GLENTORAN 3-0 LINFIELD 26.12.2019

Well that was shite. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read on.

Christmas got off to a good start for Linfield, with the Swifts winning the Steel and Sons Cup on Christmas Day, now it was the turn of the first team.

They arrived at The Oval on the back of a late draw against Crusaders. Those two points dropped allowed Cliftonville and Glentoran to cut the gap at the top of a congested table. Victory here could see them pull away from Glentoran and one or both of Crusaders and Cliftonville depending on the result at Seaview.

It was expected that the team that finished the match against Crusaders would be the starting line-up for Linfield. However, that would not be the case with Jordan Stewart and Andrew Waterworth starting ahead of Daniel Kearns and Shayne Lavery.

That meant that Linfield’s starting eleven featured all four of their goalscorers on Boxing Day 2018, as well as their goalscorer in 2016, Mark Haughey.

Their goalscorer on Boxing Day 2017, Cameron Stewart, was also on the pitch, but playing for Glentoran.

Inside the first ten minutes, it was Glentoran who struck the first blow when a long throw wasn’t cleared and a shot flashed across goal and fell perfectly for Elvio Van Overbeek to backheel the ball into the net.

It was a bad goal to concede, and was made worse by the fact the initial throw-in was so cheaply conceded, coming from a clearance out after a Glentoran attack was snuffed out.

Linfield responded with a Jimmy Callacher header that was kicked off the line. Joel Cooper then had a shot saved by Marijan Antolovic before Andrew Waterworth was flagged offside when following up the rebound.

Waterworth then had a header go just wide as Linfield went in search of an equaliser.

The best came when a goalmouth scramble fell for Mark Haughey. He managed to get a shooting opportunity but fired over. He would have been better off firing low into the crowded goal line as only one player could use his hands.

Despite being 1-0 down, there was no need to panic. There were goals in this for Linfield. They just had to keep the pressure on.

The pressure on Glentoran’s goal continued with Stephen Fallon having a shot go just wide before Jordan Stewart hit the post.

That search for a goal resulted in Shayne Lavery being brought in from the bench for Bastien Hery.

Linfield still had to be wary of not going 2-0 down, and they had a warning when Willie Garrett headed a free header straight at Rohan Ferguson.

It looked like that goal when Andrew Waterworth headed home from a Joel Cooper cross but was instantly denied by an offside flag. I didn’t have a clear view of it and the TV replay was inconclusive.

Wether left or right, Cooper was getting a lot of jot out wide and making things happen, but Linfield couldn’t get anybody on the end of his crosses.

You sensed if Linfield could get it to 1-1, they would go on to win the game.

Antolovic was having one of those days, and even when he dropped one, a Linfield player couldn’t get on the end of it.

That was the problem, more often than not, wherever it was on the pitch, when there was a loose ball, there would always be a Glentoran player first to the ball.

One such situation saw Hrvoje Plum run towards Linfield’s goal. Linfield’s defenders kept backing off and you knew what was going to happen as he fired in low from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0.

Up against it, but not out of it, Daniel Kearns and Matthew Shevlin came on Jordan Stewart and Matthew Clarke. Kearns should have been on a lot earlier when the score was 0-1.

Even though they were two goals down, Linfield were still in it. If they could get an instant goal back, there was still plenty of time left to get something from this game.

Joel Cooper was denied from a couple of efforts as Linfield looked to get that goal bad.

Plum then made it 3-0 from the penalty spot to put the game beyond doubt.

Despite that, Linfield continued to attack and continued to be denied, no matter what they did.

Linfield’s poor record in big domestic games (excluding Cliftonville) continues to be poor this season. Bizarrely, they aren’t the only team to be afflicted with this.

Top 5 v Each other (8 games, W-D-L-Pts)

Coleraine 4-3-1-15
Crusaders 3-2-3-11
Cliftonville 3-1-4-10
Linfield 3-1-4-10
Glentoran 2-3-3-9

Coleraine are the only team to have won more than they have lost in this Mini League and yet, they sit 3rd in the actual League. These stats are both worrying and give Linfield hope at the same time.

You can win the League without winning all these games, you can win the League having an inferior head to head against one team, but you won’t do it if you lose more than you win against the Top 5.

Nobody has an excellent record in these games, they all take points off each other and Coleraine have dropped to Bottom 6 teams.

It’s frustrating that everytime Linfield got close to the top, they lost a big game and get held back, then when they reached the top, they can’t seem to pull away.

They had better fix it quick, with a trip to Coleraine coming 46 hours after the final whistle at The Oval.

We’re not disadvantaged as Coleraine have the same turnaround time.

Regardless of the result, I would always have expected changes between the two games due to the turnaround.

I would expect Kirk Millar to come back in. We’ve found out the hard way over the last three games how important he is. Maybe a start for Daniel Kearns, Shayne Lavery to start, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Haughey was rested as two games in such a quick time might be too much for a player just back from long-term injury. Possibly, Andrew Mitchell might come in.

I would expect some rotation for the Institute and QUB games.

Sky Sports have done us a favour moving the Cliftonville away game to a Monday night, to have eight days gap between matches as we recover from a busy Christmas/New Year period.

It’s hard to assess this game. Linfield had enough chances and should have got something from this game, but they didn’t take them. We’ve probably played worse and won comfortably.

There were a couple of worrying trends though.

For the second successive game, Linfield conceded a soft goal in the opening ten minutes. We can’t keep giving teams something to defend so early in the game.

Some of the goals Linfield have conceded this season have been shocking, being punished for basic mistakes.

We have also struggled to break down teams who swarm the midfield and are well set up in defence. This is why it is imperative not to concede the first goal and give opponents something to hold onto.

We also need to be quicker to the ball in attacking situations. Far too often, opposing defenders are the quickest to react in situations.

We’ve let Cliftonville go top and put Glentoran back into the title race when we should have been out of sight. Glentoran have a generous run of games coming up, and won’t face a Top 5 team until February.

Tomorrow is a new day, as they say, and if Linfield can get three wins from the next seven days, this result won’t be forgotten about, but the smell of it won’t be lingering about.

We’d be through to the next round of the Irish Cup, and the worst scenario in the League would be 3 clear of Coleraine and 1 behind Cliftonville with those games in hand.

I’d hoped those games in hand would be used to extend our lead, rather than getting a lead.

Fortunes can change so quickly. Remember, Linfield went from four points behind to one point clear in the space of ten days last Christmas/New Year.

The good news for anyone travelling to Coleraine is that return train travel this weekend is 1/3 off as part of a marketing promotion.

Let’s hope Linfield aren’t feeling as generous as Translink.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : OCTOBER

October’s football watching began at The Oval, to see Linfield get a win over Glentoran.

That was then followed by Newry City’s first League visit to Windsor Park since 2011, and we were treated to a hat-trick from Jimmy Callacher.

That was then followed by two road trips, firstly to Clandeboye Park, where Linfield suffered their first defeat of the season, and then to Stangmore Park, where Linfield came from behind to beat Dungannon Swifts.

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Newry City

Ards v Linfield

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

2018 IN PICTURES – OCTOBER

I had to wait until the 8th of the month for a photo adventure, heading to The Oval to see Linfield take on Glentoran.

That was then followed up by a trip to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Newry City.

Another weekend, another football match, as I then headed to the Seaside to see Linfield take on Ards.

The following weekend, began with Rugby, as I headed to Ravenhill to see Ulster take on Dragons.

It was back to football the following day as I headed to Stangmore Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts.

The month ended with a trip to The Odyssey to see U2 in concert.

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Newry City

Ards v Linfield

Ulster v Dragons

Ulster v Dragons Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

U2 live at The Odyssey

U2 live at The Odyssey Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2017-2018

I hope you’ve enjoyed the month by month look back at the 2017-2018. The less said about what happened on the pitch, the better.

I took a lot of photos, so i’ve rounded up my favourites.

Feel free to vote for your favourite.

PLATT LANE

This was taken in June last year when The Oval was being used for filming a movie about Bert Trautmann, and was decorated to look like Maine Road. I went to get some photos.

I specifically wanted one with 1950s Maine Road and 2017 Oval both in the same shot, and this was my favourite from that day.

CLANDEBOYE

You have roadworks to thank for this photo.

I was held up heading to Ards v Linfield and missed the first couple of minutes.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered, a crowd with their eyes fixated on the pitch on a warm summer evening.

GARRETT

I like the composition of this photo.

You may be surprised that Robert Garrett is attacking and not defending, he had just kept the ball in play and was now being surrounded by two Dungannon defenders.

PHOTOGRAPHER

I just like the composition of this shot. Taken during Spartans v Linfield in Scottish Challenge Cup.

RAINBOW

Me being arty farty. I love trying to get pictures of rainbows over football grounds. Taken at half-time during Ballinamallard v Linfield in November. A rare time that afternoon when it wasn’t raining.

HAUGHEY

Same match, everyone huddled in the stand to avoid the rain. I like the composition of this shot.

FLEGS

Taken during the Northern Ireland v Switzerland match in November, green and white flags were left out before the game for fans to wave. I decided to take a shot as they were being waved and got lucky.

CELEBRATION

Everything fell into place for this shot, the sky, a well worked goal, and the whole team coming together to celebrate.

GOAL

I like this shot because it captures the emotion of a last minute equaliser as part of a late comeback that never looked like coming.

TIPTON

I was heading to the exit for a quick getaway (in my defence, it was an away game on a weeknight) and stumbled upon this framing as Matthew Tipton looked on as Warrenpoint took on Linfield.

CAMPION

Taken during Cliftonville v Linfield in February, the guy in the red coat makes it makes it with his celebration as Linfield players celebrate in front of their fans.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park, a place where I would spend four of the five Saturdays during the month, to see Linfield scrape a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.

Postponements would then frustrate my football watching, as Linfield’s trip to Carrick was postponed, as was the FA Cup Replay between Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn Rovers, which I had planned on attending.

The reason for this was that I was in North-West England to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

I then headed to Windsor Park on successive Saturdays to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville.

That was then followed by a Boxing Day trip to The Oval, the less said about that, the better.

After that, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Crusaders. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Manchester Untied v AFC Bournemouth

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON: JUNE/JULY

For me, the 2017-2018 football season began at Maine Road in the 1950s. I know what you’re thinking. Did I build a time machine?

Not quite. The Oval was being used to film scenes for a film about Bert Trautmann, and I went down to have a look at it being dressed up as Maine Road.

I then reverted back to the present day, to see Linfield take on La Fiorita in the European Cup.

The football became less competitive, as I ventured to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Hearts in a friendly.

The following Friday, it was back to the European Cup for Linfield, but more Scottish opposition in the shape of Celtic.

Maine Oval

Maine Oval Photo Album

Linfield v La Fiorita

Linfield v Hearts

Linfield v Celtic

GLENTORAN 2-1 LINFIELD 26.12.2017

It’s the most wonderful time of year apparantly. I doubt Andy Williams saw his team lose on Boxing Day to a deflected last minute winner.

It was the traditional Boxing Day clash of Linfield and Glentoran, and with it being an odd numbered year, it was at The Oval, because well, they’re a bit odd in the East of the city.

Defeat wouldn’t ruin Linfield’s Christmas, it could potentially ruin their season, as they need points, kicking off fourteen points behind morning leaders Coleraine, albeit with two games in hand.

Linfield fans will have had good memories of their most recent League visit to The Oval, in February, kicking off nine points behind Crusaders with nine games to go, winning 1-0 to kickstart a winning run that saw them lift the title.

In fact, Linfield fans will have enjoyed a lot of their recent visits to The Oval, winning their last eight away League visits to Glentoran.

There was the Irish Cup tie there last season, a home match against Crusaders there in April 2015, a League Cup tie won on penalties in October 2013, then a penalty shoot-out win in the Big Two Challenge in July.

Linfield have won a lot of games at The Oval recently. So many, we can’t actually agree on how many.

I was running late and missed the opening minutes of the game. I didn’t get to see any of Jamie Mulgrew, as he was substituted through injury in the opening minutes, replaced by Stephen Lowry.

I arrived in the ground to see Elliott Morris lying on the ground requiring treatment. Standard.

Mark Haughey had a header headed off the line as Linfield piled on the pressure looking for the breakthrough.

That pressure was rewarded when Cameron Stewart was played in and finished low into the bottom corner to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Minutes later, her was played through again but dragged his shot wide. Near post or far post would have brought a goal, but he hit neither. Even more baffling that it came from a player who had just scored and should have been full of confidence.

Linfield were left to rue that chance when Curtis Allen snuck in from a free-kick to fire home to make it 1-1.

Questions have to be asked about the defending, why a goal threat was allowed to get a free run at a loose ball.

It wouldn’t be the only time a loose ball in the penalty area fell to a Glentoran player.

Before the half was over, Mark Stafford would have a header easily saved by Elliott Morris.

It was one of many Linfield set pieces aimed at the back post. It was predictable. Even if a Linfield player got on the end of it, they were stretching for it, or were too far away from goal to have a realistic chance of scoring. It was predictable, and because it was predictable, it was easy for Glentoran to defend.

And when Glentoran weren’t able to defend it, they were able to get the second ball.

Linfield began the second-half strongly, with Andrew Waterworth having a shot go just wide and Mark Haughey having a header saved. They couldn’t get the goal. Glentoran were able to ride out the pressure.

On 66 minutes, Mark Stafford was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after squaring up to a Glentoran player after a wild tackle. Dylan Davidson was booked for his part in it.

As well as being predictable at set pieces, Linfield were predictable in open play, far too often just hoofing it up. Their decision making was poor. There are eleven players on a pitch which is quite big, yet Linfield players couldn’t find the right pass. Glentoran players didn’t have to make a last gasp tackle.

Ross Clarke, matchwinner in 2012, came on for Niall Quinn, as Linfield chased a winner.

Josh Robinson headed just wide in a rare free header. He should have got it on target. If he did, it was a goal.

Kirk Millar then came on for Stephen Fallon. I could understand bringing on one of the two wingers, but not two of them.

The third sub should have been Louis Rooney. Granted, it hasn’t happened for him this season, nobody can dispute that, but Linfield needed something different. A second winger off the bench, when Linfield had barely played it wide all game was not the answer.

A striker coming on from the bench with a point to prove could well have given Linfield that spark for the final minutes.

Ross Clarke fired just over when played in. If he kept it low, he would have scored. It was another poor decision. Poor decision making has been too frequent in Linfield’s season.

As injury time approached, Linfield lost possession when attacking, once again a Glentoran player was first to a loose ball, beginning a counter attack which saw a speculative shot deflected in by Curtis Allen. Linfield were now losing a game they never looked like losing.

Dylan Davidson was sent-off for a second yellow card in the aftermath of the goal.

90 minutes too late, Linfield now had urgency and a drive towards goal.

It’s easy to have drive and urgency when it is 1-2. It should have been there at 0-0, 1-0 and 1-1. If it was there at 1-0, there might not have been a 1-1.

It almost brought a reprieve for Linfield when Mark Haughey finished from close range after a free-kick. It was disallowed for offside, cutting the celebrations short. False hope, the story of Linfield’s season so far.

Looking at the replay on the TV coverage, it’s hard to see where the offside is.

Here’s a stat for you. When was the last time Linfield lost a League game to Glentoran after taking the lead? 12th October 2002. That’s pretty damming.

With Coleraine drawing, the damage is only one point, and if Linfield win their games in hand, they will have the same defecit they overcame last season.

However, with a traffic jam at the top of the League, we didn’t lose a point to Coleraine, we lost three points to Crusaders and Glenavon.

When opportunities present themselves to you, you have to take them.

At the moment, Linfield aren’t in the chasing pack. They are in the also-ran group with Cliftonville. That is not the sort of company we want to keep, because Cliftonville are awful.

That can change with wins in the net two games.

The season isn’t over. There is still a lot to play for. There’s still the Irish Cup and securing European football.

The last time we had a season like this was in 2012-2013. We ended that season with a whimper. It was a hangover that continued into the opening month of the following season. You could arugue that it cost us the title.

If we don’t win the League, we have to finish the season strongly. Anything less will not be tolerated

It hasn’t been a great Christmas for Linfield, with Linfield Swifts losing to Newington in the Steel and Sons Cup Final.

Waking up at 10am and seeing the rain outside, I think I made the right decision in not going.

It was amusing to see one Newington player describe it as the club’s greatest moment, meaning that a win over Linfield Swifts was a greater moment than a win over Glentoran.

Up next, is Crusaders at home. Hopefully, we go 4-4-2, stand up to them and attack them. None of this showing respect to them and playing 4-5-1 and standing off them bollocks. Get tore into them and attack them. They’ve been sneaking wins and conceding goals the past few weeks. They learnt the had way at Ballymena last April that you can only get away with that for so long.

I do fear that today’s result might make 4-5-1 the easy option.

Whatever formation they line up on Saturday, expect a change in personnel.

Any player who played today who doesn’t start on Saturday can have no complaints.

Photo Album

2017 IN PICTURES – JUNE

June 2017 began for me chasing after murals, starting with one of Northern Ireland legends outside Filthy McNasty in Botanic.

From there, it was across South Belfast to get a photo on Lower Ormeau Road of a mural by Emic.

There was more Street Art photos as I followed the progress of a mural of music legends in Hill Street.

In the middle of the month, I headed to Ormeau Park for Belsonic, to see The 1975 in concert.

That weekend, I headed to Manchester in the 1950s. Sort of. The Oval was dressed up to look like Maine Road for a film, so I went and got some photos of it.

The month ended with some football, heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on La Fiorita in the European Cup.

Filthy McMural

Filthy McMural Photo Album

Emic Mural

Emic Mural Photo Album

Hill Street Wall Of Fame

Hill Street Wall Of Fame Photo Album

The 1975 live at Ormeau Park

The 1975 live at Ormeau Park Photo Album

Maine Oval

Mine Oval Photo Album

Linfield v La Fiorita

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

2017 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2017 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose 1-0 to Coleraine. Not the best start to the year.

Things got a bit better the following Saturday when I headed to The Oval to see Linfield beat Glentoran in the Irish Cup after extra-time.

It wasn’t all football in January, as I headed out to get photos of a George Michael mural which appeared in Botanic.

Back to football, and I was on the road to Lurgan to see Linfield beat Glenavon 2-1. The following Saturday, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

The next day, it was back to murals, as I headed out to get photos of a mural of Princess Leia that appeared in East Belfast, and then across Belfast to get pictures of a mural of Jon Snow. The guy from Game Of Thrones, not Channel 4 News.

The following weekend, it was back to football and back on the road, as I headed to Stangmore Park to see Linfield take on Dungannon Swifts

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on Hull City. While there, I got some Street Art photos of Salford Quays.

I headed over on 31st Janaury. You’ll have to wait for February’s round-up for the match and Street Art in Manchester.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

George Michael Mural

George Michael Mural Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Princess Leia Mural

Princess Leia Mural Photo Album

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album