2016 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, to see Linfield take on Cliftonville in the Irish Cup, and get their first win there for four years.

The following week, Glentoran were the opponents, but the result was the same, a 3-0 win for Linfield.

After that, it was Solitude again, with Linfield only managing a 2-0 win this time.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, and decided to make a trip of it between Bristol and Cardiff, getting some Street Art photos, and see Bristol Rovers take on Cambridge United.

Upon my return, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Slovenia.

The next day, I headed to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint, ending a busy Easter period of football watching.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 1

Bristol Street Art Photo Album 2

Cardiff Street Art

Cardiff Street Art Photo Album

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – MARCH

March began for me at Solitude, seeing Linfield beat Cliftonville 3-0 in the Irish Cup.

The following saw another 3-0 win for Linfield, this time at home to Glentoran.

It was back to Solitude the following week, this time for a league match, Linfield only managing a 2-0 win.

Over the Easter Weekend, I went to see Northern Ireland take on Wales in Cardiff, before heading to see Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United the following day.

Upon my return, it was matches on successive days on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday – Northern Ireland’s home match against Slovenia, and Linfield’s trip to Warrenpoint.

Cliftonville v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Linfield

Wales v Northern Ireland

Wales v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United

Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Slovenia

Northern Ireland v Slovenia Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

That match against Slovenia saw a pop-up shop appear in the Railway Stand for fans to be sold Northern Ireland merchandise.

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

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – SEPTEMBER

My football watching for September began in sunny Fermanagh, watching Linfield get a 1-0 win away to Ballinamallard, to keep up their 100% start to the season.

Two days later, it was Windsor Park to see if Northern Ireland could get the win they needed to reach Euro 2016. They didn’t get it, but a late 1-1 draw sent the crowd home more than happy.

The following Saturday, I went to Seaview to see Linfield lose their 100% start to the season with a 3-0 defeat.

Thankfully, Linfield were able to return to winning ways over the next two Saturdays, getting wins against Warrenpoint Town and Glenavon at home over the following two Saturdays.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Glenavon

WARRENPOINT TOWN 2-6 LINFIELD 29.3.2016

David Healy returned to the scene of his first match as Linfield manager, the focus on three points, as the Irish League season reached the milestone point of the last game before the split.

It wasn’t going to be easy, as Milltown was a ground Linfield usually struggled at, despite winning all three of their previous visits.

Their first visit in January 2014 saw three late goals saw Linfield win 3-2. Later that year, in November, Linfield again needed a late winner after coming from behind.

Both those goals were won with a goal from Mark Haughey. Warrenpoint would have been glad to know he was suspended for this game.

Such is the strength of Linfield’s squad these days, that this absence was easily covered with Sean Ward going into central defence, with his place in midfield going to Stephen Lowry, his first start since returning from injury.

Linfield’s other win at Warrenpoint, in October 2015, was David Healy’s first game in charge. Though the score was 3-0, Linfield struggled for large parts of that game, surviving a penalty miss at 1-0, before clinching the game with two late goals.

Linfield were straight on the attack, issuing a statement of intent when Ross Gaynor agonisingly firing across goal in the first minute.

There wasn’t long to wait until the opening goal, as Aaron Burns fired home after a cross from Kirk Millar on 3 minutes.

Millar himself was on the scoresheet after 9 minutes when he scored from close range after a Jimmy Callacher header was cleared.

Inbetween those two goals, Callacher had a header saved on the line.

Given recent struggles at Warrenpoint, Linfield fans would have been happy to be 1-0 up after 9 minutes, never mind 2-0 up.

Despite the early goals, Linfield struggled after that, with Warrenpoint having chances, only to be thwarted by a combination of their own indecisiveness and last gasp defending by Linfield.

On 30 minutes, Ross Gaynor put the result beyond doubt when he drilled home from the edge of the box.

Despite that, no matter what the score, if a team trailing gets an early second-half goal, they’ll believe they came come back to win the game.

An early goal did come in the second-half, but it was for Linfield, a penalty after Kirk Millar was fouled.

Having both scored penalties in recent weeks, Aaron Burns and Ross Gaynor had a more civil discussion than the one that preceded Burns penalty against Glenavon at the end of February, settling the arguement with a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Burns had the penalty taking ability to back up his playground games ability and made it 4-0 to Linfield.

Soon after, it was 5-0 when Andrew Waterworth was unable to get on the end of a cross, it fell perfectly for Kirk Millar to score from close range.

You have to take every advantage you can in the title race, and Linfield knew they needed to make every goal count to give them a goal difference advantage over Crusaders.

There were three more goals in the game, unfortunately, two of them came for Warrenpoint, with David Kee’s goal to put Linfield 6-1 up sandwiched inbetween.

If only Warrenpoint’s consolations were the worst part of the night, as supporters left the ground that Crusaders had won at Ballinamallard with a 94th minute goal in a game coincidentally refereed by Raymond Crangle.

That keeps Crusaders five points clear of Linfield, but with the sides meeting on April 9th, Linfield know that could be down to two with four games to play.

Tellingly, Linfield have the better goal difference by 2 over Crusaders. If Linfield win their remaining 5 matches and Crusaders draw 1, Crusaders will have to win by an aggregate of at least 8 goals in their 3 remaining games.

It might seem like a tough challenge, but in his short reign so far, David Healy has proved his team are up for whatever is thrown at them.

Talking of that game at Seaview, it was announced it would be all-ticket soon after the final whistle at Warrenpoint.

Not that surprising, but why was this not announced as soon as the game was confirmed last week, before the actual positions going into the split were confirmed.

Linfield fans who work during the week only have one Saturday to get get a ticket for this game, and they can only get it if they are inside Windsor Park attending the match against Lurgan Celtic.

It’s not exclusively Linfield’s fault, they have to get tickets from Crusaders. This eventuality should have been foreseen in advance as Linfield and Crusaders pulled away at the top two. Provisional arrangements should have been put in place.

As soon as the date was confirmed (before Linfield had actually secured a top two placing pre-split), arrangements should have been in place to have them on sale over the Easter period, when Linfield had a home match, and a lot of supporters were off work.

Once again, supporters are being inconvenienced. Those that do manage to get a ticket for this game will be hoping they are witnessing the day the title race turns.

Photo Album

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

My football watching for 2015 is now over, so, it’s time for a statistical look back at the football I watched.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include Caoimhin Bonner being sent-off in the tunnel after the game)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

Hat-Tricks : 2 (Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Dungannon Swifts. Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 40

Arsenal, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bray Wanderers, Carrick Rangers, CE Europa (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee (1st time), Dunfermline Athletic (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Espanyol (1st time), Finland, Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hungary, Institute, Latvia (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Masnau, Northern Ireland, NSI Runavik (1st time), Partick Thistle (1st time), Portadown, PSNI, PSV Eindhoven (1st time), Qatar (1st time), Rangers, Romania (1st time) Scotland, Sligo Rovers, Spartak Trnava (1st time), Tobermore United, Valencia (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 23

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Drumahoe, East End Park (1st time), Estadi Cornella y Prat (1st time), Ferney Park, Fortwilliam Park (1st time), Gresty Road (1st time), Hampden Park, Ibrox, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newforge (1st time), Nou Sardenya (1st time), Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue (1st time), The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park

Competitions : 13

European Championship, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, La Liga, League of Ireland, Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup (1st time), Scottish Premier League, Tercera Division (1st time), UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiousities, other than a match with kick-off delayed for an hour due to the weather

UEFA 102 Club : Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia (now at 35 clubs)

2015 IN PICTURES – 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 – SEPTEMBER

September began for me on the road to Fermanagh, to see Linfield take on Ballinamallard, and get a 1-0 win on a lovely sunny day.

From the road to Fermanagh to the road to France. My next football match came two days later when I saw Northern Ireland take on Hungary in a Euro 2016 Qualifier, knowing that a win sound them to France.

They didn’t get the win they wanted, but a late draw kept them on course to qualify.

Inbetween those two football matches was some graffiti spotting around Belfast.

Two days after that, I was at The Odyssey, now renamed The SSE Arena, to see Florence and the Machine perform the first concert at the newly renovated venue.

Back to Irish League action the following Saturday, a trip to Seaview to see Linfield take on Crusaders, the less said about, the better.

The following Friday, was the highlight of the year in Belfast, Culture Night, and I was out with my camera snapping the action.

I recovered from Culture Night in time the following day to head to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint.

The following day, I undertook a post Culture Night tradition by checking out the newly painted Street Art on North Street and the surrounding areas.

The final weekend of the month saw me head to Windsor Park to see Linfield edge past Glenavon 4-3.

Like the previous weekend, I headed to North Street to get a look at the Street Art painted for Culture Night, as some pieces were still being worked on when I went down the previous week.

I also headed to City Quays Walk for the first time, to see some Street Art that had been painted there.

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Belfast Street Art

Northern Ireland v Hungary

Northern Ireland v Hungary Photo Album

Florence and the Machine Live At The Odyssey

Florence and the Machine Live At The Odyssey Photo Album

Crusaders v Linfield

Culture Night

Culture Night Photo Album

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

North Street Art

North Street Art Photo Album

Linfield v Glenavon

North Street Art Part 2

North Street Art Photo Album Volume 2

City Quays Walk Street Art

2015 IN PICTURES – MARCH

March began on a musical theme with concerts taking up two of the first three evenings of the month, The Kooks at Mandela Hall and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at The Odyssey.

The following Saturday, it was back to football, as Linfield took on Warrenpoint Town at Windsor Park.

The Saturday after that was a road trip to see Linfield take on Institute at Drumahoe.

Some new Street Art appeared in Belfast during the month, a tribute to the recently deceased Leonard Nimoy and a reappearance of the Teenage Kicks mural

There was more Street Art later in the month, when I headed to Glasgow to see Northern Ireland take on Scotland in a friendly, and took advantage of a clear day and some art on show.

From Glasgow, to Glenavon (well, Lurgan) for another football trip the Saturday after. The same result, a 1-0 defeat, but a more damaging than the one in Glasgow.

The day after, more football, as Northern Ireland took on Finland in a European Championship Qualifier. Managed to get some photos of the redevelopment of Windsor Park, which seemed to be going so well at that point.

Little did I know then, It would be my last time in The Kop before it got demolished.

The Kooks Live At Mandela Hall

The Kooks Live At Mandela Hall Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Live At The Odyssey

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Live At The Odyssey Photo Album 1

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Live At The Odyssey Photo Album 2

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Institute v Linfield

Spock’s Teenage Dreams

Glasgow Street Art

Glasgow Street Art Photos

Scotland v Northern Ireland

Scotland v Northern Ireland Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Finland

Northern Ireland v Finland Photo Album

LINFIELD 5-1 WARRENPOINT TOWN 19.9.2015

Linfield bounced back from their first defeat of the season, at Seaview last week, by getting back to winning ways today, and extended their lead at the top from two points to four points.

A week is as long a time in football as it is in politics.

Facing opposition they’d beaten in all seven meetings between the two sides, it wasn’t that much of a shock, though not many would have seen a 5-1 final score during the first-half.

Linfield began brightly, straight on the attack and not letting Warrenpoint any time to rest. A clearance went to Warren Feeney in his Technical Area which he caught and immediately threw to Matthew Clarke to take a quick throw and keep the attacks alive. This was in the first five minutes of the game.

Everytime Warrenpoint misplaced a pass, there was normally a Linfield player immediately in possession.

If Linfield had got a goal during this flurry, it would have been a long afternoon for Warrenpoint.

Warrenpoint managed to hold out, and even had some of the game. Enough to get Linfield worried rather than nervous. They were getting into Linfield’s final third but never looked like doing anything with it. There was never a moment when you felt Linfield were going to concede, but their defence still had to be on their game.

In that defence, was Mark Stafford, making his first start in the league. He did well, even though most of what he had to do was mopping up.

More Linfield attacks came, mostly through Kirk Millar, playing out left after swapping positions with Aaron Burns. Often Millar would be in space crying out for the ball to be played to him, and would find himself frustrated at not getting the ball.

When he did get the ball, he was often Linfield’s biggest attacking threat. His afternoon ended prematurely in the first-half when he was substituted after suffering an injury.

Depite most of their attacks coming down their left in the first-half, Linfield’s best moment in the early stages came when a cross from the right came to Aaron Burns, and his instinctive shot was well save.

Linfield took the lead from their first real moment of quality when Bates and Clarke combined down the left for Bates to cross for Andrew Waterworth to head home from close range.

A couple of Warrenpoint players slumped to the ground with their hands on their heads. This wasn’t in their gameplan.

Despite that blow, Warrenpoint finished the half strongly and were still very much in the game, as the half finished with only one goal separating the sides.

Linfield needed a second goal just to kill the game off and be sure of the three points. Before you could say “Linfield need a second goal”, Linfield got a second goal, when Andrew Waterworth fired under the keeper from the edge of the box.

The goal came about when Aaron Burns won the ball out right and played a simple pass to set up Waterworth.

In the first-half, Burns struggled out right but was a lot better in the second-half, mainly due to him being more involved in the game.

It seems a bit of a stupid thing to say, but Linfield’s wide play was focused on the North Stand, attaking down the left in the first-half, and on the right in the second-half.

Soon after the goal, he was setting up an opportunity for Guy Bates, whose header was tipped over, as well as making late runs from right that almost got rewarded with a goal.

Despite that, i’d be a lot happier if he was back out the left next Saturday.

Burns was lucky to finish the game, having been booked for a high challenged There was no intention to hurt the Warrenpoint player, Burns clearly went for the ball, but if it was the other way around, we’d be screaming for blood.

What is worrying is that the yellow cards are starting to stack up and he can’t be far off a suspension.

Mark Haughey got his customary goal against Warrenpoint, his fourth in five appearances against them, to definitely make sure of the game, giving Linfield a 3-0 lead.

Warrenpoint got a goal back from a long range shot from Mark Hughes, after he managed to get some space outside the box and wasn’t closed down to stop the shot.

Warrenpoint then sensed they might be able to get a second goal and make the final stages nervous for Linfield. Despite their possession in Linfield’s final third, that was never really going to happen.

It definitely wasn’t going to happen once Waterworth fired home from close range to get his hat-trick, his second of the season, and his second of 2015 against Warrenpoint.

Soon after, it was 5-1, when some neat passing, especially the final ball from David Kee which set up Waterworth to simply touch the ball past the keeper, and then roll it into the empty net for his fourth goal of the game.

According to the commentator on Radio Ulster, it was eleven in six appearances against Warrenpoint for him, and yet, it is Mark Haughey’s goalscoring record against Warrenpoint that gets all the media attention.

Trying to raid my memory, but I think that’s the first time I have witnessed a Linfield player score four in the flesh, having not been there when Peter Thompson (v Dungannon 2005) and Philip Lowry (v Institute and Donegal Celtic, 2011) did it.

Redevelopment of Windsor Park also made some significant progress this week, with the South Stand now almost full of seats, though the amount of scaffolding there suggests it’s not quite ready for public use yet.

One game that supporters could be watching from the South Stand could be in a proposed third European competition.

If I was being cynical, I would suggest making it for domestic cup winners only and call it the European Cup Winners Cup.

In all seriousness, this competition, for clubs who exit European Competition in July and August, actually sounds like a good idea, as it would be a benefit to Irish League clubs, and maintain European games into August/September and possibly beyond.

It wouldn’t kick in until the 2018-2019, and there are a lot of logistical details that need to be decided in terms of dates, sponsorship and TV rights, but i’m hoping this idea becomes a reality.

Forget about 2018-2019, it’s the 2016-2017 season I want Linfield to be playing in European, most specifically, the European Cup.

Next up in the league, Glenavon.

Photo Album