2016 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February began for me seeing Linfield beating Dungannon Swifts 6-0, a good start to the month.

The following weekend, I was on the road to Shamrock Park, to see Linfield lose 2-1.

Back on the road the following weekend, this time to Coleraine, with a better result, with Linfield coming from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

The next day, I made the most of a free ticket to see Ulster take on Scarlets. Unfortunately, the game ended up in an agonising one point defeat for Ulster.

Two days after that I headed to The Limelight to see Foxes in concert.

The month ended with me heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Glenavon, a match that saw an outfield player go in goal and save a penalty.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Ulster v Scarlets

Ulster v Scarlets Photo Album

Foxes live at The Limelight

Foxes live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began with Dungannon’s trip to Windsor Park for a match that was postponed in January, a 6-0 win for Linfield being a good start to the month.

At the end of the following weekend, I was off to Shamrock Park to see Linfield’s run of form come to a crashing end with a 2-1 defeat.

Eight days later, I was back on the road, to see Linfield get a come from behind win at Coleraine.

I ended the month at Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Glenavon, a match that saw an outfield player go into nets and save a penalty.

Just another dull month.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Portadown v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – NOVEMBER

The early weeks of November 2015 were spent at Windsor Park, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Northern Ireland’s match against Latvia

The final two Saturdays of the month were on the road to Mid-Ulster, but no upturn in fortune for Linfield

Sandwiched inbetween those two trips to Mid-Ulster was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford to see United play out a drab and ultimately costly draw against PSV Eindhoven.

It’s a good job I went to that Northern Ireland match, otherwise it would have been a totally awful month of football watching.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

PORTADOWN 2-1 LINFIELD 12.2.2016

The last time Linfield visited Shamrock Park, in November, they left after a fourth successive defeat, their season in tatters.

Fast forward two and a half months, seven wins and a draw from the following eight games saw them return hoping to get the points on the board to try and mount an unlikely title challenge.

With Crusaders playing Glenavon, their would be points droppage either directly below or above them, or possibly both. Add in the fact that Cliftonville were inactive (in league terms) this weekend, this was a game that would be best decribed as “must win”

Linfield had a good early start, spending the early minutes in Portadown’s half. You got the sense that Linfield needed to score when they were on top.

Gradually, Portadown got more and more into the game, without creating any clear chances.

Neither team on top, it was a game where you felt the first goal was going to be key. Portadown would soon be getting a chance to take the lead, when Marcio Soares went down soft after a challenge from Mark Stafford, who he had nudged over a few seconds earlier.

Ross Glendinning in goal for Linfield was more concerned with appealing for a goal kick, believing Stafford to have played the ball off Soares.

To everyone’s astonishment, referee Arnold Hunter awarded a penalty to Portadown. It would be the first of many howling errors he would make during the game.

If it was a foul, then surely Mark Stafford should have been carded? Arnold Hunter couldn’t even get a wrong decision right.

After a long delay, Mark McAllister put Portadown 1-0 up. Just about, after Glendinning got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.

Looking for an equaliser, Linfield were hoping that Andrew Waterworth would be the man to get it for them. As he raced towards goal, he was recklessly scythed down by Michael Gault, showing the type of skills that has earned him a move to Crusaders.

It wasn’t even a late or misjudged tackle, it was a wild kick out purely designed to stop an attack before it advanced into Portadown’s final third. There was no attempt to win the ball. Amazingly, Arnold Hunter only deemed the challenge worthy of a yellow card.

1-0 up, we were treated to a masterclass in timewasting from Portadown. The harsh economic clinate has seen Portadown outsource their ballboy services to Linfield players, and goal kicks and throw ins took an age.

It’s not the fact that teams do it that’s the problem, it’s the fact that teams get away with it, aided by referees who are too dumb and/or incompetent to notice they are being made mugs of.

Fans don’t spend a tenner to watch teams taking ages over dead ball situations, we spend our tenners to watch football.

Two minutes of added time were added on, Portadown spent at least thirty seconds wasting time on a throw in during this. The half ended on 47 minutes and 11 seconds with Linfield having a corner.

I’m not suggesting that Linfield would have scored that corner, but it would have been nice to have gotten the chance to see.

When Linfield are playing away from home, and attacking their fans, you always get a feeling a goal will come, regardless of how the game was going. Linfield fans were hoping that attacking their fans in the Armagh Road End would inspire their team to turn the situation around.

Jimmy Callacher went wide from a corner in the early minutes of the second-half. A few minutes later, a poor clearance fell to Ross Gaynor on halfway for Andrew Waterworth to chase, but David Miskelly was out of his goal to gather the ball and deny him.

Miskelly was aided by the fact he was able to gather the ball outside his penalty area. Never a red card, but as clear a free-kick you will see.

You’ve probably guessed by Arnold Hunter’s previous form, he waved play on.

Michael McLellan came off the bench for Kirk Millar. It would be kind to say it didn’t happen for Millar. It didn’t happen for any of Linfield’s attackers, despite the number of attacks and chances.

Philip Lowry soon made it 2-0 with a header from a soft free-kick, that looked to be it.

You still had to hope. There was still time left, and you got the feeling Portadown could capitulate if Linfield could get a quick goal.

Michael McLellan had a chance when the ball fell to him in the penalty area, but he sliced his shot wide.

Portadown thought they had made it 3-0 with a goalbound header that was cleared on the line, only to see a free-kick awarded for a handball by Ken Oman, which resulted in him getting a second yellow card.

The game restarted with him still on the pitch, only for the referee to realise he was still walking off the pitch.

Linfield soon had hope when Matthew Clarke slide the ball home. Clarke had a shooting free-kick in injury time but elected to pass to Jamie Mulgrew for a cross. It would have been a good move if it had worked. It didn’t work.

Five minutes of injury time was indicated, one minute of which was spent by Portadown wasting time at a throw-in.

The game ended on 95 minutes and 14 seconds with Linfield getting ready to take a corner. Like in the first-half, Linfield might not have scored, but it would have been nice to have seen if they could, considering there was a stoppage in injury time.

The game had ended in total farce.

Talking of farces, you might have seen it all over the news the kerfuffle of the allocation of tickets for Northern Ireland’s games ta Euro 2016.

I only applied for Poland, as it’s the only game i’m going out for. I got an e-mail on Tuesday to say my application was unsuccessful.

Due to it being in a relatively small stadium, I calculated I might have been on the border of the cut-off point. I thought I was just unlucky. I was offline and in a news bubble for most of Tuesday, and didn’t realise what had actually happened.

Hopefully, those who missed out get sorted in the coming weeks.

Thankfully, i’m able to get a ticket through a friend, so the situation is retrieved. I’m 99.9% certain of being in the Allianz Riviera on 12th June.

From the Allianz Riviera to the Ulster Riviera (that is what Coleraine is known as?) and it’s a trip to Coleraine for Linfield next. A win against Coleraine started the impressive Winter run of form, so why not have history repeat itself.

This definitely is a must win, with Crusaders playing Cliftonville. There will be points droppage around us next week (hopefully both teams) just like there was last night when Crusaders and Glenavon drew, which makes the result even more frustrating.

Despite not playing that well, Linfield still had enough chances and attacks to get something from the game. We didn’t help ourselves, nor were we helped by competent officialdom.

It’s gone, and it’s all about looking forward, with a big run of games coming up.

The home match against Glentoran on 12th March is anticipated to be the day that the South Stand becomes fully operational for Linfield fans.

Hopefully, we’ll be going into that game with six more points behind us and an Irish Cup Semi-Final to look forward to.

Photo Album

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 – NOVEMBER

November took a while to get going, my first adventure being on the 7th, to see Linfield take on Crusaders. I would be spending a lot of time at Windsor Park in the opening fortnight of the month.

Windsor Park is where I would be based in the opening two weekends of the month, taking in Northern Ireland’s friendly against Latvia, then Linfield’s match against Cliftonville the next day.

The following midweek was all about music, as Paul Weller and U2 came to Belfast.

The busy month continued when I took in my annual Ulster European game, a defeat to Saracens.

The final two Saturdays of the month saw me on the road, to see Linfield lose in Mid-Ulster against Glenavon and Portadown.

Sandwiched inbetween that, was a trip to Manchester to see United take on PSV Eindhoven, where I also took the opportunity to get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall Photo Album

U2 live at The Odyssey

U2 live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Ulster v Saracens

Ulster v Saracens Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester Street Art November 2015

Manchester Street Art November 2015 Photo Album

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

2015 IN PICTURES – APRIL

Damage to The Kop at Windsor Park meant that my photo adventures were delayed in April.

The first shots I got were of Street Art in Belfast City Centre, outside Red Barn Gallery.

On Easter Tuesday, finally some football action, as Linfield beat Glentoran at The Oval. Four days later it was a home game against Ballymena, and a defeat that finally ended Linfield’s title challenge.

With Linfield’s fate now decided, I went to see Carrick Rangers travel to PSNI in their attempt to get promoted the following midweek.

I had a change of heart the following weekend, travelling to Shamrock Park to see Linfield take on Portadown, mainly as it was Peter Thompson’s last game for the club.

Red Barn Street Art

Red Barn Street Art Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PSNI v Carrick Rangers

PSNI v Carrick Rangers Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

2015 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

The start of February usually sees me head away somewhere, and this year saw me head to Barcelona for a short break.

While there, I toured the city, did a tour of the Nou Camp, got lots of Street Art pictures and went to two football matches

Upon my return from Barcelona, it was straight into Irish League action, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Four days later, I was headed to Stangmore Park, on my birthday, to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts, with Linfield giving me some birthday cheer by winning 3-0.

Three days later I was headed to Mandela Hall for the first time since 2011, for my first gig of 2015 – Echo and the Bunnymen.

A further three days after that, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Portadown.

The final day of the month saw me see Linfield take on Portadown again, this time in the Irish Cup, and at Shamrock Park. It was the same result though.

Barcelona

Barcelona Photo Album

Nou Camp Photo Album

Barcelona Street Art

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 1

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 2

Barcelona Street Art Photo Album 3

CE Europa v Masnau

CE Europa v Masnau Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall

Echo and the Bunnymen Live At Mandela Hall Photo Album

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

PORTADOWN 2-0 LINFIELD 28.11.2015

After three successive defeats, Linfield hoped to end their Monthus Horribilus, as they say in Latin, with a win, away to Portadown.

The game took place in conditions similar to the Irish Cup tie in February, non stop swirling wind and rain.

The early moments saw Ross Glendinning have a couple of hesitant moments with balls into the penalty area, with defenders having to clear the ball for him when he should have been claiming the ball. On one of those occasions, Darren Murray got to the ball before him, but Glendinning was able to get a hand on it before Murray could shoot.

Murray also had a header go over, giving Linfield a warning that he is a threat that can’t be ignored.

Linfield reverted back to 4-4-2 after playing 4-3-3 last week, with youngster Paul Smyth keeping his place. Smyth had Linfield’s best chance in the first-half, but his left foot shot was saved when it looked like a right foot shot was the best option.

Even allowing for the weather, it wasn’t a good game. A big improvement was needed in the second-half.

Linfield almost got an early goal in the second-half when Paul Smyth pulled back to Andrew Waterworth, whose shot was cleared off the goal line by Ross Redman. Less than a minute later, Redman was able to create too much space for himself in Linfield’s half and play it across to Chris Casement to fire home and put Portadown 1-0 up.

If ever a passage of play summed the past month, that was it.

Like against Cliftonville and Glenavon in the previous two weeks, Linfield responded well to going behind and had chances. Like in those aforementioned two games, they couldn’t take the chances that came their way.

Jimmy Callacher had a shot cleared off the line, Kirk Millar fired straight at the keeper while Andrew Waterworth header over from a cross when he would have scored if he had got it on target.

Everytime the ball bounced in the penalty area, it landed at a Portadown foot. It wasn’t luck, Linfield players weren’t gambling to get into positions.

At both ends of the pitch, Portadown were always first to the second ball.

It wasn’t all Linfield, Portadown were dangerous on the counter attack.

Mark Stafford saw a shot saved while Andrew Waterworth got in behind Portadown’s defence and shot straight at the keeper when he had two passing options that would have resulted in a goal.

As injury time approached, Portadown broke away with Gary Twigg squaring it to Marcio Soares who made it 2-0. As the ball hit the back of the net, a supporter behind me remarked “See! that’s how you do it”

It was as damming as it was true. Equally as damming was the fact that the only attacking player taking the game by the scruff of the neck and trying to make things happen was a teenager with less than ten appearances.

This game also exposed the lack of depth in Linfield’s squad, with no striker on the bench, having to resort to playing a wide man “in the hole” when making an attacking change.

Even looking back to five years ago, you would have had two of Curtis Allen, Paul Munster and Mark McAllister on the bench. Seeing them warming up when chasing a goal would have filled you with confidence. Looking at Linfield’s bench in recent weeks, there hasn’t been anybody warming up that made you think they would change the game.

Once again, Linfield paid for poor decision making at both ends of the pitch. If Linfield had went 1-0 up early in the second-half, they probably would have went on to comfortably win the game. If they had made it 1-1 at any point in the second-half, they probably would have won the game.

If is the biggest word in football, and Linfield fans are saying it far too many times these days.

Suddenly, the County Antrim Shield semi-final against Carrick Rangers (weather permitting, Carrick’s home game today was postponed) is a lot bigger than a minor regional competition should be.

Linfield fans will be glad to know that Tuesday’s date is 1st December, today being the final game of a rotten month.

Hopefully, by the time Linfield fans are opening the sixth window of their advent calendar, they’ll be looking forward to the County Antrim Shield final and celebrating their first league win in four games.

That won’t be easy, as 2nd place Coleraine arrive at Windsor Park next Saturday.

Twelve points off the top, even the most optimistic of supporters will have to concede the title is an uphill task. There is still a lot to play for, with European football to secure, and don’t forget, if we don’t win the league, the Irish Cup will do.

Today’s result was the first time Linfield had lost four successive league games since 1997, when they were struggling under a new manager.

It was a year Glentoran sacked their manager, Windsor Park was getting renovated, Crusaders won the league, TFI Friday was on TV and U2 did a concert in Belfast. This all feels a bit familiar. Thankfully, it did end up having a happier resolution over the next ten years.

A recent trend in recent matches has been a group called Blue Unity, aimed at improving atmosphere at matches. One chant they have introduced is their version of a Slade classic “We are the Linfield boys, you’ll know us by noise, we go wild wild wild”

Sadly, recent events on the field haven’t given them a chance to go wild wild wild.

Photo album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April was supposed to start at Windsor Park on Easter Saturday, but damage to The Kop stand meant my footballing month would begin at The Oval instead. I wouldn’t get to visit Windsor Park at all this month.

After Linfield’s win over Glentoran at The Oval gave some life to the title race, defeat at “home” to Glenavon at Ballymena put an end to that four days later

With the title gone and European football secured for Linfield, my attention turned to the Championship promotion race, where I headed to Newforge (a first time visit) to see PSNI take on Carrick Rangers.

The month ended with a trip to Shamrock Park for Linfield’s last game of the season. It was a late decision to go, influenced by the fact it would be Peter Thompson’s last game for Linfield.

We didn’t get the goal we all wanted, but we did get a chance to applaud and thank him for his service.

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

PSNI v Carrick Rangers

PSNI v Carrick Rangers Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield