PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

Fifteen hours into 2019, and it was a short trip to the Seaside to see Linfield beat Ards.

More wins came in the month, with Warrenpoint Town, Crusaders and Glentoran all taken care of.

The month ended with a trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately, the one United match I went to didn’t result in a win, but a draw against Burnley, though I did manage to get some photos of Old Trafford in the snow the next morning.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

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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

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

LINFIELD 4-0 WARRENPOINT TOWN 12.1.2019

Linfield left the pitch after their first League game of 2019 with a one point lead at the top of the table. By the time they kicked off their second game, they were ahead only on goal difference after Crusaders win over Newry City on Friday night.

A home game against Warrenpoint gave Linfield a chance to go clear at the top, but it wasn’t going to be easy, as Warrenpoint had the longest unbeaten run at Windsor Park of any side in the League, stretching back to September 2015, albeit two drawn games.

It was a Warrenpoint side coming off the back of a win at Mourneview Park on New Year’s Day. Having left Mourneview Park unbeaten twice this season, they were wanting to do the same at Windsor Park, having drawn 1-1 there in November.

If people thought Warrenpoint were going to park the bus, they got a shock in the opening minute as they went straight on the attack, firing in a cross which caused enough concern in the Linfield defence.

The opening minutes of the game saw Warrenpoint holding the ball but there was no danger to Linfield as it was all in their own half and not going forward.

Unable to create an opening in open play, Linfield were further frustrated by being unable to take advantage of any set pieces.

Most attacks were falling just short, the final pass usually being too hard or too soft.

There was a mild panic for Linfield when a cross from Ciaran O’Connor looked like it was going to loop in. Having fallen 1-0 down directly from a corner to Warrenpoint last season, it looked Linfield were going to concede another freak goal to Warrenpoint.

Just before half-time, Linfield went 1-0 up with their first attempt on target, when Joel Cooper was played into space by Jordan Stewart, who finished the eventual cross. He had so much of the goal to aim at, he couldn’t miss.

It changed the dynamic of the half-time team talk.

Linfield weren’t great, but they had a lead. Now they had to go out and finish the game off rather than going out to win it.

While the score was only 1-0, Warrenpoint weren’t out of it, and Linfield would know about this in the early minutes of the second-half with Roy Carroll being forced into a save, while Philip Donnelly got in behind Linfield’s defence but fired just wide of the post.

Niall Quinn had a shot blocked when he looked certain to make it 2-0, but the opportunity to get that decisive lead came when a Jordan Stewart shot was blocked by a handball.

From where I was, I was screaming for him to pass it to Andrew Waterworth, but watching back on the TV replay, it looked like his shot was going to go in.

Stewart made no mistake from the penalty spot to make it 2-0, and surely secure the points for Linfield.

Joel Cooper was given a rest, making way for Daniel Kearns, before Andrew Waterworth made it 3-0, removing any lingering doubt as to where the points were going.

There was still time for one more goal, as Stephen Fallon headed the ball behind Warrenpoint’s defence, with Jordan Stewart pouncing to get a hat-trick, his second for Linfield, after getting one in a 4-0 win against Ballinamallard last season.

The 4-0 lead was a perfect time to blood Lorcan Forde into the game, with him and Michael O’Connor both coming on for the final minutes.

O’Connor might have only had a brief cameo, but it was still a bruising afternoon for him, as Warrenpoint lost their discipline, with Matty Lynch being sent-off for two fouls on him.

Elsewhere, Ballymena United surprisingly drew 2-2 with Dungannon Swifts, meaning that Linfield went three points clear at the top of the table.

Unfortunately, laptop problems meant I wouldn’t be previewing the upcoming trip to Crusaders as I didn’t get this blog finished before that game.

It was a big game for Linfield and it lived up to the hype.

You can read about it in the following post.

Photo Album

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

2018 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February 2018 began with a trip to The Limelight, a first proper concert of the year, to see Shed Seven supported by John Power.

That was followed the following midweek by a trip to Warrenpoint to see Linfield take on Warrenpoint Town.

The following Saturday, was Linfield’s 0-0 draw with Dungannon Swifts.

The following week was very busy, with Paul Weller at Ulster Hall followed by Ulster v Edinburgh and then Cliftonville v Linfield.

The weekend after that was a trip to the seaside, to see Linfield take on Ards.

That was then followed by a midweek trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Glenavon.

Around that time, it was getting cold. So cold, there was the possibility of snow. That didn’t come until March 1st, so you’ll have to wait until next month’s round-up to see that.

John Power live at The Limelight

John Power live at The Limelight Photo Album

Shed Seven live at The Limelight

Shed Seven live at The Limelight Photo Album

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall

Paul Weller live at Ulster Hall Photo Album

Ulster v Edinburgh

Ulster v Edinburgh Photo Album

Cliftonville v Linfield

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

LINFIELD 1-1 WARRENPOINT TOWN 3.11.2018

This was always going to be a game that Linfield had to win regardless of the result between Ballymena United and Glenavon on Friday night. However, Ballymena’s late win in front of the TV cameras meant that Linfield fans entered Windsor Park before the match with a spring in their step. They left in a different mood, one of relief.

The last time the two sides met was in early September which resulted in a 5-0 win for Linfield. That was Warrenpoint’s sixth successive defeat at the start of the season. That result kickstarted a six match unbeaten run for Warrenpoint which saw them move off the bottom of the table, but arrived at Windsor Park on the back of two successive defeats.

This was Linfield’s first match in November. Considering how awful they’ve been in October in recent years, the fact we finished October 2018 with five wins out of six is a miracle.

Even though it is a new month, Linfield weren’t over the worst of it, as November has been a difficult month in recent years.

2013 saw costly defeats away to Dungannon Swifts and Cliftonville.

I’ll give you 2014, four wins and a draw was a decent return, even though the drawn game was two dropped points.

2015. Let us never speak about November 2015 ever again.

2016 saw a costly home defeat to Cliftonville which allowed Crusaders to go seven points clear, a deficit Linfield faced until Spring.

Even though November 2017 saw successive wins over the then top two, Coleraine and Glenavon, it also saw a costly defeat at Ballymena United and a League Cup exit at Crusaders.

An injury to Daniel Kearns saw a change in line-up and formation for Linfield, with Michael O’Connor coming in as part of a front two. He wouldn’t be lining up against his brother Ciaran, who missed today’s game through suspension.

An injury to a Warrenpoint player in the opening minutes saw a lengthy stoppage as the game struggled to get any sort of rhythm.

Linfield’s first chance of the game came by accident, when a wayward shot from a cut back free-kick was diverted goalwards by Andrew Waterworth, which was saved by Aaron McCarey.

Soon after, a counter-attack saw Warrenpoint saw them win a penalty for a foul by Matthew Clarke. He did get a touch of the ball, but not enough. We’d have been screaming for a penalty if it was the other way around.

What was annoying that even though the Warrenpoint player was setting up for a shot, he was in a wide position having been pushed out there by Clarke.

Sometimes when a penalty is getting ready to be taken, you know what the outcome is going to be. You just knew that Simon Kelly was never going to miss, as he slotted home to give Warrenpoint the lead.

It was the third successive game that Linfield had fallen 1-0 down in the first-half. It’s a bad habit to get into. We can’t keep giving teams something to defend.

Things didn’t get better for Linfield as Andrew Mitchell was forced off injured, making him the third injured right-back that Linfield currently have injured. We’ll be getting Alan Dornan out of retirement at this rate.

Josh Robinson came on for him, but instead of going to right-back, Linfield changed to 3-4-3.

McCarey then denied a low Joel Cooper shot before almost emulating Jim Montgomery (One for ESPN Classic viewers) from Andrew Waterworth’s rebound.

As the half neared it’s end, Jimmy Callacher had a shot go just wide, as Linfield continued to be frustrated.

Even more frustratingly, there was a lot of great crosses going in but nobody there to finish them, or they were just agonisingly missing their target, such as when Joel Cooper narrowly missed being on the end of a cross during the second-half.

Linfield just needed to keep it simple, something they haven’t done for a few weeks. Too many crosses being flashed across the box when there were people who could have been picked out, or crosses not going in first time, giving Warrenpoint enough time to get men in the box.

Warrenpoint weren’t without their chances, as Francis McCaffrey fired wide from the edge of the beox after being given too much time to do so, in the opening minutes of the second-half.

Jordan Stewart came off the bench, surprisingly for Joel Cooper. It wasn’t Cooper’s bets game, but you’d rather have him on the pitch than sitting on the bench.

Michael O’Connor volleyed over from a corner as Linfield looked for the goal that still wouldn’t come.

It looked like being one of those days, but those on the pitch and in the stands still had to believe that it wasn’t.

Daniel Reynolds came on for Matthew Clarke, hoping for a repeat of the last time he played in a League match at Windsor Park, scoring the winner, albeit as a Cliftonville player last season.

Every time it looked like being Linfield’s moment, Warrenpoint always seemed to get a body in the way. Jordan Stewart looked like he was going to equalise, when the ball fell to him in the penalty area. Guess what, a Warrenpoint player got their body in the way.

It looked like time was up for Linfield, but they had one last attack. It was an attack that was pulled back due to Roy Carroll taking a goal kick while the ball was moving.

This was not what Linfield needed when time was not on their side. The resulting attack saw a Jamie Mulgrew shot saved, but the rebound came to him, he gave it to Kirk Millar, whose cross was headed home by Andrew Waterworth, to muted celebrations, as the crowd knew there would be no time for Linfield to go on and get a winner.

There was a delay in getting the game restarted, as Waterworth and a Warrenpoint player were both injured going for the ball and required treatement.

Warrenpoint can complain about the amount of injury time, but if their goalkeeper knew how to tie his shoelaces, that wouldn’t have been an issue.

As it was a header, it technically wasn’t the last kick of the game as it was a header, but it was the last meaningful touch as the full-time whistle blew.

One point gained or two dropped? We’ll have to wait until April to find out.

The only positive is that we have cut the gap on Glenavon at the top of the table, but we have allowed Ballymena United, Cliftonville and Coleraine to cut the gap and get ideas about rejoining the title race.

We can end those Coleraine dreams next week with a win. We simply have to get back on the winning wagon to avoid being sucked into a traffic jam in the table.

Teams around us play each other on November 17th, so we need to go into that weekend in a healthy position.

That day, Linfield are away to Institute at The Brandywell. I got my ticket today. It’ll be a new ground for me to visit, though the 1pm kick-off and the location of bus pick-up and time means I probably won’t get an opportunity to explore the City Centre.

Linfield faced Institute this week, and won 5-0, setting up a League Cup Quarter-Final away to Portadown. Talking of ground visits, it’s coming up to three years since I was last at Shamrock Park.

That game will be played on December 4th, the date set aside for the Semi-Finals.

I see a potential farce coming up if there is incliment weather in Portadown that week, and trying to fit in a date for that game, especially if Linfield advance in the County Antrim Shield.

One Cup Final that could be held at Windsor Park in the future is the 2021 European Super Cup Final with the IFA being announced as a bidder this week.

Hopefully, they’ve read the bid criteria and acted upon feedback of previous bids (hint, if smoke free stadia is a criteria, don’t be giving them signposted areas). If this one fails, we should park that bus for a while. Don’t want to be like Turkey and the Olympics.

I went in 2014 and it was a fantastic experience. It would be great to have this game in Belfast.

A stoppage for an injury after an injury time equaliser brought back memories of a frustrating evening against Portadown in February 2017.

Little did we know, Linfield would be going on a domestic run of sixteen (spread across two seasons) successive wins.

Not asking much, a repeat would be very welcome.

Photo Album

WARRENPOINT TOWN 0-5 LINFIELD 7.9.2018

Two successive draws in the League and knocked off the top of the table, it could be easy to suggest that things were going wrong for Linfield. That was far from the case.

The first of those draws, was coming from behind away from home with ten men. The second, against Ards, was a game they should have won, and they had enough chances to do so.

Despite deserving to beat Ards, they didn’t, and it was two points dropped, especially when you saw they other results in Matchday 5, with Glenavon and Glentoran drawing. With Crusaders to face Coleraine, one or both of them would be dropping points. It was an opportunity to pull clear that was missed.

If Linfield felt that a draw at home to Ards was two points dropped, that will be evened up by the fact that Coleraine will probably feel the same about their draw at home to Institute the previous week.

Only separated by one goal (There’s still over thirty games for Linfield to remedy that), Linfield and Coleraine will both be feeling they should have an outright points lead. They face each other on 22nd September. There are still two League matches between now and then. Coleraine shouldn’t even be a thought until then.

Two draws in a row wasn’t cause for concern for Linfield, but a third game without a win would prompt a lot of questions to be asked about Linfield’s title ambitions.

If you were having problems in front of goal and looking to get back to winning ways, Warrenpoint would have been the opponents you would have chosen to face, having conceded seventeen goals in their opening five games, the last of those five games was a 6-1 defeat at home to Ballymena United.

With Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon and Ballymena United all not involved in League matches this weekend, this was an opportunity for Linfield to pull clear from the chasing pack, albeit with them having a game in hand.

Linfield started the game looking for goals, with Daniel Kearns almost getting in behind Warrenpoint’s defence straight from kick-off.

Warrenpoint couldn’t get out of their own half, with continued Linfield pressure resulting in Warrenpoint conceding a soft free-kick for a foul on Kirk Millar.

That was punished when the free-kick came in, Simon Kelly diverting the ball into his own net.

Having failed to get a goal against Ards, Linfield were on the scoresheet inside three minutes. As the game went on last week, Ards had something to hold on to. Warrenpoint wouldn’t have that.

Warrenpoint responded well to the goal, having some of the ball in Linfield’s half without troubling Roy Carroll. It was only a temporary respite.

Michael O’Connor went narrowly wide with a shot while Jimmy Callacher had a header cleared off the line.

Warrenpoint goalkeeper Aaron McCarey, on his debut, was so busy, a supporter behind the goal shouted at him “Keeper, I bet you’re wondering what the fuck you’ve signed up to”. Cruel.

Meanwhile, a cat ran onto the pitch during the game. Yes, an actual cat, to cheers from the crowd.

You’ll be glad to know that cat was up in front of Newry Courthouse on Saturday morning charged with Football Related Offences and was issued with a Banning Order.

Proper order too. If we don’t address things like this in Irish League football, next thing there’ll be pigs painted in team colours in grounds and a cockerel walking along the side of the pitch during a game.

More Linfield pressure continued as they searched for a second goal. Despite being in control of the game, Josh Robinson got himself a cheap yellow card for throwing the ball on the ground after a free-kick was awarded against him.

Somebody needs to have a word with him about discipline as it was a stupid yellow card, only a few weeks after needlessly getting involved in situations against Crusaders at Seaview.

With Mark Stafford waiting on the bench, primed for action, he could easily lose his place in the team if he gets suspended for reaching the yellow card threshold.

Eventually, Linfied’s pressure got it’s reward when a free-kick was headed across the six yard box for Daniel Kearns to head home from close range to make it 2-0.

The half ended with more Linfield pressure and a flurry of corners. They just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.

Linfield were in a commanding position, but the only case of game set match came in the Tennis Court behind the goal they were attacking.

That was resolved in the early minutes of the second-half when Michael O’Connor finished after his original header hit the bar.

Within a few minutes, if there was any doubt over the result, it was gone when a defensive mix-up saw Joel Cooper get hauled down by Aaron McCarey just as he was about to put the ball into the empty net. A penalty was awarded, and a red card eventually followed.

Substitute goalkeeper Berraat Turker tried to psyche out Andrew Mitchell as he waited to take the penalty. I’m not sure why, the game was over even if he missed. He didn’t, and made it 4-0.

With the game won, David Healy could now give some of his substitutes some game time.

There were goals in this game for Linfield, so it was unsurprising that Andrew Waterworth was given an opportunity to get one. Jordan Stewart also got some minutes. It was a surprise that Niall Quinn came on for Daniel Kearns, as Jonathan Smith or Stephen Fallon would have benefitted from the minutes.

Only one more goal for Linfield, as Waterworth got to a through ball before Turker, and put the ball into the empty net.

A win was the most important thing, but it was nice to do so with no drama, and go get a few goals for the tally. Still a long way to go, but it’s good to get the goals in the bank in case the title is decided on goal difference.

Elsewhere, big news of the day was Oran Kearney’s departure from Coleraine to manage St Mirren. Good luck to him. Hopefully, his departure will have the same destabilising effect that Warren Feeney’s departure had at Linfield in 2015.

If it does, Linfield simply have to take advantage, starting with a home match against Dungannon on Saturday.

It’s been three matches since I saw Linfield win at Windsor Park. If they don’t win this one, I think I might be getting a Banning Order.

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.