2017 IN PICTURES – APRIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Pure Here, So It Is

Pure Here, So It Is Photo Album

Ballymena United v Linfield

Lisburn Street Art

Lisburn Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

And It’s Goodnight From Me

And It’s Goodnight From Me Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

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2017 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

George Michael Mural

George Michael Mural Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Princess Leia Mural

Princess Leia Mural Photo Album

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

GLENAVON 0-1 LINFIELD 24.11.2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seems as though some people have short memories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, a match which resulted in a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Linfield.

It was then the Irish Cup for me, heading to The Oval to see Linfield get an extra-time win over Glentoran.

The following Saturday, another away game for Linfield, this time to Glenavon, and another 2-1 win for Linfield.

It was back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My football watching for the month ended with a trip to Stangmore Park to see Linfield secure a 4-1 win against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album

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.

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