It’s not the turkey or the presents that makes Christmas, it’s the match the next day. For the first time since 2018, Linfield fans will be marking Christmas as a good one.

They arrived at The Oval (two turnstiles in operation for a large crowd again, just like in February) in expectation of that being the case, a perfect storm of Linfied being on a long unbeaten run and Glentoran losing three in a row as part of a run of one win in eight, a change in roles from when the sides met in the League in October.

Linfield were hoping results would go their way and push them up to 2nd. Glentoran were fearing that results could go against them and they could end up 6th.

It’s almost as if celebrating winning the League in October angers the Football Gods.

You know me, i’d rather play a Glentoran side who have won ten games in a row rather than one who have lost ten games in a row. The theory of “They’re due one”.

Linfield’s starting eleven showed two changes, with Daniel Finlayson and Robbie McDaid coming in for Conor Pepper and Chris McKee.

That was probably harsh on both players but the team didn’t feel weakend. That’s why you have a large squad.

There was a bit of a shock as the teams were getting ready to kick off, with a change of usual ends, with Linfield attacking the goal where their support is based in the first-half instead of the second-half.

I presume it was to do with the wind. Linfield would be playing against it when attacking it. Glentoran were obviously wanting to try and score every advantage they could get.

It would also mean Linfield wouldn’t be attacking that end in the second-half if they were chasing the game. Although Glentoran wouldn’t be attacking their own fans either. I don’t know why, but the ball always seems to bounce perfectly for them when they attack that end.

Linfield dominated possession in the opening minutes but didn’t create any clear opportunities.

That looked like changing when Cameron Palmer began a counter attack, fed Joel Cooper and got a return pass but his cross was intercepted at the cost of a throw.

Palmer was to endure more cross related frustration when an interception denied him just as he was making a run to get on the end of a Robbie McDaid cross.

There was even more frustration for Palmer as he tried his luck from range, only to see his effort easily saved by Aaron McCarey.

And then he was beaten to the ball by a Glentoran defender as he looked to get on the end of a Chris Shields.

Despite this frustration, Linfield just needed to keep doing what they were doing and eventually one of them would fall into place.

They really needed a goal to make the most of their superiority.

Joel Cooper was next to be frustrated as he created space for himself but dragged his shot well wide.

Eventually, Linfield would have an opportunity to take the lead when Eetu Vertainen burst into the box but was taken down by Patrick McClean, a clear penalty.

Despite having a lot of the ball in Glentoran’s half, Linfield hadn’t really created a clear opportunity. Thie would be their best chance of the game. They simply had to take it.

It was probably a good thing that Chris Shields missed a penalty against Ballymena United last month. Might as well get one out of the way when it didn’t matter.

This one definitely mattered, and Shields made no mistake to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With Glentoran’s confidence so fragile, and with just under ten minutes of the half remaining, there was still time for Linfield to get a second that would surely kill the game.

Just one, but you’d happily take a 1-0 lead at half-time, especially when the weather was against you.

Early in the second-half, it looked like Linfield were going to get that much needed second goal when Joel Cooper made space from himself but he was at too wide an angle to score, his effort going wide.

Out of nowhere, Glentoran got an equaliser when a header from Jay Donnelly dropped into the back of the net.

It felt like a repeat of the previous season’s encounter.

The game had suddenly changed. Linfield were now sloppy with their passing.

Glentoran almost got an instant second with a shot from Bobby Burns which had to be diverted out by Jimmy Callacher.

Despite having far too much of the ball for Linfield’s liking, Glentoran weren’t creating any clear opportunities.

They were largely hitting speculative shots from distance that were easily saved by Chris Johns.

As we all know, they benefitted from a speculative shot that got deflected when the sides met in October.

It was clear that Linfield needed some fresh injections from the bench, but they were not forthcoming.

Eetu Vertainen had a rare sight of goal but his effort went wide of the post.

Patrick McClean attempted a long range shot which went just over.

Eventually, David Healy turned to his bench, bringing on Andrew Clarke and Kyle McClean for Cameron Palmer and Robbie McDaid.

That was followed a few minutes later by Chris McKee coming on for Chris Shields, who was struggling with injury.

Andrew Clarke thought he was going to win it for Linfield with a few minutes remaining but his goalbound effort was blocked and deflected wide by his own team mate for a goal kick.

As the game set to meander to a draw, some Linfield fans decided to head home early to bizarre chants of “Cheerio Cheerio” from the home support.

Are you not supposed to sing that when you are winning comfortably?

Callacher’s accidental block was a temporary reprieve for Glentoran.

From the resulting goal kick, Linfield won possession and Chris McKee played in Eetu Vertainen to finish with his left foot first time.

Further proof of where Glentoran are at now. Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. How sad.

He barely touched the ball in the second-half. I would have had him subbed by now. Just goes to show that I know nothing,

The goal prompted him to rip off his shirt, getting a yellow card. Worth it.

He couldn’t get his Under Armour back on, and had to play on in short sleeves.

For only a minute or two, with Ethan Devine coming on for him to see the game out.

Which is what Linfield managed to do, getting a massive three points.

Not just in terms of putting pressure on Larne, but pulling away from Glentoran.

The win temporarily moved Linfield into 2nd due to this game being an early kick-off.

As this game was finishing, other games were reaching half-time.

The one that Linfield fans were looking out for was at Seaview, where Crusaders led Cliftonville 2-0, before eventually winning 3-0.

That result that Linfield were now 2nd, two points behind Larne.

It would be three as Larne could only draw.

From where they were in October, it was always going to be a long way back for Linfield.

Even if they went on a winning run, I didn’t expect it to be February or March before they even got close to the top.

The big games keep on coming, with Coleraine, on a nice run themselves, due at Windsor Park on Monday, with Larne travelling to Solitude.

That game at Solitude will see something go in their favour.

What matters most is that they help themselves. It’s all they can do.

Photo Album

Boxing Day 2013

Boxing Day 2014

Boxing Day 2015

Boxing Day 2016

Boxing Day 2018

Boxing Day 2021


February was all about football, taking in four Linfield matches, two of which were against Larne.

The other two were against Glentoran and Portadown.

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown


February’s football watching began at Inver Park to see Linfield crash out of the Irish Cup. The less said about that, the better.

Four days later, and it was to Windsor Park, to see Linfield have a much better result against Larne.

Although that was followed up three days later with a defeat at The Oval.

My last football match of the month was to see Linfield scrape a win at home to Portadown.

Larne v Linfield

Linfield v Larne

Glentoran v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown


Due to matches being postponed due to International Call-Ups, September’s football watching took a while to get going, having to wait until the middle of the month for my first match, Linfield’s trip to Portadown.

For me, like a lot of others, it was a first away trip since March 2020.

It was, eventually, an enjoyable trip with Linfield winning 3-2.

That was then followed by a home match against Coleraine, and trips to Glenavon and Glentoran.

Portadown v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Glentoran v Linfield


If the title wasn’t won on Tuesday night it certainly wasn’t lost on Friday. However, this is bloody annoying.

Linfield and Glentoran faced reach other at The Oval as the top two, level on points, just as they had done when they met on Boxing Day, just short of seven weeks previously. It was a bit of a difference from their last meeting at The Oval in September, when it was a meeting of 6th and 7th.

The first issue of the night was actually getting into the place. It actually took me the same amount of time getting in than it did getting from Titanic Quarter Train Station to The Oval.

A massive bottleneck emerged in the tunnel leading to the away end, with not many people getting into the ground due to a lack of turnstiles being open. I could see five gates not open.

Ticket sales were done online. so they should have known how many people would be arriving and have arrangements in place to get people into the ground in a quick manner.

In the end, they were letting people just walk on in without scanning their ticket. I’m sure there was people who were wishing they had just turned up and presented their ticket from the match in September.

Linfield were given a boost with the return of Chris Shields to the starting eleven after a substitute appearance against Larne.

There wasn’t a lot happening in the opening stages of the game with both defences on top.

Jake Hastie had Linfield’s first attempt of note when he fired over.

Chris Johns had a moment of worry when he dropped a cross that held up in the wind, while Sam Roscoe had to get his body in the way to block a shot from outside the penalty area.

0-0 at half-time, and not a lot in it. Linfield would be attacking against the wind but towards their own fans, which is a completely different force of nature.

It looked like those fans would be celebrating a goal in the opening minutes of the second-half when Sam Roscoe got on the end of a free-kick but his header was saved.

As the game approached the hour mark, it was Glentoran who took the lead when Sam Roscoe softly lost possession to Jay Donnelly and his shot was blocked, falling perfectly for Conor McMenamin to fire home from close range.

Linfield’s response was to bring on Eetu Vertainen and Kirk Millar. It was a debut for Vertainen, signed on loan from St Johnstone.

It was a decent cameo from Vertainen, making good moves, having a physical presence and, I know it’s a cliche, a good touch for a big man.

He was then joined up front by Ethan Devine, who came on for Conor Pepper as Linfield looked to have increased bodies up front.

It looked like that was going to come when Christy Manzinga burst into the box but passed when he should have shot. Of all the people you wanted to have the ball in that situation.

Everybody was expecting him to shoot, so when the pass came, the attack died.

On a night when neither side were having many chances, it was so important to take them.

As time ran down, Matthew Clarke was next to be frustrated as his volley went just over.

Chris McKee then came on for Jamie Mulgrew as Linfield chased an equaliser, now having three up front.

In injury time, it looked like that equaliser when Sam Roscoe headed goalwards from close range but was denied by a top save from Aaron McCarey, with Glentoran able to get the ball away in the scramble.

It was that moment when you just knew it wasn’t going to be Linfield’s night.

At so it proved, as Glentoran held out for a 1-0 win that sent them three points clear at the top.

Linfield have played worse and won, and will play worse and win. A bad mistake at the back and some bad finishing and bad luck at the other end decided it.

Not to panic though. Definitely do not panic.

The League wasn’t won against Larne and it wasn’t lost against Glentoran.

Remember, Linfield spent most of the first half of the season chasing Cliftonville. They were six points behind (albeit with a game in hand) at one point, a similar defecit.

Linfield still have their destiny in their own hands. If they win all their games, Glentoran have to win all their others and then outscore Linfield.

Tempting fate, but Linfield have a generous run of games coming up before the split. The Bottom four still to be played between now and then, and only one of the Top Six, and that is at home.

It is easy to focus too much on Glentoran and forget about Cliftonville, although I doubt they’d be unhappy about that.

On Saturday afternoon, they beat Coleraine to go a point behind Linfield and four behind Glentoran.

It may be a strange logic, but I wasn’t too unhappy with that Cliftonville win. Hear my logic out.

Cliftonville travel to The Oval in a few weeks, and it won’t be a bad thing to have them in the mix and have them pumped up for that game.

Obviously, that is dependent on Linfield winning their games between now and then.

Of course, Cliftonville are more than welcome to capitulate after derailing Glentoran.

We’ve been here before, in February 2017, when Linfield were nine points behind Crusaders. They only have to make up three.

Back then, the next points change, went in Linfield’s favour in the next matchday. The lead can’t get bigger.

Linfield have come out of the Winter Bloodbath with a few cuts, but nothing fatal.

Starting with Portadown next Saturday, it’s time to start a winning run to be in prime position to land some fatal blows come April.

As a postscript, with there now being some free Saturdays between now and the end of the season due to Linfield’s Irish Cup exit, feel free to hit me up with suggestions for trips away, ideally with a football match thrown in. I’m thinking of Scotland. Nothing decided, but just looking for ideas.

Photo Album


September began with a stroll towards Royal Avenue, or rather streets around Royal Avenue, to take in the aftermath of Hit The North, taking place in around The Sunflower. I wasn’t able to attend on the actual day of the event.

The rest of the month was football matches, Linfield’s games against Portadown, Coleraine, Glenavon and Glentoran.

Hit The North

Hit The North Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Glenavon v Linfield

Glentoran v Linfield


It wasn’t quite a Title Eliminator, there’s far too many games to go. You couldn’t call it a Title Decider, not when it was a meeting of 6th and 7th.

Neither was it a must-win game for either side, but it certainly was do not lose for either side. Linfield got the win, to get back on track after two draws.

Linfield had went into this game on a winless run against Glentoran of five games, their worst run in this fixture since August 2011 – September 2012. Three of those games were in empty stadiums, this was the first meeting between the sides where both sets of fans can attend since the first of those games in December 2019.

Linfield’s starting eleven was what many would have expected it to be after changes on Saturday against Glenavon, with Matt Green getting the nod up front in place of the suspended Christy Manzinga, who would have started.

In the opening minutes of the game, Matthew Clarke was mostly based in Glentoran’s half, and Linfield weren’t afraid to use him, his best moment being a dangerous cross that almost fell for Matt Green.

It was Glentoran who had the first chance of the game when Jay Donnelly fired wide from an angle when he should have forced the keeper into a save.

Glentoran had a series of speculative shots well saved by Chris Johns.

They weren’t any moments of worry for Linfield, but it just needed one to get lucky. The real worry was that they were getting the freedom to shoot when it was obvious that was the option they were going to take.

On 18 minutes, it was Linfield who took the lead when a clearance hit Jamie Mulgrew and fell perfectly for Matt Green who managed to work space for himself against a defender trying to stop him, setting himself up to shoot from a similar position to Jay Donnelly earlier, but firing home under the keeper.

That assist (And he’ll definitely be adding it to his stats) was Mulgrew’s last involvement in the game, going off injured to be replaced by Cameron Palmer.

Glentoran replied with a shot from Jay Donnelly that was blocked and a Gael Bigirimana snapshot that went over the bar.

Worrying moments, but Glentoran weren’t offering much in open play. As long as Linfield did nothing stupid in defence, they would be fine.

Linfield almost doubled their lead in bizarre fashion when Jordan Stewart was able to keep a stray pass in play, to fire in a cross that evaded everybody, forcing Ross Glendenning into a save, tipping the ball over for a corner.

It was only a brief respite for Glentoran, as Trai Hume headed home from the resulting corner, the only competition he had for the ball was from Jimmy Callacher. It was his first goal for the club, and what a time to get it.

Linfield were able to maintain their 2-0 lead at half-time.

They knew that Glentoran were going to go at them at the start of the second-half, which is what they did, winning a succession of corners.

That was they could offer. As long as Linfield didn’t do anything stupid, they would be fine.

There wasn’t long to wait for a goal, but it wasn’t from Glentoran pressure.

It came in bizarre fashion for Linfield, when a clearance upfield resulted in a through ball to Cameron Palmer.

He was second favourite to the ball but he still chased it, the ball going in off him after a challenge with Ross Glendenning. It was poor goalkeeping, not that any of the Linfield support cared.

Palmer had enjoyed a stroke of luck that had eluded Linfield against Glenavon a few days previously. You make your own luck, and he didn’t chase the ball, he wouldn’t have got a goal.

Even at this early stage, before the hour stage, that was three points for Linfield. There was no way Glentoran would recover from such a devastating blow so soon after entering the pitch to overcome what was already an uphill hurdle.

In fact, for the next few minutes after that goal, the scoreline was only going to go one way, with Linfield now enjoying themselves with the commanding lead., having their best spell of attacking play.

Ironic you could say, as they were 3-0 up without playing that well. Although there is a counter argument that if you restrict your opponents to long range shots and take what chances come your way, that is playing well.

Unsurprisingly, with the three points in the bag. Linfield made the most of their allotted five subs to give players a rest with the next match just three days away.

There were three games on this evening, with this date being used to catch-up on games postponed due to International Call-Ups.

Of the only game of relevance to Linfield, Larne beat Glenavon 1-0, which meant that Linfield would finish the evening in 3rd instead of 2nd (which would have been the case if Larne dropped points) after starting the evening in 7th.

Off the pitch, the week saw the unveiling of info boards on the history of Linfield and Northern Ireland as you enter Windsor Park from Lisburn Road via that bridge.

There is also some artwork done by local schoolchildren, where there was previously a mural of Northern Ireland legends.

Good to see, brightens that area up.

I didn’t get a chance to see it at the Cliftonville game as I wouldn’t head in that way on a weeknight. I look forward to checking it out on the next Saturday afternoon game.

There is a relatively quick return to The Oval for Linfield, well, sort of.

Linfield Swifts have been drawn to face their Glentoran counterparts in the Steel And Sons Cup Quarter-Final, and it’s on a Saturday when Linfield aren’t playing. Very tempting if fans are allowed in.

A very productive trip for Linfield as part of a busy week. Now all attention turned to Cliftonville at home on Friday.



I had to wait seven days for some football watching, heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Cliftonville.

That was followed by a road trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield get a 2-0 win.

The end of the month got a bit busier heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield draw with Crusaders. The following Saturday saw me head to Coleraine to see Linfield get another draw.

Sandwiched inbetween that was the traditional Boxing Day game against Glentoran, this season held at The Oval. The less said about that, the better.

Linfield v Cliftonville

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Glentoran v Linfield

Coleraine v Linfield


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


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