DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-1 LINFIELD 1.4.2017

Football is all about improvements, and doing better than you had previously. Last season, Linfield were Runners-Up in three competitions.

This season, they’ve already won one of those competitions, the County Antrim Shield, and kicked-off at Mourneview Park still in contention to win the other two trophies that eluded them last season. That was still the case when they left the pitch today.

For the record, we’ve just accepted that we’re never going to win the League Cup ever again and will be out of the competition by October each season.

Linfield got a lot of joy attacking down the left hand side in the first-half, with one cross agonisingly missing everyone in the box, while another resulted in an Andrew Waterworth cros that was deflected behind for a corner. It looked like being only a matter of time until Linfield scored.

Dungannon were able to ride out that storm and came more into the game, their bets opportunity coming when Dougie Wilson headed over for a corner.

Neither side had a shot on goal of note in a goalless first-half.

This wasn’t a new situation for Linfield, having faield to scored a first-half goal in any of the previous rounds in this season’s Irish Cup.

Linfield started the second-half better and had a glorious opportunity to take the lead when a penalty was awarded for a foul on Jamie Mulgrew.

Having scored four penalties out of four in recent weeks, Stephen Lowry was due a miss, and so it proved when Andy Coleman saved his shot, and Lowry and Andrew Waterworth managed to miss the rebound between them.

Dungannon fans would have had some justification in believing this was the sort of thing that happens when it is your day.

Paul Smyth and Niall Quinn were next to be frustrated as Coleman saved left foot shots from both of them, while Aaron Burns had a goal disallowed for a foul.

It was the sort of game that could only finish 1-0. The longer it stayed 0-0, the more you got that feeling.

David Healy turned to his bench by bringing on Kirk Millar for Niall Quinn.

You also got the feeling that Dungannon were going to get a moment. That came when Peter McMahon burst through and had a deflected shot look set to go in, only for Roy Carroll to pull off a dramatic save.

As extra-time loomed, a cross found Stephen Lowry, who found just enough space to place the ball home from inside the six yard box. Linfield had the lead in a game that looked destined to finish 1-0.

Dungannon never looked like equalising. In fact, Linfield almost got a second on the break when a Paul Smyth shot went just wide, as they saw out the game to set up a Final against Coleraine on May 6th. Hopefully, a repeat of 1982 and 2008 rather than a repeat of 1975 and 1977.

Elsehwere in football this week, Edinburgh City have announced that they will be playing at Ainslie Park, home of Spartans for the next three seasons while Meadowbank Stadium is redeveloped.

I’m curious to see what Meadowbank Stadium will look like. At the moment, it always seemed like a grim place to watch football, which is why never gave Edinburgh City any consideration when I visit Edinburgh every August.

Edinburgh in August can wait, it’s all about next week and Crusaders at home.

The games can’t come soon enough.

Photo Album

GLENAVON 1-2 LINFIELD 14.1.2016

After the Irish Cup last week, it was back to League action for Linfield and a trip to Mourneview Park, a ground that was once kind to them but they have now struggled at – their last meaningful win (they did win on the last day of last season, but it was two reserve teams with nothing to play for) there coming in November 2014 – as they aimed to keep pace with Crusaders at the top of the table.

Glenavon have blown hot and cold this season. Even if they were 4-0 up in stoppage time, you’d still be expecting Linfield to get something. Linfield fans have already seen Glenavon’s ridiculousness this season first hand, blowing a 2-0 lead against nine man (for 80 minutes) Linfield in November.

After that game, Linfield trailed Crusaders by four points. At kick-off, it was seven. It simply couldn’t get any bigger.

Sean Ward came in for the suspended Jamie Mulgrew, while Kirk Millar and Ross Gaynor were rewarded for their substitute appearances at The Oval last week with a start today.

Linfield made a good start to the game, and I don’t mean by going through the first ten minutes without a red card.

Ross Gaynor forced Jonathan Tuffey to tip his cross over the bar, just as Aaron Burns was ready to pounce. Andrew Waterworth had a snapshot from the edge of the box, similar to his goal at Mourneview Park in November 2014, but this time, it was turned around the post for a corner.

Aaron Burns and Mark Haughey both had headers wide from close range as Linfield’s pressure continued without reward.

They did eventually get their reward when an Andrew Waterworth flick played Aaron Burns through on goal. As he ran through, there was no doubt that he was going to score. I thought he was going to fire it across goal, instead he just blasted it in at the near post. Linfield fans didn’t care, their team had got the goal their play deserved.

With the half-time whistle approaching, Linfield searched for the second goal that would change the dynamic of the half-time team talk. They thought they had it when Mark Stafford finished from close range, but it was ruled out belatedly for a handball in the build up.

It looked like a handball by a Linfield player from where I was sat, the only issue was that the referee waited so long to make a decision instead of blowing his whistle instantly, especially as Stafford had taken his time to compose himself and score.

Having failed to make their superiority count in the first-half, Linfield were hoping not to pay for it in the second-half as they chased the second goal that would surely have secured the three points.

The pressure continued with Andrew Waterworth firing just wide, and Aaron Burns having an instinctive close range shot saved.

With there being only one goal in it, it was only natural that Glenavon would start to feel that a point would be there for the taking.

Despite having an increase in possession, Glenavon didn’t look like scoring. They got an opportunity from a soft penalty awarded for a handball by Mark Stafford, as he slid in to block a cross. Andy McGrory made no mistake from the spot to make it 1-1.

Naturally, Glenavon had their heads up. They had a few attacking situations but nothing that looked like getting a goal. Having ridden out the storm, Linfield now set their sights on getting a winner.

The game soon switched in Linfield’s favour when Ciaran Martyn got a second yellow card, the forth successive league match where there had been a player sent-off.

David Healy turned to his bench to try and take advantage of the extra man. It looked set for the introduction of former Nigeria international Kevin Amuneke. Instead it was Cameron Stewart, coming on for Kirk Millar, who was as bad and infuriating today as he was good last week. There’s a footballer there, it’s trying to get him on the pitch every week that’s the problem.

Stewart’s introduction saw Aaron Burns moved out wide. It was Stewart’s best performance in all of his brief cameo appearances for Linfield so far.

On 75 minutes, Linfield took the lead again when a through ball found it’s way to Andrew Waterworth who fired home via the help of a deflection.

You sensed there would be no way back for Glenavon, this late, and with ten men.

With only one goal in it, Linfield couldn’t get complacent in the final moments. As the game neared it’s end, it was Linfield who looked like getting the next goal, with Ross Gaynor having a free-kick just wide, while Sean Ward forced Tuffey into a save, which just about went out for a corner.

2 minutes and 40 seconds into 3 minutes injury time, it probably would have been better if Ward had fired it high, wide and out of the ground. It didn’t matter, as Linfield saw the game out in the final 20 seconds to record a 2-1 win with an Andrew Waterworth winner for the third successive Saturday.

So that’s where Linfield went wrong against Coleraine, it was on the wrong day of the week.

It made no difference in terms of the league table as all of the top four won. Linfield remain seven points off the top and three points clear of Cliftonville in third. There’ll be a chance to increase that lead next week when Cliftonville lie down for Crusaders at Seaview. It won’t be easy as Linfield welcome Ballymena United to Windsor Park, but having beaten them twice this season, there’s nothing to fear.

Most of the other football news this week has been dominated by cup competitions. It might have been a generous FA Cup draw for United (Wigan at home), but it means Wigan’s match against Norwich on 31st January has been postponed, meaning it’s unlikely i’ll get to see two games when i’m over for the Hull match on 1st February as there’s no other games in Greater Manchester on that night.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that from 2026, the World Cup will increase to 48 teams. There’s not enough facepalms to describe this idea. 32 teams was the right number and a simple format. 16 groups of 3 will lead to more negative football and more dead rubber games on matchday 3, as well as more potential Austria v West Germany type games if a team has suffered a heavy defeat in matchday 1 faces a team who won on matchday 1. That is despite the slight improvement in Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying, with Europe now having 16 teams from the current number of 13.

Though there will be the same amount of games as a 32 team tournament, the increased amount of teams will reduce the number of countries who can possibly host the tournament due to the increased infrastructure required.

Meanwhile, the venue for the final of the County Antrim Shield was decided this week as being Ballymena Showgrounds on 7th February. It should have been The Oval, but the venue holds good memories for Linfield fans, as it was where Linfield beat Crusaders in the 2014 Final.

There could be a potential symmetry to this. as the 2014 win was David Jeffrey’s last trophy as Linfield manager. This will represent an opportunity for David Healy to get his first trophy as Linfield manager. It could even be the springboard for a second or third in a few months time.

The venue of the end of one era could potentially host the start of a new one.

It was a bumper week for cup final venue announcements, with Seaview being confirmed as the venue for the League Cup Final. Tempted to try and get a ticket for the Carrick end. I bring them good luck when I see them in big games.

Next week, sees Linfield return to Windsor Park for the first time since that defeat to Coleraine. A lot has been written about Linfield’s poor home form this season. The truth is, it’s no worse than any other time over the past four seasons.

There was always going to be teething issues when the Windsor Park redevelopment was complete. It was always going to be a case of trial and error. Unfortunately, there seems to be more errors than expected.

For me, i’d like to see TVs into the new Viewing Lounge. Part of my matchday ritual was to check half-time scores from England and Scotland, and then rewatch what I have just witnessed on Final Score NI.

I even miss the social awkwardness of people waiting and looking at the bar staff, hoping that someone plucks up the courage to ask “Can you put on 101 please?”

I’d also like to see supporters be allowed to view the game from the balconies.

It is also worth trialling for a few games having Linfield fans having the option of being in the Railway Stand. It will take minimum effort and changes in terms of matchday operation, and will give the team a boost at matches seeing their fans behind on of the goals.

We’ve all seen it at away games when Linfield are chasing a goal and have fans behind the goal urging them on. It’s an advantage we’ve given away teams over the past three seasons, why are we denying ourselves this?

After Ballymena sees a run of games on the road over the next few weeks – Dungannon, Institue, Ballymena (to face Crusaders) and Carrick.

The last thing you do before going on a road trip is make sure everything is fine before you leave home. No better way to prepare for a series of road trips than to make a start in remedying poor home form.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2016 began with an eventful trip to Lurgan to see Linfield recover from being both two goals and two men down against Glenavon to secure an unlikely draw.

It was followed by a busy week. I was out on the road again to see Linfield take on Ballymena, before heading to The Odyssey to see Bastille in concert.

Two days later, I was at Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Azerbaijan, before heading back on the road to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

I then headed to near the Royal Mail’s office to photograph a new mural of various popculture icons such as David Bowie, Christopher Walken, Kes and Adam Ant.

The following midweek, I was back at Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Croatia in a friendly, before heading back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

November ended with a weekend in Manchester, going to see United take on Feyenoord and West Ham, see Bury take on Millwall via Broadhurst Park, as well as capturing Street Art in Manchester and Salford Quays, and some stickers left by Feyenoord fans around the city.

Those trips to Old Trafford were my first since Jose Mourinho became United manager.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Bastille live at The Odyssey

Bastille live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Down By The Royal Mail II

Down By The Royal Mail II Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Feyenoord Stickers Photo Album

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album

GLENAVON 2-2 LINFIELD 5.11.2016

Linfield headed to Mourneview Park, a ground that had seen their previous two title challenges end (theoretically rather than mathematically), hoping to avoid an unwanted hat-trick.

Having failed to cut Crusaders four point lead last week, if it increased to seven, that could have been the case today, even though it is only early November.

Glenavon are a club who have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, winning the Irish Cup in 2014, finishing 3rd in 2015, before combining both by winning the Irish Cup and finishing 3rd in 2016.

Having added Pat McCourt to that squad, a title challenge was expected this season. They kicked off ten points off the top in 6th, with supporters wondering which Glenavon would turn up. The one that lost 3-0 to Cliftonville last week? Or the one that beat Ballymena 5-0 the week before?

Linfield fans were hoping the side that beat Glenavon 4-0 August would be the one that turned up. What showed up, or rather had to show up, was a side that had to dig in against adversity.

Linfield had the first real attacking moment of the game when a cross from the left saw Kirk Millar agonisingly unable to get on the end of it.

Just as the game looked to have an uneventful opening, that soon changed when Matthew Clarke was penalised for winning the ball. To everyone’s shock, the referee produced a red card. Nobody in the ground saw it coming.

Going down to ten men was an inconvenience for Linfield, but there wasn’t a massive need for a tactical reshuffle. It was simply a case of Ross Gaynor moving back from left midfield to left back.

Before the game had even restarted, Linfield were down to nine men when Roy Carroll was sent-off for reasons that are still unknown.

With no goalkeeper on the bench (something I would have if I was manager), Linfield were going to have to put an outfield player in goals.

This wasn’t a new situation for Linfield, after Ross Glendenning was sent-off against the same opposition in February.

Mark Haughey stepped into goal that day, and it was a task he would have to do today. His place in defence was taken by Sean Ward, who moved back from midfield.

It changed the game. No doubt about that. Glenavon naturally went for it, while Linfield had to get a defensive shape and be more conservative with their attacking, in order to avoid being hit on the counter attack.

Mark Haughey had a busier afternoon than he did in nets in February. He made two decent saves, but a lot of his other saves were basic stuff, not that i’m trying to take away from his performance, which was decent, even allowing for the novelty factor of him being an outfield player in nets.

Despite that, i’d prefer it if Gareth Deane was in goals on Tuesday night at Ballymena.

Just when it looked like Linfield were able to hold out despite the pressure, a Pat McCourt cross evaded everyone and went into the net to put Glenavon 1-0 up.

Within minutes, Linfield had a free-kick which was cleared and fell to Kirk Millar who blasted over. When you’re up against it like Linfield were, you have to make the most of opportunities like that.

This was more apparent when Glenavon went 2-0 up whenever Greg Moorhouse got in behind Linfield’s defence to make it 2-0.

It looked like being a long afternoon for Linfield, especially with the yellow cards stacking up. It seemed that players from both teams were getting booked for their first foul.

Sometimes a foul is just a foul and you move on. By taking the stance to book everyone, the referee set the standard that he had to follow.

Ironically, a referee who got his cards out early on might have been pretty fucking useful last Saturday.

One of those players booked was Jamie Mulgrew, who got subbed at half-time for Stephen Lowry.

Another half-time sub was Paul Smyth coming on for Sammy Clingan. In a game where Linfield needed to make the most of the ball whenever they had it, and Smyth was a player who could do that, especially in an attacking situation.

Ross Clarke for Kirk Millar was an obvious substitution, but with only one sub left, it was wise to keep that on ice. After the first 45 minutes, who knew what madness awaited?

A cross from Ross Gaynor was deflected across goal. Agonisingly, there wasn’t a white shirt able to take advantage.

Glenavon appeared to slack off, believing that the game was won, passing it about to each other slower than a milkfloat, not hurting or worrying Linfield, who were able to get into position to combat it.

The one moment they did worry Linfield came when Pat McCourt did one of his trademark runs, but his shot was saved by Haughey.

Just after the hour, Linfield pulled a goal back when Mark Stafford and Jimmy Callacher managed to work enough room for Callacher to cross for Andrew Waterworth to head home from inside the six yard box.

Suddenly, it was game on. Glenavon could switch themselves back on to clinch a game they thought they had already won.

Linfield couldn’t work an opening for an equaliser, but with only one goal in it, the game was far from over.

As the minutes ticked away, Ross Clarke came on for Kirk Millar.

On 88 minutes, a kick out from Haughey fell to Paul Smyth, giving him an opportunity to get a clear run at Glenavon’s defence, going past two defenders and finding himself through on goal.

There were times last season when he missed a couple of one on ones. Not today, there was never any doubt when he ran through on goal, and so it proved, giving Linfield what seemed like an unlikely draw.

There was still time to win the game but Linfield kept it sensible to keep what they hold. It looked like the magic moment had come when Paul Smyth got in behind Glenavon’s defence but the through ball evaded him, being picked up by Tuffey.

Linfield celebrated the draw like a win, it felt like it having been up against it for 80 minutes, sending out a message to the rest of the league that they are ready to take on whatever is thrown at them.

Elsewhere, Crusaders snuck a win over Coleraine to increase their lead to six points. Disappointing, but still retrievable.

Naturally, the winning goal was assisted by a player who would have been suspended today if the referee did his job last week.

Hopefully, Glenavon can make most of the energy they saved today by not doing many attacks during the second-half and get a result against Crusaders.

That same night, Linfield travel to Ballymena. After today, the next match can’t come soon enough.

More road trips follow, with a trip to Dungannon next Saturday

The night before, i’ll be at Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Azerbaijan.

A lot of football to be watched over the next seven days.

I doubt any of it will be as bonkers as today.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – NOVEMBER

The early weeks of November 2015 were spent at Windsor Park, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Northern Ireland’s match against Latvia

The final two Saturdays of the month were on the road to Mid-Ulster, but no upturn in fortune for Linfield

Sandwiched inbetween those two trips to Mid-Ulster was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford to see United play out a drab and ultimately costly draw against PSV Eindhoven.

It’s a good job I went to that Northern Ireland match, otherwise it would have been a totally awful month of football watching.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

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

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

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

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

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

Teams Seen : 40

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

Stadiums Visited : 23

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

Competitions : 13

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

Curiousities :

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

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

2015 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November took a while to get going, my first adventure being on the 7th, to see Linfield take on Crusaders. I would be spending a lot of time at Windsor Park in the opening fortnight of the month.

Windsor Park is where I would be based in the opening two weekends of the month, taking in Northern Ireland’s friendly against Latvia, then Linfield’s match against Cliftonville the next day.

The following midweek was all about music, as Paul Weller and U2 came to Belfast.

The busy month continued when I took in my annual Ulster European game, a defeat to Saracens.

The final two Saturdays of the month saw me on the road, to see Linfield lose in Mid-Ulster against Glenavon and Portadown.

Sandwiched inbetween that, was a trip to Manchester to see United take on PSV Eindhoven, where I also took the opportunity to get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall Photo Album

U2 live at The Odyssey

U2 live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Ulster v Saracens

Ulster v Saracens Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester Street Art November 2015

Manchester Street Art November 2015 Photo Album

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

GLENAVON 3-2 LINFIELD 21.11.2015

It was a case of history repeating for Linfield at Mourneview Park today, as they arrived in situations similar to both of their visits last season.

In November, they arrived on the back of home defeats to Cliftonville and Crusaders, and ground out a win to kickstart a run of 7 wins in 8 games going into the Christmas/New Year period.

In March, they arrived at Mourneview six points behind Crusaders, lost 1-0, a defeat which ended any slight chances of winning the league.

It’s fair to say that Mourneview Park is a ground that has provided mixed memories to Linfield fans in recent times.

Glenavon were equally in need of a win, kicking off eleven points behind Crusaders, after expectations were raised by last season’s storm to 3rd and a place in the UEFA Cup.

Their current position is explained by the fact that they’ve only amassed two points from five games against Crusaders, Cliftonville and Linfield.

There may be twelve teams in the league, but Glenavon and Linfield’s predicaments at kick-off showed that it’s the games against the teams around you that will dictate your fate.

It seemed all set up for a tense and cautious encounter, it was anything but.

Both teams had promising attacks early on, Eoin Bradley got space behind Linfield’s defence but dragged his shot wide on his left foot when a right foot shot looked the better option.

Linfield were getting a lot of possession out wide, lining up in a 4-3-3 when attacking, with Paul Smyth being given a first start after his cameo appearance off the bench last week.

Smyth got into some good positions and did basic stuff well. He wasn’t brilliant but wasn’t awful. A promising talent.

Glenavon soon took the lead from a counter attack when the ball went out wide to Eoin Bradley and he played a simple pass to give Daniel Kearns enough space to fire home.

There was no danger when Bradley had the ball, but everybody could see the run that Kearns was making. Everybody, except those on the pitch wearing Linfield shirts.

Thankfully, Linfield responded to the setback by going straight on the attack.

Andrew Waterworth looked like he was going to make it 1-1 when Aaron Burns played him through after a run. Unfortunately, Waterworth took a touch when a first time shot would have resulted in a goal, that split second gave Jonathan Tuffey enough time to get out and make the save.

Linfield were soon level when Jamie Mulgrew won possession when he was second favourite, creating enough space for him to shoot from outside the box and score.

Like the previous week, Linfield recovered from an early setback to draw level soon afterwards.

Linfield had a lot of possession and pressure in Glenavon’s half, but couldn’t go in 2-1 up.

They were reminded in the final minutes of the half that Glenavon could punish them at short notice, with Jimmy Callacher and Ross Glendinning forced into close range blocks to deny Glenavon.

Despite some good saves, someone needs to have a word with Glendinning about his quick throw-ins attempting to start a counter attack. On two occasions today, they resulted in Linfield losing possession in their defensive third, putting themselves under unnecessary pressure.

It worked brilliantly in the game against Glenavon in September for Waterworth’s first goal, but if there’s no obvious attack, just hold onto the ball and let attacking players get into position.

Inside the opening ten seconds of the second-half, Paul Smyth got in behind Glenavon’s defence, but his shot was saved by Tuffey, who was able to stick a leg onto it.

Linfield fans, for the first time in a while allowed to stand behind the goal at Mourneview after not being allowed to on health and safety grounds, thought their team were going 2-1 up.

Despite the positive start to the second-half, it was Glenavon who went 2-1 up in the early moments when a Joal Cooper cross went straight in.

Once again, another goal that could easily have been avoided. Daniel Kearns was left unmarked from a cross a minute earlier, and the resulting panic saw Glenavon win a corner, the resulting play resulted in Cooper being in a position to cross.

Like a cross not being stopped from getting to Jordan Owens two weeks ago, or Tomas Cosgrove getting too much space to cross last week, once again, Linfield were the architects of their own downfall.

Like in the first-half, Linfield responded instantly, when Jamie Mulgrew played in Kirk Millar to slot past Tuffey just two minutes later.

Still half an hour to play, Linfield were again level, and had foundations to go on and win the game.

With the score at 2-2, Linfield put Glenavon under pressure, corners and crosses mostly. You got the feeling if they went 3-2 up, they’d be able to go on and get the win.

With 15 minutes to go, it was Glenavon who went 3-2 up. Again, it was a self inflicted blow by Linfield.

Sean Ward misjudged the bounce of a ball and handled on the edge of the box. The resulting free-kick hit the post, rolled across the line, and Joel Cooper was first to react and out the ball into the empty net.

Having come back from 0-1 and 1-2, trying to come back at 2-3 was a goal too far for Linfield. For all their possession, Linfield never looked like getting a third equaliser.

It fact, Glenavon looked more likely to score a 4th on the counter attack.

After being quickest out the blocks, Linfield’s season has now hit a brick wall. A nine point gap from the top of the league has now emerged over the past three games. It won’t be retrieved if they win their next three games. It’s important to remember it’s a 38 game season.

Linfield didn’t win the league in August and didn’t lose it today. They’ve given themselves and uphill task to do so.

Despite playing poorly against Crusaders, Aaron Burns had a chance to equalise in injury time. Linfield deserved something last week, and Guy Bates had a chance to equalise in injury time. Linfield deserved something today but didn’t get it.

Games are decided by small margins. Disappointingly, all six goals conceded over the past fortnight have been poor and easily avoided.

Like last week, if Linfield had better decision making at both ends of the pitch, and scored when they were on top, they would have been celebrating three points.

Next week away to Portadown, is a must win. They all are at the best of times, especially more so with the current defecit.

Portadown are on a wretched run of form, but thankfully their losing run is over. Purely for the fact that I hate playing teams on a losing run. Sod’s Law and all that.

Hopefully, come 5pm next Saturday, Linfield’s losing run will be over.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

After ending February with Irish Cup disappointment for Linfield, it was the league that concerned them in March, and began well with an easy home win over Warrenpoint Town.

The following week, it was off to Drumahoe to see Linfield grind out a win against Institute.

A blank Saturday was followed by a trip to Scotland to see Northern Ireland play at Hampden Park.

The football kept coming, as the following Saturday, I was headed to Mourneview Park to see Linfield lose 1-0 to Glenavon.

The following day, it was off to Windsor Park for a bit of Sunday football to see Northern Ireland take on Finland, and get some photos of the redevelopment of Windsor Park, which was going so well at that point.

Little did I know then, but it would be my last time in The Kop before it was demolished

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Institute v Linfield

Scotland v Northern Ireland

Scotland v Nothern Ireland Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Finland

Northern Ireland v Finland Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football began for me on the first day of the month, with a road trip to Lurgan to see Linfield take on Glenavon, hoping to end a run of three successive defeats, which they did, on a very wet day.

The following weekend, I was at Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Dungannon Swifts.

The Saturday after, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield throw away two points in a 2-2 draw against Glentoran.

Back on the road the following weekend, to Warrenpoint, to see Linfield pull off a late escape to record a dramatic 2-1 win.

November ended with a trip to the North-West of England, primarily to go to Old Trafford to see United take on Hull, but I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Accrington Stanley for their match against Exeter City.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Linfield v Glentoran

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album