PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JUNE/JULY

There was only two weeks between the end of 2014-2015 and the start of 2015-2016. It was a horrible two weeks.

This season, like last season, began in Bray.

I was on a day trip to Dublin in late June, so I took advantage of the teatime kick-off and close location.

It was a bottom of the table clash, and it was unsurprisingly tense, as Bray managed to dig out a 1-0 win.

Towards the end of the following week, was my first Linfield match of the season, a UEFA Cup tie against NSI Runavik.

I’d have to wait three weeks for my next Linfield match, the 2nd leg of the 2nd Round tie against Spartak Trnava, which Linfield lost 3-1, and 5-2 on aggregate.

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers Photo Album

Linfield v NSI Runavik

Linfield v Spartak Trnava

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 – JULY

Not a lot happened in July, two football matches – that was it.

The first of those matches was on the 2nd of the month as Linfield faced NSI Runavik in the UEFA Cup. The match allowed me the opportunity to get a look at the internal work going on at Windsor Park.

Linfield won the match 2-0, and the tie 5-4 on aggregate.

As a result, they went through to the next round to face Spartak Trnava. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, Linfield fans turned up at Windsor Park hopeful of seeing their side reach the 3rd Round of the UEFA Cup.

Things were great at half-time, with Linfield 1-0 up and leading on away goals.

Unfortunately, Spartak Trnava scored 3 goals in the second-haalf to win 5-2 on aggregate.

Linfield v NSI Runavik

Linfield v Spartak Trnava

LINFIELD 2-0 NSI RUNAVIK 2.7.2015

Warren Feeney’s second season as Linfield manager began the same way as his first one, with a UEFA Cup tie against opposition from the Faroe Islands.

In fact, David Jeffrey’s last two seasons as Linfield manager also began with European ties against Faroese opposition.

The previous three seasons had seen Linfield progress to the next round, and began as favourites to do so again against Runavik.

The game also was a welcome return to Windsor Park for Linfield after a four month absence due to the problems in the redevelopment of Windsor Park.

Linfield began the game rustily, with Runavik’s number 11 Arni Frederiksberg getting a lot of joy and space to set up chances and get crosses in. Sean Ward was isolated and struggling.

Eventually, Linfield got more into the game, with the trio of Waterworth, Bates and Sproule bubbling under, threatening to get in behind Runavik’s defence.

Despite this, Linfield were having some shaky moments defensively, having to get bodies in the way to get some blocks in.

Finally, Linfield got a grip on the game, putting Runavik under pressure and making gains in their attacking third. The best moment came when Andrew Waterworth got in behind the defence but dragged his shot wide.

Runavik were now worried that Linfield had a key to unlock their defence. They quite literally did, well a Kee, who had a tidy game and had some impressive corners.

Sean Ward had a shot at goal well saved. His wait for a first Linfield goal goes on.

As the half neared it end, a well worked moved saw Andrew Waterworth head home. Porblem was, Ivan Sproule was offside in the build-up.

The half-time whistle blew with the score at 0-0. You had the feeling, that if Linfield could get an early goal in the second-half, they could comfortable see the game out.

A succession of corners saw an almighty scramble but no goal. Eventually, the goal did come, when Andrew Waterworth fired home from close range.

At 1-0, Linfield were comfortable, but just needed a 2nd goal to give them breathing space.

Guy Bates, on his debut, glided past two defenders and fired home. It was a lovely goal.

It wasn’t quite game over, as Ross Glendinning made a brilliant save from a deflected free-kick to deny Runavik an away goal.

As the clock ticked down, it was Linfield were looked most likely to score, with Kee having a shot blocked, and Aaron Burns firing over after a well worked move.

Bates was substituted as injury time approached, getting a standing ovation from Linfield fans. David Kee also played well. Daniel Wallace was an unused sub, while Mark Stafford was injured.

A 3rd goal at the end would have been brilliant, but there’s not a lot to complain about – a healthy lead and a clean sheet. Famous last words, but Linfield should have enough about them next week to complete the job and set up a tie against Spartak Trnava or FK Olimpic, who drew 1-1.

Hopefully, Linfield can see this tie through and return to Windsor Park with the tie alive. It could be a special night at Windsor Park on July 23rd, as Linfield aim to get past the 2nd Round hurdle they have fallen at in the last two seasons, before an away friendly at Knockbreda on July 25th, a ground to visit for the first time, just like the Belfast Loughshore Arena (Don’t laugh) on August 12th.

Meanwhile, this week, Cardiff was announced as host city of the 2017 European Cup Final.

I was in Cardiff for last season’s European Super Cup Final and it was a fantastic trip. I fully intend on being in Cardiff that weekend.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The next European match I want to watch is Linfield taking on Spartak Trnava or FK Olimpic on July 23rd with the tie very much up for grabs.

Photo Album