Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Linfield 4 Coleraine 0

IPL, Windsor Park, Tuesday 27th November 2007

Team: Mannus, Douglas (Ervin 76), Murphy, McShane, Mouncey, McAreavey (Stewart 59), Gault, O’Kane (Curran 46), Ferguson, Thompson Subs not used : Lindsay, Dickson

Goals: Ferguson 3, Maccers

Attendance: ca. 800 (ca. 100 Coleraine fans)

Super performance from the Blues. Maccers properly back to what he is capable of; good passing football, on the ground, skills from maccers, mouncey, thompo and spike creating space and chances. In particular:

- Dougie had another great game, great tackling, good crosses in, linking up well going forward
- Thompson's work, linking-up, and movement outside the box is excellent; he looked short of confidence when through on goal, twice wasting it with attempted crosses when he should have wrecked it
- Spike was great again, but I think DJ believes his fitness to be superior to what most do
- Mannus made at least 6 top-drawer saves, having said that, 4 were in the same move in the space of about 5 seconds!
- Gaulty was everywhere again
- Stewart gives us an extra dimension playing through the middle, esp on as sub

Still don't like our high offside line, can see the Glens and Hamilton punishing us for it on Boxing Day. And Turkington is a pathetically bad referee. Some of his decisions, both ways, and what he let Coleraine off with, were an absolute joke.

Crowd was pathetic too. Putting it up against CL TV fixtures involving ManU and Rangers on a wet Baltic night is senseless. Seriously though, this league is dying on its feet.

Very poor highlights here:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Linfield 2 Donegal Celtic 0

IPL, Windsor Park, Saturday 24th November 2007

Team : Mannus, Douglas, Murphy, Bailie, McShane, Dickson (Mouncey 63), McAreavey (Stewart 77), Gault, O’Kane (Curran 66), Ferguson, Thompson Subs not used : McCann, Lindsay

Scorers: Thompson, Bailie

Attendance: approx 2500 (130 DC fans)

Good first half, bad second, pretty much sums up this game. We played some nice stuff in the first half, a few dangerous crosses flung in from Dougie and O'Kane, Maccers was back on form, good passing, backheels and all, and we should have gone in at the break more than one ahead. Mannus had to make one good save when the DC striker, through on goal, knocked it too far ahead of him. I thought Dougie was our MOTM, bursting forward, getting great crosses in, heavily involved, and not too many mess-ups.

DC fans

The second half was just dire. DC drummers in the stand made a lot of noise, and there were a few cultural ditties from kids at the back of the Kop, but that was about it. Oh, and Noel scoring a peach with his right.

Oh, and we went with the Raven club to Dungannon Ladies' Xmas do in the evening, great night, good crack, appearances and speeches from DJ and Winkie, shame there weren't more players there.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

End of Tour Report

Well almost. As it's international weekend, and as I'm going back into Exile in 2 weeks' time, I thought I'd do a quick review of the players so far this season, a quarter of the way into the league season.

Alan Mannus: one of our better performers, and South Stand Says Player of the Month for October. Still prone to the odd blunders (see Cliftonville Sky match) and kicking could be better, but still a great shot-stopper.

Steven Douglas: one of those who divides the Blues' support. I'm not a fan, and still believe wee Jim should be in the team, though both are equally mediocre. For every good thing Dougie does, he does 3 or 4 bad things. His throws are good, he can link up well with Mouncey, he covers the CBs well, but passing, crossing, and general play are iffy.

Pat McShane: Came straight back into the team after regaining fitness, and has been a shadow of his former self. Particular shcokers came against Dungannon and Newry. I'd drop him for O'Kane if we had an alternative at LM. I fear his time has gone.

Winkie Murphy: dropped for a while by DJ, but has been his usual solid best since, except for that Swifts match (like everyone else) culminating in an unfortunate OG. Lost a bit of pace?

Noel Bailie: has been beset by injuries, but I really do think this is a season too far for him, he's had numerous shockers, his legs have gone, the sharp anticipatory brain is still there, but often the body can't do what he wants it to fast enough. Sad to see.

Kris Lindsay: started off stormingly, but has fallen back in recent weeks. Really is 'The Future', always a goal threat, strong in the air, and likes to bring the ball out from the back, perhaps a little too eagerly at times, and needs to stop diving in so much.

Aidan O'Kane: another one that polarises fans. Started at LB but moved to LM after the return of McShane and the poor displays of Curran. His free-kicks and corners are as dangerous as ever, but I still feel he's not an IL midfielder, too small and goes missing too often, and doesn't have the pace or skill to beat full-backs and whip in those crosses. But he's been ok.

Michael Gault: has played well this season, the old energy levels are back, he's everywhere, covers every blade of grass. Control, passing and shooting still poor, but scored a lovely rare goal WITH HIS LEFT vs the Whites!

Paul McAreavey: Hmm. Has finally showed signs of promise in recent games against Newry and Larne, controlling the tempo, putting the foot on the ball, showing the old skills, but prior to his, he's been a huge disappointment. Fitness levels are still shocking, and his mobility is not that of an IL midfielder. Fingers crossed.

Tim Mouncey: generally very good, back to RM and back to his active, bustling best, beating men, getting crosses over and looking hungry. Good to see.

Damian Curran: Disappointment of the season. Maybe expectation level was too high, but he looks one-paced, has no perceptible skill to compensate, his passing is poor and his set-pieces have been, well, not very good. A poor man's O'Kane. We tracked him for 2 years and I can't see why, apparently he's not a LM, something we need, and he's not good enough to replace our CMs, so I don't see the point. I fear he'll never make it at the Blues.

Jamie Mulgrew: very stop-start, not really getting the chances he deserves after his apparent great form last year. Good and average performances intertwined. Currently injured, and apparently unsettled. Needs to cut the hair, the opposite of Samson!

Mark Dickson: not been playing well so far, which has disappointed me as I only heard good reports about him last season and saw him score in the ICF. Maybe a victim of his success at RW, where he is now being played every week, despite it not being his natural position. Form in last 2 weeks been more promising.

Glenn Ferguson: Player of the Season so far, belying his advanced years. Strong and creative as ever, the flicks etc have been pleasingly lacking and he's stuck to the simple stuff. Goals have dried up in recent weeks, but he's still the focal point of our team, and most of DJ's tactics seem to go through Spike. Still being exceedingly overplayed, IMO. A 38 year-old should not be playing 180+ minutes per week when we've younger blood waiting in the wings.

Peter Thompson: Very poor start to the season, his goal vs Portadown seems to have got his confidence up, and now he's banging them in, producing a top quality display vs Larne. Still oges to ground far too easily, and his turn inside is far too predictable imo, but the old verve and sharpness is back. Needs to work on his shooting though.

Thomas Stewart: another that divides fans. Some say too lazy and disinterested; some say, give him a decent chance as striker, then comment, he has skill to burn. I'm a fan, but think DJ soesn't fancy him and that he'll end up at the Gurns next season, he face just doesn't seem to fit. I do feel he has looked uninterested in his substitute appearances at LM, esp compared to Dicko, but also think he's been promised things that the management haven't delivered. I think he needs 5 games in a row upfront before we can judge, but i don't think he's going to get them. Scored against Larne as sub last week, but also missed two sitters. He's not the striker that will run through brick walls that many Linfield fans demand, and to me he still looks a bit too 'weak' for the IL, but I fear that if he goes to the Dark Side, he'll punish us.

Tim McCann: sporadic substitute appearances. Some think he's useful to have around; I don't think he's Linfield standard.

Stephen Garrett (on loan - Newry): scored 6 goals and according to Newry fans, has been a revelation, speed, trickery, finishing. I fear we'll not see him back at Windsor, which I think is a huge shame.

DJ: needs to shut up, stop channelling all play through Spike, be a bit more sensible with substitutions, and stop writing off inept tactical displays as 'a bad day at the office'.

Overall: we're third in the league, 3 behind the Glens, and in the final of the League Cup, but we're far from firing on all cylinders, and I feel too much has been placed in Conor Downey and Oran Kearney coming back to full form and transforming us into a wonderful footballing outfit. Our superior fitness will tell eventually, but I still feel we should be seeing more for the quality of playing staff we possess. Apparently NI u-21 striker Andrew Waterworth is coming in the January transfer window, my sources tell me he'll be a good 'un. Think our priorities lie elsewhere, though. Oh, and would like to see the potentially huge Billy Joe Burns get a chance, esp as Noel is close to the end and Winkie is possibly not too far behind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Larne 1 Linfield 5

On the way home

Inver Park, 10th November 2007

Team: Mannus, Douglas, McShane, Gault (Mouncey 79), Murphy, Bailie, McAreavey, Dickson, O’Kane (Curran 66), Ferguson, Thompson (Stewart 73)
Subs not used : Lindsay, Ervin

Goals: Thompson 3, Ferguson, Stewart

Attendance: ca 1000 (approx 950 Linfield fans)

A much improved Linfield performance, with Thompo FINALLY approaching close to the heights he reached in the Clean Sweep season with a sparkling, lively, penetrative performance. Linfield were simply too strong for Larne, who, despite their weaknesses, still have 2 skilful players upfront in Verner and Hunter.

No-one really played poorly for the Blues, despite critics sceptical about the defence, was impressed with Maccers, and Tommy Stewart looked lively when he came on, although he did miss two sitters.

Social club

Was my first time in Larne since 1994/5, and they really are in need of a new ground, Inver Park has a certain old school charm, with the slopiest pitch I've ever seen in 'top level' football, and a nice wee social club, but it does have the feel of what it is, a condemned ground.

A nice 2-week break now should allow Jamie to get fit again, Conor to continue his path to fitness, and allow Spike a rest, playing a 38 year-old for 90 minutes just 3 days after he played 120 is folly, and it will count against us come the end of the season.

Other news: Andrew Waterworth is apparently a cert to sign in January, which would be ok if we didn't have 6 strikers already at the club, including Stephen Garrett who is banging them in on loan at Newry City, 6 already. I don't think we'll see him back at Windsor, hardly surprising when even the NI u-21 captain can't get on.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Newry City 1 Linfield 1 (3-4 on penalties)

CIS Cup Semi-final, Mourneview Park, Wednesday 7th November 2007.

Team: Linfield Team : Mannus, Douglas, McShane (Curran 60), Gault, Murphy, Mouncey (Dickson 70), Ferguson, Bailie (Lindsay 95), McAreavey, O’Kane, Thompson Subs not used : McCann, Stewart (surprise surprise)

Goals: Thompson

Attendance: est 1200 (approx 400 (noisy) Newry fans)

On reflection, I actually think it was a pretty good game. I didn't really at the time; again, our football was long, high and the predictable everything-towards-spike's-head dirge, while Newry showed us how it is done with simple yet effective passing football, yet we still availed. We must have had about 25 corners, most of which I filmed but deleted due to our ineffectiveness at them, and we missed many many chances, had at least 3 cleared off the line, plus their keeper played well. But take nothing away from Newry, they played well and with a wee bit of luck could have sneaked it, Feeney missing a great chance late on.

Here were my various other thoughts:

Opinions were divided on Dougie, for me, he really does oscillate very quickly from the surprisingly good to the shockingly bad. Jim is equally as bad, but still my preference.

Curran won't make it at the Blues. Yes he was one of the few looking for the ball last night and yes he tried, but his passing's poor, his shooting's poor, his tackling's poor, he's slow, and his touch is poor, what does he offer us? Having said that, he seems to be a confidence player, and some of the abuse dished out at him from the stand every time, before he even received the ball, was nothing sort of a disgrace. After the game, by all means.

DJ playing Spike and Maccers for 120 minutes was madness. I thought both played rightly last night, I was especially pleased by Maccers, not all his passes came off, but he was back to beating men with skill and is still the only one who'll put the foot on the ball, dictate the pace and pick out passes.

Both Thompson and Spike worked their socks off and did well, Mouncey showed flashes but I still feel he's a wee bit too weak. Pat and Noel had shockers, both need changed for Saturday.

Was impressed with Newry's crowd, was pleasantly surprised by our turnout, and Mourneview is a cracking wee ground.

Can't get all the penalties onto Windows Movie Maker, so Doog's winner will have to do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Linfield 2 Distillery 1

IPL, Windsor Park, 3rd November 2007

Team: Mannus, Douglas, McShane, Gault, Murphy, Dickson, Ferguson, Bailie, O’Kane, Thompson, McAreavey (Curran 85) subs not used : Lindsay, Ervin, McCann, Stewart

Scorers: Dickson, Thompson

Couldn't be bothered writing much. This was it:

"Pretty poor show. Only real positives were the 3 points, and the fact that Conor Downey played for the Swifts today.

Still not impressed by Maccers. Dougie needs dropped.

And Malcolm is a fu cking clown."

Atticus posted a better analysis:

"Some uncomfortable truths reconfirmed.

- Our substitutes are nothing but a time-wasting exercise. Nothing else.
- Tommy Stewart's face doesn't fit. Otherwise why not get him on when one forward missed a handful of chances and the other was going through the motions?
- Maccers isn't fit. Plus ca change.
- Our full backs aren't good enough and never will be.
- For every good cross from Douglas and O'Kane, there's at least two bad ones.
- Gault can't play football.
- Ferguson doesn't like playing against tight marking. But he'll run his ass off for nothing balls going into the corner in stoppage time.
- Mannus is the best keeper in the league.
- The wrong players get scapegoated for rubbish team performances.
- Davy Malcolm is an attention-seeking tube who bottles the big decisions. Looks like he's been on a "Learn How to Play Advantage 101" course during the week, though."

Highlights here:

Probably a more entertaining game, at least until we got bored after 10 minutes at how shite it was and headed to the VL to watch Arse-ManU, was the Supporters' match. 'High'lights, including some goalkeeping classics and lethargic midfield performances, can be watched here: