PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November 2018’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

It didn’t get much better the following Saturday, as I headed back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The weekend after, was a double header, the first of which was a first trip to The Brandywell, to see Linfield take on Institute. The next day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

The following weekend, it was yet another trip to Windsor Park, but finally a home win, as an Andrew Waterworth hat-trick saw off Cliftonville.

My football watching for the month ended with a midweek trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on BSC Young Boys in the European Cup, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

Advertisements

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : SEPTEMBER

I didn’t have to wait long for some football action in September, with Linfield taking on Ards on the first day of the month. I would have to wait a while for a first goal of the month, as that match finished 0-0.

The goals flew in during my next match, as Linfield beat Warrenpoint 5-0, before taking in Northern Ireland’s first ever UEFA Nations League match, a 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The month ended taking in three further Linfield matches, home wins against Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United, as well as a draw at Coleraine.

Linfield v Ards

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

2018 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

From Warrenpoint to Waterford, as the following week I spent a few days in Waterford seeing Waterford Walls, with a brief stop-off in Dublin.

The day after my return to Belfast, it was back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The following weekend, a new ground for me to visit for the first time, as I headed to The Brandywell to see Linfield take on Institute.

The day after, it was a return to Windsor Park, and another bad home result, as Northern Ireland lost to Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

On the following weekend, I headed to The Limelight to see Cast in concert.

That was then followed by a good home result at Windsor Park, as Linfield beat Cliftonville 4-2.

I then headed to Manchester for a few days, to see United take on BSC Young Boys and get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Dublin Street Art

Dublin Street Art Photo Album

Waterford Walls

Waterford Walls Photo Album

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Cast live at The Limelight

Cast live at The Limelight Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

2018 IN PICTURES – SEPTEMBER

September 2018 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Ards on the first day of the month, for a match that finished 0-0.

The following day, I headed out on bike to check out the latest scribbles on the Belfast Peace Wall.

On the third day of the month, yes, three successive days of photo adventures, I headed to The Limelight to see The Kooks in concert.

The following weekend, it was a football double header, taking in Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint Town, and then Northern Ireland’s first ever UEFA Nations League match, at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There was more football, taking in Linfield’s matches against Dungannon Swifts and Coleraine.

Sandwiched inbetween that was a trip to The Palm House to see Kyle Falconer in concert, and then Belfast Culture Night.

In the aftermath of Culture Night, I was out getting photos of new Street Art which appeared in Belfast, as part of Hit The North.

The month ended with me taking in Linfield’s home match with Ballymena United.

Linfield v Ards

Belfast Peace Wall Art

Belfast Peace Wall Art Photo Album

The Kooks live at The Limelight

The Kooks live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina Photo Album

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Kyle Falconer live at The Palm House

Kyle Falconer live at The Palm House Photo Album

Culture Night Belfast 2018

Culture Night Belfast 2018 Photo Album

Coleraine v Linfield

North Street Art

North Street Art Work In Progress

North Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Ballymena United

NORTHERN IRELAND 1-2 AUSTRIA 18.11.2018

It was a tale of two 0-0s for Northern Ireland and Austria going into this game, and it suited neither team.

While Northern Ireland were drawing 0-0 in a friendly with the Republic of Ireland on the Thursday before this, the real match that mattered that night was in Vienna, where Austria drew 0-0 with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

That result meant that the Bosnians won the group and got promoted to League A, the point for Austria put them out of reach of Northern Ireland, meaning that instead of this match deciding who would avoid relegation, it would effectively reduce this match to a friendly, now that Northern Ireland were relegated to League C.

Northern Ireland, like myself, have history with Austria. They’ve never met in a friendly, the first meeting coming in the 1982 World Cup, and then in three of the next four European Championship Qualifiers.

Northern Ireland dominated the head to heads in those three campaigns, winning four and drawing one of the six meetings. The three meetings since had seen two Austrian wins and a draw.

My own history with Austria goes back to 1991, and my first Northern Ireland match. Sort of.

I pestered my dad enough the night the two sides met that he eventually agreed to take me down to Windsor Park for the second-half. I didn’t see a goal, as the full-time score remained the same as the half-time score, 2-1 to Northern Ireland.

Fast forward four years, and it was my first proper Northern Ireland match, a 5-3 win in the Qualifiers for Euro 96. One of the goalscorers that night was Michael O’Neill, now Northern Ireland manager.

All else I remember about that game was that Neil Lennon missed a glorious chance to score, as I had to report back to a friend that the goalscoring machine of his Rangers midfield on Championship Manager wasn’t as good a finisher in real life. Also, that it rained non stop that night.

That isn’t my only time seeing Austria, as I saw them on their next visit to Windsor Park, a 3-3 draw in a World Cup Qualifier in 2004.

You have to admire a team that can score three goals against Northern Ireland and fail to win. And then do it again.

I’ve always had a thing for the Austrian team. Their kit always seemed brilliant, and then there was their goalkeeper kit at Italia 90, and of course, the legend that is Toni Polster, and Andy Herzog, who was recently at Windsor Park as manager of Israel.

It was probably apt that someone called Herzog should lead Israel in Belfast.

It was a case of unnecessary use of away kit for Austria, but since they reversed their colours in the 00s, I wasn’t too unhappy to see them wearing white/black/white.

Like Luton Town, I’ll never get used to Austria not wearing white.

Since their last World Cup in 1998, it has hardly been glorious times for Austria, only “Qualifying” for one tournament since – Euro 2016 (they played in Euro 2008 but qualified automatically as co-hosts)

They blitzed their way to France, winning nine out of ten games but ultimately disappointed when they got there, finishing bottom (as second seeds) in a group containing Hungary and Iceland.

Northern Ireland took the opportunity to make some changes to their starting eleven, which included five former Irish League players in the starting eleven.

The one positive about the Nations League has been blooding new players into the team such as Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis, Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte and George Saville into the team, as well as Liam Boyce getting an extended run of games.

There are a lot of players in the Northern Ireland squad in their 30s. Our youngest keeper at Euro 2016 was 32. Aaron Hughes, Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Michael Smith, Craig Cathcart, Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ward will all be in their 30s by the time the Euro 2020 Qualifiers come around. Two of them will be approaching 40.

Chris Brunt and Chris Baird’s international careers are over and it’s highly unlikely that Roy Carroll will ever play for Northern Ireland again.

A rebuild will be needed over the coming years. We would be left behind if we didn’t have young players coming through.

It would have been nice if Bobby Burns and Paul Smyth were involved, having got call-ups for this game, and added the Irish League alumni in the matchday squad by three by joining Gavin Whyte on the bench.

After a slow start, Northern Ireland had the first chance of the game when Corry Evans had a shot deflect over the bar. Later, brother Jonny looked to have missed an opportunity to score when a flick on fell to him, but he was judged offside.

There was one moment that summed up Northern Ireland’s overplay. They had a corner on the left, and Steven Davis ran half the length of the pitch for a short corner. An Austrian tracked him as it was so obvious, and when the ball was in play, the attack died quickly, much to the crowd’s frustration. All the defenders were up, the ball had to be whipped in.

Austria had a few opportunities, but nothing to worry Trevor Carson, as Northern Ireland finished the half with a Niall McGinn free-kick going just wide.

At the start of the second-half, Austria took the lead when Xaver Schlager scored. Oh no, here we go again.

But, Northern Ireland dusted themselves down and recovered, and got an equaliser when a shot from Corry Evans deflected in. Finally, a stroke of luck.

Northern Ireland now sensed they could win the game, with Geroge Saville hitting a shot just wide.

Kyle Lafferty and Gavin Whyte came on for Liam Boyce and Niall McGinn as they chased the winner.

As they did so in stoppage time, an Austrian counter attack saw Valentino Lozaro curl a winner five seconds over the allotted two minutes of injury time. The same old story.

Even though the Nations League has been a success overall doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. We should be starting straight into Qualifiers in the September after a World Cup.

It’s fair to say, Northern Ireland’s first experience of this competition hasn’t been a good one. Relegation is a setback, but not a disaster. We can recover from this. The ultimate goal is Euro 2020.

The main positives have been new players being able to be brought into the team. Hopefully, we’ve used up all our bad luck. We lost four games and didn’t deserve to lose any of them. Keep performing like this, and we will get our rewards.

The Finals will be held in Portugal. I doubt i’ll be going as the only direct flights to Portugal from Northern Ireland is to Faro, nowhere near the two host cities.

If UEFA want to give this tournament more prestige, why not have a Finals tournament for Leagues B, C and D with a trophy on offer? I doubt Sweden, Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine would turn their noses up at hosting and/or winning an international competition.

Attention now turns to the Euro 2020 draw in Dublin on December 3rd. From Pot 1, England would be a very handy trip (Remember, from March 2019, we’ll be able to travel fuck all anywhere because of you know what) but there’s nobody you’d ideally take from a football point of view.

Pot 2, Wales for the trip, but Iceland, Russia and Ukraine look the most beatable.,

Pot 4, Lithuania or Georgia.

Pot 5, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands or Moldova.

Pot 6, if we are in a six team group, all of them should be beaten.

No tournament was always going to make it hard to assess 2018 for Northern Ireland. In terms of PWDL, it was disappointing, but you get the feeling that 2018 will be viewed by how the results in 2019 go.

It appears there is nothing to stop Northern Ireland facing Austria or Bosnia-Herzegovina again. If both of them qualify automatically, we automatically go into the Play-Offs.

Here’s a scenario. Northern Ireland are in a group with Austria or Bosnia-Herzegovina. The team not in a group with Northern Ireland qualify from their group. It’s Matchday 10 and Austria or Bosnia-Herzegovina arrive at Windsor Park needing a draw or a win to secure 2nd place against a Northern Ireland team languishing in 4th or 5th with no chance of 2nd.

Theoretically, Northern Ireland will benefit from losing a match.

This could happen in any group of Euro 2020 with any team that got relegated in the UEFA Nations League.

I think i’ve spotted a flaw in the UEFA Nations League format.

Hopefully, this time next year, we’ll all be celebrating automatic qualification without the need for Play-Offs.

Photo Album

NORTHERN IRELAND 1-2 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA 8.9.2018

They might not have went to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, but 2018 was still a year of firsts for Northern Ireland.

The first three games of the year, against South Korea, Panama and Costa Rica, were the first time they met those opponents.

The forth game of the year, against Bosnia-Herzegovina, was also a first meeting, but it was also Northern Ireland’s first ever game in the UEFA Nations League, a new competition devised by UEFA.

UEFA Nonsense League more like.

The spin that we are given, is that this will replace pointless friendlies. And yet, Northern Ireland are just one of many countries playing pointless friendlies on the nights that they are not involved in UEFA Nations League action.

A simple summary of the competition. Four Leagues, with four groups. Group winners get promoted and bottom team gets relegated, and these placings are used for Euro 2020 rankings.

The highest placed team in each group who doesn’t qualify for Euro 2020 will go into a Play-Off for a place in the finals.

Theoretically, Northern Ireland could lose all Nations League games, all of their Euro 2020 Qualifiers, and go into the Play-Offs because Bosnia and Austria qualified. That is wrong, and an affront to meritocracy.

This is simply an overcomplicated way of giving Azerbaijan a chance of qualifying for Euro 2020.

September 2018 should be the start of Euro 2020 Qualifiers. Top two qualify and third goes into a Play-Off. Just like the good ole days.

Another spin we get given is that it gives smaller or countries of lower standing a better chance of qualifying. Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Wales were able to qualify for Euro 2016 without any assistance or goalposts being moved.

The winners of each group in League A go into a finals tournament for the trophy outright.

Why not have a finals tournament in Leagues B, C and D? That would make sense to give this “Tournament” more prestige.

Could you imagine winning League One, and then getting told you’re not getting a trophy because only the team that finished top of the Premier League gets one.

The main talking point in the build-up to this game regarding Northern Ireland’s starting eleven would be who would start in goal.

Of the three goalkeepers that went to Euro 2016, Michael McGovern, a month short of his 32nd birthday was the youngest. It was clear that Northern Ireland needed new young goalkeepers breaking through.

One of those, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, was in contention with Trevor Carson and Michael McGovern.

If Northern Ireland were playing a friendly first, and then a Nations League match, it would have given Peacock-Farrell an opportunity to get some more game time before featuring in a competitive match, but he was named as the first choice for this game, which wasn’t that surprising given Leeds start to the season.

This was a first competitive game for Bosnia manager Robert Prosinecki, who is no stranger to Windsor Park, having a mixed record in his two previous visits, scoring in a 2-0 win for Yugoslavia in 1990, but being on the end of a 4-0 defeat as manager of Azerbaijan in 2016.

Inside the first minute, Windsor Park was screaming for a penalty when George Saville was untidily taken down by a Bosnian defender, but no penalty was awarded.

What is it with penalty decisions at the Railway Stand?

Northern Ireland were the better team in the opening minutes, Bosnia couldn’t get the ball off them.

Stuart Dallas curled a shot just wide. Dallas had the beating of his man and Northern Ireland tried to get him on the ball every opportunity they could get. Dallas was forming an effective duo with Jamal Lewis, on his competitive debut, hoping to make the left-back spot his own following the retirement of Chris Brunt.

Bosnia were also racking up the yellow cards, unable to cope with Northern Ireland every time they attacked.

George Saville was one of several Northern Ireland players who would be frustrated when he couldn’t get his leg onto a cross, while Kyle Lafferty had a header go wide. The best attacking moment came when Niall McGinn created space for himself out wide, only to see his shot saved by the Bosnian keeper.

Northern Ireland were made to pay for that on 38 minutes when a poor clearance gave possession to Bosnia, Northern Ireland couldn’t get the ball off them, and a cross from Edin Dzecko in space the left was touched home by Haris Duljevic.

It was an undeserved lead for Bosnia, but a lesson for Northern Ireland of the importance of taking your chances.

Bosnia were now confident, but Northern Ireland were able to make sure no further damage was done, getting into the break to clear their heads and go again.

At the start of the second-half, Northern Ireland didn’t appear to be too downhearted by being 1-0 down, being straight on the attack, with Stuart Dallas forcing Bosnia’s keeper to tip over the bar from inside the six yard box.

It was a scuffed effort, but he really should have scored from that position.

Minutes later, a set piece saw Kyle Lafferty have an effort saved on the line by Bosnia’s keeper. It was looking set to be “One of those days”.

That was further confirmed when a poor header by Craig Cathcart saw Bailey Peacock-Farrell get beaten to the ball. by Elvis Saric, who put the ball into the empty net.

It was neither a glorious moment for Cathcart or Peacock-Farrell. They were caught in a trap and couldn’t get out.

If Saric doesn’t chase after the ball, they get away with it. Such are the fine margins at this level of football.

A few minutes later, Saric was subbed. Elvis has left the pitch.

Northern Ireland were now chasing the game, with Bosnia hitting the post on the break.

Michael O’Neill turned to his subs, with Liam Boyce and Will Grigg coming on for Kyle Lafferty and Conor McLaughlin.

The final sub was Jamie Ward coming on for Niall McGinn. Jordan Jones would have been a better option, or even Gavin Whyte, given his start to the season, in the hope that he might have the same impact that Paul Smyth had against South Korea.

Smyth unfortunately is in the Under 21s due to the misfortune of QPR having a manager who doesn’t rate him, despite their poor start to the season.

Boyce had a low shot saved by Bosnia’s keeper while Saville was denied by a last gasp tackle.

Northern Ireland had eighteen corners throughout the game but never really troubled Bosnia’s keeper, who got booked for timewasting as he took a goal kick, which was utterly pointless.

Due to stoppages, and Bosnia’s keeper getting an injury that was treated with a bottle of water being poured over him, there were six minutes of injury time.

After a series of short corners that came to nothing, far too often Northern Ireland were overlaying, trying to be too clever, much to the frustration of the crowd.

Eventually, one lumped into the box got rewarded when Liam Boyce scuffed the ball across goal for Will Grigg to finish from close range. Finally, a bit of luck for Northern Ireland.

There was still four minutes to go, the crowd roared their team forward for one last push.

An equaliser almost came when a header from Jamal Lewis almost found Will Grigg, who stretched, but just couldn’t get his foot onto it. If he did, he would have scored.

Will Grigg might be on fire, but he doesn’t have Carlton Palmer’s legs. Unfortunately.

The performance was there but the result wasn’t. All is not lost. If you can’t get promoted, don’t get relegated.

If Northern Ireland play like this, they will surely get rewarded.

Frustratingly, they aren’t in Nations League action in midweek, if would have been a perfect opportunity to remedy it and get back on track. They’ll be in friendly action while Bosnia host Austria.

A draw wouldn’t be the worst result but an Austrian win would be ideal, meaning that if Northern Ireland can win in Vienna, this result will have been cancelled out with all three teams level.

That friendly on Tuesday is against Israel.

I’ll be giving it a miss as it’s an underwhelming fixture and a team i’ve already seen before. I’ll be keeping an eye out for competitions and freebies, so I might still be there.

If not, I might go out for a peaceful meal. I haven’t been to McDonald’s in ages. I hear the Kennedy Way branch is decent.

Photo Album