LINFIELD 2-0 CARRICK RANGERS 12.8.2017

After Crusaders win on Friday night, Linfield were already playing catch-up as they kicked-off their opening match of the season, just as they did for 37 out of 38 matches last season.

As Carrick Rangers arrived at Windsor Park, they would face a Linfield side with five changes from their last domestic game, last season’s Irish Cup Final due to injury (Waterworth, Callacher, Clarke) and suspension (Burns, Lowry)

A team who usually struggles on the opening day, with five players missing and facing a team with ten men behind the ball. This had the potential of being a difficult afternoon for Linfield.

While Carrick were winning a lot of headers in the air, Linfield found other routes to get at their goal with low crosses, short corners and balls on the ground. Carrick could handle it, and it looked like a goal was coming.

Niall Quinn had a shot saved while Jordan Stewart fired over, before a low Niall Quinn shot hit the back of the net to put Linfield 1-0 up.

With only 15 minutes on the clock, it was the early goal Linfield needed to avoid getting frustrated.

Andrew Mitchell fired over as Linfield looked for a second goal, while a Jamie Mulgrew cross agonisingly evaded both Paul Smyth and Jordan Stewart when just a touch would have delivered a goal.

As half-time approached, Linfield got a second goal when Kirk Millar headed home from a Niall Quinn cross. That was surely the three points secured.

The second-half was attack against defence again, as Linfield aimed for a 3rd goal that would kill off the game, even though Carrick’s lack of attacking threat so far suggested that 2-0 would be enough.

Robert Garrett and Mark Stafford both had unsuccessful attempts at goal. Stafford was later substituted for Josh Robinson, denying him the opportunity to score against Carrick for the forth successive home game against them.

Linfield looked like getting that 3rd goal when Jordan Stewart won a penalty.

With Lowry, Burns and Waterworth not playing, there was no obvious taker. Paul Smyth had missed the only one he had taken.

Jordan Stewart stepped up and missed it, Carrick’s keeper gathering the ball on the line when it looked like he might accidentally score an own goal.

It was Linfield’s seventh penalty in their last thirteen matches, four of which have been missed. That stat doesn’t include the ridiculous penalty shoot-out against Glentoran in late July.

It didn’t matter as Linfield cruised to a 2-0 win. Carrick had so few attacks, we didn’t get to hear Roy Carroll shout “GET OUT!! GET OUT!!!”

The only disappointment was that Linfield couldn’t get more goals, a four goal win would have put them top. However, Linfield fans will know from last season that being top at the end of matchday 38 is all that matters.

Up next, a trip to Ards.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 0-2 CELTIC 14.7.2017

It had been a long wait, but Linfield and Celtic belatedly got to play their 2nd Round European Cup tie, a few days after the designated matchday.

In recent years, Linfield have played UEFA Cup games on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, so a European Cup tie on a Friday shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. Linfield just play European football whenever we feel like it. Monday lunchtime next season?

With the match taking place on a Friday, it meant both teams went into the match still digesting the draw for the next round, which offered Linfield and Celtic the incentive of a tie against Dundalk or Rosenborg, with the home leg first.

Linfield and Celtic have both faced Dundalk and Rosenborg in the past in Europe, so whatever the result of both ties, there was going to be a reunion for the winner in the next round.

Linfield went into this game hoping to end a rotten run of results against Scottish teams, after friendly defeats against Rangers (numerous), Kilmarnock (2011), Cowedenbeath (2014), Hearts (2017) and a Scottish Challenge Cup defeat to Queen Of The South last year. The last win I can think of was a 1-0 friendly win over Hearts in 2003.

The last time I saw a Scottish team play in Europe, they lost 5-0, so I was hoping that would be an omen.

Fans arriving at Windsor Park hoping to see a shock certainly got one, but not on the pitch, as they arrived to the sight of a couple of hundred Celtic fans in The Kop, who had bought tickets for the North Stand but were granted amnesty and allocated a section of The Kop.

The game began with Celtic having a lot of possession and pressure, unsurprsingly. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon/teatime/evening for Linfield’s players. I’m not sure what the correct terminology is for a 5pm kick-off.

It looked like being a long 90 minutes for those on Linfield’s left, as Jame Forrest was getting a lot of joy and space down Celtic’s right. Unsurprisingly, Celtic were looking to make the most of this.

Scott Brown was lucky to get away with a talking to after making a scissor tackle after he lost possession. Brown strikes me as the kid at school who picks on kids three years younger than him but runs crying to the Teacher is someone a year older tells him to cut it out. If he was as good as he thinks he is, he would have signed for a mediocre English team like Aston Villa, Southampton or West Brom five years ago.

On 17 minutes, Celtic took the lead when a Scott Sinclair header was deflected in. It was at the end I was sat and it looked like an own goal to me, though most media outlets are giving it to Sinclair, although Sky Sports have credited it as a Mark Haughey own goal.

It didn’t matter, Celtic were in front.

After the goal, we finally got to see Linfield as an attacking force, with Mark Stafford having an effort saved and a Paul Smyth run being halted by a cynical Scott Brown foul. Europe or Domestic, it seems that Paul Smyth is the target of cynical fouls.

Linfield’s hopes of getting an equaliser took a blow when Tom Rogic scored after running onto a low drilled corner. It was, if you will, the “Tottenham Mid 90s” corner goal.

Ironically, David Healy once scored a goal like that at Windsor Park, albeit in front of The Kop, set up by recently departed Linfield player Sammy Clingan.

Another irony, was that Linfield were on the end of a quick goal blitz, having done the same to Glenavon, Coleraine (x2) and Cliftonville in the last four games of last season.

Despite Celtic’s dominance, they didn’t have Linfield on the ropes at 0-0, it was frustrating to fall behind to two bad goals.

The first goal was unlucky, the second goal showed why you have to be switched on at all times at this level.

While there might be a dispute about wether he scored Celtic’s first goal, Scott Sinclair was denied twice by Roy Carroll towards the end of the first-half as he went about making sure he could be credited with a goal beyond dispute.

The first save came when he was played in behind Linfield’s defence. He really should have scored.

Leigh Griffiths had a goal disallowed in the early minutes of the second-half, as Linfield won some set pieces, hoping to make one count and get back into the game.

The was one moment at a Linfield set piece that summed up the difference at this level. A set piece was headed clear and was going back to Jamie Mulgrew. As he waited for the ball to come to him, a Celtic player sniffed the danger and got to the ball first. In the Irish League, Mulgrew strikes the ball into the back of the net when it goes to him.

The closest Linfield came to scoring was when a rogue backheader from a Celtic defender concerned Craig Gordon enough into making a diving save, while a low cross into Celtic’s box caused concern for Celtic, with tow Linfield attackers agonisingly unable to get to the ball to put it in.

You got the feeling however, that if Linfield had pulled a goal back, Celtic would at worst have held on for a 2-1 win, or got a 3rd goal to restore the two goal lead.

Once it went to 2-0, it was a case of job done for Celtic

That, and the fact that Roy Carroll was on form.

In the last quarter of the game, the referee went a bit card happy, including a long overdue yellow card for Scott Brown.

One of those yellow cards came for Leigh Griffiths for timewasting as he was evading bottles being thrown at him as he took a corner.

It was all at the corner where South Stand and Kop meet. I just fucking despair, I really do. There’s not much I can add to what has already been said. I just wish people like that would just fuck off, as they give people who are no better than us the opportunity to stick the boot in.

That includes certain media outlets acting with a sense of moral superiority that they forfeited with their antics in the aftermath of the draw.

I’m not going to go into some “Superfan” rant, we all support our team in different ways. The way they were “Supporting” the team yesterday is not the way to do it.

I won’t be defending them. Whatever punishment they get from Linfield and the law of them land, it won’t be enough. Fuck em.

You can guarantee they won’t be there when Linfield are playing their next home European match at Mourneview Park. If we’re lucky.

However, such behaviour is not a Linfield problem, or even a football problem, it’s an overall societal problem. If any politician even tries to lecture us, they’re your hooligans and much as they are ours.

I also noted that an MLA from Delivering Unity Promptly bought a ticket for the Linfield end and tried to enter the ground via the Boucher Road. A perfect metaphor for Northern Ireland politicians trying to get involved in football.

There are a few things that should be noted and not overlooked. It was a small percentage of the crowd. They were booed by their own when the incidents happened. The reaction on Social Media from Linfield fans, has been total condemnation. Nobody is supporting them, and rightly so.

A word, on Eventsec. I went to the game straight from work. I took a backpack to work (to hold scarf, ticket and some food) and wasn’t even searched going in. So clearly, it wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort to smuggle a bottle in.

Unfortunately, i’m not going to the second leg in Glasgow on Wednesday. Hopefully, the Scottish Challenge Cup draw will give us a kind away game to make up for that.

If you are going, enjoy yourself. My advice would be to check out the Street Art and visit Missing, a record store beside Central Station.

If you’re heading over on Tuesday and are groundhopping minded, all I can say is Merry Christmas, as there is a full fixture list in the Scottish League Cup Group Stages.

There’s no game in Glasgow, but Albion Rovers, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Morton and St Mirren are all under an hour away from Glasgow.

I’ll be in Edinburgh in a few weeks, so at least i’ll be getting some taste of Scottish football, most likely Edinburgh City, who have Craig Beattie playing for them, a tenuous link to both Celtic and Linfield.

I’m over for the Fringe Festival, which has some football offerings. I’m doing my “To See List” and hope to see a stage version of The Damned United, while i’m going to have Don’t Cry For Me Kenny Dalglish on my Back-Up List.

Linfield’s inevitible exit means they won’t be postponing recently announced friendlies away to Newry (27th July) and Dundela (1st August).

Haven’t been to Newry since 2010, but undecided if i’m going to that as I head to Dublin the following morning for an overnight stay.

I was supposed to be doing a day trip to Dublin yesterday, but decided i’d be better off going to Linfield v Celtic. So, i’m going to go to Dublin in two weeks time instead.

The plan for Dublin is Street Art and catch a football match. If I was in Dublin last night, I would have went to see Shelbourne v Wexford. Wexford won 2-1 if you care.

When i’m in Dublin in two weeks, i’m hoping to catch UCD v Cabinteely.

Then i’ll be back in Dublin (briefly) the following midweek for Manchester United v Sampdoria, with Dundela v Linfield sandwiched inbetween.

It could have been Dundalk rather than Dundela. Could be worse, could have blown a 3-0 lead in the UEFA Cup against a team from Latvia.

Photo Album

LINFIELD 1-4 HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN 8.7.2017

2017 has been a year for Scottish visitors coming to Windsor Park, with Ice Hockey and Rugby fans having already taking in some football this year while following their respective teams in Belfast, as Linfield welcomed the first of two Scottish visitors to Windsor Park this week.

With Hearts visiting Windsor Park today, it gave Celtic scouts the opportunity to look at two upcoming opponents, with Hearts set to visit Celtic on the opening day of the season in a few weeks time.

Tartan visitors to Windsor Park won’t end on Friday, with Linfield set to be given a home tie when they enter the Scottish Challenge Cup in September.

I don’t usually bother with home friendlies, but three Northern Ireland players in the Hearts side made this match a bit more appealing, as fans at Windsor Park were treated to the sight of Kyle Lafferty in club action, a rare sight over the past three years.

For Hearts, it was the second game in a short tour of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, having lost 1-0 to St Patrick’s Athletic on Wednesday.

If you were a Hearts fan travelling over for the two games, the trip presented some great groundhopping opportunities.

You could have flown into Dublin on Wednesday, gone to your side’s match against St PAtrick’s Athletic, and then stayed in Dublin, taking in Shamrock Rovers v Stjarnan on Thursday, and then gone to either Cabinteely or UCD’s home match on Friday, before travelling up to Belfast for this one.

I did hear one Hearts fan on my way in saying he was at a Second Division game (I couldn’t work out which game he went to) but he did describe it as “Absolute fucking murder”

There wasn’t a dramatic change to Linfield’s team but there were starting opportunities for Andrew Mitchell, Jordan Stewart, Robert Garrett and Kirk Millar, as Linfield prepared for the game against Celtic in a 4-5-1 (4-3-3 when attacking) formation.

The absence of Jimmy Callacher, rested in the two games against La Fiorita due to injury concerns, suggests that he is still a doubt for the Celtic game.

Hearts made a good start to the game, with Kyle Lafferty missing a glorious opportunity after an attack started by a misplaced Robert Garrett pass, when his shot hit the sidenetting when he should have scored. The Windsor Park crowd weren’t as sympathetic as they would have been if he was wearing the green of Northern Ireland.

Jamie Walker had a shot go wide during this early spell of pressure.

It was Linfield who took the lead when a poor defensive header was seized on by Jamie Mulgrew, who fired home from the edge of the box.

On 26 minutes, Hearts equalised when a shot from outside the box from Harry Cochrane beat Roy Carroll.

As half-time approached, a header from Jamie Walker put Hearts 2-1 up, a lead they took into the break.

Linfield made a good start to the second-half, having a lot of pressure on Hearts goal, getting a lot of joy down their right and forcing Hearts defenders into blocks and clearances.

Linfield almost equalised by accident when a Paul Smyth cross almost went straight in, with Hearts keeper being forced into an acrobatic save at the expense of a corner.

Against the run of play, Esmael Goncalves was able to hold off his man and get enough space to make it 3-1 and secure the win for Hearts.

By this stage, Linfield had utilised their bench, giving much needed game time to players who didn’t play against La Fiorita.

Most pleasing was the appearance of Paul Smyth, who went off injured in San Marino.

A free-kick hit the wall but fell perfectly for Cole Stockton to finish from close range to give Hearts a flattering 4-1 lead.

Regular readers will know I go to Edinburgh every August and try to take in as many games as possible.

I won’t be at Tynecastle with Hearts playing their opening games away from home due to a new Main Stand being built.

The old Main Stand was the only stand at Tynecastle I haven’t been in. Hopefully, when I do go to Tynecastle again, i’ll take in a match in the new stand.

The matches while i’m there are Hibs v Partick and Edinburgh City v Montrose.

I was hoping Sky or BT would help me out and enable me to see two matches, but i’ve got a choice to make. At the moment, i’m leaning towards Edinburgh City as it will give me a new ground to visit.

The rearrangement of the Linfield v Celtic match meant I had to cancel my day trip to Dublin. Thankfully, my hotel has accommodated me changing to 28th July.

I’ll be doing the usual Street Art and Football combo, and the match i’m planning to go to is UCD v Cabinteely, meaning that the only Dublin ground I haven’t been to is Cabinteely’s.

And now, to Celtic.

Linfield were competitive today and held their own, despite the score.

Being competitive against Hearts and being competitive against Celtic are two totally different things.

It will be a challenge, and we’ll have to rise it.

However, Linfield had to rise to a challenge just to be in this season’s European Cup.

Photo Album

Hearts v Aberdeen 2011

Hearts v Tottenham Hotspur 2011

Hibs v Hearts 2012

Hearts v Hibs 2014

Hearts v Partick Thistle 2015

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MAY

There wasn’t a lot of football for me in the last month of the season.

May began for me with the Irish Cup Final between Linfield and Coleraine, which Linfield won 3-0.

My final match of the season, was a trip to Old Trafford to see a much changed Manchester United side beat Crystal Palace 2-0.

And that, was the end of 2016-2017 season for me.

2017-2018 is not too far away.

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Coleraine Photo Album

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL

April’s football watching began in Lurgan on the first day of the month, heading to Mourneview Park to see Linfield beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 in a Irish Cup Semi-Final.

The following week, was another 1-0 win for Linfield, this time at Windsor Park in a key title decider against Crusaders.

Easter arrived in the middle of the month, and a double header of wins for Linfield, against Ballymena United and Glenavon.

The following Saturday, I headed Coleraine to see Linfield win 5-1 and go top of the League for the first time all season, with just one game to go.

That game was at Solitude, which Linfield won, and I captured the post match celebrations, as well as the celebrations later that day at Windsor Park.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Linfield v Crusaders

Ballymena United v Linfield

Linfield v Glenavon

Coleraine v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield

Cliftonville v Linfield Photo Album

Windsor Park Title Celebrations

Windsor Park Title Celebrations Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MARCH

March’s football watching began for me at Seaview, watching Linfield put Crusaders out of the Irish Cup.

There was a bit of a wait until my next match of the month as Linfield’s home match against Cliftonville was put back to the Monday night for live TV coverage.

I was back at Windsor Park the following Saturday, as Ards were the visitors.

The month ended with two games in the one weekend – Linfield’s long trip to Ballinamallard, and Norway’s even longer trip to Northern Ireland for a World Cup Qualifier.

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Cliftonville

Linfield v Ards

Ballinamallard United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Norway

Northern Ireland v Norway Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

January began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Coleraine, a match which resulted in a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Linfield.

It was then the Irish Cup for me, heading to The Oval to see Linfield get an extra-time win over Glentoran.

The following Saturday, another away game for Linfield, this time to Glenavon, and another 2-1 win for Linfield.

It was back to Windsor Park the following Saturday to see Linfield take on Ballymena United.

My football watching for the month ended with a trip to Stangmore Park to see Linfield secure a 4-1 win against Dungannon Swifts.

Linfield v Coleraine

Glentoran v Linfield

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : DECEMBER

December 2016 began for me with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers and record a routine 3-0 win.

The following weekend, was a trip to Clandeboye Park, Linfield’s first competitive game there since February 2009, a routine 2-0 win over Ards.

The games got harder and more dramatic, with a late win over Ballymena United coming the following weekend, ruining David Jeffrey’s first return to Windsor Park.

With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday in 2016, it meant that the Steel and Sons Cup Final was held on Christmas Eve, which I attended. Even more of a bonus was the fact that Linfield Swifts were in it, beating Dundela 3-1 to win the trophy for the first time since 1997.

Two days later came the highlight of the Christmas footballing calendar, Boxing Day. It was a bit crap in comparison to the previous four years.

The month, and the year, ended on a high, with Linfield going to Seaview and getting a vital win in the title race.

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Dundela v Linfield Swifts

Dundela v Linfield Swifts Photo Album

Linfield v Glentoran

Crusaders v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album