2017 IN PICTURES – APRIL

April began for me with a trip to Lurgan for the Irish Cup Semi-Final, to see Linfield secure a late 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

The following weekend was another 1-0 win for Linfield and just as important, a League win against Crusaders that blew the title race wide open.

April saw the launch of a new mural in Belfast City Centre, in the Cathedral Quarter, which I went and got photos of.

On Easter Saturday, I headed to Ballymena to see Linfield beat Ballymena 2-0.

On Easter Monday, I cycled to Lisburn to get some Street Art photos from the City Centre.

The following night, I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield secure vital win over Glenavon.

On the following Saturday, the football continued, heading Coleraine to see Linfield beat Coleraine and finally get to the top of the Irish League.

Towards the end of the month, a mural of The Two Ronnies appeared in Belfast City Centre, so I headed out to get photos of this.

The penultimate day of the month saw me head to Solitude where Linfield needed to avoid defeat in order to win the Irish League. It didn’t look good at half-time, but a Andrew Waterworth hat-trick in the second-half saw the trophy head to Windsor Park.

Immediately after the game, there was a celebratory event at Windsor Park so that supporters unable to get into Solitude could join in the celebrations. Naturally, I was there getting photographs.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Pure Here, So It Is

Pure Here, So It Is Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

And It’s Goodnight From Me

And It’s Goodnight From Me Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

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2017 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March 2017 began for me with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders in an Irish Cup tie. That was followed a few days later by my first concert of 2017, seeing Blossoms at The Limelight.

It was then back to football for a Monday night match between Linfield and Cliftonville, and then returning to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ards.

I was then out on the trail of Street Art, getting photos of a mural of a Dancer in Belfast City Centre.

The following weekend, I headed to Fermanagh to see Linfield get a late win against Ballinamallard.

I then headed out again in search of Street art, getting photographs of a new mural of East Belfast legends.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Norway in a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Blossoms live at The Limelight

Blossoms live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

The Dancer

The Dancer Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

East Belfast Wall Of Legends

East Belfast Wall Of Legends Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 2.12.2017

December will be a busy month. Thankfully, there won’t be a lot of travelling, with four Saturday games at Windsor Park this month. The first of those, saw Dungannon Swifts visit Windsor Park as Linfield aimed to win three League games in a row for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.

It is because of that statistic that every game is now must win, especially today, with the four teams above Linfield all having games you would expect them to win.

Unfortunately, i’ve only got 89 minutes of football to review, as I missed the opening minute. My reason? I was getting myself a Boxing Day ticket. It was Members and Season Ticket holders only today, and i’ll be having to get a few more next week.

It’s one of those milestone events in the year that indicates that Christmas is getting very close. There was a disappointing lack of “SANTA IS A BLUEMAN” hats at this game though.

I might have missed 1 minute, but Cameron Stewart would miss the whole 90. Injured, I presume. Disappointing for him, having scored the winner at Mourneview Park last weekend.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s first chance, when he was played in from a counter-attack, his first time shot going just wide.

A few minutes later, he controlled a Kirk Millar cross to swivel and shoot, his shot saved by Stuart Addis. Carrying on from his performance at Mourneview Park last weekend, he was in the mood, and wanted goals.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though, a Dungannon break seeing Roy Carroll make a save from a Ryan Harpur header.

A low cross fell perfectly to Jordan Stewart but he shot wide. If he hit the target, he would have scored.

Kirk Millar and Chris Casement were combining well down the right for Linfield, but they couldn’t assist a goal between them as Dungannon held out.

Andrew Waterworth was the next to miss when he headed over from a cross. He got too much power on it. A gentle touch would have put the ball in the net.

Despite their pressure, it was 0-0 at the break. Despite their missed chances, Linfield needed to step it up to get the three points.

The way the match seemed to be going the same way. It seemed to be similar to the Irish Cup Semi-Final against Dungannon last season, where they had to be patient to get the winner. The worst case scenario, was that it would be a repeat of the League match against Portadown in February. It had that vibe.

In short, Linfield needed a goal, and they needed it as soon as possible, and they needed to get it before Dungannon.

A scuffed effort from Andrew Waterworth was the best they could offer in the opening minutes, as Roy Carroll had to rush out to deny Dungannon taking the lead to smother the ball just as a shot was about to be unleashed.

David Healy turned to his bench. He had three attacking options to choose from – Ryan Strain, Louis Rooney and Ross Clarke. Surprisingly, he plumped for the teenager Ryan Strain ahead of Louis Rooney.

Just as surprisingly, it was Jordan Stewart who would be replaced. I thought it would have been Niall Quinn.

Stewart was playing well, but it was obvious he was needed out wide rather than through the middle. It was clear that Linfield needed another option through the middle.

Strain almost had an instant impact, when he fired goalwards from a low cross. Agonisingly, it went just wide. It is the sort of chance you see missed in the final minutes of a 0-0 draw. For Linfield, there was still time to win this.

Strain was at it again, controlling the ball from the sky like Dimitar Berbatov, before unleashing a shot that forced Addis into a save. Strain then had a long range shot go just over.

As well as his team-mates, Strain’s personal battle with Stuart Addis lifted the crowd, but still the goal eluded Linfield.

Do you remember my lucky scarf from last season? Well, it looks like I have an unlucky coat.

At the Coleraine match, I got a Linfield raincoat from the Club Shot for a fiver. It was a Nike one, so they were looking rid of it. With a bit of rain at lunchtime, it looked like a good opportunity to wear it.

For some reason, I took it off in the second-half. It was desperate times, maybe my coat was bringing bad luck? Within minutes, Linfield scored.

I think I might get rid of it. It’s yours for £6 if you want it.

Linfield took the lead when Andrew Waterworth headed home. That’s four in five League games for him now.

With Coleraine, Glenavon, Crusaders and Cliftonville all winning, Linfield had to do likewise just to keep up with them.

Despite that, Linfield needed a second. Ryan Strain was determined to get it, but he kept getting denied by Addis.

Roy Carroll was keen to emulate Addis saves by diving at his feet to deny Peter McMahon. When he was beaten by a long range shot, he was relieved to watch as the ball went narrowly over. This game was far from won for Linfield. Windsor Park was nervous.

Andrew Mitchell came on for Kirk Millar. The obvious sub if Millar was to be withdrawn was Ross Clarke . We don’t play well when we try to defend a lead.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to hold out and get the win. They had to, as the four teams above them all won.

Next week, Cliftonville face Glenavon while Linfield travel to Carrick. Crusaders and Coleraine face Bottom six opponents. There will be points dropped above us. We simply have to taken advantage. Even though the furthest we can jump will be up to 4th with a win, it’s a jump we must make. Small steps and all that.

I’m not sure of the exact rules, but I think today was the deadline if we wanted to bring the match against Crusaders forward ahead of the Coleraine away game. As there is no news yet, it looks like we’ll be playing Saturday-Monday over Christmas/New Year.

We still have to arrange a date for our home match against Glenavon. I’ve noticed that we are due to play Cliftonville away and Glenavon are at home to Crusaders on the weekend of the NIFL Cup Final. If it’s a Crusaders v Cliftonville Final, expect Linfield and Glenavon to make the most of their free weekend and face each other at Windsor Park. Expect some movement in that regard the week after next one way or the other.

Elsewhere, Paul Smyth was an unused sub for QPR today. Good to see him make progress so quick. Hopefully, a start and a hat-trick against Leeds next weekend.

From Linfield’s past to Linfield’s future, and the signing of Kurtis Byrne from St Patrick’s Athletic was announced this week, effective when the January window opens.

I don’t really know much about him, but his Wikiepedia stats suggest he has scored a respectable return in struggling sides the last two seasons. It actually dawned on me that I have seen him play in the flesh. He scored and his team won 5-1. That’s the benchmark that has been set and i’ll be expecting it every week.

Talking of League Of Ireland, the 2018 fixtures will be released on 19th December. I’ll be keeping an eye on this, to fit a game around my annual short break to Dublin. I’m eyeing up Friday 13th July 2018 when i’ll already be off work.

Crewe play Blackburn in the FA Cup tomorrow, so i’m hoping for a draw as i’ll be in Manchester the week of the Replays. Failing that, Rochdale to draw away to Slough on Monday would be nice.

Due to spending most of the pre-match queuing to get a Boxing Day ticket, I didn’t get a chance to get the updated version of Every Other Saturday. I may wait until the Crusaders match on 30th December before purchasing, just in case Santa gets it for me.

If I get it, I could read it at half-time at the Steel and Sons Cup Final if I go. Still undecided on that one, or maybe at The Oval the following day. Not even joking, I saw someone in reading a novel at the League match in February this year, the match was that bad.

And finally, Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. That’s a tough group. Our opening match against Brazil is nice symmetry as they were our last opponents at Mexico 86.

Sorry. Sorry. I’m still in denial about that one.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2017 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose 1-0 to Coleraine. Not the best start to the year.

Things got a bit better the following Saturday when I headed to The Oval to see Linfield beat Glentoran in the Irish Cup after extra-time.

It wasn’t all football in January, as I headed out to get photos of a George Michael mural which appeared in Botanic.

Back to football, and I was on the road to Lurgan to see Linfield beat Glenavon 2-1. The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

The next day, it was back to murals, as I headed out to get photos of a mural of Princess Leia that appeared in East Belfast, and then across Belfast to get pictures of a mural of Jon Snow. The guy from Game Of Thrones, not Channel 4 News.

The following weekend, it was back to football and back on the road, as I headed to Stangmore Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on Hull City. While there, I got some Street Art photos of Salford Quays.

I headed over on 31st Janaury. You’ll have to wait for February’s round-up for the match and Street Art in Manchester.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

George Michael Mural

George Michael Mural Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Princess Leia Mural

Princess Leia Mural Photo Album

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

GLENAVON 0-1 LINFIELD 24.11.2017

Last week, Linfield did Glenavon a favour by beating Coleraine, enabling them to cut the lead at the top of the table to two points. On Friday night, they did Coleraine a favour by beating Glenavon and giving them the opportunity to increase their lead to eight points, having beaten Ards in midweek. Crusaders wouldn’t have been too unhappy to see Coleraine and Glenavon lose games.

Linfield weren’t interested in helping Coleraine, Glenavon or Crusaders, they were only interested in helping themselves. They certainly did that over a six day period.

This is the run of games when teams are playing each other twice, but Linfield and Glenavon were only meeting for the first time, with their scheduled meeting in October being postponed due to Linfield’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

That outstanding game has yet to be rearranged. There were games the previous midweek, but two teams playing each other on Tuesday and Friday was never going to happen. The next logical available date would be in January, but with a scheduled meeting on 20th January, the two sides could potentially be having a double helping of meetings in the new year. Just hope they avoid each other in the Irish Cup.

As mentioned last week’s, Linfield’s visits to Mourneview Park in recent years have been silly, great for the neutral, not so much if you support one of the two teams, so this promised to be an entertaining game, especially as these were the only two teams in the League to have scored in every League game so far this season.

It was Glenavon who had most of the ball in the opening minutes. They were up for it. They want to win this game early.

Despite Glenavon’s possession, Linfield were comfortable. Glenavon didn’t have a clear chance. They were having too much of the ball for Linfield to be too comfortable.

The first real chance of the game fell for Linfield, when Andrew Waterworth burst down the right wing and crossed for Cameron Stewart, who got the ball caught between his legs and scuffed the opportunity. He really should have scored. You had the feeling that if the roles were reversed and Andrew Waterworth was on the end of the cross, Linfield would have been 1-0 up.

A few minutes later, another Linfield breaks saw Linfield win a corner. As the corner was about to be taken, someone near me shouted “COME ON STEWART!!!”. I’m guessing that was aimed at Cameron rather than Jordan.

He might have known something was about to happen, a believer in the unwritten football rule that if a player misses an easy opportunity to score, they will score a harder opportunity a few minutes later.

And so it proved, as Cameron Stewart headed home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Glenavon complained about it, claiming there was a push by Stewart. There was physical contact, but a foul? Seriously? The Glenavon defender should have been stronger. If Linfield conceded that goal, i’d be asking questions about our defence. Glenavon also had an opportunity to clear the ball before it came to Stewart.

After the game, Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton complained about “Pressure” being put on the referee by Linfield recently. After being eliminated from one competition and potentially losing the League in the space of four weeks due to gross incompetence, I think Linfield are entitled to ask questions about the standard of officiating, just as Glenavon did over a referee’s performance in two games at Mourneview Park between October and November 2014.

It seems as though some people have short memories.

All that Glenavon could offer in response was a low shot that was easily saved by Roy Carroll.

Andrew Waterworth had Linfield’s next chance when he broke through but his shot was saved by Jonathan Tuffey.

Glenavon might have had most of the ball, but Linfield were making the most of it when they had it, and looked the more dangerous side when attacking.

As the half neared it’s end, Linfield had another break, an advantage played despite two fouls saw a Niall Quinn cross only be cleared as far as Stephen Lowry, who fired home from close range.

Or so he thought, as the goal was disallowed for handball.

I didn’t get a clear view of it, and TV pictures were inconclusive. Linfield could have done with a second.

They could have had it in the opening minute, when Jordan Stewart got space in Glenavon’s box to shoot, only to see his shot saved, and Niall Quinn unable to head home the rebound.

Linfield were putting pressure on Glenavon’s goal in the opening minutes of the second-half. You would have thought they were the team that was 1-0 down and had just been given a dressing down at half-time.

Unable to get a second that would surely have clinched the points, they were almost pegged back when Sammy Clingan fired from outside the box.

I was behind the goal at the other end, and it looked like it was going in. It looked like it was unsavable, but Roy Carroll got a hand on it and saved it.

Aaron Burns came on for Cameron Stewart and linked up well with Andrew Waterworth. Waterworth was winning the personal battle against his defender throughout the second-half, constantly getting in behind Glenavon’s defence.

Unfortunately, the shot or the final pass was just short. It was clear he is still suffering from missing pre-season through injury. The fitness will come. If this match was four or five weeks time, he probably would have had a hat-trick. Despite that, Glenavon’s defence was terrified every time the ball went near him.

Having been sent-off at Mourneview Park last November, Roy Carroll was once again in trouble with the referee, getting a yellow card as he took a goal kick. Literally, as he took a goal kick. The referee declared that he was timewasting.

Now that referees are cracking down on this, I look forward to opposition goalkeepers being booked against Linfield in the coming weeks, especially at Windsor Park.

Carroll was targeted at set pieces by Glenavon and was offered no protection by the referee when he was blocked off. Luckily, Linfield’s defenders were there to save the day.

Linfield’s players were getting into the Black Friday spirit by scrapping for and holding onto three points as if it was a discounted TV.

Aaron Burns appearance off the bench was brief, as he was stretchered off after a challenge. He was replaced by Louis Rooney.

He, or any of the none other outfield players couldn’t get that second goal. Niall Quinn headed agonisingly wide in stoppage time. I was right behind it and could see it going wide from the moment it hit his head. Everyone around me knew that the three points were still not secure, even though the 90 minute mark was approaching.

Glenavon had one late chance, that went just wide. four minutes and fifty seconds into five minutes of injury time, Glenavon were not going to get another chance, and so it proved, as the final whistle blew and Linfield had the three points.

I said last week that i’d take a boring 1-0 win. It was a 1-0 win, but it wasn’t boring.

In the end, it was a deserved win for Linfield. A week previously, Linfield hadn’t beaten a team higher than 6th, now they had beaten the top two, and deserved to do so on each occasion.

As well as cutting the gap at the top of the table, Linfield fans left Mourneview Park knowing one of Saturday’s results would go in their favour, as Crusaders would travel to Coleraine.

There would be no bad result for Linfield. A Coleraine win would have put Crusaders closer to Linfield. A Crusaders win would have put Coleraine to closer to Linfield. It ended up a draw, and Linfield are two points closer to both of them. Cliftonville beat Ballymena to stay a point ahead of Linfield, but Linfield have a game in hand.

It might look like Cliftonville are on a good run of form, but it’s deceptive. They’ve had a run of games against sides in the bottom half. I’m not to concerned about being below them hit as they’ll hit a brick wall in December when they have a run of games against sides in the top half.

The gap now to leaders Coleraine is nine points, but Linfield have a game in hand. Until the gap gets shorter, i’m going to continue to lament those ten minutes of madness at Ballymena a few weeks back.

Without sounding arrogant, the fixture list is kind to Linfield, with Dungannon, Carrick and Warrenpoint coming up next.

If Linfield have ambitions of winning the League, that has to bring a return of nine points. If it does, we are looking at a five game winning run going into the Christmas/New Year fixtures. A perfect time to go on a winning run, not that there is a bad time to do so.

Next Saturday, should see wins for Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Cliftonville. The two weeks after that will be of interest, as Glenavon will face Cliftonville and Crusaders.

There will be points dropped above us in the coming weeks, we simply have to take advantage.

Linfield have taken a lot of deserved criticism for their record in big games this season. This month, Coleraine have failed to beat Glenavon, Linfield and Crusaders, and have led in two of those games, one of which was against ten men.

It will be interesting to see if Coleraine’s title credentials come under the same amount of scrutiny as Linfield’s.

Up next of interest to Linfield fans is the Steel and Sons Cup Semi-Final against Immaculata, the winners will play Newington. I know, we’ll all be trying to decide if it’s worth getting up early on Christmas Day. At least last year, it was on Christmas Eve.

Of those Christmas/New Year games alluded to, the game away to Coleraine has been brought forward from Tuesday 2nd January to Monday 1st January.

It’s not that surprising. It stood out when the fixture list was made. It is fair to say that the decision could have been made earlier for those making arrangements.

Hopefully, the club will bring forward the match against Crusaders to Friday 29th, to give the players extra recovery time. It’s our home game, so we can make the call. We have until the end of the week to make the call.

Playing Tuesday-Friday-Monday isn’t ideal, but it’s slightly better than Tuesday-Saturday-Monday.

Next weekend, i’ll be looking at draws. I’ll be hoping that Crewe draw with Blackburn in the FA Cup so that the Replay will be the midweek when i’m in Manchester. Might be tempted to go along.

Next Friday, is the World Cup draw. If Switzerland end up in a group with Russia, Iran and Panama, I might just cry.

Hopefully, Linfield beating Dungannon at Windsor Park the following day will cheer me up.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-1 COLERAINE 18.11.2017

The last time Coleraine visited Windsor Park was for the Irish Cup Final in May. Saturday wasn’t a cup final, thought it might have felt like it. There wouldn’t be a trophy presented today, but defeat would surely have seen the League trophy slip away from Linfield’s hands.

Linfield were Back In Blue after a Highway To Hell which brought two away defeats which left them Thunderstruck.

Last week’s defeat at Ballymena was a missed opportunity for Linfield with Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders all inactive in the League. Coleraine kicked-off eleven points clear of Linfield. Victory would put them fourteen clear of Linfield. Even at this relatively early stage, that would be too much.

Victory for Linfield cuts the gap to eight points. Tough, but doable.

October and November have been rotten months for Linfield in the last few years. 2017 was no different, as Linfield have suffered seven defeats in the last ten games.

It’s been a perfect storm. Bad finishing, bad defending, bad luck, bad decision making (by officials and Linfield players). Sometimes, it’s been all four in the same game.

Coleraine made a good start in the opening minutes, having a lot of the ball in Linfield’s half, even though they didn’t really do a lot with it.

Linfield then had their own moments on top, making more of the ball when they had it. Chris Casement had a free-kick tipped over while Mark Stafford heading wide.

Jordan Stewart was Linfield’s main threat, getting into good positions but failing with the final ball.

Cameron Stewart was troubling Coleraine’s defence by just being a general nuisance.

Andrew Waterworth broke into Coleraine’s penalty area and was fouled. Penalty to Linfield. Finally, a break. Well, so we thought, we’d probably miss.

Thankfully not, as Andrew Waterworth slotted the ball home to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Coleraine were now nervous in defence. Linfield were almsot getting in behind them. A poor pass or a lucky leg stuck out saving Coleraine. It was going to be a matter of time before Linfield got it right. They had to. They simply had to take advantage while they were playing well.

A quick free-kick saw Niall Quinn get in behind Coleraine’s defence, and cross for Mark Stafford to run in and head home from close range. It was similar to Ivan Perisic’s goal for Croatia against Greece in the World Cup Play-Offs recently. For Linfield fans, it was just as vital.

On Wednesday night, it didn’t look like Stafford would be playing in this match. We’ll get to that later.

Linfield needed a third goal while they were on top. They couldn’t get it. They had to make do with just the two goals.

In the final minute of the first-half, Coleraine had their only real chance of the first-half when Jamie McGonigle was played through on goal.

Just like when he ran through on goal in the last minute of the meeting between the sides last month, Roy Carroll saved his effort. This time, it went out for a corner. It was definitely over the line. No dispute this time. No cost to Linfield this time.

The opening fifteen minutes of the second-half would be massive. If Coleraine could get a goal, they would fancy their chances of getting something from this game.

Coleraine had a lot of the ball and a lot of pressure, but Linfield held firm. However, if the pressure continued, it would only be a matter of time before Coleraine scored.

Linfield’s rare forays into Coleraine’s half saw them lose possession quickly. They couldn’t even win a corner.

Linfield couldn’t get to the hour with a clean sheet. Just before that milestone, a well worked move saw Darren McCAuley fire home for Coleraine. It was game on.

You felt like it was now going to be a case of Goal The Winner. 3-1 would secure the game for Linfield. 2-2, and it would be hard to see Coleraine not winning.

David Healy responed by bringing on Kirk Millar and Aaron Burns.

Millar played well, holding on to the ball when he had it, and always making himself an option when another Linfield player had it.

Niall Quinn got into a good position but just headed wide from a cross. The final minutes were unsurprisingly nervous. Coleraine had a header just wide. It looked like a goal from where I was sat at the other end.

When you’re on a run as bad as Linfield, you always expect the worst. Adam Mullan had a header saved by Roy Carroll. It just hit him. The luck was now all with Linfield.

Deep into injury time, a Coleraine corner was headed goalward. I was at the other end, and couldn’t see what happened, with so many players in the crowded penalty area.

I knew there two things I couldn’t see. The netting moving, and Coleraine players celebrating. I knew it was ok. The final whistle blew immediately and Linfield had the win.

Linfield players got the blocks when it mattered. In recent weeks, it was opposition players who were doing that. Linfield scored when they were in top. In recent weeks, it was the opposition scoring when they were on top.

It is only one win, but every success begins with one win.

It was also a first win of the season against a top half team of note. Sorry, Glentoran.

It is worth pointing out, that this time last year, Linfield had won only one of eight matches against Coleraine, Glenavon, Crusaders and Cliftonville. They remedied that in spectacular style in the second-half of the season.

It makes the defeat against Ballymena even worse, as the gap would only be five points and things would be very interesting indeed. No point crying about it, the Ballymena game is gone. The title, is not.

Next up, is a trip to Mourneview Park on Friday night. Friday night isn’t ideal, especially when there is a Record Fair in Lurgan that could have made next Saturday a double trip, but we might as well make the most of it and get the three points to cut the gap on Glenavon and put pressure on Coleraine and Crusaders, who play each other.

There will be points dropped above us next weekend, we simply have to take advantage.

Without sounding arrogant, there are a run of games against bottom half teams in December, which represents an opportunity to get a winning run of form ahead of Cliftonville, Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine in succession over Christmas/New Year.

If we can kick on from this, it would make the early months of 2018 very interesting indeed.

Since I last wrote, Northern Ireland have been eliminated from the World Cup after a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Switzerland.

Two days later, Republic of Ireland went out after a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Denmark.

Predictably, Wednesday’s media was covering “Calls” for a combined football team.

“Calls”. Anybody can call for anything, that doesn’t make it newsworthy. Look at who is calling for it. Politicians and Journalists. That tells you all you need it to know. There are no calls, no demands, just people using their influence or “Fame” to pursue an agenda through the media.

Why were there no calls at 7.49pm on Tuesday night?

Let’s address this “Issue”.

The famed Ireland Rugby team gets mentioned in this type of nonsense. “Why don’t we have one team like in Rugby?” they cry.

Surely if this was going to be happen, would people not want them to be successful and decent, unlike the Rugby team.

But yes, if we’re using the Rugby model, why not have a Britain and Ireland football team? You know, like the Lions?

What’s that? I’m using sport to push a political agenda and deny people the chance to see their national team compete in international competition? Sorry about that.

When you see Lithuania, Latvia, Armenia and Ukraine fail to Qualify, wouldn’t it be amazing if all the former Soviet states formed a combined team with Russia?

What’s that? Trying to have countries that no longer exist compete in international football is just silly. Sorry about that.

I guess your idea is brilliant and mine are stupid. Fair enough.

The big mistake people who support this idea make, is that they think Northern Ireland fans have to justify their team’s existence. We don’t. We have never had to, and we will never have to.

It is up to those who want this to happen to convince us that it should happen.

Nobody has made a suggestion that is even remotely acceptable to us. Not even close.

First question, what would this team be called? It sounds simple, but what would it be called. You can’t call it “Ireland” as that is the brand name the FAI use for their representative team, and that would not be acceptable for Northern Ireland fans.

Who would be their sponsors? Neither Vauxhall or 3 would accept anything less than prominent position on training gear.

Who would be their kit supplier? Both teams have different contracts that would have to be cancelled and a new one negotiated?

Who is the manager? Who is the coaching, support and admin staff? You can’t have two sets. Somebody will miss out.

Where will they be in the FIFA Rankings? As a new team, they would have to start on 0 and be in Pot 6 for qualifying competitions. Being in Pot 6 will make qualifying for tournaments very difficult.

Where would they play their home matches? Northern Ireland fans would not accept feeding off scraps of home games against teams seeded five and six.

So, we have a team in Pot 6 with no staff and sponsors. This doesn’t sound very appealing.

I wish there was some sort of recent political event where people demanded something without taking into account the consequences.

To quote the great political thinker Joe Quimby, are they getting louder or stupider?

Tuesday’s result was not a shock. Republic of Ireland rarely win big games at home. Germany and Bosnia were exceptions.

In the past 16 years, Russia x 2, Switzerland x 2, France x 2, Israel, Germany x 2, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Monetnegro, Slovakia, Sweden, Austria x 2, Scotland, Poland, Wales, Serbia and Denmark have come home from competitive games in Dublin unbeaten.

Northern Ireland have had some awful results, but we haven’t conceded five in a competitive match at Windsor Park since 1979. Republic of Ireland have done it twice in the last five years.

Perhaps they should look at their own failings rather than trying to use us to deflect attention away from them.

I’m quite confident that I speak on behalf of Northern Ireland fans by politely declining the offer.

We can address it again when journalists report on “Calls” for this when Republic of Ireland get eliminated from Euro 2020.

This week, saw France confirmed as hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Very tempted to do a football/rugby trip. Nice is a host city. A return visit sounds very tempting. It’s still six years away so there is no rush.

And now, Mark Stafford’s red card on Wednesday. A red card for being fouled. I’m surprised a goal for Coleraine wasn’t awarded when he scored today.

It cost us the game. We had most of the possession in the second-half. Most of the possession, against ten men, attacking our own fans. I’m fancying our chances here.

That’s two games in the past month that we have been cost due to refereeing incompetence.

The referee bottled it in the face of an angry mob of Crusaders players. We need to start standing up for ourselves on the pitch. We can’t continue to allow ourselves to be outsmarted by stupid teams.

It’s not just Linfield who have suffered in the face of incompetent refereeing. Just ask Warrenpoint Town fans about the last day of the 2015-2016 season.

So, up next for Linfield is a trip to Mourneview Park. Linfield at Mourneview Park in November is usually interesting.

2014 saw four red cards. 2015 saw a five goal thriller. 2016 saw a two goal comeback with nine men, one of whom was a defender in nets.

I’ll happily take a boring 1-0 win in 2017.

Photo Album

BALLYMENA UNITED 2-1 LINFIELD 10.11.2017

With Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders not in League action this weekend, the trip to Ballymena was a must win game which presented them with an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table. Defeat means that next Saturdays game against Coleraine at Windsor Park is more about staying in the title race rather than becoming actively involved in it.

There were two enforced changes from the starting eleven against Ballinamallard the previous week with Roy Carroll (International Duty) and Josh Robinson (Suspension) being replaced by Gareth Deane and Mark Stafford.

It didn’t take long for Linfield to take the lead in this game. Just three minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance fell to Robert Garrett who fired home low from outside the box to put Linfield 1-0 up.

It looked like it was going to be the first of many for Linfield as Ballymena looked nervous in defence, panicking and needlessly conceding cheap throws and corners. They looked like they were going to gift Linfield a goal at any time.

More Linfield pressure followed. Stephen Lowry had a shot cleared off the line and Kirk Millar fired over from a similar position to which Garrett scored.

Garrett tried his luck again from outside the box, but it was turned around the post by Ross Glendenning.

Inbetween that, there was a brief flurry from Ballymena. The best effort was a free-kick that Gareth Deane dropped it out for a corner when he should have held it. The resulting corner was headed over, reminding Linfield that this game was far from won.

Linfield led 1-0 at half-time and it could have been more. The game was far from won. A second goal should have been enough.

Linfield never got going at all at the start of the second-half, and it was no surprise when Conor McCloskey equalised from a long range free-kick.

The response was immediate, and Josh Rooney had a chance, but he toepoked wide, the finish of a player who is struggling for goals.

On the hour, Ballymena took the lead when a goal kick was flicked on for Johnny McMurray to spectacularly score from long range.

There’s no doubt it was a world class finish, and a video of the goal has been doing the rounds all over the internet.

However, from the defending team’s point of view, there have to be questions about the goalkeeper’s position (from an opposition goal kick) and why a defender close to him wasn’t immediately putting him under pressure as soon as he got the ball.

Linfield had their chances to equalise. Jordan Stewart fired over from inside the box just after Ballymena scored. He really should have scored.

Aaron Burns came on for Louis Rooney as Linfield searched for a comeback win. They closest they came was when a Mark Stafford header was saved by Glendenning.

That was the problem. Ross Glendenning was making saves, but he wasn’t making top class saves. They were just saves. Saves that you would expect any goalkeeper to make.

Linfield couldn’t get any momentum going.

Brandon Adams was brought on for Chris Casement. The Killers might not be in Belfast until the following Friday. Linfield fans were hoping that this would be the Friday night for Brandon to shine.

Kirk Millar fired wide on his left foot when he should have hit the target.

The problem when you miss the target at Ballymena is that it takes and age to get the ball back. Ballymena weren’t slow in slowing the game down, as Ballboys seemed to be reluctant to distribute the ball to restart the game.

Once again, another referee made a mug of. A referee who gave Andrew Waterworth a talking to for scoring when he was flagged offside, but stood and did nothing when Ballymena players were slowing the game down.

We need to get smart to this. We need to be getting in officials faces and making sure they act on it and stop giving teams a chance to kill games. Opposition players aren’t slow in letting the ref know if a Linfield player looks at them funny.

If Linfield could get an equaliser, they would surely go on and win the game. The problem was, getting that equaliser.

With each passing minute, Linfield’s ambitions were being downgraded to wanting an equaliser to be the springboard to winning the game, to just getting an equaliser to salvage something from the game.

That wasn’t helped when Robert Garrett got sent-off for a second yellow card in the final minutes.

Those final minutes saw five minutes of injury time. It could easily have been six.

There were plenty of stoppages in those five minutes, but only an extra five seconds were played. The game ended as Linfield were about to take an attacking throw.

The League table doesn’t make good reading as Linfield have now dropped to 5th after Cliftonville’s win over Ballinamallard. The ambition this weekend was to get closer to the top, not fall further behind.

It’s hard to explain. Linfield had enough chances to win. It sounds simple, but we need to take our chances and concentrate throughout the entire game.

There’s a November 2015 vibe about this current run. Games are being decided by small margins. This one was decided by two freakish top class goals.

The damming truth was, that when Ballymena went 2-1 up, we were hoping Linfield would get back into the game rather than expecting it.

Up next in the League is Coleraine and Glenavon. They were already must win, they are even more so now. It was a scrappy 1-0 win over Coleraine that got us out of a rut in the Winter of 2015 and kickstarted a run of form. We just need something to go our way.

With this win, Ballymena moved up to 7th, creating a damming statistic that 8th placed Dungannon are the highest ranked team that Linfield have beaten away from home in the League this season.

There’s a good starting point. How to fix it though?

It is in contrast to last season’s away form, where they last failed to win in November 2016, winning 16 successive games in all competitions. That statistic doesn’t include 2 games on neutral venues.

The big fear is, that this result might see a return of 451 in forthcoming matches.

Elsehwere, i’m in Manchester on the midweek of FA Cup 2nd Round Replays (I’m seeing United v Bournemouth on the Wednesday) and the draw has given Rochdale, Crewe and Wigan away games. Hoping for one of them to draw and play on the Tuesday night.

It is interesting to note that Crusaders Scottish Challenge Cup Semi-Final will be on 17th or 18th February. The NIFL Cup Final is scheduled for 17th February. There could be a major storm brewing if Crusaders reach the final of it.

Linfield could do the NIFL a massive favour by beating Crusaders on Wednesday night in the Quarter-Final.

They could give themselves a big one as well.

Photo Album

BALLINAMALLARD UNITED 0-6 LINFIELD 4.11.2017

Linfield were looking to bounce back after ……

Wait a minute, that was last week’s script. After returning to winning ways against Ards last weekend, Linfield returned to losing ways 48 hours later, against Ards in the County Antrim Shield.

It kinda took the Shheeeeeyyyyyyinnnnne off the evening, when I saw the final score inbetween songs at the Liam Gallagher concert.

Once again, Linfield were looking to bounce back after losing their last game. Ballinamallard have doing that all season. 11 defeats out of 13 suggests they haven’t done it very well.

Linfield fans will have been glad to wake up on Wednesday morning to discover that it was no longer October. It’s been an awful month in recent years, which has all been noted here. A stat as to how grim it is appeared on Twitter regarding the number of points lost and cup competitions exited.

Things are so bad for Linfield at the moment, they arrived in Fermanagh and weren’t met by the usual sunshine that greets them when they play at Ballinamallard.

Both teams were in a similar situation. They may have points to make up on those immediately above them, but the situation is retrievable. Neither side could let the gap get any bigger.

There was one ray of sunshine for Linfield fans arriving at Ferney Park, not in the sky but on the teamsheet, as Linfield lined-up 442 and with only two centre midfielders. Finally, the unsuccessful and restrictive 451/433 had been binned.

It was immediately effective, with Linfield straight on the attack and putting pressure on the Ballinamallard goal. Crosses were coming in and players were almost getting on the end of it. You could tell that a goal was coming.

That goal did come when a quick free-kick saw Jordan Stewart and Matthew Clarke going up against one Ballinamallard full-back, with Clarke being played in to cross for Mark Haughey to head home from close range. Linfield had the early goal they desired.

The two previous meetings between the two sides this season have seen 4-0 and 3-0 wins for Linfield. However, the half-time score in both those games have been 1-0 and 0-0. Linfield have had to wait until the second-half to secure the win. They needed to get a second goal.

The pressure on the Ballinamallard goal continued, and the second goal came when Kirk Millar’s header from a Jordan Stewart cross looped in. I was behind the goal and muttered “Unlucky” to myself, as I thought it was going over.

There were more chances for Linfield, and a third goal came when Andrew Waterworth headed home from close range after a Josh Robinson shot was saved.

It was to be Robinson’s last involvement in the game as he was sent-off for kicking out in a melee in the goal caused by Jason McCartney rugby tackled him on the goalline. Robinson could have no complaints, McCartney was very lucky to only receive a yellow card.

No matter how the game has gone so far, when an opposition player is sent-off, you always fancy your chances of getting something.

Ballinamallard had a chance from close range that went over as the half neared it’s end. Linfield were able to see out the half and go in at 3-0 up.

David Healy reacted to the red card by bringing on Andrew Mitchell for Louis Rooney.

I know i’ve complained about Healy being too defensive in recent weeks, but the situation justified it. Linfield didn’t needed to score and they didn’t want to concede an early second-half goal and give Ballinamallard any encouragement that they could get something from this game.

In truth, Mitchell probably did more in the first-half than when he was on the pitch in the second-half.

Linfield started the second-half on the attack, you wouldn’t have noticed they were down to ten men.

Just like in the first-half, there was an early header from Mark Haughey, this time to make it 4-0. If there was any doubt about the result, it had now gone, the points were going to Windsor Park, Linfield’s first away win since September 22nd, and (specific statistic alert) first away League win on a Saturday since August 19th.

By now, Linfield fans were huddled into the Vilage Stand, or any other form of shelter they could find as the rain became torrential. There was never any danger of the match being abandoned as the pitch was holding up well. The match, metaphorically, was already over.

Chris Casement and Mark Stafford were both denied as Linfield looked to make it 5-0. Mark Haughey slid in while trying to get on the end of a low cross. He ended up in the back of the net. The ball did not. Today would not be his day for a hat-trick.

Jordan Stewart would be the man to make it 5-0, firing home from close range after a Kirk Millar cross.

That would be his last involvement in the game, as he was substituted, with Brandon Adams coming on.

By this point, Jamie Mulgrew had already been replaced by Stephen Lowry as a precaution.

Roy Carroll made a save from a Ciaran Martyn header as Linfield aimed to secure a first ever winning clean sheet in the League at Ballinamallard.

After recent defensive calamities, it was important to start keeping clean sheets. It is the first part of the recovery process of Linfield’s season.

There was time for one more goal for Linfield as Andrew Waterworth made it 6-0. Today was his first League goals of the season. Hopefully, the first and second of many. We’ll need it to be.

As well as the thee points, this was also a timely boost for Linfield’s goal difference. Coleraine, Glenavon and Crusaders have a goal difference of 22 in comparison to Linfield’s 19. The priority is clawing back the points deficit, but having goal difference as a back-up won’t hurt.

Elsewhere today, Cliftonville won, so they are still breathing down our necks, while Crusaders won, meaning they are just slightly above us.

There was points droppage further ahead as Glenavon and Coleraine drew with each other.

As a result, Linfield are now 11 points off the top but with a game in hand, and only 3 points behind Glenavon.

Next weekend, Coleraine and Crusaders aren’t in League action. The following Saturday, Coleraine travel to Windsor Park. The incentive is there, win the next two League matches and the gap from the top is only five points. There would still be a lot of work to do, but suddenly Coleraine would be feeling a lot of pressure.

Elsewhere, in the Steel and Sons Cup, Linfield Swifts advanced to Semi-Finals. I’m slightly worried we might get to the final, on Christmas Day.

I’m keeping an eye on FA Cup 1st Round games this weekend. Why? 2nd Round replays are scheduled for the Tuesday night I am in Manchester to see United take on Bournemouth on the Wednesday.

Of the North-West/Greater Manchester teams, Nantwich and Oldham went out while Rochdale, Crewe and Wigan went through. Bury play tomorrow. I’m hoping for away draws for North-West teams and they go to a replay.

Next up for me, is Northern Ireland v Switzerland, and hopefully a mood of national celebration by the time Linfield head to Ballymena on Friday night.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-0 ARDS 28.10.2017

It has been 20 years since Ards beat Linfield. It felt like 20 years since Linfield beat anyone, with a sole League Cup win over Ballinamallard being sanwiched inbetween three successive League defeats and a Scottish Challenge Cup exit.

As well as being 20 years unbeaten against Ards, Linfield had amassed some high scoring wins such as 4-0 (multiple times), 5-1 (multiple times), 5-0 (multiple times), 7-0, 5-2 and 7-2. Just a scrappy 1-0 would have done today.

Crusaders expected win over Ballinamallard made this even more of a must-win game for Linfield, especially with Coleraine and Glenavon having games they were expected to win, which they did.

Linfield made four changes to line-up from Monday night. I even made a line-up change myself, binning my lucky scarf after three successive defeats. There’s no room for sentiment in football.

Linfield lined up with a 4-4-2, but with Andrew Mitchell playing in right midfield, another case of trying to shoehorn three centre midfielders into two positions, especially with Ross Clarke and Stephen Fallon on the bench.

In the opening minute, there was already more fluidity in Linfield’s attacks, with Matthew Clarke and Jordan Stewart linking up down the left. Clarke’s crosses caused panic in Ards defence but Linfield were unable to take advantage.

Still in the early minutes, a misplaced pass played in David McAllister, who saw his shot saved by Roy Carroll when it looked certain he would give Ards the lead.

I’m not even sure if it could described as a shock lead, as having won their last two games, Ards were the form team prior to kick off.

Louis Rooney thought he was going to head Linfield in front, only to see the ball deflect away from him.

It was becoming frustrating for Linfield. If they could get an early goal, they could really build on it. With each passing minute, Linfield were facing the paradox of it being a long afternoon while time was also running out.

Andrew Waterworth was next to be frustrated as he was played in behind Ards defence with only the keeper to beat. It wasn’t a clear opportunity to score, with the keeper rushing out, he had to get a foot on it and send it goalwards. He did just that, but the keeper was quickly out to smother it and deny him.

A few more weeks and a few more games behind him, it might have been 1-0 to Linfield.

Mark Haughey then shot wide from inside the box as the first goal continued to elude Linfield.

It almost came for Ards when a misplaced pass fell to Guillaume Keke, but he was denied by Carroll.

Having come out to deny Waterworth, it was Chris Casement who was fruastrated by Ards keeper Aaron Kerr coming out to make himself big.

Eventually the goal came. There was nothing sophisticated about it, a cross in, bodies in the penalty area, with Jordan Stewart getting enough space and time to set himself up to blast home.

You could see the relief all around Windsor Park.

As the second-half kicked off, Linfield needed a second goal, especially when Keke headed well wide from a free-kick in the early minutes.

That came on 52 minutes when Josh Robinson headed home to make it 2-0. Even though Linfield had gifted Ards two first-half opportunities, that was the three points realistically secured.

David Healy certainly thought so, despite the events at Solitude a few weeks back, bringing on Cameron Stewart and Aaron Burns for Andrew Waterworth and Louis Rooney.

With Rooney and Waterworth both making their way back after injury, it was an opportunity to rest them both, especially with a County Antrim Shield meeting on Monday night.

At least Linfield will be facing the same opponents and won’t be disadvantaged in terms of turnaround time. I’d expect a lot of changes to the starting line-up for this game.

I won’t be at that game as I usually give midweek cup games a miss, plus i’ll be at Liam Gallagher. Have I mentioned that i’m going to Liam Gallagher? I’m going to Liam Gallagher on Monday.

He’s coming back to Belsonic next June on a Saturday night. That is not going to end well. And the World Cup is on.

Healy was justified in bringing on some subs, as the game meandered to a comfortable Linfield win, with Healy bringing on Stephen Fallon as his final sub.

With ten minutes remaining, there was a moment of worry for Linfield when Roy Carroll was forced into a double save. In doing so, he was well off his line when the ball fell to Gareth Tommons outside the box, who fired just wide.

Thankfully, as it would have made the final ten minutes nervous, especially as Linfield had taken their foot off the gas and didn’t look like they were able to pick it up again.

That was it, 2-0 and a return to winning ways. The big fat 0 next to Ards name is a positive. Quite how it was achieved, I don’t know. If we continue to give opponents clear opportunities like that, we won’t be so lucky in the future.

Hopefully, Jordan Stewart will now be able to get a run of games, and that includes the big games, not being sacrificed for more defensive players.

It would be nice if he could be joined by a more attacking minded player on the right. Andrew Mitchell is a decent footballer, but he’s not a right winger.

The next run of games gives us an opportunity to build some momentum ahead of a big run of games in late November. If we continue winning through November, at worst, we’ll be seven points behind Coleraine and closer or possibly above Glenavon and/or Crusaders.

The next two League games against Ballinamallard and Ballymena are essential, especially when there will be guaranteed progress if they win those two.

Next Saturday, Coleraine travel to Glenavon, while the following Saturday, Crusaders are inactive due to playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Six more points, and Linfield’s League position will be looking a lot better by the time Coleraine visit Windsor Park on November 18th.

Small progress today but back to winning ways. I’d forgotten what it felt like.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 2-5 CRUSADERS 23.10.2017

After conceding last minute winners on the previous three Saturdays, Linfield will have been glad to have seen their match against Crusaders moved to the Monday night for broadcast on Sky Sports.

After six successive away games, they would have been doubly glad this game was at Windsor Park.

Having drawn two and lost one of their last three home games, Crusaders wouldn’t have been too disappointed this match was at Windsor Park.

It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see these two sides separated by a point at this stage of the season. It may have been a surprise that both were in the chasing pack looking to keep in touch with Coleraine at the top, with Linfield kicking off ten points behind Coleraine and Crusaders eleven points behind.

Forget about Coleraine, both sides were simply looking to keep in touch with 2nd place Glenavon, five points ahead of Linfield and six points ahead of Crusaders at kick-off.

Despite the absence of Jamie Mulgrew through injury, Linfield lined-up with three centre midfielders, despite it not working against Crusaders the previous month.

Linfield started off slow and sluggish and Crusaders were more up for it. Crusaders had an early chance when Gavin Whyte burst through and crossed for Jordan Owens, whose shot was blocked, and Paul Heatley fired over. Linfield’s defence was all over the place.

Linfield were so slow and sluggish, Crusaders didn’t even have to do any tactical fouls in the opening 15 minutes.

Linfield then began to show more as an attacking force, with both Mark Haughey and Andrew Waterworth having shots saved after runs towards goal.

It was Crusaders who took the lead when a low cross saw Paul Heatley fire home.

Just after the half hour, it was 2-0 when a low cross from Mark McChrystal was headed into his own net by Mark Stafford. There wasn’t a Crusaders player anywhere near the six yard box.

Within a few minutes, Linfield’s best attack saw Kirk Millar get in behind Crusaders defence and his low cross forced Billy Joe Burns into a last ditch clearance just as Matthew Clarke looked set to put it into the net.

The respite was brief for Crusaders as Mark Stafford headed home from the resulting corner.

It was the second successive match against Crusaders that Stafford had scored a prequaliser. This time, Linfield had more time to do something about it.

It was no coincidence that the first time Linfield really attacked Crusaders, they got a goal. It also meant that Linfield had the momentum going into half-time.

Or so we thought.

Linfield had a free-kick in Crusaders half, an opportunity to apply pressure, which was easily cleared after a poor delivery. Crusaders countered which resulted in them hitting the bar, with Gavin Whyte having enough time to control the shot and set himself up to score to make it 3-1.

The attack should have been halted on the halfway line when Robert Garrett had an opportunity to do a tactical foul. Take one for the team, and we go in 1-2 down and can regroup.

Also, there were enough defenders in the box to react when the ball hit the bar, to get there first, to get in the road, to do anything to keep the ball out of the net.

Crusaders were set up to counter attack, and it was working a treat.

That wasn’t the end of the action in the first-half, as Stephen Lowry had an opportunity to head home from inside the box. He should have been hitting the target at least.

Crusaders appeared to stop playing the start of the second-half, similar to Glenavon when they had a half-time two goal lead in November 2016.

Aaron Burns chased a lost cause and was able to win possession and play the ball across goal. Nobody reacted quick enough, or thought he would win the ball. If they did, they would have had a certain goal. The attack ended with Stephen Lowry having a low shot blocked.

Burns then pulled a goal back for Linfield to make it 3-2. Linfield now had the momentum. They now looked the most likely team to win.

Looking an equaliser, Jordan Stewart came on from the bench. Like at Seaview last month, this was a game he should have been starting.

He came on for Kirk Millar. It should have been both on the pitch instead of one for one.

Crusaders knew that Linfield had them where they wanted them. We were then treated to timewasting at every free-kick, throw-in and goal kick.

As per usual, the officials were too thick or inept to do something about it.

While the Ballboys were quick in returning the ball to restart the game, Crusaders players were either kicking the ball away, or walking away from the scene to retrieve the ball that had just gone out.

A couple of yellow cards could have sorted this, but the referee did nothing. They knew they could make a mug out of him, and they made the most of the invitation to do so..

Linfield need to get smarter about this and start chipping away at officials to get it in their minds that it needs to be addressed. Let’s face it, opposition players aren’t slow in letting referees know if a Linfield player looks at them funny.

With the momentum lost, Linfield needed inspiration from somewhere, to get that golden chance. It didn’t look like coming. The closest they came was when an Andrew Mitchell cross evaded everyone and went just wide.

On 78s minutes, saw the introduction of Louis Rooney from the bench. You could be justified in asking why he wasn’t brought on earlier, especially when Linfield had so much momentum in their favour just after pulling it back to 3-2.

With less than ten minutes to go, a quick throw-in set Paul Heatley free and his cross was diverted into his own net by Jimmy Callacher to make it 4-2.

It got worse a few minutes later when they made a hash of the most basic of clearances, the ball falling to Philip Lowry to make it 5-2. It was getting silly now.

If you think Linfield fans were annoyed, Dundalk fans were just as annoyed as local media erroniously proclaimed this the first time that Linfield had conceded five at Windsor Park since 1994.

There is something not clicking at Linfield. It just seems to be a perfect storm, with players struggling for fitness and form at the same time.

Is it clutching at straws to blame Eventsec? I mean, our results have taken a downturn since they started sponsoring the back of our shirts. I’m sure it’s purely coincidental.

As much as Andrew Waterworth is trying to get back to fitness, goalscoring isn’t a problem. We’ve scored in every League game this season. We scored two in defeats to Cliftonville and Crusaders. We shouldn’t be needing six goals to win at home.

Interestingly, this match was the first time that last season’s first choice back four played together this season. That shouldn’t really be an excuse. All five goals were shocking and embarrassing to concede. Four of them were simply being second to the ball.

It was bad in the ground. I didn’t realise how bad until I watched it back on TV, and yes, I am aware it’s not Halloween until next week.

The defensive shambles was made even worse when you saw how defensively Linfield lined-up in midfield with three centre midfielders.

We might have options in that position, but we don’t have to play them all. Pick two, and get on with it. Let other teams adapt their line-up for us rather than picking our team to stifle others.

Crusaders could live with us when we attacked them in the County Antrim Shield Final. Glenavon, Coleraine and Cliftonville couldn’t handle us in the title run-in when we attacked them.

It’s easy to say that Linfield miss Paul Smyth. They do, obviously. It must be pointed out that he missed two months during last season, and we won eight out of the ten matches he missed.

When he returned from injury, he was phased back in, only making a sub appearance in the County Antrim Shield Final. Don’t forget, he missed the game at Solitude when Linfield secured the title.

We can play without him, we have players (Ross Clarke, Jordan Stewart) who can take on his role. We need to get them into the game and not stockpiling centre midfielders.

When you turn up defensively in big games, you don’t stand up, you fall back. We need to start standing up in big games.

Thankfully, we have a generous fixture list coming up. You’d like to think that games against Ards, Ballinamallard and Ballymena would result in nine points, and a confidence boost ahead of a big run of games in November.

We play Ards twice in three days, with a County Antrim Shield match on the following Monday. I’ll be missing that as i’ll be at Liam Gallagher. Have I mentioned that i’m going to Liam Gallagher? Yeah, i’m going to Liam Gallagher next week.

Bad runs of form aren’t new in recent years for Linfield. Thankfully, they’ve recovered well from them.

Three successive defeats in October 2014 were followed by eight wins and a draw from the next nine games.

Four successive defeats in November 2015 were followed by seven wins a draw from the next eight League matches.

Football came change very quickly.

November sees a run of games against Crusaders (League Cup), Coleraine and Glenavon. That match against Glenavon has been brought forward to the Friday night.

That’s away games against Warrenpoint, Ballymena and Glenavon all moved to Friday nights this season. If we’re going to start playing away matches on Friday nights in pain in the arse locations, we might as well join the League Of Ireland.

Windsor Park’s first game in November will be Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off against Switzerland. We avoided Italy, that was key. There were no byes after that.

There are two ways of looking at it.

Switzerland were the 2nd place team with the best record and thus the toughest opponent.

Or, they were in a poor group and aren’t as good as their stats suggest.

I’ll let you decide what way you want to look at it.

Belfast Telegraph’s coverage of the draw included a story about a so-called outrage about the introduction video for Northern Ireland featuring the team’s name in Irish.

Nonsense clickbait. Who exactly was outraged? When you watch that video, people are usually screaming at the screen for them to hurry up and do the bloody draw, never mind paying attention to captions.

If we qualify, they can out our name in Klingon for all I care.

Meanwhile, i’ve booked a weekend in London for late January. Obviously, i’ll be hoping to take in a football match while i’m there, even though it’s not a football trip.

Brentford, Millwall and Leyton Orient are at home that weekend, but it is also the FA Cup 4th Round. So, watch this space.

TV games for December in the Premier League were announced, with United v City being moved to Sunday, meaning United V Bournemouth will be a Wednesday. My preferred cay, even though i’ll be there from Tuesday to Thursday. Hoping for another game in Greater Manchester to take in on the Tuesday.

Hopefully, by the time I head to Manchester, this will all be a bad memory and Linfield’s season will be back on track.

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