over East Fife fans who will have to plan travel arrangements to Dublin. At some point in time.

Talking of farces, we move onto the NIFL Cup.

You may remember last season when I spent two months talking about how the Semi-Final postponements dragging on was affecting Linfield.

Due to Portadown’s Quarter-Final (against Linfield) being postponed, the Semi-Finals have been put back a week to December 11th.

Portadown or Linfield have been drawn away to Cliftonville or Dungannon Swifts.

That could mean Linfield fans having to get tickets and buses to Solitude arranged at seven days notice. That will be fun.

One positive if that situation did arise would be that Linfield have a home game sandwiched inbetween.

One thing that is guaranteed will be that Linfield will play Cliftonville next Saturday.

We’ll have to be up for this, and be smart. They’ll try to bully us, and we’ll have to stand up for ourselves and not react. A strong ref would be a good start. A repeat of the performance at Seaview in August would be even better.

Photo Album

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

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

INSTITUTE 0-2 LINFIELD 4.2.2017

It was the Irish Cup for Linfield today, and a trip to Drumahoe to face Institute, with a place in the Quarter-Finals up for grabs.

Having successfully negotiated lunch at Applegreen without children holding up the queue, I found roadworks to be a much bigger obstacle, causing me to miss the opening ten or so minutes.

As I walked down the hill towards the ground, I could see an Institute player on the ground and the referee blowing his whistle. I feared a penalty. The referee said it was a dive. TV replays proved it to be a correct decision.

Linfield then began to dominate the first-half, Stephen Lowry having a shot saved from the penalty spot, Cameron Stewart having an attempt at goal just wide before setting up Andrew Waterworth, whose shot was saved when he really should have scored.

It wasn’t all one way traffic, as Chris Casment was forced into a block to deny Institute on one of their rare attacks.

Not even a succession of corners late in the half could bring a Linfield goal, as they had to make do with a half-time score of 0-0.

There wasn’t long to wait for a goal in the second-half, as a quick free-kick from Lowry found Niall Quinn in acres of space, his cross was deflected goalwards, Institute’s keeper palming it away, but only to Cameron Stewart who made sure from close range.

It was Stewart’s second goal for Linfield, coming from a combined distance of one yard out. It doesn’t matter how and how far they go in, as long as they go in.

Linfield were finding it out the hard way as they failed to get a second goal that would kill the tie, Institute knowing that while there was one goal in it, the tie was still very much alive.

A header from a free-kick appeared to level the scores for Stute, until their players started to surround the referee, the crowd only realising that the goal was disallowed.

I was at the other end of the pitch and couldn’t see why it was disallowed. TV replays showed it to be for a push. Soft, but the correct decision.

Aaron Harkin took his protests too far and got a second yellow card.

Chris Casement had a free-kick well saved as Linfield looked to take advantage of their extra man. There wasn’t long to wait as Andrew Waterworth was played through and made it 2-0.

It was job done. A lot later than hoped, but job done, despite Institute having some attempts at goal in the final minutes.

The only concern was Jimmy Callacher going off injured ahead of the County Antrim Shield Final on Tuesday.

Talking of Cup Finals, there is one which might be taking place at Windsor Park in 2019. It appears to have snuck under the radar of the Northern Ireland Media, but Windsor Park has submitted a bid to host the European Super Cup Final.

This has come as no surprise as it was previously reported that a bid would be made as soon as the redevelopment was complete.

That would be fantastic. I went to the European Super Cup Final in Cardiff, and really hope this event comes to Belfast.

It’s a game UEFA want to bring to “smaller” stadiums. Capacity isn’t an issue. Windsor Park is only sightly smaller than Eden Arena which hosted the final in 2013.

The competition comes in the form of Tirana, Toulouse, Budapest, Haifa, Astana, Gdansk, Warsaw, Glasgow and Istanbul.

The first six cities have never hosted a European final, so they have that as a USP, though Tolouse hosted Euro 2016 and Budapest will host Euro 2020 games. That may count against them.

One of the Polish bids will have to be withdrawn, while Glasgow, Istanbul and Astana may withdraw to apply for the UEFA Cup Final or the Women’s European Cup Final.

Suddenly, the shortlist could be very short.

Hampden Park is also in the running for that year’s UEFA Cup Final. Sounds like a good excuse for a trip to Glasgow.

If Hampden Park hosts the 2019 European Super Cup, I could console myself by basing my trip to the Edinburgh Festival around being in Glasgow in this day.

Bids have to be submitted by 6th June and the winning bids will be known in September 2017.

Forget about 2019, it’s 2017 that matters, and up next is the County Antrim Shield Final against Crusaders. The past three meetings this season have shown that Linfield have nothing to be afraid of (well, apart from Raymond Crangle influencing the game from 4th Official) and if they play like they have in those three games, they’ll get their rewards.

There won’t be long to wait for the next meeting against Crusaders, with the sides being drawn together in the Irish Cup Quarter-Finals. Linfield fans have good memories of Irish Cup Quarter-Finals in North Belfast, and a packed crowd willing their team on just as they did at Solitude last year gives us more than a chance.

Hopefully, by then, there’ll be nine more points on the board from wins against Carrick, Ards and Glentoran, as well as the County Antrim Shield.

If there is, the final months of the season could be very interesting indeed.

Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

My football watching for 2015 is now over, so, it’s time for a statistical look back at the football I watched.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include Caoimhin Bonner being sent-off in the tunnel after the game)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

Hat-Tricks : 2 (Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Dungannon Swifts. Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 40

Arsenal, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bray Wanderers, Carrick Rangers, CE Europa (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee (1st time), Dunfermline Athletic (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Espanyol (1st time), Finland, Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hungary, Institute, Latvia (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Masnau, Northern Ireland, NSI Runavik (1st time), Partick Thistle (1st time), Portadown, PSNI, PSV Eindhoven (1st time), Qatar (1st time), Rangers, Romania (1st time) Scotland, Sligo Rovers, Spartak Trnava (1st time), Tobermore United, Valencia (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 23

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Drumahoe, East End Park (1st time), Estadi Cornella y Prat (1st time), Ferney Park, Fortwilliam Park (1st time), Gresty Road (1st time), Hampden Park, Ibrox, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newforge (1st time), Nou Sardenya (1st time), Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue (1st time), The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park

Competitions : 13

European Championship, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, La Liga, League of Ireland, Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup (1st time), Scottish Premier League, Tercera Division (1st time), UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiousities, other than a match with kick-off delayed for an hour due to the weather

UEFA 102 Club : Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia (now at 35 clubs)