2017 IN PICTURES – MARCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crusaders v Linfield

Blossoms live at The Limelight

Blossoms live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

The Dancer

The Dancer Photo Album

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

East Belfast Wall Of Legends

East Belfast Wall Of Legends Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

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PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

NORTHERN IRELAND 2-0 NORWAY 26.3.2017

Michael O’Neill celebrated five years in charge of Northern Ireland over the Christmas/New Year period, and it was a case of going back to where it all started, as Northern Ireland welcomed Norway to Windsor Park, the opponents on his first match in charge.

Northern Ireland fans will have to wait until 2020 if they want to commemorate the anniversary of that match as it took place on Leap Year’s Day. Quite apt, considering the giant leaps Northern Ireland have made since that night.

If Northern Ireland’s start to the group gave fans expectation, their record against Norway would have given them despair, with the Norwegians winning on their last five visits in 1990, 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2012.

Those games were all friendlies. The only competitive meeting saw a win for Northern Ireland in a European Championship Qualifier in 1975.

Norway’s poor start to the campaign has led to a change in manager, with Lars Lagerback, a man who is no stranger to international tournaments, having led Sweden to every tournament between 2000 and 2008, and then Iceland to Euro 2016. He knows how to get the best out of Scandinavian players.

In many ways, the scenario was the same going into the match against Finland in March 2015, with Northern Ireland looking to build on a promising start on a Sunday at home to Scandinavian opposition amidst a lot of expectation.

It wasn’t that long ago, Northern Ireland played Norway and all we wanted was a goal. We got one, and celebrated so much, we didn’t noticed that Norway scored straight from kick-off. We lost 4-1 and nobody cared, we had a goal. Those days are gone. Hopefully, forever.

The only difference from the Finland match was that Delivering Unity Promptly MLAs and MPs weren’t getting outraged and demand that we withdraw from the competition due to the horror of playing a home match in a Sunday. I guess they’ve got more important things to worry about.

The two other games in the group kick-off at 5pm, and the results went as expected – one in Northern Ireland’s favour, and one going against Northern Ireland. Germany got a 4-1 win against Azerbaijan while Czech Republic beat San Marino 6-0.

Germany are looking set to win 10 out of 10 in this group, any team who gets even a draw against them will view it as a bonus point. Hopefully, that will be us in October. Czech Republic’s win went they were breathing down Northern Ireland’s necks.

This match wasn’t a case of The Winner Takes It All, but the loser would be standing small. Three points was very much The Name Of The Game for Northern Ireland.

After just 90 seconds, Northern Ireland got a dream start when Jamie Ward got enough space to turn and fire into the net. It was a shooting position that screamed Take On Me, which is what he did.

Northern Ireland thought they would be Hunting High And Low for a lead, they had it within two minutes.

As a bonus, the smelly tramps who sit a few rows in front of me turned up late and missed it. Bonus.

In all seriousness, how much of an inconsiderate arsehole do you have to be that you can’t even go 45 minutes without a smoke? All this while Stewards steal a living and do fuck all about it.

The game died down after a dramatic start, and it was Norway who came more into it, having an effort which hit the angle of post and bar, scaring The Living Daylights out of the home fans.

Northern Ireland were nervous. We even had the sight of Steven Davis misplacing passes.

Thankfully, normality was soon restored, in some style, as Davis played a defence splitting pass for Conor Washington to finish to put Northern Ireland 2-0 up. From the moment he got the ball, there was only going to be one result.

Northern Ireland still needed a third goal just to be sure, and almost had it early in the second-half when a game of head tennis saw a Norwegian defender head just wide of his own goal, while Jamie Ward cut inside and had a shot blocked.

At the other end, Michael McGovern was forced into a save from a low free-kick.

Thankfully for the journalists in the Press Box having to deal with Headlines and Deadlines, Northern Ireland were able to see the game out in the final minutes and record a 2-0 win.

The result keeps Northern Ireland in 2nd place, five points behind Germany. Tehy are two points above Czech Republic. What separates the two teams is the fact Northern Ireland beat Azerbaijan at home while the Czechs could only draw at home to them. As well as that, they are three points clear of Azerbaijan. The two teams separated by Northern Ireland’s win at Windsor Park last November.

Norway are effectively out of it, but with Northern Ireland, Czech Republic and Azerbaijan all having to visit there, they could have a big say in who finishes 2nd.

Every point in this group is vital.

Not only do Northern Ireland have to finish 2nd, but they have to do so well. The 2nd place with the worst record (against teams in 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th) will be automatically eliminated, with the remaining eight going into four Play-Off ties.

Northern Ireland are three points above Montenegro. In 2010 and 2014, the unlucky team had ten points. Northern Ireland already have seven.

Up next is two away games against Azerbaijan and San Marino before a home match against Czech Republic.

If we get wins from those two away games, it could set a memorable night against the Czechs in September.

There’s still a long way to go before we can start dreaming of Red Square being renamed Green and White Square.

Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Norway 2012

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR

Having done a statistical analysis of the 2011-2012 season, I thought i’d do one for my football watching in 2012, with today having been my last match attended of the year.

Here is the breakdown.

Games : 48

Goals Seen : 149

(Should have been 151, but I managed to miss two goals this year. Was late for second-half of Linfield v Portadown on 27.10.2012 and missed a goal. Missed the start of Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan on 14.11.2012 and missed a goal)

Red Cards: 10

(Doesn’t include red cards awarded in the dressing room to David Armstrong and Terry Fitzpatrick during Dungannon v Linfield on 13.10.2012)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 4

Hat-Tricks : 3

Aaron Burns (Linfield v Dungannon Swifts)
Peter Thompson (Linfield v Newry City)
Matthew Tipton (Orangefield OB v Linfield)

Teams Seen : 33

Ajax (1st time), Australia (1st time), Azerbaijan, B36 Torshavn (1st time), Ballinamallard United (1st time), Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Donegal Celtic, Dungannon Swifts, Excelsior Rotterdam (1st time), FC Utrecht (1st time), Glenavon, Glentoran, Harland and Wolff Welders (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Holland (1st time), Linfield, Lisburn Distillery, Luxembourg (1st time), Manchester United, Newry City, Northern Ireland, Norway, Orangefield OB (1st time), Portadown, Queens Park Rangers (1st time), Rosenborg, Scotland, VVV Venlo (1st time)

Stadiums Visited : 16

Amsterdam Arena (1st time), Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballyskeagh, Easter Road, Ferney Park (1st time), Gibson Park (1st time), Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, The Oval, Tillysburn Park (1st time), Windsor Park, Woudestein (1st time),

Competitions : 9

County Antrim Shield, Eredivise, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup, World Cup

Curiosities

4th February – Watched a match in a stand named after Robin Van Persie

18th February – Twins (Aaron and Andrew Burns) on opposing sides in a competitive game

2012 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

Busy month this. February usually is, as I go away somewhere to forget the trauma that is my impending birthday.

Went to Amsterdam for a weekend, and also went to Rotterdam for a day. Both nice cities.

Went to football matches in both cities, both were enjoyable, but I enjoyed seeing Excelsior Rotterdam the most. Managed to get some brilliant photos of the ground and match when I was there.

Excelsior’s ground, Woudestein, has a stand named after Robin Van Persie. The club’s bar also has various pictures of him from throughout his career. In case you’re wondering, he began his career there.

Little did I know then, that six months later, he would be a Manchester United player.

It was snowing as well whenever I was there, which made for great photo opportunities.

That wasn’t the only travelling done that month, as I went to Old Trafford for the UEFA Cup tie between Manchester United and Ajax, and even managed to fit in trips to Portadown and North Belfast to watch Linfield.

This year, February had an extra day, and I made the most of it by going to see Northern Ireland v Norway.

It wasn’t all about football, as I went to see Noel Gallagher at The Odyssey.

A very photo-filled month. Enjoy

Amsterdam/Rotterdam Street Art

Amsterdam/Rotterdam Street Art Photos Album

Amsterdam Snow

Amsterdam Snow Photo Album

Rotterdam Snow

Rotterdam Snow Photo Album

The Tub

The Tub Photo Album

Excelsior Rotterdam v VVV Venlo

Excelsior Rotterdam v VVV Venlo Photo Album

Ajax Amsterdam v FC Utrecht

Ajax Amsterdam v FC Utrecht Photo Album

Great Victoria Street Graffiti

Noel Gallagher Live At The Odyssey

Noel Gallagher Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

Holylands Graffiti

Manchester United v Ajax Amsterdam

Manchester United v Ajax Amsterdam Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

Busy month this month, with an international theme. To give you an idea, I saw Ajax play as many times as I saw Linfield play.

The first weekend of the month saw me visit Amsterdam for a weekend. While I was there, Ajax were at home, so I booked tickets to see them play.

That match was on the Sunday, so on the Saturday, I went to Rotterdam for the day.

Local side Excelsior were at home, so I went to see them play VVV Venlo in an Eredivise game.

Absolutely loved it. It was a small ground, but the atmosphere was fantastic and I got some nice photos. Excelsior won the game 3-1.

While in Rotterdam, I managed to get some exterior photos of De Kuip, home of Feyenoord.

The following day, I saw Ajax take on Utrecht in the Amsterdam Arena. Fantastic stadium. The game wasn’t as good as the game in Rotterdam, but still enjoyable. Except maybe, if you support Ajax, as the hosts lost 2-0.

My next trip, was to Portadown to see Linfield get a 1-1 draw.

From there, it was on to Old Trafford to see United take on Ajax. On my 42nd visit to Old Trafford, i’d seen United lose (I’d peviously seen defeats at Ewood Park and Windsor Park) for the first time, and it wasn’t nice. Managed to get some not bad photos.

Just 41 hours after leaving Old Trafford, I was heading to Solitude to see Linfield get a 3-1 win over Cliftonville. Usual arrangements at Solitude. Not the best for getting photos, so I had to make do with what I had.

On the last day of the month, a bonus extra day with it being a leap year, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Norway.

A busy month indeed. Enjoy.

De Kuip

De Kuip Photo Album

Excelsior Rotterdam v VVV Venlo

Excelsior Rotterdam v VVV Venlo Photo Album

Ajax Amsterdam v Utrecht

Ajax Amsterdam v Utrecht Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

Manchester United v Ajax Amsterdam

Manchester United v Ajax Amsterdam Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL SEASON

You can thank @philmojones4 for the inspiration for this pointless blogpost, when he commented on how many matches he’d been too during the 2011-2012 season, and it got me thinking, then I thought some more, and came up with this statistical analysis of the football season just past (I know technically the season is still going, but for me, it is over)

Matches Attended : 44

Goals Seen : 120

Red Cards : 5

Hat-Tricks : 2

Aaron Burns (Linfield v Dungannon Swifts) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Newry City)

(Last season I witnessed hat-tricks by Dimitar Berbatov and Lionel Messi)

Hat-tricks missed due to being on holiday : 1

Phil Lowry (Linfield v Donegal Celtic)

Hat-tricks missed due to not being arsed with Irish Cup ties v lower league opposition : 2

Rory Patterson (Linfield v Ballyclare Comrades) Peter Thompson (Linfield v Coagh United)

Highest scoring match : 7 (Linfield 7-0 Newry City)

Countries seen football in : 4

England, Holland, Northern Ireland, Scotland

(Last season, it was 4 as well – England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Spain)

Teams seen play : 28

Aberdeen, Ajax Amsterdam, Ballymena United, BATE Borisov, Carrick Rangers, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Derriaghy CC, Donegal Celtic, Dungannon Swifts, Excelsior Rotterdam, Faroe Islands, Glenavon, Glentoran, Heart of Midlothian, Linfield, Lisburn Distillery, Manchester United, Newry City, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portadown, Serbia, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, Utrecht, VVV Venlo

Competitions Watched : 8

Eredivise, Euro 2012, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish Premier League, Scottish Premier League, UEFA Cup

Stadiums Visited : 14

Amsterdam Arena, Ballymena Showgrounds, Ballyskeagh, Coleraine Showgrounds, Mourneview Park, Old Trafford, Seaview, Seycon Park, Shamrock Park, Solitude, The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park, Woudestein

NB: Stats do not include last night’s Manchester United v Irish League XI game. My visit to Amsterdam for the Holland v Northern Ireland game will be counted towards 2012-2013 statistics.

NORTHERN IRELAND 0-3 NORWAY 29.2.2012

It’s strange to feel positive after a 3-0 defeat, but that’s the way I felt leaving Windsor Park last night.

There was never three goals in it, two late goals right at the end made it a bigger scoreline than it should have been.

It was great to see a Northern Ireland team play with two upfront, and actually look like scoring. Not only that, but after conceding a goal, dust themselves off and just get on with it.

Got a ticket for The kop stand. Good view, OK for taking photos. Nothing special, but did get some nice stadium portrait shots at half-time

Enjoy

Photo Album