DUNGANNON SWIFTS 1-4 LINFIELD 28.1.2017

Four as very much the number that mattered today as Linfield began the first of four games on the road, hoping that results would go their way and the gap at the top of the table would be reduced to four points. The got four goals, but the gap remained at seven.

It was Dungannon who had the better of the play in the opening minutes, causing Linfield more problems with their attacks than Linfield were causing them, a couple of corners having to be cleared and Ryan Harper firing a shot just wide.

However, it was Linfield who took the lead with their first attack when Mark Haughey headed a Stephen Lowry freekick into the net. As soon as it left his head it was going in, Dungannon’s keeper didn’t stand a chance.

Haughey had put Linfield 1-0 up when the teams met in August, but Linfield put in a disjointed performance and only managed a 1-1 draw. Their performance today prior to the goal mirrored the performance that day. They were hoping this time they would kick on and put in a performance similar to their visit to Dungannon in November.

Unfortunately, we got a repeat of the performance in August, the biggest moment of worry coming when a misplaced Jimmy Callacher pass almost presented Dungannon with an opportunity.

Linfield were dealt a blow just after the half hour when Aaron Burns came off with a shoulder injury. Surprisingly, it was Cameron Stewart who got the nod to play upfront ahead of Kevin Amuneke.

A few minutes later, they were dealt and even bigger blow when Dungannon equalised after Ally Teggart scored from close range. It was too easy for Dungannon, from playing it out from the left-back position, to getting the ball crossed from a right wing position. It was deserved for Dungannon.

The only positive for Linfield was, that this situation came in the first-half when they could do something about it at half-time, instead of in the second-half when there was no chance to rectify the situation, as when the sides met in August.

Linfield had their chances to go in at half-time in front when Mark Haughey headed over from a corner, while Andrew Waterworth had a shot blocked behind by a Dungannon defender, but for some reason a goal kick was awarded.

Unsurprisingly, Linfield’s performance improved at the start of the second-half, with Andrew Waterworth volleying over in the penalty area, before getting on the end of a Stephen Fallon cross to fire home from close range to put Linfield back in front.

Within a minute, Cameron Stewart took advantage of a mix-up in Dungannon’s defence to head home from close range to make it 3-1.

That was the game almost won for Linfield. They had to make sure they did nothing stupid in defence to make the final moments more exciting than they should be.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Jimmy Callacher finished from close range to make it 4-1. That definitely was the game won for Linfield.

The game became a non event in the final minutes, as Linfield ran out 4-1 winners.

Wins for Crusaders and Cliftonville meant hat nothing changed at the top of the table, Linfield sit 7 points off top and are 6 points clear of 3rd.

Next week (for everyone barring Ards and Carrick) the league takes a break. Linfield face the bottom five in five of their next six games. That is an opportunity to go on a winning run and gather some momentum. If we don’t, we don’t deserve to win the league.

All we can do is keep winning and hoping. The title race is far from over.

Next Saturday, is Institute away in the Irish Cup.

For me, there is a midweek trip to England to see Manchester United take on Hull on Wednesday night. I’ll be there from Tuesday to Thursday. I’d planned on going to Wigan v Norwich on Tuesday night but that has been postponed, but now i’m toying with the idea of Burnley v Leicester. Still undecided.

I know what you’re thinking, BURNLEY CAN FUCK OFF.

Photo Album

DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-4 LINFIELD 12.11.2016

Linfield concluded a busy week on the road with a trip to Dungannon hoping to build on the performances at Glenavon and Ballymena, totally contrasting yet both satisfying.

The game had an even start. Dungannon weren’t afraid to attack Linfield, having a header go wide of the post with their best opportunity and forcing Roy Carroll to be alert at set pieces. Linfield were doing just as much attacking.

Even in the early moments, it looked like being a game where the first goal would be vital. It would have been a bigger blow for Dungannong to concede it than Linfield, as even if Dungannon went 1-0 up, you would have felt Linfield could come back. If Linfield went 1-0 up, they always looked like they would take control and get the three points.

Stephen Lowry fired just wide from the edge of the box as Linfield went in search of it, while Mark Haughey headed over from close range.

Just before the half hour, Linfield got the breakthrough when a Ross Gaynor free-kick was bundled into the net. It looked like a Chris Hegarty own goal but Jimmy Callacher was claiming it. TV replays seem to back up that it was an own goal. However, there is no Dubious Goals Committee in the Irish League, and if the attacking player shouts loud enough, they generally get awarded it.

As Callacher ran away as if he scored it, he’ll probably get credited with it.

It was the second goal this week to come from an inswinging cross into the six yard box from Ross Gaynor.

Linfield instantly doubled their lead when a misplaced pass went to Paul Smyth who found space to play it to Jamie Mulgrew who fired home via a slight deflection.

Linfield were in the mood to wrap the game up, Paul Smyth firing over first time after a ball was played in behind the defence.

Another misplaced pass from Dungannon saw Niall Quinn get some space in a shooting position, replicating Chris Brunt’s goal against Azerbaijan less than 24 hours earlier, firing low into the net.

It should have been 4-0 when Jimmy Callacher blasted over after his original shot was cleared off the line.

Linfield continued on the attack in the second-half, and a Save Of The Season contender from Andy Coleman denied Stephen Lowry a Goal Of The Season contender when his first time shot from outside the box after a header clear was tipped onto the bar. It would have been a goal so good, it deserved commentary from Alan Partridge.

There wasn’t long to wait for a 4th goal, a cross wasn’t cut out and went straight to Ross Gaynor, who fired home.

You could argue that three goals were gifted to Linfield, but they weren’t in the mood to turn down gifts. Why should they? There’s already Christmas adverts on the TV, it’s the time of year for it.

Despite a 4-0 lead, Linfield weren’t in a reciprocal gift giving mood in defence. Long may this scroogeness continue.

After that, the game unsurprisingly meandered, giving Linfield an opportunity to give players a rest. Surprisingly, Aaron Burns was again made to wait on the bench.

Stephen Lowry seemed to be having a personal battle with Andy Coleman and Dungannon’s defence, unable to get a fifth goal. It didn’t matter, four was enough.

Crusaders won, so the deficit is four points still.

Linfield’s poor run of form in October means they’ll have their feet up in midweek while other clubs are in action in the League Cup. One of those is next Saturday’s opponents Cliftonville. Wouldn’t it be awful if their match on Wednesday against Glenavon went to extra-time? I suppose the same could be said for Coleraine v Crusaders but Crusaders play Ards next Saturday, and they would probably beat Ards even if they played a match on Saturday morning.

After Cliftonville, comes Portadown, Carrick and Ards. That is a generous run of games after next week, and a great chance to build some momentum ahead of a busy and potentially season defining run of games over Christmas/New Year.

Ten goals, three great performances and no lost ground. It’s fair to say Linfield have had a productive week on the road, though it will be great to be back at Windsor Park next week.

Photo Album

NORTHERN IRELAND 4-0 AZERBAIJAN 11.11.2016

Northern Ireland faced familiar foes on Friday night, with Azerbaijan visiting Windsor Park for the third time in four World Cup Qualifying campaigns.

The two previous meetings, saw both sides battling it out to avoid finishing bottom of the group. This time around, they were battling it out for second place and a play-off spot. Victory for Northern Ireland would see them go into the Winter break in that position, which was currently occupied by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s opening three games had seen two wins and a draw, keeping clean sheets in all of them. A win over Norway and a draw against Czech Republic suggests they’re better than people think. Only managing to beat San Marino 1-0 suggests they’re not as good as their second place position suggests.

Azerbaijan is an ambitious country, determined to showcase themselves to the world, hosting Eurovision, European Games, European Grand Prix and Euro 2020.

One of their leading clubs, Qarabag, are regulars in the UEFA Cup Group Stages. What they really want, is for their national team to reach a major finals.

Northern Ireland’s past meetings with Azerbaijan have been associated with false dawns. Northern Ireland’s only win against them in September 2015 was a few days before the famous win against England which kickstarted the heroic, but ultimately unsuccessful Euro 2008 Qualifying campaign.

The draw at Windsor Park in 2012 had followed a draw in Portugal, bringing everyone back down to earth.

It was Azerbaijan who had the first attack of the game, with Chris Brunt being forced to head the ball out for a corner in the opening minutes as an Azeri attacker eyed up a cross.

There was a nervous moment (from where I was) when Shane Ferguson had a coming together during a challenge in his own penalty area, but the lack of Azerbaijan protest suggested they didn’t believe it was a penalty, which was fine by me.

After that, Northern Ireland took control of the game, which wasn’t disrupted when the game was stopped due to a clash of heads between Chris Brunt and an Azerbaijan player.

Both players were fit to return, embracing each other was they re-entered the pitch.

Shane Ferguson had Northern Ireland’s first real chance when he hit the side netting from close range.

Despite being on top, Northern Ireland had to be wary of Azeri counter-attacks.

Eventually, the goal came when a long throw was flicked to Kyle Laffety, who fired home, similar to his goal against Finland in 2015.

The pressure continued, and a second goal came via a header from Gareth MacAuley, who was in 4th Year at secondary school when Azerbaijan played their first competitive international in 1994.

Azerbaijan made a good start to the second-half as they tried to get back into the game, with Michael McGivern being forced out to make a save, while another shot went just over the bar.

The most flammible man in world football, Will Grigg, was introduced from the bench. Ironically, he probably should have been playing for Azerbaijan, which is known as “The Land Of Fire”

It wasn’t Grigg who got the third, but Conor McLaughlin, heading home from a corner. That was the three points wrapped up. There was no doubt any more.

That wasn’t the end of the scoring, as Chris Brunt made it 4-0, a second successive home win by that score.

Just a pity supporters in The Kop had to endure smelly tramps smoking throughout the game while stewards sat about doing nothing. It’s bad enough that the designers of Windsor Park pander to these arseholes by giving them their own area, but it’s still not good enough for them, that they don’t even have the basic consideration for other supporters to go 45 minutes without.

Elsewhere in the group, Czech Republic beat Norway 2-1. A draw would have been great.

Next up, is Norway. Northern Ireland can effectively put Norway out of the race by beating them at Windsor Park in March next year.

The only problem is, our record against Norway is awful, but those were friendly games. Maybe we are due a win in a competitive game? Norway’s last competitive visit to Belfast was a 3-0 win for Northern Ireland in 1975.

The fixture list is tantalising. After Norway is Azerbaijan away, then San Marino. Imagine the momentum if we won those games ahead of Czech Republic visiting Windsor Park in September 2017.

Anyway, it’s time to put thoughts of Russia to one side for a few months, but not before a friendly at home to Croatia to finish the year off.

Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan 2012

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan 2012 Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – OCTOBER

October began with a trip to Solitude to see Linfield and Cliftonville draw 3-3, amidst unceratinty over the future of Linfield manager Warren Feeney.

Five days later, I was at Windsor Park to witness Northern Ireland get the win they needed against Greece to send them to Euro 2016.

The party continued for a few days, but the Irish League was back to work, as Linfield faced Glentoran at Windsor Park less than 48 hours later.

By now, Warren Feeney was gone, and it was apt that it was Warren(point) where his successor David Healy took charge of his first game in charge.

The final two games of the month saw Linfield take on Carrick Rangers and Dungannon Swifts.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Greece

Northern Ireland v Greece Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

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 – OCTOBER

October began for me with a trip to Solitude, to see Linfield and Cliftonville play out an entertaining 3-3 draw, as uncertainty reigned about the future of Linfield manager Warren Feeney.

The following week was very busy, beginning with Weird Al Yankovic at The Limelight.

The next night, it was Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Greece knowing that a win would take them to Euro 2016. They got that win, and a party soon followed.

Back to The Limelight 24 hours later, for Cast.

And from music, back to football, to see Linfield take on Glentoran, with Warren Feeney gone and Andy Todd in temporary charge.

Later in the month, work took me to Stroke City. On my lunch, I spotted some Street Art, so I naturally headed out to get some snaps.

Back to football, it it was to Warrenpoint, as Linfield had their 3rd manager of the month, with David Healy now in permanent charge having his first game in charge.

I went back on the trail of Street Art, this time in Belfast. mopping up some pieces I missed on Culture Night the previous night.

The month ended with two football matches, to see Linfield taking on Carrick and Dungannon.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Weird Al Yankovic Live At The Limelight

Weird Al Yankovic Live At The Limelight Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Greece

Northern Ireland v Greece Photo Album

Cast Live At The Limelight

Cast Live At The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Stroke City Street Art

Stroke City Street Art Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

North Street Art October 2015

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Dungannon Swifts 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

DUNGANNON SWIFTS 0-1 LINFIELD 31.10.2015

Since his appointment as Linfield manager, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster for David Healy, going from Everything Is Awful (Ballinamallard) to Everything is Brilliant (Warrenpoint) back to Everything Is Awful (Carrick) then back to Everything Is Brilliant (Cliftonville)

He’s soon learning, if he didn’t know already, that everything at Windsor Park is magnified.

Today, he took his side to Stangmore Park, where Linfield lose every three years on average (2007, 2010, 2013), so that was a good omen, as they’re not due to lose there until next year.

However, they do draw there every three years (2009, 2012), so would that be his fate today?

Linfield began the game with a lot of posession but not doing a lot with it. Their first shot on goal was a Niall Quinn free-kick fired over.

Dungannon were a lot more productive with their possession, with Paul McElroy, who recently scored a long range goal against Cliftonville, trying his luck again, only to be denied by Ross Glendinning, while Glendinnign was in the right place to easily catch an Ally Teggart flick from a cross.

It took 30 minutes for Linfield to get a clear view of goal, Andrew Waterworth firing a shot agonisingly wide after creating some space in the penalty area.

Towards the end of the half, Linfield were pegging Dungannon in their own penalty area from set pieces, Jimmy Callacher having a header cleared off the line, while Mark Haughey and Guy Bates had headers stay out in the same scramble.

0-0 at half-time, not a new scenario for Linfield, their two visits to Dungannon last season had been 0-0 at half-time, before going on to win the game.

At half-time, my glasses snapped when I was cleaning them, which made the second-half an awkward prosepect. Stood at the end where Linfield were attacking, my view wasn’t too bad when Linfield were attacking, though not so great when the ball was at the other end. Hopefully, the ball wouldn’t be up there too much.

At that moment, I was so grateful that Linfield’s away kit was a bright shade of orange.

Linfield started the second-half better, and took the lead when a stray header back to Dungannon goalkeeper Andy Coleman was intercepted by Ivan Sproule, who knocked it away from Coleman, then fired it into the empty net.

Linfield were unable to get that second goal they needed, with both Waterworth and Burns hitting the side netting.

With only one goal in it, it was natural that Dungannon were going to feel a point was there for the taking, with Linfield having some nervy moments in the final minutes.

At least that’s what it looked like. Remember, I had no glasses, Linfield could have been totally outplaying Dungannon for all I know.

In other results, Cliftonville and Coleraine drew, while Crusaders won, meaning that Linfield and Crusaders (level on points) are pulling away from Cliftonville and Coelraine, five and six points clear respectively.

Such is the topsy turvy nature of this season’s title race, Linfield actually dropped a place on goal difference due to Crusaders beating Portadown 3-1.

You’ll never guess what, Linfield play Crusaders and Cliftonville in their next two games, both at Windsor Park.

What a massive prize on offer, knowing that if they win their next two games, they’ll be top of the league and at least eight points clear of Cliftonville.

We all know league titles aren’t won or lost in November, but if Linfield can get six points from the next two games, it would be a massive statement of intent.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began in Barcelona, where I went for a weekend break, going on the Nou Camp tour, going to a lower league game (CE Europa v Masnoua in the 4th tier) then the La Liga match between Espanyol and Valencia.

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

The following Saturday, I was at Stangmore Park to see Linfield get a 3-0 win on my birthday, which was nice.

The next two weekends were all about seeing Linfield take on Portadown, first at Windsor Park, then at Shamrock Park, with two damaging defeats for Linfield.

CE Europa v Masnoua

CE Europa v Masnou Photo Album

Espanyol v Valencia

Espanyol v Valencia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

Portadown v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : AUGUST

The 2014-2015 football season began domestically in August, with a trip to Portadown, for Linfield’s first domestic game under Warren Feeney.

The optimism was soon gone within 90 minutes as Portadown ran out 3-0 winners.

A few days later, I was in Cardiff for the European Super Cup Final between Real Madrid and Sevilla. It was a fantastic trip and great to visit another stadium for the first time. Was very impressed with the facilities there.

24 hours later, I was headed to The Oval to see Linfield get their first domestic win under Warren Feeney, a comeback win from 2-0 down.

That weekend, I was in Edinburgh, and took in a game, Hearts v Hibs at Tynecastle.

With Windsor Park being redeveloped, Linfield had a run of seven successive away games, so road trips became a regular feature of the opening weeks of the season, with trips to Institute (first time there), Ballyclare Comrades and Dungannon Swifts finishing off August.

Portadown v Linfield

Real Madrid v Sevilla

Real Madrid v Sevilla Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

Hearts v Hibs

Hearts v Hibs Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

Ballyclare Comrades v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield