SPARTANS 1-2 LINFIELD 2.9.2017

“Farewell Edinburgh, i’ll see you again in 2018” I thought to myself as I sat in the Departure Lounge at Edinburgh Airport less than a month ago, but the draw for the Irn Bru Challenge Cup had other plans for me.

Regular readers will know that I visit Edinburgh every August and take in a game. Having got a bit bored of alternating between Hearts and Hibs, i’d been commenting on how I wanted to see Spartans get promoted to League Two and take in a game at Ainslie Park.

I did get to see a League To game at Ainslie Park, but it was an Edinburgh City game, as they will be groundsharing with Spartans for the next three years due to Meadowbank Stadium being redeveloped. I’d previously never considered going to see Edinburgh City at Meadowbank Stadium as watching football in a ground with lots of empty seats miles away from the pitch sounded grim.

So, after wanting to visit Ainslie Park, I would be doing so twice in four weeks.

An away game in the Central Belt was convenient, not knowing who not so convenient, with Spartans only being confirmed as Linfield’s opponents nine days before, making it hard for fans to make independent travel arragements. Thankfully, the club offered a package for supporters to travel by bus.

It had been a while since I last travelled to Edinburgh by bus, and I suddenly remembered why I usually fly to Edinburgh.

It was a much changed Linfield starting eleven, far from what you would consider to be Linfield’s first choice eleven, be it if you consider the team that finished last season or the team that has started this season, minus Paul Smyth obviously.

In truth, i’m not sure anybody knows what Linfield’s strongest eleven is at the moment, in a good way, due to there being so many options.

This game offered a first start of the season for Jimmy Callacher after injury, and a start for Matthew Clarke after being on the bench due to injury. Clarke picked up where he left off, linking up well with Niall Quinn on the left hand side.

The only two names that might have been unfamiliar to Linfield fans would have been two recent loan signings Brandon Adams and Louis Rooney up front, though Rooney introduced himself with a hat-trick off the bench on his debut against Distillery in the League Cup.

A hat-trick from Rooney on his debut brought obvious comparisons with another Rooney. It must be remembered, that Wayne Rooney went three games without a goal after a hat-trick on his Manchester United debut. Just to manage expectations.

Spartans had the first chance of the game inside the first minute when Linfield couldn’t clear in their own half, but a long range shot went over.

After that, it was all Linfield pressure, with Brandon Adams having a shot blocked, Niall Quinn heading wide and Josh Robinson firing wide from a corner.

All that Spartans could offer was a Ross Allum shot that was saved.

Adams and Rooney were trying to get used to each other as a partnership. You could see there were promising signs but still need some work on the training ground.

As the half neared it’s end, Linfield got an opportunity to take the lead after a penalty for handball, which Louis Rooney scored with ease.

Within the opening minutes of the second-half, a quick free-kick allowed Stephen Lowry free space to shoot home from the edge of the box.

At 2-0 up, the game looked over and began to meander.

David Healy turned to his bench to give Adams and Rooney the afternoon off.

With about 76 minutes gone, a long ranger shot was spilled by Gareth Deane, and the rebound was finished by Blair Atkinson. Suddenly, the game had become interesting. A lot more interesting than it should have been.

It looked like Stephen Fallon was going to make it 3-1 but his close range effort before Ross Allum had a similar chance saved.

Once Allum’s shot was saved, you got the feeling that was it for Spartans, their best chance of extra-time had gone.

So it proved, as Linfield held on for a win that should have been more comfortable than it was.

Attention turns to the next round, and Linfield’s possible opponents. Here’s the outlook for possible away games.

Doable from Glasgow : Dumbarton, Falkirk, St Mirren

Doable from Edinburgh : Dundee United, Dunfermline, Falkirk, Raith

Bollocks to get to : Inverness

Doable by boat : Queen Of The South

Doable from Aberdeen : Elgin, Peterhead, Montrose, Cove

Short trip across Belfast : Crusaders

Dream : Stranraer

If there is a Football Santa, i’m hoping i’ve been a good boy and Linfield get Stranraer away.

Talking of long trips, Linfield got Ballinamallard in the League Cup. We’ve won every time i’ve went but this is on a weeknight. They can beat them without my presence inspiring them?

With Linfield being inactive today in League terms, Coleraine took the opportunity to go top of the League with a win over Glenavon.

Up next for Linfield, a home match against unbeaten Glentoran. Now, that would be a nice bubble to burst.

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PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2016-2017

So, the 2016-2017 season is over for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic look back at the season just gone.

I’ve selected some of my favourites, so feel free to vote for the one you like the best.

POLSKA

Taken back in June 2016 at Northern Ireland v Poland, I like the composition, how everyone is fixated on the action at the other end of the pitch, and the colour co-ordination of both sets of fans.



WILGAR

Taken at a pre-season game between Linfield and Dundela, it captures the joys of going to football matches in pre-season, sunshine and relaxation ahead of the hard slog ahead.



SEAVIEW

I like the framing of this, as the crowd is in position, awaiting kick-off in a big match.



CELEBRATION

Linfield fans celebrating Jimmy Callacher’s winner against Glentoran in October. I just like this for some reason other than the obvious.

PALMERSTON

There’s just something about the architecture of old football grounds that does it for me. This is out of use turnstiles at Palmerston Park, home of Queen of the South.

APPEAL

Linfield fans appeal in unison, all making the same hand gestures, for a goal to be allowed. The goal was disallowed for a foul.



ELF

Taken at the Steel and Sons Cup Final. Some people like getting dressed up for Christmas.

GAYNOR

I like the composition of this, from Ross Gaynor’s posture, to substitutes chatting to each other while the game goes on.

UNITED

I like the composition of this, all eyes fixated on the penalty area and the incoming corner.

SPOT THE BALL

I like the composition of this shot, it looks like a Spot The Ball image, except that the ball is in the shot, with two players getting ready for an aerial tussle.



COLERAINE

I love the framing and seeing players in the background running to join the celebrations.

WATERWORTH

Celebrations after Andrew Waterworth’s second goal against Cliftonville, capturing the joy of the event and the achievement just about to happen.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield play awful but still grind out a 2-1 win.

The following weekend, was a double header. First up, was Northern Ireland v San Marino, the first game a fully redeveloped Windsor Park. After a few hours sleep, I was on an early boat to travel to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

It was then back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United before a road trip to Coleraine.

The month ended with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield and Crusaders draw 0-0.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

2016 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to The Oval, to see Linfield take on Glentoran, play awful but grind out a 2-1 win.

The following Saturday, I went to see Northern Ireland take on San Marino, the first game at a fully redeveloped Windsor Park.

I then went home, and got a bit of sleep, before an early morning boat to Dumfries to see Linfield take on Queen of the South in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard United.

Two days later, I was Limelight bound to see Feeder in concert.

There were then two frustrating weekends as I was then Coleraine bound the following Saturday to see Linfield held to a frustrating draw, just as they were at home to Crusaders the following Saturday.

The month ended by going to see KT Tunstall in concert at Mandela Hall.

Glentoran v Linfield

Northern Ireland v San Marino

Northern Ireland v San Marino Photo Album

Queen of the South v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall

KT Tunstall live at Mandela Hall Photo Album

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 2-0 LINFIELD 9.10.2016

Having not gone to the Edinburgh Festival this year, I wasn’t anticpating that I would be going to a football match in Scotland, but football works in mysterious ways, and I ended up going to see Linfield playing in Scotland.

Just about. If i’d headed any further South, I would have been in England, with Dumfries being less than an hour away from England, something utilised by Queen Of The South, with three of their squad being born in Carlisle.

As soon as it was announced in June that Linfield would be playing in the Scottish Challenge Cup, I let my mind stray as to possible opponents, and more importantly, a trip.

I didn’t want to play an SPL Underage team. Ideally, a senior team based in the Central Belt.

I didn’t get the Central Belt, but the next best thing, as my numerous trips to Old Trafford have taught me that Dumfries is not too far from the boat. This trip was more than doable. Another big appeal for me was the opportunity to visit another ground for the first time.

It became even more doable when Stena Line announced they were running a trip, which I had to book by phone due to their website being utterly useless.

What the tie had in geographic convenience was countered in the footballing aspect, with Queen Of The South being the highest ranked team left in the competition, currently top (and unbeaten in the league) of The Championship above Hibernian and Dundee United.

The stars were out for this match, spotting Ivan Little in the away end, and Helen Skelton was there to cheer on Queen Of The South. Her brother Gavin is the manager, another Cumbrian to go alongside those on the playing staff. It’s unknown if Calvin Harris or Bill Drummond were there to cheer on Queen Of The South.

As difficult as it was, it shouldn’t have been daunting for Linfield, with six of the starting line-up having played senior professional football, and four of them (Andrew Waterworth, Chris Casement, Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan) having played professionally in Scotland.

The hosts had the first chance of the game when Stephen Dobbie cut inside and hit a shot just wide of the post. Lyndon Dykes had a shot saved while Steveb Rigg hit a shot over the bar.

Roy Carroll had to be alert to race out of his box to clear the danger, avoiding the fate that happened to Gigi Buffon a few days earlier when he conceded a goal against Spain.

Linfield were having to do a lot of defending, but they were managing to keep out Queen Of The South.

It was clear that Linfield were missing Paul Smyth when they got the ball forward.

Jimmy Callacher had Linfield’s first attempt on goal but his header was easily saved.

If they weren’t getting much luck in open play, Roy Carroll’s catching made sure Queen Of the South were getting no joy from crosses.

Carroll was then forced into a double save from Dobbie and Rigg, the second of which was Jim Montgomery-esque.

Linfield got more into the game as the half neared it’s end, and had their best chance when Andrew Waterworth scuffed wide when he would have scored if he got the shot on target.

With chances so sparse for Linfield, they had to be taken.

Andy Dowie headed wide in the second-half while Roy Carroll was forced into a couple of saves when Queens players were through on goal.

The thing that was standing out was that Queen Of The South players were far more physically stronger than their Linfield counterparts, using their strength to begin or stop attacks.

Kirk Millar had a chance to win it for Linfield, but he couldn’t compose a shot and fired over.

0-0 after 90 minutes, the match went to extra-time, with no replays in this competition.

It was Queen Of The South who took the lead when Lyndon Dykes was played through, got enough space to go around Carroll and slot the ball into the empty net.

A stunning free-kick from Stephen Dobbie in the second-half of extra-time killed the game.

Queen Of The South threatened a third on the counter attack, a 3-0 scoreline would have been harsh.

It was a deserved win for Queen Of The South, but Linfield held their own. The first goal was always going to be crucial. Queens got it, and went on to win the game.

Having had a taste of it, hopefully Linfield can reach this competition again and have another trip to Scotland. Ayrshire, Stranraer, Galloway. All very convenient. Central Belt even.

I’ve checked, and Scotland aren’t at home on the weekend it would be played on next season, denying the idea of a double or even triple header weekend.

Back to domestic action now, a busy month awaits. Four league wins will see Linfield finish it on top of the league.

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