2019 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

October 2019 began with a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders.

A busy month of concerts began a few days later with a trip to Ulster Hall to see The Divine Comedy.

There was even some Street Art spotted during the month, heading to Stephen Street to see a mural of The Joker and Catwoman

The next day, I was on the road to Dungannon to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 4-1.

From there, it was another concert, a first visit to The Telegraph Building, to see Two Door Cinema Club.

The flipping between football and concerts continued as I headed to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ballymena United. The following midweek saw a football/concert double header, seeing Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town, before seeing OMD at Ulster Hall.

October’s photo adventures ended with a trip to see Linfield take on Coleraine, the month beginning and ending for me with a 1-0 defeat.

Crusaders v Linfield

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall

The Divine Comedy live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Joker and Catwoman Mural

Joker and Catwoman Mural Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building

Two Door Cinema Club live at The Telegraph Building Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

OMD live at Ulster Hall

OMD live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

2019 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began with a first concert at Elmwood Hall for me, to see KT Tunstall.

A few days later was my first football match of the month, as I travelled to Mourneview Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

The football didn’t get much better, as I headed to Seaview to see Linfield lose the County Antrim Shield Final to Crusaders.

Thankfully, things got a bit better as Linfield beat Institute 2-0.

There was a flurry of football as the month ended, with three games in four days, with Linfield’s trip to Dungannon Swifts being sandwiched inbetween Northern Ireland’s opening Euro 2020 Qualifiers, at home to Estonia and Belarus.

KT Tunstall live at Elmwood Hall

KT Tunstall live at Elmwood Hall Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Institute

Northern Ireland v Estonia

Northern Ireland v Estonia Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

2019 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2019 began for me with a trip to the seaside on the very first day of the year, to Clandeboye Park to see Linfield take on Ards as they aimed for three points in the title race.

Eleven days later, was my first trip of the year to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Warrenpoint Town.

That was then followed a week later by a trip to Seaview to see Linfield beat Crusaders.

A month that was mostly spent watching football saw me return to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Glentoran in a televised game.

The next day, I headed to Manchester. Guess what? It was for a football match, as Manchester United took on Burnley.

While I was there, I got photos of Street Art in Manchester and Salford Quays, while I also snuck in a day trip to Sheffield, where I got more Street Art photos.

While I was in Manchester, it snowed, so I got some photos of that, including snow outside Old Trafford.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

Manchester Snow

Manchester Snow Photo Album

Sheffield Street Art

Sheffield Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

CRUSADERS 1-0 LINFIELD 4.10.2019

A first live Friday night TV Game of the season saw Linfield head to Seaview looking to close the gap at the top of the table. Unfortunatley, it got bigger, but there is no need to panic.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s starting eleven was the same as the one that began the previous match, a 7-0 win over Glenavon.

There was one surprise at the start of the game, as Linfield attacked the Shore Road in the first-half where their fans were based. I think the last time that happened was April 2014.

Those fans that were at that end didn’t see a lot of attacking action from Linfield. There wasn’t a lot of attacking action from Crusaders thankfully, bar a Jordan Owens shot that was blocked.

Linfield’s first real attacking moment of note came from a Mark Stafford header under pressure that went wide.

The main talking point, and recurring theme of the half, was the number of yellow cards for fouls on Jamie Mulgrew. It’s not often you can put brains and Crusaders in the same sentence, but they had the brains to do it on a rotating basis in order to avoid getting a second yellow.

Billy Joe Burns hit the side netting in Crusaders next attacking moment of note. You would have been disappointed if the keeper was beaten from there.

Stephen Fallon then had an inswinging cross that went just wide and Matthew Clarke had a shot saved as Linfield ended the first-half strongly.

They couldn’t get the goal. The better team but not dominant, but good foundations to build on for the second-half.

Those foundations tumbled in the opening minutes when Kirk Millar’s misplaced pass was seized upon by Rory Hale who curled home from outside the box.

Within a few minutes, Joel Cooper had a shot blocked while a Crusaders counter attack saw Ross Clarke’s low shot blocked by Rohan Ferguson.

That effort from Cooper was Linfield’s only response in the aftermath of the Crusaders goal.

David Healy turned to his bench in search of an equaliser, bringing on Andrew Waterworth, Matthew Shevlin and Daniel Reynolds from the bench.

Despite those three options, as I said a few weeks back, the attacking options from the bench don’t seem as plentiful while Jordan Stewart and Daniel Kearns are unavailable.

As we approached injury time, it looked like Linfield were going to get their big chance when the ball fell perfectly for Daniel Reynolds on the edge of the penalty area, but his low shot was saved by the legs of Gerard Doherty.

It confirmed that it was going to be a frustrating evening for Linfield, even more so when Shayne Lavery was laughably booked for being barged over in the left win position.

Stephen Fallon had a long range shot go wide in the final seconds as Linfield’s six match winning run ended.

It was a frustrating result on so many levels. Crusaders were there for the taking. Not just in the first-half. Crusaders had conceded eight goals in their previous three games and were vulnerable. We didn’t work their defence enough in the second-half.

If Linfield had as much urgency as we did in the final minutes much earlier, they would have got something out of this game.

There is no need to panic. Crusaders aren’t as far away as they seem. If Linfield win their games in hand, they will only be two points behind Crusaders.

There was nothing in this game that suggested Crusaders are a team to be feared. I’d be very disappointed if Linfield don’t get at least seven points from the remaining three League games.

A run of three defeats in four against Crusaders is worrying. A recurring theme, not taking your chances and not blocking speculative long range shots.

We have to do what we did after the Coleraine match in August, dust ourselves down and go again. That will involve two trips to Dungannon in four days.

Elsewhere, Cliftonville won 1-0 at The Oval while Larne could only beat Glenavon 6-0. As I type, Coleraine lead 4-1 at Carrick.

It might not be a bad thing for there to be a traffic jam at the top of the League. Linfield can take advantage of other teams playing under pressure and taking points off each other.

Frustratingly, Ballymena United are out of the Scottish Challenge Cup, as if they were involved, their match against Crusaders would have been postponed, giving Linfield an opportunity to but the lead.

A disappointing night but no need to panic. Having three games postponed in August/September meant that the climb to the top was always going to be a long climb. This is just a stumble rather than a fall.

Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2018-2019

2018-2019 is now over and consigned to history. I hope you’ve enjoyed my month by month look back. I thought i’ll end with a look through some of my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours.

NEWFORGE

Taken during a Pre-Season Friendly, I like arty farty shots in the style of Stuart Roy Clarke, so I unashamedly try to copy him.

MOURNEVIEW

I like this shot because of the way everybody is lined up, and how everybody has their eyes fixed on Kirk Millar, being the man in possession

COLERAINE

This shot came about by fluke, I was hoping to capture a Linfield goal, but again, it’s the fans who make the picture for me, all heads in the one direction.

DUNGANNON

Got some good photos this day due to generous Winter Sun. Dungannon is always good for photos. I like the framing, getting the terraces in alongside the pitch.

JORDAN

Jordan Stewart makes it 4-0 against Crusaders in December. I like being able to capture the celebrations on the pitch and in the stand. Even a Steward joined in.

CLANDEBOYE

That spot at Clandeboye Park is handy for getting photos, as long as something interesting happens at that end during the game. Thankfully, Linfield scored while I was at this end. Not just in terms of phototaking, but the match, as it was looking like a frustrating afternoon against opponents who had already proved tricky earlier in the season.

SNOW TRAFFORD

Having got snow photos of Windsor Park in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck when Manchester was hit with snow the day after United’s match against Burnley. Staying close to the ground, I was straight out with my camera to get photos.

McCLEAN

An explosion of emotion. 2-0 down and looking to be pegged back in the title race, to 2-2 and being frustrated, then a last minute winner, I managed to capture the reactions, of fans and players both going wild in unison.

RAIN

A weather based photo that just works. Bleurgh, an awful night for weather and football.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

I had to wait a while for March’s football watching, but it wasn’t really worth the wait as Linfield slumped to a League defeat at Glenavon then lost the County Antrim Shield Final to Crusaders.

Thankfully, the month got a bit better when Linfield defeated Institute 2-0 at Windsor Park.

The month ended with a flurry of games, three in four days, with Linfield’s trip to Dungannon Swifts being sandwiched inbetween Northern Ireland’s opening two Euro 2020 Qualifiers, both at home, against Estonia and Belarus.

Glenavon v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Linfield v Institute

Northern Ireland v Estonia

Northern Ireland v Estonia Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Belarus

Northern Ireland v Belarus Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

Fifteen hours into 2019, and it was a short trip to the Seaside to see Linfield beat Ards.

More wins came in the month, with Warrenpoint Town, Crusaders and Glentoran all taken care of.

The month ended with a trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately, the one United match I went to didn’t result in a win, but a draw against Burnley, though I did manage to get some photos of Old Trafford in the snow the next morning.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

August began for me with the opening game of the 2018-2019 season, as Linfield travelled to Mourneview Park to take on Glenavon.

My next match was in the Scottish Challenge Cup, taking in Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers during a short break to Edinburgh.

Upon my return, it was back to Irish League football for me, with successive trips to North Belfast for Linfield, against Crusaders and Cliftonville.

Glenavon v Linfield

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers

Edinburgh City v Albion Rovers Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

CRUSADERS 4-3 LINFIELD 12.3.2019

Originally put back two weeks due to a Semi-Final postponement, then it got postponed itself, before changing venue, finally, the 2019 County Antrim Shield took place, as Linfield headed to Seaview looking to win their second trophy of the season.

The fact that it was Linfield and Crusaders going head to head in the Final shouldn’t have been that big a shock. This was the sixth Final in seven years that two out of Ballymena United, Crusaders and Linfield have met in the Final. If it’s one of those two teams going head to head in the 2020 Final, they might as well just make it a three team tournament.

This was the third meeting of Linfield and Crusaders during that run, with Linfield winning in 2014 and 2017.

Heading to the ground, it was so windy, there was a serious danger that if Crusaders played a long ball upfield, it might not come down for 27 minutes.

There were changes in the Linfield XI, not that surprising given previous Shield team selections this season.

With Gareth Deane playing in the 2017 Final as a rare opportunity for a second choice keeper to get a game, by 2019, he was now first choice, making way to give Conor Mitchell a debut.

Mark Stafford and Andrew Mitchell came in as players who haven’t played recently were given an opportunity, with Jamie Mulgrew missing through suspension.

Linfield had the better of the early stages and had a lot of pressure on Crusaders goal. They got their reward when Sean O’Neill dropped a corner, which fell perfectly for Mark Stafford to head home after 9 minutes, two minutes earlier than when he scored for Linfield in the 2017 Final.

Billy Joe Burns was lucky to get away with a yellow card for a late tackle, benefitting from the lack of minutes that were on the clock.

Crusaders soon got into the game and had some chances of their own, with Jordan Owens having a header that he should have scored, which David Cushley had a speculative shot saved. Not sure if you should count that, as he usually has about twenty speculative shots a game.

One of those shots soon found the back of the net from outside the penalty area, though questions have to be asked as to why Linfield failed to clear despite having two opportunities to do so in the build-up.

If Linfield fans were worried about how their team would respond to this setback, they had no need to be, as they responded to conceding one goal by scoring two themselves.

Andrew Waterworth nipped in front of a Crusaders defender to get to the ball first, running clean through on goal, only to see his shot saved, but Kirk Millar followed up to finish into the open net from a few yards out.

Surprisingly, it was only Millar’s fourth goal against teams in the current Top Six, having scored against Glenavon in 2015 and twice against Coleraine in 2016. It was very timely, though it should be pointed out that he compensates for his lack of goals with assists.

A minute later, it was 3-1 to Linfield when Millar resorted to assisting duties when his cross was header by a Crusaders defender off Colin Coates and in, though the PA Announcer gave it to Jordan Stewart because he was loitering in the penalty area, it was clearly an own goal.

Coates was then going in the referee’s notebook after grabbing Andrew Waterworth’s neck after a challenge. Of course, it was only going to be a yellow at worst.

Chris Casement had a free-kick tipped over while Declan Caddell had a shot saved as both teams searched for a goal before half-time, which saw Linfield have a 3-1 lead.

The second-half would have the wind in Crusaders favour, but Linfield weren’t 3-1 up because of the weather. They were 3-1 up because they’re a better team.

Linfield had the first chance of the second-half when Andrew Waterworth broke down the left to set up Jordan Stewart, who was denied.

Crusaders then started to see more of the ball and Linfield struggled to get the ball clear, literally, as the wind kept blowing it back towards their goal.

Not that it bothered Josh Robinson, who nonchalantly headed the ball back to Conor Mitchell from long range, without fear that it would end up in his own net.

Conor Mitchell was especially struggling with his kickouts, trying various techniques to find one that would see the ball not return to Linfield’s defensive work, with minimal success.

The pressure on Linfield’s goal was usually seen off, but only just, getting a body in the way more often than not.

Linfield needed to get the ball away from their own goal, as there would be no way of riding out such pressure for an entire half.

That proved to be the case when Colin Coates headed home to make it 3-2.

The goal didn’t inspire an immediate fightback, as Linfield not only held out, but had their own sustained period of pressure, with a Mark Stafford overhead kick being denied by a save from Sean O’Neill.

As the final minutes approached, Crusaders began the run out of ideas. Their main idea of kicking it up in the air and hoping to get a lucky bounce wasn’t working. However, they had one final corner.

You began to get bad vibes as soon as Crusaders set up for a corner, as the body language of the Linfield players didn’t look right, they didn’t look like they were ready to defend it.

And so it proved, as Jordan Forsythe finished from close range to make it 3-3.

Just when it looked like it was heading for extra-time, David Cushley headed home to make it 4-3 and put Crusaders in front.

Linfield responded with an attacking urgency that should have been there 45 minutes earlier.

To be brutally honest, this was a trophy that was thrown away.

We weren’t 3-1 up at half-time because of the weather, we were 3-1 up because we’re a better team. We allowed ourselves to be spooked by the weather and believed that it made Crusaders a better team than they really are.

We also didn’t help ourselves by not making a substitution at any point during the game.

Even though there are only substitutes allowed in the County Antrim Shield, there were still options for Linfield. Daniel Kearns, Marek Cervenka and Kyle McClean all could easily have made a positive impact if any of them were introduced from the bench.

The attitude in the second-half shouldn’t have been can we hold on to the lead, but can we extend it? We surrendered the initiative to Crusaders and lost a game we never looked like losing.

Twice in a row now, we’ve lost to Crusaders because we weren’t concentrating in the final minutes of a game.

So, the trophy chase is now – one in the bag, two gone and the big one to play for.

The day after this game, Linfield’s post-split fixtures were confirmed, even though teams can change position before the end of Matchday 33.

So, here it is:

05 Apr 19 Ballymena United (away)
13 Apr 19 Crusaders (home)
20 Apr 19 Glenavon (home)
23 Apr 19 Cliftonville (home)
27 Apr 19 Coleraine (away)

But before then, Institute and Dungannon.

Photo Album

CRUSADERS 0-1 LINFIELD 19.1.2019

Three was the magic number prior to kick-off at Seaview.

Obviously, three points on offer, with Linfield having a three point lead over Crusaders, looking for their third win of the season over Crusaders, in the first of three games between the sides in eighteen days.

The League table had a familiar theme to the previous meetings, with Linfield looking to extend their lead over Crusaders.

In August, Linfield held a two point lead, became a five point lead at full-time. That five point lead was still in place by the second meeting in December, but was eight by full-time.

By January, it was now three points, but Linfield had a game in hand, due to Crusaders going on a six game winning run since then.

You could argue that run is a bit deceptive. Four of those wins have come against teams in the bottom six, and of those four wins, three of them have been by one goal. They’ve been scraping by.

A draw wouldn’t have been the worst result, but a win represented an opportunity to pull clear of a title rival and have some daylight. Crusaders wouldn’t be out of the title race with a defeat, but you’d have to put across a very convincing argument as to why they were in it.

Crusaders first attack saw a series of attempted shots blocked by various Linfield bodies. Not surprising given the clean sheet run in the League that Linfield are currently on. Crusaders were the last team in the League to score against Linfield. That would still be the case regardless of what happened at Seaview, but Linfield weren’t in the mood for that stat to be updated.

Linfield’s first attack was a lot more effective. A long ball seemed to cause confusion in Crusaders defence, allowing Jordan Stewart an opportunity to nip in and lob the ball over the onrushing Gerard Doherty to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Doherty was one of three former Derry City players making their home debut for a Crusaders side which had Hale but no Pace. There’s almost as many ex Derry players than ex Linfield players. You could do a Venn Diagram of the ex Derry players and ex Linfield players in their squad, and put Philip Lowry and Rory Patterson in the middle.

The first goal was important in this fixture. That isn’t clichéd pundit speak, there is statistics to back it up. The last time a team scoring first at Seaview failed to win was September 2014. The last time a team scored first and lost was April 2014. Linfield last scored first and lost there in January 2013. This is a fixture where the first goal has been key in recent years.

It also kept up a random statistic that all of Linfield’s goals this season against Crusaders have been scored by players whose names begin with J – Joel Cooper (2), Jamie Mulgrew, Jimmy Callacher, Josh Robinson and Jordan Stewart (2)

Hopefully in the upcoming meetings in February, we’ll have goalscoring contributions from Jiall Quinn, Jeven Fallon, Jirk Millar and Jandrew Waterworth.

Cooper and Stewart were getting a lot of joy when combining up front as Linfield took control of the game. It felt like they had fifteen players on the pitch. Any time that Crusaders had an opportunity to get the ball forward, it was usually intercepted by Jamie Mulgrew.

Andrew Waterworth had a header saved by Doherty as Linfield looked to convert their dominance into a two goal lead.

Every time a Linfield player had the ball, they always seemed to have options to pass to and space to operate in. On some occasions, they had both.

Paul Heatley curled wide with Crusaders best chance of the first-half. It was their only chance of note in the half. All their other attempts on goal were speculative efforts which never troubled Roy Carroll.

In the previous two meetings, Linfield got early second-half goals to secure the points, in August going from 1-0 to 2-0, and in December from 2-0 to 4-0. If they repeated it here, it would surely secure the points.

They didn’t get it, but there was no real response from Crusaders. All they offered was an overhit cross from Ross Clarke which was tipped over by Roy Carroll when it looked like it might sneak in.

The only moment of worry came when Mark Stafford intercepted a cross and got the ball stuck between his legs with Crusaders players swarming around him, but he was able to clear at the expense of a corner.

Stafford had come on as a sub for Jimmy Callacher, who went off injured, showing the value of the squad, having players who can fill in when needed.

It would be expected that Daniel Kearns and/or Michael O’Connor would be introduced in the final stages, so it wasn’t ideal having to use a sub so early as there wouldn’t be much room for manoeuvre regarding bringing players on from the bench.

By this point, a quick free-kick set up an opportunity for Joel Cooper, but he fired wide from a tight angle.

Kirk Millar then tried his luck from a tight angle (Think Marco Van Basten v Soviet Union) but was narrowly wide.

Crusaders resorted to trying to wind up Linfield’s players, but only succeeded in winding themselves up, losing their discipline and racking up yellow cards.

Howard Beverland managing to pick up the stupidest yellow card for obstruction, looking to see where the player was and blocking him off, right in the eyesight of the referee. He got booked the second time he was penalised for it.

With a one goal lead, there was always going to be an element of nerves in the final moments, but in truth, Crusaders never looked like scoring, as Linfield held on for the 1-0 win.

That result puts them six points clear of Crusaders with a game in hand, and maintains a three point lead over Ballymena, who won 2-1 at Glenavon.

Ballymena dropping points would have been great, but it does mean that we can officially rule Glenavon out of the title race, although the ten point gap at kick-off made it generous to consider them still in it.

Up next, is a trip to Newry on Tuesday night. Curiously, due to Institute’s involvement in the North-West Cup Final, Ballymena’s game against Institute has been postponed.

Three points is a must. We can go nine clear of Crusaders and six clear of Ballymena, laying down the challenge to them to catch us if they can. Curiously, Crusaders and Ards are the only teams in the League who don’t have outstanding games to play.

After that, is Glentoran at home on Sky the following Monday night. That was worked out quite well for us, spreading the games around having come through a busy December period and only having one free midweek in that time.

Personally, it also blocks off 29th January as a date for the County Antrim Shield Final, which is good for me as i’ll be in England.

That game, will be against Crusaders, who we’ll face in the Irish Cup three days before. Nothing to fear, as we’ve proved three times this season. There are too many teams in the Irish League who are afraid of Crusaders.

Those games are ticketed, most games are at the moment. Thankfully, we’ve had quite a few Saturday home games for supporters to get tickets. Also, a Ticketmaster outlet has opened up in the Tourist Information Centre in Belfast City Centre if that’s more convenient for you.

There is also the possibility of a Two Ronnies-esque situation at the Ticket Office.

Can I have a ticket of the match? What match? The Crusaders match. Crusaders at Seaview? Crusaders at home? Crusaders at Ballymena? Or the match against Ballymena? Ummmmm

Since I last wrote, there’s been a few ins and outs. Mostly outs, which isn’t surprising given the size of our squad.

Eammon Scannell, Ryan Strain and Jonathan Smith have all left on loan. Not that surprising in the case of Smith. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brandon Doyle joined him going out on loan.

Kyle McClean came in from St Johnstone, and was an unused sub for this game. I don’t know much about him.

That incoming meant that Robert Garrett was allowed to leave, heading to Glenavon. It wasn’t really a surprise to see him leave, but I thought that wouldn’t happen until the Summer. I’m slightly surprised we didn’t “Play the system” and loan him rather than letting him leave, as this would block him from playing against us this season.

It’s absolutely certain if Glenavon were a lot closer to us in the table, there’s not a hope in hell we’d be so accommodating.

Garrett will be facing us on Friday 8th March live on BBC 2, as the latest TV games have been announced. Two Glenavon matches on BBC to go with another one of their games on Sky next month. They might as well have their own channel.

The draw for the FA Cup 4th Round has confirmed that United’s match against Burnley will be on the Tuesday night. As I now have the Wednesday free, i’m tempted to do a day trip to Sheffield, having last been there in 2010.

I was in London on the weekend of the 4th Round last year and went to Millwall v Rochdale. I picked the wrong year.

If I went this year, I could do Arsenal v Man United, day trip to Brighton for Brighton v West Brom and then Palace v Spurs.

I’m actually thinking of doing a London/Brighton double header in July 2020, over the 12th Holidays, catch a pre-season game and soak up the atmosphere of the European Championship Final.

Pre-Season 2020 can wait, the 2018-2019 season is far from resolved.

Photo Album