MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : FOOTBALL MONTHLY – SEPTEMBER 1992

Steve McManaman is mocked up as a superhero called McMana Man for the cover image, as he is described as English football’s superhero for the 1990s.

Ian Wright is interviewed and has modest ambitions for 92/93 – to get in the England team and to win the Premier League and FA Cup with Arsenal, predicting that he can make the most of the new backpass rule which stops goalkeepers picking the ball up from a backpass.

Steve McManaman is the subject of a double page feature, predicting he will become Liverpool’s greatest ever player, as well as tributes from the likes of Alan Hansen, Bruce Grobbelaar and Bradley Allen.

Don Howe is the subject of a profile, having just joined Chelsea as a coach, and his happy to be in that role rather than being a manager.

In world news, Marseille’s new signing Rudi Voeller believes that he can score the goals to win the European Cup for the French club.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have rejected a bid from Derby County to sign Bryan Robson, with the Rams hoping he would have had the same effect on them in the 90s as a similarly aged Dave Mackay did in the 1970s.

The forthcoming Premier League season is previewed, with all the Football Monthly journalists predicting that Arsenal will be champions in 1993.

Leeds United get a four page profile as they get set to defend their league title, looking at their success over the past four years under Howard Wilkinson.

The new Non League season is previewed, with Wycombe Wanderers being predicted to win promotion to the Football League.

Manchester City manager Peter Reid is interviewed, stating he stands by all his decisions, with City hoping to launch a title bid having come 5th in 1992.

In Scotland, the return of Trevor Steven to Rangers makes them favourites to win the title in 1993.

In competitions, you could win with Hummel, but you had a choice of a pair of boots or a replica shirt of either Benfica, Denmark or Real Madrid.

The preview of the new Irish League season predicts Glentoran to pip Linfield to the title and Ards to win the Irish Cup. Ards lost the Final while Linfield won the league.

In Republic of Ireland, there are concerns that easier access could affect attendances at domestic games, while Bohemians are predicted to win the league.

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LINFIELD 3-1 NEWRY CITY 13.10.2018

With it raining all day, it was certainly the weather for staying indoors with your feet up. That’s what Glenavon were doing, though that postponement was due to international call-ups.

This presented an opportunity for Linfield to go top of the League with a win over Newry City.

This match also represented a milestone point in the season, the eleventh game when everybody has played each other once. Well, that should have been the case, with two games postponed today (one due to international call-ups, and another due to Coleraine’s involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup) and Ballymena United v Glentoran being postponed a few weeks ago, only half of the teams in the League will have reached that milestone today.

It was an unchanged starting eleven for Linfield, with Chris Casement having to make do with a place on the bench after injury. Thankfully unchanged, as it meant that Joel Cooper was fit to start having been substituted in the early minutes of the second-half at The Oval on Monday night.

This was Newry’s first League visit to Windsor Park since February 2011, though they did visit in the Irish Cup last season. Amazingly, there were two players starting this game who started that day – Robert Garrett for Linfield and Andy Coleman for Newry, both in their second spell at their respective clubs.

There would have been some doing a double take when the teams came out, with a clash of socks saw them wearing blue sock, and looking very much like HSV Hamburg.

Newry, unsurprisingly, were spending the opening minutes defending, and it was nor surprise when Linfield took the lead on 10 minutes when Jimmy Callacher headed home from a corner.

As in most games he plays, Michael O’Connor was involved in a lot of Linfield’s attacks, the closest he came to scoring was when he was just unable to get on the end of a low Joel Cooper cross.

Eventually, Newry began to show themselves as an attacking force, with Jimmy Callacher being forced to make a last gasp tackle to deny Newry, while Roy Carroll made a spectacular save from a long range shot.

It was perhaps apt, in the week that Alan Blayney announced his retirement, it was almost a cover version of a save that Alan Blayney made in this fixture in October 2010.

Daniel Kearns headed over as Linfield chased a 2-0 lead, which eventually came when Jimmy Callacher headed home again.

It was the third time he had scored two in a game, having done so against Ards in 2016 and against Warrenpoint earlier this year.

Linfield were in the mood to go in at half-time 3-0 up, with Joel Cooper hitting the post before having a low shot saved by Coleman, who would later stretch out an arm from close range to deny Michael O’Connor.

In that incident, O’Connor collided with a goalpost, but was thankfully able to continue.

The second-half continued with more Linfield dominance, with Michael O’Connor controlled but fired over, while a nice move saw Robert Garrett hit the bar and go out for a goal kick.

In search of a hat-trick, Jimmy Callacher had a penalty appeal turned down when he appeared to be grappled. The fallout from that incident saw Josh Robinson pick up a yellow card for dissent. It was the third yellow card this season he has picked up that could easily have been avoided. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by him, or else he will pick up a one game ban, and might not get back into the team.

The third goal that Linfield needed didn’t come, and suddenly they would need it, as a bout of pinball in the penalty area saw a Kevin McArdle shot be deflected past Roy Carroll.

Newry, were suddenly back in the game.

Before you could say that Newry were back in the game, they were back out of the game.

The goal jolted Linfield back to life, going straight on the attack, winning a corner, which was headed home by you know who.

Having sense that a hat-trick was on, Callacher was like a man possessed every time Linfield got an attacking set piece. Nobody was going to deny him the matchball.

That was the three points secured, as Linfield went top of the League, albeit that Glenavon have a game in hand.

After the game, it turned out the two sides could be meeting again next month, as the draw for the Quarter-Finals of the League Cup saw Newry City or Portadown drawn at home to Linfield or Institute. Newry City (2010-2011) and Portadown (2008-2009) have both eliminated Linfield from the competition since they last won it.

It’s been so long since Linfield won it, Glenn Ferguson scored the winner in the Final. I’m used now to just writing the competition off. I’m not even confident that we’ll beat Institute.

Next weekend, is a trip to Ards, a ground that has been kind to Linfield in recent years, so hopefully, another win can be notched up to keep the pressure on Glenavon, and everybody else in the League.

If things had worked out differently, it could have been a weekend of groundhopping instead. I’m not sure why I didn’t book it, but I never got round to booking a trip to Northern Ireland’s trip to Austria. If I did, I would have made it a double header and seen in Slovakia v Czech Republic this afternoon. If you care, Czech Republic won 2-1.

Not going to lie, I really wish Linfield were involved in the Scottish Challenge Cup, especially when you see the complete disaster Coleraine made of their trip to Connah’s Quay.

Saturday night game in North Wales, 2.30am boat home and a midnight meal in the Holyhead branch of McDonalds. Sounds like heaven.

Today’s trip to Windsor Park that I did make, was worthwhile and enjoyable.

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LINFIELD 2-1 BALLYMENA UNITED 29.9.2018

For the second time this month, Linfield began a match having just been knocked off the top of the table. The last time that happened, they took advantage of other teams being inactive to beat Warrenpoint Town 5-0 and return to the top.

If Linfield were to make another immediate return to the top, they would need Glenavon to drop points at home to Dungannon Swifts. There was no point worrying about what Glenavon did or didn’t do, Linfield had to help themselves.

Glenavon’s win over Ards which knocked Linfield off the top of the table was one of three rescheduled games played in midweek. Another of those was Ballymena United’s draw away to Coleraine.

A draw and a defeat in their last two games has seen them go from being potentially one point behind Linfield to falling a bit behind them. There is a traffic jam at the top of the table, but as we approach the milestone of matchday eleven when everybody will have played each other, Linfield knew if they kept winning, they would pull away from teams, such as Ballymena, if they won this game.

Linfield went into this game with an unchanged starting eleven from the draw at Coleraine. There was the boost, however, of Andrew Waterworth being available for a place on the bench after injury.

This was a match, for me, that would be viewed from The Kop, with the stand being open to Linfield fans for the first time in nearly four and a half years.

Hopefully, it would be a better result than the last time I watched a Linfield match from there in 2014, though Jordan Stewart would be hoping he would again score and be on the winning team. If he was to do so, he would do so from the bench.

This came after Linfield trialled the use of the Railway Stand for a match against Coleraine last season. I always feel that Linfield disadvantage themselves by not allowing fans to be based behind the goal at Windsor Park.

The only issue was not being able to freely move between South and Kop Stands like in the old days, as a lot of us like to watch the game from where we attack (you see this movement of fans at most away games) and would like to continue that at Windsor Park.

I didn’t try it or check it out, but some might like to sneak off to and from The Viewing Lounge, so I don’t know if they were able to. It’ll be trial and error for the first couple of games with these arrangements, so hopefully they’ll evolve to suit as many people as possible.

There were plenty of chances in the opening minutes, for both sides. Matthew Clarke was played through but a poor first touch meant that his shot was going to result in an easy save for Ross Glendenning instead of a goal.

I was at the other end and could see Roy Carroll put his hands on his head before the shot was hit.

Joel Cooper then had a first time right foot shot saved after being played in.

Michael O’Connor then set up the next chance at goal, but it was for Ballymena United when his attempted overhead kick clearance set up Jonny Addis for an overhead kick which went wide.

It was clear from the flurry of early chances that there were going to be goals in this game.

The first one came for Ballymena when a Cahir Friel header snuck in past Jamie Mulgrew on the line.

Going 1-0 down had reminders of the two home games against Ballymena during Warren Feeney’s full season in charge, with Linfield having to come from 1-0 down to win 3-2 and 2-1.

If that gave Linfield hope, so did recent history, with Ballymena blowing leads in the past week against Cliftonville and Coleraine (who had ten men) to lose and draw.

Despite only ten minutes being played, there wouldn’t be a lot of time left to win the game, as we would soon be treated to Ballymena’s timewasting (kicking the ball away at free-kicks, corners and throws) and cynical fouling, all unpunished with the yellow cards they deserved.

If there was no concern for Linfield at 0-1, there would have been concerns at 0-2, which almost happened when Andy McGrory had a free header soon afterwards.

Michael O’Connor equalised when he was able to get in front of his defender and finish from close range.

O’Connor looked set to make it 2-1 from a close range header but was denied by a world class save from an outstretched arm. It was an arm belonging to a Ballymena defender. However, no penalty was awarded.

Daniel Kearns then made some space for himself but fired wide from outside the penalty area as Linfield were unable to take a lead into the break.

After a slow start to the second-half, Linfield took the lead just before the hour mark when Joel Cooper ran at Ballymena’s defence and got into a shooting position on his right foot.

I was behind that goal, and it looked like he was trying to get onto his left foot. It turns out he’s quite decent on his right foot as well, firing home from the edge of the box. I was celebrating as soon as it left his foot.

Chris Casement then spectacularly went just wide as Linfield looked to kill the game, while Kirk Millar had a header saved by Ross Glendenning, whose save was a lot more spectacular than it needed to be.

Linfield couldn’t get the third goal, and the game remained in the balance, as Ballymena looked to get an equaliser, with Johnny McMurray and Tony Kane giving them moments of worry.

As each minute passed, Linfield were in control of the game and never looked like losing their lead, holding on to get the win. They had to as well, with Glenavon getting another win, meaning that the two sides are separated by one point in Glenavon’s favour.

Coleraine and Glentoran both drew, meaning that Glenavon and Linfield are starting to pull away from the rest of the league.

This has taken place over two matchdays, two bad results for either Glenavon or Linfield will see them being sucked back into a traffic jam in the table.

On the next weekend, the top four meet. Hopefully, Coleraine can take something off Glenavon, which would allow Linfield the opportunity to go back to the top.

Regardless of Glenavon’s result, a win at The Oval will see Linfield pull clear of Glentoran and open up a gap from them.

That game is live on Sky Sports. I’m sure you could afford to miss Paddington Station 24/7 just one week.

The weekend’s fixture list begins on Friday with Crusaders facing Cliftonville in the first ever League game live on BBCNI.

It could have been easy for them to choose to show a big team like Linfield, but fair play to them for giving mid table teams like Crusaders and Cliftonville a moment in the spotlight.

Looking a bit further ahead, i’ll be hoping Bohs beat Cork in the FAI Cup Semi-Final and then beat Dundalk in the Final.

Why? I hear you ask. Well, i’m hoping for a short break between Thursday 11th and Saturday 13th July next year, and would not be too unhappy if a Dublin team were at home in the UEFA Cup on Thursday 11th.

Looking further ahead, Euro 2024 will be held in Germany. Very tempted to go to this. However, the lack of options for flights between Northern Ireland and Germany mean that this might be a journey from Dublin.

And finally, you may remember that Belfast Telegraph did an April Fool’s prank that the UEFA Cup Play-Offs will take place on the one day at Windsor Park. Well, Scottish football are doing that with their League Cup Semi-Finals at Hampden Park.

You’ve got to love Scottish football, the only place that makes Irish League football look normal.

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COLERAINE 0-0 LINFIELD 22.9.2018

This match was never going to win the League for Linfield, but a win would have seen them move eight points clear of Coleraine (albeit with a game more played) in late September, which would have been a monumental statement to make in the title race, even at this early stage.

They knew it wouldn’t be easy, as League meetings over the past two seasons were evenly matched, two wins each and four draws.

Last season, they were perfectly matched, a 2-1 win for Coleraine, a 2-1 win for Linfield, then two successive 2-2 draws. In those 2-2 draws, the away team came from 2-0 down with two quickfire goals.

This game was the first in charge for new Coleraine manager Rodney McAree. Surprisingly, he walked to the dugout almost unnoticed, giving a wave to the fans seated in the stand beside the dugout.

To be honest, I was expecting him to take his seat before the teams came out, in an attempt to gee up the home support.

Those that were there to see his debut saw an early corner for Coleraine evade everybody, while a Linfield corner saw Jamie Mulgrew hit a speculative shot over.

About ten years ago, Mulgrew had a run of goalscoring against Coleraine, and because of this, shot at every opportunity. This looked like being another one of those days, as he had another similar effort in the half.

Jamie McGonigle then had an effort saved by Roy Carroll, with nobody following up on the parry.

Coleraine’s attacks were more convincing than Linfield’s, but while Coleraine were having more opportunities, Linfield were always getting bodies in the way. They needed to be.

Coleraine had the better of things at the start of the second-half. Their attacks seemed to be a lot quicker than Linfield’s, but when it came to that final pass or shot, Linfield were able to avert the danger, with Jimmy Callacher having to block a shot after Roy Carroll parried out.

Even though Coleraine weren’t getting many shots on goal, they were having too many attacking moments, that they were bound to get one right.

It looked like that was going to come from a Stephen Lowry header, but it went wide. Jamie McGonigle then headed wide after a flick from Aaron Burns fell to him. He really should have scored.

Linfield’s best attacking moment resulted in Daniel Kearns getting space to shoot, only to see his effort saved.

It was clear that Linfield needed to look to their bench to liven things up. There was no Andrew Waterworth (I presume he was injured) which would have been the obvious change, especially with Michael O’Connor being on a yellow card. The only striking option was Daniel Reynolds.

The realistic attacking options were Jordan Stewart, Stephen Fallon and Niall Quinn. It was Quinn who got the nod, replacing Kirk Millar.

Having survived Coleraine pressure, Linfield were now applying pressure on their own, hoping to make Coleraine pay for not taking advantage when they were on top.

It looked like that was going to happen when Josh Robinson headed towards goal, but his effort hit the bar, with Coleraine able to clear the danger.

If either team were able to break the deadlock, that would surely win the game. It was one of those games. It looked like it was always destined to finish 0-0.

There was late drama as both teams went about changing that.

Jamie McGonigle got in behind Linfield’s defence, but his effort was saved by Roy Carroll just before the goalline. A lucky break for Linfield. Last season, it probably would have been cleared off the line but a goal would have been awarded. Oh, wait …….

Deep into stoppage time, Michael O’Connor had a shot deflected onto the post. The ball went slowly towards the goal. I dared to let myself to believe it was going in.

0-0 it finished, overall, a fair result. Neither side doing enough to win.

Frustrating, as Linfield could have opened up a healthy lead over Coleraine. They did extend their lead over Crusaders by a point, but that comes at the expense of Glenavon now having the opportunity to overtake Linfield if they win their game in hand, which they took, beating Ards 2-0.

I said last week that Linfield’s four point lead was deceptive due to other teams having games in hand, and the table can’t fully be assessed until those games are played.

And don’t forget Glentoran, who will be one point behind Linfield if they win their game in hand, with the sides due to meet on 8th October, live on Sky Sports.

That will be the second live game that weekend, with Crusaders facing Cliftonville on the Friday night as part of a new TV deal announced with BBC NI. Good to see.

Hopefully, we’ll be watching that game with a further three points in the bag and another clean sheet.

Top of the League with seven clean sheets out of eight and trips to Glenavon, Crusaders, Cliftonville and Coleraine out of the way.

That will only be a good foundation if Linfield have title winning home form. That has to start next Saturday.

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LINFIELD 3-0 DUNGANNON SWIFTS 15.9.2018

With Robert Prosinecki and Andy Herzog occupying the Manager’s Seat in the away dugout at Windsor Park this week, I was part expecting Gheorghe Hagi to keep up the theme of cult 90s midfielders by taking temporary charge of Dungannon Swifts following the departure of Rodney McAree to Coleraine for a match that wasn’t quite as exciting as a holiday in Salisbury.

It was Terry Fitzpatrick who had the manager’s role for Dungannon today. Even though they had no wins this season or a permanent manager, Dungannon had cause for optimisim as they had a relatively good recent record at Windsor Park, only losing one (and narrowly, 1-0) of their last four visits, and winning on their last visit, against Ballymena United in the League Cup Final.

After four months away from Windsor Park over the close season, this was my third successive Saturday visiting Windsor Park this month. The two previous visits had seen dominance from the home team not rewarded with a win.

Linfield began the game with an unchanged starting eleven from their last game at Warrenpoint. Slightly surprising, as Jamie Mulgrew was now available after suspension, but was on the bench.

That decision may have been made with an eye on the upcoming trilogy of games against Coleraine, Ballymena United and Glentoran.

Linfield had the first attacking moment of note when Michael O’Connor and Joel Cooper combine to pickpocket a Dungannon defender trying to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, with Cooper crossing for Kirk Millar whose shot went just over.

Michael O’Connor then went close with a spectacular overhead kick as Linfield searched for a goal.

You always felt there was a mistake in Dungannon’s defence. A miscontrol from a pass across the penalty area almost resulted in a chance for Linfield, with some last gasp defending resulting in the concession of a corner.

Even though the goal didn’t come from the sustained pressure, there was no frustration from Linfied’s support.

Eventually, Linfield got the goal when Joel Cooper made space for himself in the penalty area and fired home from a tight angle.

Or did he? On viewing of TV footage afterwards, it appeared to go in off Daniel Kearns. I’ll let the Dubious Goals Committee decide it. It didn’t matter, Linfield had the lead.

Soon afterwards, it was 2-0, when Daniel Kearns found space, only for his shot to hit Michael O’Connor and fall perfectly for Joel Cooper to finish low to make it 2-0.

It may have been a stroke of luck for the ball to fall so perfectly for Cooper, but that’s the way the ball is bouncing for Linfield right now, might as well embrace it.

Dungannon had their own attacking moments, the best of which saw Paul McElroy hit the angle of post and bar.

A head injury for Michael O’Connor saw his game end at half-time, with Andrew Waterworth coming on for him.

Dungannon had their first real sustained period of possession and pressure, the closest they came was when a Chris Hegarty shot was saved by Roy Carroll. Unsurprisingly, with five clean sheets from six games, Linfield were able to see out the danger. Dungannon never looking like picking themselves up for another period of pressure.

Despite that, Linfield still needed a third goal just to be sure. They thought they had it when Joel Cooper fired in low, but the goal was disallowed for a handball.

That denied him a possible hat-trick (he would surely have been awarded the first goal if he had bagged another one). Curiously, September hat-tricks have been a thing for Linfield players in recent years.

Winky Murphy would have had one if it wasn’t for his honesty against Portadown in 2012, having to make do with two goals. Andrew Waterworth got one against Ballymena in 2013, and then four against Warrenpoint in 2015, while Jordan Stewart got one against Ballinamallard on this weekend last year.

There wouldn’t be one for Cooper. He would have to make do with two goals and an assist, or one goal and two assists depending on who gets awarded with the first goal. Still, that is a good afternoon’s work.

Andre Waterworth headed over from close range before later making it 3-0 after a pull back from Niall Quinn.

Quinn had been introduced into the action alongside Jamie Mulgrew in a double substitution for Daniel Kearns and Robert Garrett.

That was the game over. Not much else of note happened as Linfield secured the points. It was a useful three points, as Linfield went four points clear at the top ahead of Glenavon, and five clear of Coleraine, after Coleraine drew with Ards, 0-0, just like Linfield did a fortnight ago.

It is however, a deceptive lead, as games in hand skew the League table.

If Glenavon win their game in hand, they will be one point behind Linfield. If Coleraine win their game in hand, they will be two points behind Linfield. If Glentoran win their game in hand, they will be three points behind Linfield. If Ballymena United win both their games in hand, they will be one point behind Linfield.

Linfield have the points in the bag, but you can’t fully evaluate the League table until the outstanding games are played over the next few weeks.

Next weekend, has some big games, with Linfield travelling to Coleraine while Glenavon are at home to Crusaders.

Even though a draw wouldn’t be the worst result, we have to go there looking for the win, knowing that we could have Coleraine on the ropes by mid September, and pull further clear of Glenavon and/or Crusaders.

With Ballymena United and Glentoran coming up, three wins could knock three rivals for six.

Before Coleraine, is a County Antrim Shield game against the PSNI. Hopefully, some fringe players will get a run out. It’s a game I would expect to win, even though Linfield scraped a draw against the PSNI in pre-season.

That trip to Coleraine, like the trip to Glentoran in early October is pay on the day. I’m pleasantly surprised that Coleraine isn’t all-ticket. I must admit, I did have fears that Linfield fans would be stitched up by a late announcement regarding this.

Elsewhere, it was announced that UEFA are planning on launching a third club competition. We’ll probably be represented by the Steel and Sons Cup winners seeing as we don’t decided UEFA Cup places on merit.

I’m hoping it’s based on the idea floated in 2015, a competition for clubs to drop into when they go out of the European Cup or UEFA Cup before September.

Meanwhile, looking at possibly going away for a weekend in March. Obviously, taking in a football match would be part of the criteria.

The options from Belfast to go to Mainland Europe are bloody awful. Amsterdam is cheap to get to, with Den Haag and Ajsx both at home on seperate days, but hotels are expensive. Prague is expensive to get to, which is a pity as there is a weekend in March with three teams at home. London is a lazy option. Nothing against London, but I don’t want to go every year.

One football trip I definitely am doing is Coleraine away next Saturday.

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WARRENPOINT TOWN 0-5 LINFIELD 7.9.2018

Two successive draws in the League and knocked off the top of the table, it could be easy to suggest that things were going wrong for Linfield. That was far from the case.

The first of those draws, was coming from behind away from home with ten men. The second, against Ards, was a game they should have won, and they had enough chances to do so.

Despite deserving to beat Ards, they didn’t, and it was two points dropped, especially when you saw they other results in Matchday 5, with Glenavon and Glentoran drawing. With Crusaders to face Coleraine, one or both of them would be dropping points. It was an opportunity to pull clear that was missed.

If Linfield felt that a draw at home to Ards was two points dropped, that will be evened up by the fact that Coleraine will probably feel the same about their draw at home to Institute the previous week.

Only separated by one goal (There’s still over thirty games for Linfield to remedy that), Linfield and Coleraine will both be feeling they should have an outright points lead. They face each other on 22nd September. There are still two League matches between now and then. Coleraine shouldn’t even be a thought until then.

Two draws in a row wasn’t cause for concern for Linfield, but a third game without a win would prompt a lot of questions to be asked about Linfield’s title ambitions.

If you were having problems in front of goal and looking to get back to winning ways, Warrenpoint would have been the opponents you would have chosen to face, having conceded seventeen goals in their opening five games, the last of those five games was a 6-1 defeat at home to Ballymena United.

With Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Ballymena United all not involved in League matches this weekend, this was an opportunity for Linfield to pull clear from the chasing pack, albeit with them having a game in hand.

Linfield started the game looking for goals, with Daniel Kearns almost getting in behind Warrenpoint’s defence straight from kick-off.

Warrenpoint couldn’t get out of their own half, with continued Linfield pressure resulting in Warrenpoint conceding a soft free-kick for a foul on Kirk Millar.

That was punished when the free-kick came in, Simon Kelly diverting the ball into his own net.

Having failed to get a goal against Ards, Linfield were on the scoresheet inside three minutes. As the game went on last week, Ards had something to hold on to. Warrenpoint wouldn’t have that.

Warrenpoint responded well to the goal, having some of the ball in Linfield’s half without troubling Roy Carroll. It was only a temporary respite.

Michael O’Connor went narrowly wide with a shot while Jimmy Callacher had a header cleared off the line.

Warrenpoint goalkeeper Aaron McCarey, on his debut, was so busy, a supporter behind the goal shouted at him “Keeper, I bet you’re wondering what the fuck you’ve signed up to”. Cruel.

Meanwhile, a cat ran onto the pitch during the game. Yes, an actual cat, to cheers from the crowd.

You’ll be glad to know that cat was up in front of Newry Courthouse on Saturday morning charged with Football Related Offences and was issued with a Banning Order.

Proper order too. If we don’t address things like this in Irish League football, next thing there’ll be pigs painted in team colours in grounds and a cockerel walking along the side of the pitch during a game.

More Linfield pressure continued as they searched for a second goal. Despite being in control of the game, Josh Robinson got himself a cheap yellow card for throwing the ball on the ground after a free-kick was awarded against him.

Somebody needs to have a word with him about discipline as it was a stupid yellow card, only a few weeks after needlessly getting involved in situations against Crusaders at Seaview.

With Mark Stafford waiting on the bench, primed for action, he could easily lose his place in the team if he gets suspended for reaching the yellow card threshold.

Eventually, Linfied’s pressure got it’s reward when a free-kick was headed across the six yard box for Daniel Kearns to head home from close range to make it 2-0.

The half ended with more Linfield pressure and a flurry of corners. They just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.

Linfield were in a commanding position, but the only case of game set match came in the Tennis Court behind the goal they were attacking.

That was resolved in the early minutes of the second-half when Michael O’Connor finished after his original header hit the bar.

Within a few minutes, if there was any doubt over the result, it was gone when a defensive mix-up saw Joel Cooper get hauled down by Aaron McCarey just as he was about to put the ball into the empty net. A penalty was awarded, and a red card eventually followed.

Substitute goalkeeper Berraat Turker tried to psyche out Andrew Mitchell as he waited to take the penalty. I’m not sure why, the game was over even if he missed. He didn’t, and made it 4-0.

With the game won, David Healy could now give some of his substitutes some game time.

There were goals in this game for Linfield, so it was unsurprising that Andrew Waterworth was given an opportunity to get one. Jordan Stewart also got some minutes. It was a surprise that Niall Quinn came on for Daniel Kearns, as Jonathan Smith or Stephen Fallon would have benefitted from the minutes.

Only one more goal for Linfield, as Waterworth got to a through ball before Turker, and put the ball into the empty net.

A win was the most important thing, but it was nice to do so with no drama, and go get a few goals for the tally. Still a long way to go, but it’s good to get the goals in the bank in case the title is decided on goal difference.

Elsewhere, big news of the day was Oran Kearney’s departure from Coleraine to manage St Mirren. Good luck to him. Hopefully, his departure will have the same destabilising effect that Warren Feeney’s departure had at Linfield in 2015.

If it does, Linfield simply have to take advantage, starting with a home match against Dungannon on Saturday.

It’s been three matches since I saw Linfield win at Windsor Park. If they don’t win this one, I think I might be getting a Banning Order.

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LINFIELD 0-0 ARDS 1.9.2018

Top of the league and and eight goal win in the League Cup, it’s fair to say that August went quite well for Linfield. The first day of a new month saw Ards visit Windsor Park, knowing that if they continued their early season form over the next three weeks, they would have an opportunity to pull clear at the top of the table.

At kick-off, the Top 7 were separated by 3 points. This matchday had two games that pitted two of them against each other, 2nd place Glenavon at home to Glentoran and, most notably, Crusaders at home to Coleraine.

With point droppage below them guaranteed, Linfield knew that they could pull clear of at least two rivals with a win, especially with Crusaders and Coleraine being inactive in League terms next weekend.

A run of games against the bottom three represented a great opportunity for Linfield to rack up points in September.

For two of those games, Linfield would be without Jamie Mulgrew following his red card at Solitude last week, having served the first of a three match ban against Moyola Park in midweek.

After the Crusaders game two weeks ago, I stated that a case could be made for resting Mulgrew during the season. I certainly wasn’t advocating it for the first week of September. Two games out, two games in then three games out isn’t ideal for getting momentum, but having seen him slot in like he’d never been away against Crusaders, there shouldn’t be any concerns about his performance when he returns against Dungannon Swifts.

This has been a kind fixture to Linfield in recent years, winning all six meetings since Ards returned to the top flight in 2016, including keeping five clean sheets, though Ards will have fond memories of their last visit to Windsor Park, winning 1-0 in the County Antrim Shield last season.

In a game like this, an early goal is always a bonus, and Linfield almost had one inside thirty seconds when an overhit cross from Niall Quinn almost went straight in, with Ards just about clearing the resulting corner.

Even though Ards had the ball in Linfield’s half in the opening minutes, they never looked like causing any danger, as Linfield looked the most likely team to score when they had the ball.

Michael O’Connor looked like he was going to head home but was blocked off by an Ards defender to deny him an attempt on goal, before another header later on went over.

The pressure continued when Matthew Clarke had a low shot saved while Michael O’Connor fired a long range shot wide.

Linfield’s best chance came from a Joel Cooper run which saw Andrew Waterworth’s perfectly timed run get him in behind the Ards defence, with Sam Johnstone getting in the way of his goalbound shot, taking enough sting out of it for Jonny Frazer to make a goalline clearance just as it looked like.

Despite all of Linfield’s pressure, it looked like Ards would be going in at half-time 1-0 up when David McAllister dispossessed Chris Casement and ran through on goal only to see hid left foot shot saved by Roy Carroll, who had made himself big. A shot across Carroll would have scored, thankfully, he went for the near post.

0-0 at half-time but no need to panic. If Linfield kept attacking and creating chances, there would be no way Ards would hold out.

Though Linfield continued to have a lot of the ball but there was no real urgency, Ards weren’t holding on. It took a while for Linfield to get going.

In both halves, Linfield won a lot of corners but never had any real joy. Most of them were going straight into the arms of Sam Johnstone.

This prompted a change in tactic, moving from inswingers to outswingers.

Inswinger or outswinger, there was no change in fortune. If Johnstone wasn’t catching it, there always seemed to be an Ards body in the way.

After trying to get Michael O’Connor sent-off after a tangle with a spot of playacting, Johnny Taylor got himself booked for a foul a few minutes later.

Having been sent-off against Linfield at Windsor Park in 2016 and 2017, Taylor is a walking red card, and Linfield fans were hoping he would add 2018 to the list to give their side a lucky break they needed.

More Linfield headers came but the goal didn’t. With each passing minute, it was becoming abundantly clear that if there was to be a goal, it would probably win the game.

Who would get that goal, if it came, was still in doubt, as despite Linfield’s pressure, Ards, and specifically Jonny Frazer were posing a threat on the break.

Any attempts that Ards were making to waste time were promptly stopped by quick thinking Ballboys who always made sure a new ball was immediately on the pitch to restart the game. Good to see.

David Healy turned to the bench for some attacking substitutions, with Kirk Millar and Jordan Stewart coming on for Niall Quinn and Matthew Clarke.

Jordan Stewart was transfer listed in August but i’m glad he’s still at the club as he’s a player I rate. To say it didn’t happen for him today would be kind. His only moment of note was an overhit backpass on the halfway line which resulted in a corner for Ards.

With five minutes to go, a crossfield pass from Daniel Kearns and a first time cross from Chris Casement saw Andrew Waterworth get on the end of it, only to see his close range effort hit the bar.

Linfield fans thought it was going to be their moment. It turned out to be another moment that confirmed it was going to be “One of those days”.

For the final minutes, Ards had the ball in Linfield’s half but had very little ambition of going for goal, although a shot from Michael McLellan which was going well wide was almost headed in by Kyle Cherry.

In future games (apart from against Linfield) Ards will be hoping to have Ryan Strain on the end of crosses, or wayward shots, having joined on loan from Linfield on Friday night.

It was not that surprising that Strain has gone out on loan, and it’s good to see he’ll be doing so at a top flight club, like Alex Moore.

The match ended with more Linfield pressure on the Ards goal, but they just couldn’t get that pass right, or that header on goal.

If the match had lasted for ten more minutes, Linfield might have snuck a win, but they had ninety minutes to score.

It’s a frustrating two points dropped, but we had more than enough chances to win. If Linfield had got an early goal, they would have won comfortable. If – the biggest word in football. Linfield will play worse and win at some point over the next eight months.

For me, it was my first visit to Windsor Park since April. That’s three games i’ve visited since I saw a Linfield win. If we don’t beat Dungannon in two weeks, you’ll be more than justified in asking for a Banning Order put out against me.

Thankfully, results went in Linfield’s favour today, with Glenavon and Glentoran drawing. The Top 6 are separated by three points, with Ballymena the big movers up to 3rd, a point off the top, with Glenavon missing the chance to jump above Linfield.

That means we’ll all be hoping for a draw between Crusaders and Coleraine, just so that no damage is done by today’s result, as opposed to wanting to make capital of a win today.

That match is on Sky Sports. I won’t be seeing any of it as i’ll be seeing The Kooks at The Limelight.

Whatever the result of that game, both sides are inactive in the League next weekend due to their involvement in the Scottish Challenge Cup. Add to that that Glenavon’s trip to Ards has been postponed, Linfield simply have to win at bottom placed Warrenpoint on Friday night.

There’s a traffic jam at the top of the League, which Linfield lead, but they need to start pulling away.

Elsewhere in today’s results, Cliftonville lost 1-0 away to Newry City and now find themselves closer to the bottom of the League (five points) than the top (six points)

Next weekend’s games will be taking place on Friday night as Northern Ireland are playing Bosnia at home in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday afternoon. UEFA Nonsense League more like.

A competition devised to end pointless friendlies, yet teams who only have one game scheduled are using the spare date to play pointless friendlies. What a waste of time, just jump straight into the Euro 2020 Qualifiers.

Northern Ireland are one of those countries playing a pointless friendly, against Israel, which i’ll be giving a miss to, unless I score a free ticket in a competition.

If you are a Bosnian fan over for that game, or even a Fortmarine United fan over for their match, next week, there’s some great groundhopping opportunities next weekend.

Of course, you should go to Warrenpoint v Linfield on Friday, but Glentoran and Cliftonville are at home on Friday if you don’t want to leave Belfast, then Northern Ireland v Bosnia, then a walk to City Hospital for a train to Coleraine for Coleraine v Fortmarine United at 7.45pm on Saturday.

The draw for the Group Stages of the European Cup took place last week, and i’ve booked a trip to United’s match against Young Boys Berne. Of course, I was always going to choose a game taking place during Manchester Christmas Market.

Finally, the draw for the NIFL Cup took place, a competition we never win. We’ll be losing on penalties at home to Institute if you care.

Overall, a day of frustration but relief elsewhere. Even though no damage was done, it was still two points dropped.

Photo Album

CLIFTONVILLE 1-1 LINFIELD 25.8.2018

With Matchday 4 being split across three games on Friday and three games on Saturday, Linfield fans expected to arrive at Solitude on Saturday afternoon with their side knocked off the top of the table on Friday night.

What may have surprised them was that it was Glenavon rather than Coleraine who led the table, with Coleraine missing the opportunity to do so with a 2-2 draw at home to Institute.

Linfield and Cliftonville had identical starts this season to what they had last season. Linfield with three wins and three clean sheets, while Cliftonville followed an opening day win with a defeat to Coleraine and a draw against a Bottom Six team.

Cliftonville’s start to 2018-2019 also mirrored 2017-2018 as Matchday 4 over the August Bank Holiday saw them welcome the dethroned champions, as Crusaders got a 2-1 win.

A similar result for Linfield would see them pull eight points clear of Cliftonville. Even at this early stage, it would be hard to see that being overturned.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield had an unchanged team from the previous Saturday in North Belfast. There was no need to change anything.

The game began in a relatively subdued manner and atmosphere. That soon disappeared when Ryan Catney made a reckless tackles on Daniel Kearns and got away with a yellow card.

Yellow cards were plentiful for Cliftonville in the first-half. Cynical fouls with no intention of winning the ball, such as Garry Breen taking out Jamie Mulgrew (another foul for the counter, there will be a presentation for the player who commits the 5,000th foul on him, expected to be at some point this season).

The sort of fouls that frustratingly were yellow cards, even though you wanted more for them.

A well worked free-kick saw Andrew Waterworth go just wide, while Daniel Kearns thought he had played in Waterworth only for his pass to be intercepted. He probably should have shot at goal himself.

Not a lot was happening in the early minutes of the game, neither side having any real attempts at goal, but Linfield having more of the ball in the opposition half.

The game was to change just before the half hour when Jamie Mulgrew was sent-off after challenging for the ball with Jay Donnelly. A yellow card at worst, if there was to be a card. There is absolutely no doubt that the referee was influenced by Cliftonville players running to the scene of the foul, and it happening not far from the main stand where Cliftonville fans were housed.

He bottled it and allowed himself to be intimidated. One thing that Linfield could exploit was that so many Cliftonville players were on yellow cards, and could be targeted for second yellow. The only question was would the referee have the guts to issue that card.

The last time Linfield played Cliftonville, they had a first-half red card and went to pieces in the immediate aftermath, which ultimately cost them any chance of getting something from the game. Thankfully, that didn’t happen today. The knew they had to summon the spirit of Mourneview Park 2016.

Mulgrew became the fourth player to be sent-off at Solitude since 2013, joining Michael Gault, Robert Garrett and Sean Ward.

It could have been tempting to introduce Robert Garrett from the bench, but there was no need as Niall Quinn had started the season in centre midfield, so was able to slot in there.

Josh Robinson had a couple of headed chances as Linfield sought to make the most of any set pieces they had. The vast majority of set pieces were poor, often failing to beat the first man, or Linfield losing out on the second ball.

The half ended with Joe Gormley getting a yellow card for shoulder barging Roy Carroll as he held onto the ball. Carroll was targeted throughout at set pieces by Cliftonville players.

Linfield would have been glad to get in at half-time to take a breather. Despite only having ten men, at no point did they look like they were playing with ten men. They never looked like being troubled, but never really troubled Cliftonville.

They had promising situations, but just needed to get that pass right, or make that run on time.

This game was there for the winning.

Joel Cooper, already on a yellow card by this point, was lucky not to get a second yellow for a foul on Levi Ives in the Cliftonville penalty area. If he wasn’t already booked, he probably would have been booked there.

Michael O’Connor then came on for Andrew Waterworth, as Linfield searched for a winner.

On 73 minutes, Cliftonville took the lead when a throw-in bounced over Jimmy Callacher, and Linfield couldn’t get the ball off Jay Donnelly, who crossed for Joe Gormley to head home from close range. It was Cliftonville’s first chance of note in the game.

Callacher wasn’t the only Linfield player having problems on a very bouncy pitch. Every time a backpass went to Roy Carroll, you had your heart in the mouth as you didn’t know where the ball was going to go.

Linfield responded with an attacking substitution, Kirk Millar coming on for Matthew Clarke.

Despite only having ten men, it was Linfield who were outnumbering Levi Ives, with Millar, Kearns, Casement and Mitchell working opportunities down the right.

Kearns and Millar created space for Andrew Mitchell to cross right into the six yard box for Michael O’Connor to get a touch to divert the ball past Richard Brush.

It wasn’t a clean touch, but it was enough to go past the keeper, which is all that matters.

From where I was standing, I thought it was going just wide.

There was still time for either side to win the game.

Thankfully, Linfield had that extra bit of energy to see out Cliftonville’s attacks. They almost won it when Joel Cooper got in behind Cliftonville’s defence, shooting across Richard Brush, who saved it. If he parried it, Michael O’Connor would have had an open net to win the game for Linfield.

It finished 1-1, Linfield’s first dropped points, but it was Cliftonville who were left feeling that they dropped points, from two positions of strength, with a goal and a man advantage.

The draw sent Linfield back to the top of the League, one point clear of Glenavon. With three difficult away games against Top Six teams, you’ll take that, especially as they only managed two points from three games in 2009 and two points from four games in 2013 with similar starts.

Up next, is a League Cup tie at home to Moyola Park. I’ll be giving that a miss. If it was away though, i’d be all over that.

Next Saturday is the start of a new month, and my first visit to Windsor Park of the season for the match against Ards, with the mood more upbeat that the last time I headed to Windsor Park in April.

Ards is a must win game. Obviously, but especially when you look at upcoming fixture lists.

On Monday 3rd September, Matchday 5 will conclude with Crusaders watching Coleraine on Sky Sports. I may watch it if there isn’t a railway documentary on Channel 5.

One or both of them will drop points, Linfield have to win to take advantage of that.

On Matchday 5, Linfield travel to Warrenpoint while Crusaders and Coleraine are in Scottish Challenge Cup.

If Linfield can win those two games, they will pull away from at least one of their rivals.

And then in upcoming weeks after that, Glenavon will have to face Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville. More guaranteed points droppage for Linfield to take advantage.

Three points seperate 1st to 7th, there’s a traffic jam at the top of the League, led by Linfield. Long may that continue.

Thursday will see the draw for the Group Stages of the European Cup, and i’ll hope to take in one of United’s group games at home.

Hopefully, it will be a competition Linfield will be playing in during 2019-2020.

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CRUSADERS 0-2 LINFIELD 18.8.2018

Do not be afraid of Crusaders. Do not be afraid of Crusaders. Do not be afraid of Crusaders.

There are too many teams in this League who are afraid of Crusaders. Shamefully, last season, Linfield were one of them.

The opening two games of 2018-2019 suggested that Crusaders were there for the taking. In the opening game, they blew a 2-0 lead against Ards and needed a late goal to secure a 4-2 win. That was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Ballymena United. A team full of players approaching or in their 30s who are leaking goals. There was nothing for Linfield to fear.

Especially so, as they had won their opening two games without conceding a goal.

Despite that, this was not going to be an unchanged Linfield team, now that Jamie Mulgrew was back from suspension.

There’s a case to be made for resting Jamie Mulgrew against last season’s bottom five (Dungannon, Ards, Warrenpoint, Institute and Newry City) considering his age and the fact he is returning from injury, picking and choosing his matches.

Even if he is picking and choosing his matches, this is a match where he would play if it.

It was expected that Niall Quinn or Andrew Mitchell would miss out, but it was Kirk Millar who did, with Quinn moving out left.

Just like at Lurgan two weeks previously, there was a sizeable away support there to cheer their team on.

It was Crusaders who had the first chance of the game when Ross Clarke drifted past four players before shooting straight at Roy Carroll. He really should have scored, considering he had a clear strike at goal and a choice of sides to go to.

Having survived that, Linfield came more into the game, spending a lot of time in Crusaders half and winning a succession of corners.

Nothing came of them but Crusaders weren’t fully dealing with them. Not once did Sean O’Neill catch one, his punches not fully clearing the danger, giving Linfield a second ball to fight for and keep the attack alive.

It was a first-half littered with Crusaders yellow cards. Oh the joy of seeing a ref prepared to not tolerate their tactical fouling, and a Linfield team prepared to stand up to them. Crusaders didn’t know how to respond. They lost their discipline, and handing the game to Linfield. Linfield players knew this, which is why they were so keen at times to stop Josh Robinson getting involved. They had Crusaders right where they wanted them, and they weren’t going to give up this advantage easily.

Chris Morgan on Radio Ulster seemed to be offended by Linfield players surrounding the referee. He may have a point that it’s not nice to see, but teams freely do it against Linfield. Too many times last season, Linfield were outsmarted by stupid teams. Crusaders players were being told in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t be kicking anybody off the field today.

Joel Cooper was Linfield’s main attacking threat in the first-half, having Linfield’s two main shots at goal.

The only moment of worry that Linfield had was when Jimmy Callacher had to head out a cross in the six yard box out for a corner.

On 35 minutes, it was Linfield who get the breakthrough when some neat passing out the right, where Linfield were getting a lot of joy through the half, saw Chris Casement cross low for Joel Cooper to finish from close range, a reversal of the previous week against Institute when Cooper crossed low for Casement to score.

Cooper was everywhere when Linfield attacked, and Crusaders didn’t know how to handle him. They didn’t know which way he was going to go. Thankfully, Linfield’s players did, and wether he went left or right, there was always someone available for a pass.

Linfield began the second-half, now attacking their own fans, on the attack, with Chris Casement having a free-kick saved. Again, it was another punch by Sean O’Neill.

The second goal wasn’t long in coming when Joel Cooper got possession on the right wing, cut inside before playing a defence splitting pass.

I was on the opposite side and thought initially that it was Niall Quinn, but it was actually Jamie Mulgrew, who made no mistake to make it 2-0.

It wasn’t quite the three points in the bag, but it was hard to see Crusaders coming back from this.

Crusaders response was a Jordan Owens shot which went over and into the stand. A Crusaders supporter threw the ball away from Roy Caroll who was waiting to take a goal kick. The supporter celebrated as Carroll was able to take his time, and kill any hopes Crusaders had of getting some momentum and getting back into the game. They really aren’t the brightest.

In fact, the closest that Crusaders came was from a sliced clearance by Matthew Clarke hitting the bar. At no point did Linfield look troubled.

If any team looked likely to get the next goal, it was Linfield, with Michael O’Connor, on as a substitute for Andrew Waterworth, getting in behind Crusaders defence only to see his low shot saved, while a deflected cross from Daniel Kearns almost snuck in.

Joel Cooper was replaced by Kirk Millar, a bit surprising, as Andrew Mitchell was getting bandaged up for the umpteenth time. A few minutes later, Mitchell couldn’t carry on any longer, being replaced by Robert Garrett, who was able to help Linfield see the game out with no fuss.

This result sent Linfield five points clear of Crusaders. Nothing to get too excited about, they were five points clear of Crusaders at this stage in 2015.

The game after this would be a trip to Cliftonville. A win would give Linfield an eight point lead over them. The matchday after that sees Crusaders face Coleraine. With one of them dropping points, the game against Ards is a must-win. That is followed by a game against Warrenpoint while Crusaders and Coleraine are playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup. There is a great opportunity to get some momentum and pull clear of rivals.

Linfield players celebrated this win in dignified fashion, there was no throwing of food in Nandos.

Later that night, David Healy made a guest appearance in the Panto taking place at Windsor Park that night, content that his side landed a massive punch, but not quite a knock-out blow.

Photo Album

GLENAVON 0-1 LINFIELD 4.8.2018

It had been a long three months since Linfield ended 2017-2018 in embarrassment and failure. A glorious World Cup might have distracted us but that is now a distant memory, not even Glenavon having the same kit as France can keep the memory of events in Russia alive.

If Linfield wanted an easy start to ease them into the season, the Fixture Computer didn’t deliver. You have to face your rivals at some point, might as well issue a statement of intent in the opening month of the season.

What will have given Linfield fans cause for optimism was their side’s recent record at Mourneview Park. They won twice there last season (Glenavon responded with two wins at Windsor Park, a draw in one of those games would have secured European football for Linfield), which made it three successive League wins there, with an Irish Cup Semi-Final win against Dungannon Swifts sandwiched in that run.

The last time they failed to win at Mourneview Park was the 2-2 draw in November 2016, coming from 2-0 down after playing with nine men for 80 minutes with an outfield player in nets. It felt like, and was celebrated like a win. There would be no Mark Haughey heroics in nets today though. More of that later.

Before that game, was a dead rubber last game of the season win in April 2016. Overall, it’s a run of five wins and one draw in the last six visits to Mourneview Park.

The last time Linfield lost in Lurgan was a 3-2 defeat in November 2015. The two goalscorers for Glenavon that day, Joel Cooper and Daniel Kearns were lining up for Linfield this afternoon.

One of the problems Linfield had last season was the unavailability of key players through injury and suspension. 2018-2019 didn’t get off to a much better start, with Jamie Mulgrew, Mark Stafford, Ryan McGivern, Mark Haughey, and Robert Garrett all unavailable for selection. The team picked itself, because there was nobody else available in defence or midfield.

That was further evident in those taking their place on the bench, a bench which will now include seven players, with only one of the six outfield players, Benny Moller Nielsen, not being an attacking player.

Seven players on the bench now means there is no excuse for not having a goalkeeper amongst the subs, with Gareth Deane taking his place on the bench today, meaning it is unlikely that Mark Haughey will be repeating his goalkeeping heroics any time soon. Unless a goalkeeper gets injured or sent-off and all three subs have been used. Haughey’s own injury means it could be a while before he is on the pitch himself, in whatever position.

It was a surprise to see Benny Moller Nielsen on the bench, even though he signed in the week leading up to the match, as he had been with the club in pre-season and was already part of the squad. That meant that it was Niall Quinn and Andrew Mitchell lining up in centre midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the run-in last season, Linfield were decimated with suspensions. It’s easy to say the players need to watch themselves, but Linfield had six yellow cards today in a game where there was barely a bad tackle, as the referee seemed to be booking Linfield players for the first foul.

I was held up getting into the ground and missed the first minute. As I arrived, there was a corner kick being prepared for with Linfield’s attackers in the box and a flamboyantly dressed goalkeeper on the line.

Linfield on the attack, good to see, I thought to myself.

It turned out that Jonathan Tuffey was at the other end of the pitch dressed relatively coservatively in a colour best described as orange highlighter, while it was Roy Carroll who was dressed head to to in what can be best described as yellow highlighter.

As is unwritten tradition at Mourneview Park, Glenavon attack the end where Linfield fans are situated. It was a sizeable away crowd of Linfield fans. To give you an idea of how much, all the seats that could be filled (The end of the stand has no access in order to create a buffer zone between opposing fans) in the stand were filled, while the overspill covered the whole way across, and was a couple of rows deep.

Those that were stood behind the goal were watching Glenavon on the attack, with a penalty being awarded for a handball by Chris Casement. Not for me.

Last season, Linfield’s Andrew Mitchell was prolific from the penalty spot. Thankfully, Glenavon’s one was not, blasting his shot over the bar, meaning any debate as to wether it was a penalty didn’t matter.

On Friday, NIFL posted an article on their website advising clubs how to minimise the risk of spectators being hit by footballs. Mitchell’s penalty was so high, no Linfield supporters were in danger of being hit by the ball. Shoppers in Lurgan Town Centre may have had to duck for cover when the ball eventually landed.

If the award of the penalty felt like a return to the bad vibes of 2017-2018 for Linfield, the miss and the manner of it might have felt like luck was returning in their favour.

It certainly felt that way a few minutes later when Chris Casement, booked for his involvement in the penalty incident, was lucky to avoid a second yellow for a foul as Glenavon fans screamed for a second yellow.

Linfield rode out the early pressure and came into the game. Their first attacking moment of note saw Jimmy Callacher head home from a free-kick, only for celebrations to be cut short by an offside flag.

If that was a wearning to Glenavon, they didn’t heed it, as a free-kick from a similar position on the opposite side of the pitch fell to Daniel Kearns who was able to stick his foot on it and finish under pressure.

Mark Sykes, on his 21st birthday, got into space and was played in, but his shot was saved by Roy Carroll, who made himself big.

Linfield finished the half strongly, but couldn’t get the second goal they needed, the best moment coming when Joel Cooper fired a long range shot just over.

In the opening minute of the second-half, it looked like that much needed second was going to come in bizarre fashion when Jonathan Tuffey tried to head clear, but it hit Andrew Waterworth, who shot towards the empty net from a wide position, but a Glenavon defender was able to get back onto the line and clear the ball.

Mark Sykes was not enjoying his birthday, as he was played through, lobbed the ball over Carroll into the side netting when he really should have scored.

Jordan Jenkins, off the bench, had two shots saved by Carroll. The second of which was parried into the six yard box straight to Chris Casement, who cleared.

You get the feeling that if that happened last season, it would have fallen straight to a Glenavon player to equalise, and they would have won it in injury time.

Linfield were able to see the game out in a sizeable amount of injury time and get three points on the board at the first attempt. It was the forth successive opening game win for Linfield. I can remember when we used to always drop points on the opening day.

The four other games all produced winners, with no shock results. Two of today’s winners, Coleraine and Cliftonville meet next Saturday, meaning that Linfield will have an opportunity next weekend to go into a lead over one or two teams expected to be in the Top Six.

Linfield’s game next weekend at home to Institute has been brought forward to Friday night, which is inconvenient for me as i’ll be at George Ezra. Hopefully, it goes a bit better than the last time I missed a Linfield match to go to a concert, in May this year.

Unless George Ezra gets a sore throat next Friday, I won’t be at Windsor Park until September.

The game against Institute being brought forward does mean that Linfield have the opportunity to lay down an early gauntlet to their title rivals by getting six points on the board and then putting their feet up on the Saturday afternoon while they are trying to keep up. It must be taken.

My Saturday plans will now be a trip to Bangor Vintage Market as part of Open House Festival and to see the mural of John Lydon.

The Fixture Computer for Clandeboye Park next Saturday will see Glentoran travel to Ards. I’ll give that a miss.

It has been a busy week of comings and goings at Windsor Park, with Benny Moller Nielsen, who played in pre-season, joining permanently. I was only at one of the matches he played in and he did ok, mopping up in front of the defence.

In case you’re wondering, he’s Richard’s grandson, whose record at Windsor Park was one win, one defeat and one draw. Hopefully, Benny’s win percentage will be a lot better.

Joe Crowe left the club by mutual consent, which was a bit surprising with Mark Haughey injured. I rated him and he was decent defensive cover. It was clear though from pre-season games that Chris Casement was going to start the season at right-back.

Despite his departure and the injury to Haughey, we have Andrew Mitchell as cover for that position.

Alex Moore went out on loan to Dungannon Swifts, which is a brilliant move for both parties, with a good young goalkeeper getting the opportunity for regular top flight football.

Eamon Scannell has went out to Warrenpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Strain went out on loan before September, with Cameron Stewart going out on loan in January when he recovers from injury in January.

The morning of this match was spent getting a ticket for the game at Seaview in two weeks.

I know the date was only confirmed on Thursday due to Crusaders elimination from the UEFA Cup.

Could those responsible not have begun ticket sales a week or two weeks ago with the disclaimer that the game could be postponed, instead of inconveniencing fans with short notice sales.

There is also a game at Solitude that will need ticket sales in the coming weeks. There is no reason why these couldn’t be on sale now, to allow fans to purchase tickets on a Saturday morning.

Especially so with only one home match before these two games.

Not everyone is able to get to Windsor Park during the week.

Next Friday night could be fun with Institute tickets, Season Tickets, Crusaders Tickets and Cliftonville tickets all on sale at the same time.

With a bit of planning, those in charge could have had Crusaders and Cliftonville tickets on sale last week or the week before, making it more convenient for supporters to purchase on a staggered basis rather than in one swoop on a matchday.

That game away to Crusaders will be my next Linfield match. Later that night, i’ll be going to see The League Of Gentelemen. I’ll let you insert your own joke.

My next football will be at Ainslie Park when i’m at the Edinburgh Festival to see Edinburgh City take on Albion Rovers in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The two sides met today in League Two, with Edinburgh City winning 4-0.

This weekend last year, I was at Ainslie Park to see Edinburgh City lose 3-1 to Montrose. Today, Montrose unfurled a flag for winning League Two. At least one team in blue I saw last season had something to celebrate.

Hibs and Rangers will both be in UEFA Cup action on the weekend i’m there, but away from home. Useless showers.

So Linfield are looking to improve on last season’s 4th place finish and get 2018-2019 off to a winning start.

Then you check the League table, and they sit 5th. Oh for crying out loud.

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