PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April’s football watching began with a trip to Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday to see Linfield grind out a 3-2 win away to Glenavon.

That was followed on the Saturday afterwards by going to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

Good start to the month, but that was as good as it got, as Linfield could only managed one point from their next three games against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville, which would cause them to eventually miss out on European football.

There was only one match for me in May, a trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Watford.

And that, was the 2017-2018 over for me.

Here’s to more football and photos in 2018-2019.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

Advertisements

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

September’s football watching began for me in Edinburgh, seeing Linfield take on Spartans in the Scottish Challenge Cup. That was followed two days later with World Cup action, as Northern Ireland took on Czech Republic at Windsor Park.

After that, it was all about Irish League action, taking in Linfield’s matches against Glentoran, Crusaders, Ballinamallard and Cliftonville.

Spartans v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Cliftonville v Linfield

CRUSADERS 2-0 LINFIELD 14.4.2018

After two successive wins at the start of the split, Linfield headed to Seaview looking for a third successive win to keep control of third place, and possible automatic qualification for next season’s UEFA Cup.

Next season’s UEFA Cup is a competition that Crusaders want to avoid playing in, currently top of the League only on goal difference.

Both teams were going for goal early on, with Jordan Owens and Andrew Waterworth both having shots on goal saved.

Linfield were holding their own, but it was Crusaders whose attacks were causing the most concerning, always having an option to pass or cross to every time they went forward.

On 15 minutes, Crusaders took the lead when a cross landed at an unmarked Jordan Owens, who had enough time to set himself up to finish from close range.

Questions have to be ask how Owens was unmarked in the six yard box. It wasn’t even a quick attack, why didn’t somebody get close to him?

Once again, Linfield concede a goal to Crusaders that is basic, and of their own doing.

The important thing was that heads didn’t go down.

Linfield almost got an instant equaliser when a neat passing move between Kurtis Byrne and Andrew Waterworth played in Stephen Fallon whose shot was smothered by Crusaders goalkeeper Brian Jensen.

Linfield were creating chances and were encouraged by this. Mark Stafford intercepted just as Jensen was going to pick up a free-kick, with Andrew Waterworth being unable to finish when the ball fell to him.

Despite Linfield’s attacking encouragement, it was clear that they were missing Jamie Mulgrew.

When Mulgrew gets the ball, his first intention is to go forward. Well, until he is fouled.

Neither Stephen Lowry or Andrew Mitchell were doing that. Nobody was driving forward from midfield.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy Carroll was the Linfield player who received the most passes, such was the lack of imagination going forward at times.

Stephen Fallon had another shot saved by Jensen, pouncing after he spilled a shot from Kurtis Byrne.

Billy Joe Burns almost scored from a cross come shot before a snapshot from Andrew Waterworth forced Jensen to turn it behind for a corner.

That resulting corner was the final actions of the first-half. The whistle blew with a Crusaders player injured in the penalty box. As Andrew Waterworth went to check on his welfare, a pack of Crusaders players surrounded him like feral wolves.

After midweek events in Madrid, this is a topical issue in football. However, the referee did nothing about it. Waterworth was already on a yellow card and the Crusaders players were targeting him. They knew what they were doing.

As the teams left the pitch, Colin Coates and Jordan Owens were trying to generate cheers in front of the home stand, like it was WWE or Panto. The absolute state of them.

That should have been David Healy’s half-time team talk sorted.

You can laugh at all of Cristano Ronaldo’s posturing, he can back it up by being one of the greatest players of all time with individual achievements and winners medals to go with it.

Watching a bunch of nobodies like Coates and Owens acting like Billy Big Balls should have been motivation to put them back in their box where they should have been put back in 2014.

Despite being 1-0 down, there were signs of encouragement for Linfield. They had chances and were creating chances. There were goals for Linfield if they went at Crusaders and attacked them, especially as their were playing towards where their fans were based.

Those attacks, never materialised.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Gavin Whyte had a free-kick saved by Carroll while Carroll saved a Jordan Owens header.

Linfield’s response. Um, ahhhh, erm ……

Kirk Millar had a free-kick which was overhit and went out for a goal kick.

Even if he did get it towards the penalty spot, there probably would have been a Crusaders head getting there first.

That was a theme throughout the game, Crusaders were first to every ball. Even though the wind was blowing and the pitch wasn’t bouncey, Linfield players were anticipating the ball, they weren’t in position to get the second ball. Too many Linfield attacks were ended because Crusaders players were first to the clearance.

David Healy was slow to change things. Probably because there weren’t a lot of options.

There were three attackers on the bench – Ryan Strain, Louis Rooney and Achille Campion, but not a lot of goals. You didn’t look at anyone on the bench and think “Yes, he’ll get us a goal”.

It’s quite damming that the biggest goal threat on Linfield’s bench was Jimmy Callacher.

Strain and Campion came on for Byrne and Fallon.

The grandstand finish never materialised as the game meandered. You would have thought it was a mid table clash between two sides with nothing to play for.

Having seen how vulnerable Crusaders were last weekend when 1-0 up, Linfield should have been grabbing the game by the throat and pushing for an equaliser, especially as they were attacking their own fans.

Even more so as by this point, Glenavon were 3-1 up at Solitude, putting them 3rd, one point ahead of Linfield. The race for 3rd was now being decided by the fact that Glenavon got a point at Seaview and Linfield didn’t.

This game at Solitude was Glenavon’s first win in seven games. There was no way they were going to go the final two months of the season without a win. Linfield had to grab every point that they could.

With two minutes remaining, Jordan Owens headed home to make it 2-0 and make sure of the points for Crusaders, not that they were in any danger of surrendering them. Linfield never looked like scoring.

What made it worse was the lack of ideas, hoofing the ball upfield, playing right into Crusaders.

In the space of one season, Linfield players have regressed into fearing Crusaders, just as they did between 2012 and 2016.

How many times do they need to be told? Do not be afraid of Crusaders. There is no need to be afraid of Crusaders.

Louis Rooney came on for Matthew Clarke as Linfield went to 3-4-3. Too little, too late.

By now, away fans were heading to the exits. They didn’t miss much, apart from an Andrew Mitchell red card, giving the Crusaders fans what they wanted. Once again, Linfield had been outsmarted by a stupid team.

For most of the game, the main saving grace for Linfield was that Cliftonville and Glenavon were drawing 0-0.

That meant that despite the defeat, Linfield would be one point clear of Glenavon and four points clear of Cliftonville in the race for 3rd.

Four goals and a red card in the space of ten minutes gave Glenavon a 3-1 win.

Glenavon are now 3rd, a point clear of Linfield and six clear of Cliftonville. Cliftonville can still catch Glenavon, but a goal difference of eleven in Glenavon’s favour which would be need to be overturned in four matches makes that unlikely.

Glenavon boosted their goal difference by four goals today, giving them five over Linfield. If Linfield are to get 3rd place, it won’t be on Goal Difference.

Next weekend, Glenavon are at home to Ballymena United. Once again, Linfield are looking for a favour from Ballymena United on Matchday 37. I would expect Glenavon to win that game. The only hope is, Ballymena must surely be due a win.

Next Saturday, Linfield are at home to Coleraine. I can’t say i’ve much expectation going into this game.

If Linfield were to win next Saturday, it would present the title to a bunch of Hoofball Thugs. In truth, the title was always going to be won by an unbearable shower. Linfield’s interest in the title race ended a long time ago. They didn’t even look like making much of an impact on it today.

Not going to lie, I really can’t be arsed with the UEFA Cup Play-Offs, it’s an utter farce. It should be Top Three in the League plus the Cup Winners, or Fourth if the Irish Cup win won by a team in the Top Three.

If that is the fate we are given, then we must be ready. When that is, is anyone’s guess, as the dates haven’t been announced. I would expect Tuesday 8th May and Friday 11th May.

Even if Glenavon finish 3rd, it would still be advantageous for Linfield if Cliftonville lose the Irish Cup Final, as they would be going into the Play-Offs on the back of a major disappointment and could struggle to life themselves for it. Plus, it would give Linfield home advantage (assuming they finish 4th) should they reach the Final.

Elsewhere, it was announced that Brandon Adams has left the club with immediate effect. That was no real surprise. He’s seemed to score for fun for Linfield Swifts but could never do it for the first team.

I know he has been restricted to substitute appearances, but there’s never been a time he has come off the bench where I have thought that he has to start the next game.

This week, saw St Patrick’s Athletic announce plans for a new stadium meaning i’ll have to try and fit in one last visit to Richmond Park on a future annual day trip to Dublin.

That may not be the smartest idea, as I have been to Richmond Park twice, in 2010 and 2013, with both games ending 0-0.

I’m doing a day trip to Dublin in July. The two matches on while i’m there. The options are Bohemians v Sligo Rovers and Shelbourne v Drogheda United. I’ll keep you updated on that.

Elsewhere, Spartans won the Lowland League. You may remember them facing Linfield in the Scottish Challenge Cup in September

Regular readers will know I keep an eye out for their results as I go to Edinburgh every August, and plan on seeing them if they get promoted to League Two, if they are at home when I am in Edinburgh.

All they have to do is win a Play-Off against the Highland League Champions (Cove Rangers), and then win a Play-Off against the side that finished bottom of League Two (Cowdenbeath).

Not going to lie, I can’t wait for this season to end. At least the World Cup will distract me from how farcical this season has been.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

September 2017 began with a road trip, and a long one at that, to Edinburgh, to see Linfield take on Spartans in the Scottish Challenge Cup.

Two days later, it was another football match with an international feel, an actual international, as Northern Ireland took on Czech Republic at Windsor Park.

The following weekend was busy, taking in Ryan Adams at Ulster Hall and then Linfield’s match against Glentoran.

There was more football to follow, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Ballinamallard.

The following weekend was football free but not photo free, as I was out capturing Culture Night, and Street Art painted as part of Hit The North.

The month ended with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield take on Cliftonville. The less said about which, the better.

Spartans v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic

Northern Ireland v Czech Republic Photo Album

Ryan Adams live at Ulster Hall

Ryan Adams live at Ulster Hall

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Ballinamallard United

Culture Night 2017

Culture Night 2017 Photo Album

Hit The North 2017

Hit The North 2017 Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

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

2017 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2017 began for me in Manchester, heading over to see United take on Hull City, while also getting some Street Art photos.

Back in Northern Ireland, I was on the road to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute in the Irish Cup.

The next day, I was out on my bike for my biannual (usually February and August) visit to Belfast Peace Wall to get some photos of the Wall Art on the walls.

The following Saturday, another road trip, to Carrickfergus to see Linfield at Taylor’s Avenue

The following weekend, it was back to Windsor Park for Linfield, and a disappointing draw against Portadown.

The morning after, I was out on my bike to get photos of a Jamie Dornan mural in Belfast City Centre.

Later that day, it was another cup final, the NIFL Cup Final between Ballymena and Carrick.

The following weekend, I was Oval bound to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Be My Valentine

Be My Valentine Photo Album

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

CRUSADERS 2-1 LINFIELD 12.9.2017

Football has a strange way of repeating itself. In 2015, Linfield arrived at Seaview with a perfect record (six wins out of six) and a lead over Crusaders, knowing that a win would open up a gap between them at the top of the League.

In 2017, the same thing happened, although this time, it was five wins out of five for Linfield.

In 2015, Linfield lost that day. They recovered quite well after that, winning their next two matches, scoring nine goals in the process, but it was one of three defeats to Crusaders that cost them the title.

The following season, roles were reversed, with Linfield won the head to heads and the title.

Recent form suggests that whoever wins the head to heads between these two wins the title. However, this season, there’s a third party wanting to muscle in on the title race, with Coleraine looking down on everybody after winning all six of their opening games.

It wasn’t about getting an advantage over the other, Crusaders wanted to keep in touch with Coleraine while Linfield wanted to draw level with them. Linfield knew that a win would open up a six point lead over Crusaders, even at this early stage.

If things had worked out differently over the Summer, Linfield could have been lining up against PSG instead.

There was a change in personnel and formation for Linfield with 451 becoming 442 but not completely more attacking, as Jordan Stewart was sacrificed for Matthew Clarke, while Louis Rooney came in for Kirk Millar.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in Irish League football that players are immune from getting booked in the first fifteen minutes, a rule that Crusaders players were willing to exploit with a series of cynical and tactical fouls with the only cost being a free-kick.

It was no coincidence that the first yellow card came after sixteen minutes, when Louis Rooney was dragged down as he went down the right wing.

Jordan Forsythe and Aaron Burns both fired over in the early minutes as they looked to score spectacularly, an overhead kick and a chip respectively.

Despite the more defensive nature of the starting eleven, Andrew Mitchell and Jamie Mulgrew were making Linfield tick, running at Crusaders defence, both of whom fired wide as Linfield looked to get the breakthrough.

On 25 minutes, Crusaders took the lead when Jordan Forsythe fired home.

On 32 minutes, Crusaders made it 2-0 when a header upfield allowed Paul Heatley to fire home from outside the box.

As good as the finish was, it was a poor goal to concede, route one assist.

Linfield fans were hoping for half-time as Crusaders looked to make it 3-0, with Jordan Owens and Rodney Brown both having chances to do just that.

It was a big half-time talk in the away dressing room but all hope wasn’t lost. You never write off Linfield when they attack their fans. An early goal, and it was game on.

Getting that early goal, as each minute passed, a Linfield comeback was looking less likely.

They were helped by the fact that Crusaders were stepping back, happy to hold what they had.

Linfield’s search for a goal saw Kirk Millar and Brandon Adams introduced from the bench. The most obvious introduction, Jordan Stewart, was made to wait.

With twenty minutes to go, Paul “Not that kind of player” Heatley went in recklessly on Aaron Burns on the halfway line. He knew what he was doing, and he wasn’t going for the ball. The referee bottled it and only showed a yellow card. That’s twice in successive seasons referees have let him away with it.

Within minutes, Linfield pulled a goal back when Aaron Burns crossed for Mark Stafford to put the ball into the empty net.

If there was any justice, Linfield’s search for an equaliser would have been against ten men.

For all there pressure, Linfield couldn’t get an equaliser, as Crusaders held out for the win.

It was a silly spell midway through the second-half that did it, Linfield gave themselves too much to do.

In truth, the performance wasn’t good enough, just like on Saturday. A wake up call. It’s never too early for one.

A sense of perspective is needed though, it was Linfield’s first domestic defeat in eight months. Not only that, Linfield have three more points this season than they did after six games last season.

The next two games against Ballinamallard and Warrenpoint represent an opportunity to amass six points and keep the pressure on at the top.

We’ll need those points with a run of games against Cliftonville, Coleraine and Crusaders to come, as well as a rearranged game against Glenavon to fit in as well.

Talking of rearranged games, the League Cup match against Ballinamallard has been brought forward a week. No idea why, and the away match against Ballymena has been brought forward to the Friday night.

It’ll be some fun if Northern Ireland’s World Cup Play-Off (providing the next two matchdays don’t go wrong) at home is that night. Expect another rearrangement, although, this is Irish League football, don’t expect logic to be followed.

Anyway, that Ballymena game will be postponed because we’ll be playing in the Quarter-Final of the Scottish Challenge Cup. Got to be optimistic.

Up next, Ballinmallard, the first of two meetings in two and a half weeks. The second game, away from home, will be sandwiched inbetween away games against Cliftonville and Dundee United.

It says something that the trip to Cliftonville will be the hardest to get to of those three.

Photo Album

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 : 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

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield