Review of 2017 - Final part - by Jamie Megarry

Posted : 31st December 2017 at 22:26:52

Earlier this month Linfieldfc.com reviewed firstly January to April in a memorable year and then more recently May to August.

In the final part of his comprehensive review of the year that's about to conclude, Jamie Megarry looks back at September to December.

September

The Blues kicked off the busy month of September with a trip to Scotland to take on The Spartans in the Irn Bru Challenge Cup. Around 400 Linfield supporters made the trip to Edinburgh to see their team advance to the next round. Louis Rooney netted his fourth goal in a week and Linfield’s first competitive goal on Scottish soil, before Stephen Lowry struck in the second half to give Linfield a 2-1 victory.

Then came the first competitive ‘Big Two’ derby of the season as Glentoran travelled to Windsor Park. Aaron Burns netted an early header which turned out to be the only goal of the game as Linfield maintained their 100% start, keeping an impressive fifth clean sheet from as many league outings in the process.

Unfortunately, on September 12, Linfield’s domestic unbeaten run which stretched all the way back to January 3rd 2017 ended with defeat at Seaview. Mark Stafford’s second half strike wasn’t enough, as Crusaders took the win thanks to two first half wonder goals.

David Healy’s team returned to winning ways at the first attempt, defeating Ballinamallard 4-0 in the league at Windsor Park, before travelling to Dixon Park to defeat Ballyclare Comrades 4-1 in the County Antrim Shield, as the Blues aimed to defend their trophy.

Louis Rooney kept up his fine start to life at Linfield with another two goals as he helped the Blues to a 4-1 victory over Warrenpoint Town at Milltown. The month ended on a disappointing note, however, as Linfield were defeated at Solitude. Despite leading 2-0 with 15 minutes remaining, Cliftonville struck at the death to complete a remarkable turnaround as the Blues were defeated 3-2.

Aged just 16, Linfield's Lauren Perry turned in a player of the Match performance in her senior international debut as Northern Ireland lost a World Cup qualifier to highly seeded Norway.



October

October would prove to be a frustrating month for David Healy and Linfield. The month started well, however, as striker Andy Waterworth made a return from a knee injury picked up at Celtic Park in July and he was immediately back amongst the goals, nodding home Linfield’s 2nd in a 3-0 win over Ballinamallard at Ferney Park in the Bet McLean League Cup.

A return to Irn Bru Challenge Cup action followed with another trip to Scotland, this time to take on Dundee United at Tannadice. Despite Linfield’s possession and chances they failed to capitalise and faced late disappointment as the tangerines won it in stoppage time against the run of play.

Linfield’s return to league action was a trip to Coleraine, who were flying high after a bright start. The Bannsiders went into the game four points ahead of the Blues and they went on to extend the gap to seven points amidst controversy as to whether the ball really crossed the line for the late, decisive goal.

The Blues returned to Windsor Park for the first home fixture for five weeks as Crusaders were the visitors for the televised fixture in front of the Sky cameras. There were no happy returns, unfortunately, as the Hatchetmen ran out 5-2 winners.

The month was rounded off with a double header against Colin Nixon’s Ards. The Blues won the league fixture 2-0 thanks to goals from Jordan Stewart and Joshua Robinson, but just two days later Ards knocked the Blues out of the County Antrim Shield with a 1-0 win at Windsor Park.

The club announced the appointment of three new vice-presidents David Sales, Glenn Meikle and Robert Neill and at a function to pay tribute to former chairman Jim Kerr he was awarded the title of Honorary Vice President and presented with Life membership in recognition of his excellent service over many years.





November

Just like October, Linfield kicked the month off with a win at Ballinamallard – a 6-0 victory this time, despite going down to ten men just before half-time. Such was the manner of Linfield’s performance that day, many had hoped this would be the start of a winning run, however it wasn’t to be, as defeat followed away to Ballymena United.

Attention turned away from the league once more to focus on the Bet McLean League Cup, as David Healy’s team travelled to Seaview to take on Crusaders. The Blues battled hard but had Mark Stafford sent off. The red card would be rescinded in the following days but Linfield were defeated 2-0 and exited the Cup.

The Blues were faced with a crucial encounter days later. Coleraine had made such a strong start and were showing no signs of slipping up. Linfield went into the game 11 points behind Oran Kearney’s men in the league table, albeit with a game in hand. It was a game which Linfield had no margin for error in and they produced the goods with a 2-1 win at Windsor thanks to goals from Waterworth and Stafford.

The defending Champions backed that up with another impressive win, this time against Glenavon who were enjoying good form. Cameron Stewart’s header proved to be the difference and Linfield seemed to be gathering a bit of overdue momentum as the Blues ended the month on a high.

Further encouragement for Linfield supporters followed, as David Healy announced on November 30th that striker Kurtis Byrne – formerly of Dundalk, Hibernian and St Pats to name a few – would be joining the Club in the January transfer window once his international clearance is through.

Linfield Swifts continued to impress as they sealed a place in the traditional Christmas morning Steel and Sons Cup final against Newington after beating Imacculata 4-0 in the semi-final thanks to goals from Ryan Strain, Stephen Fallon, Eamon Scannell and Ross Clarke.

Linfield Ladies’ Megan Bell, aged just 16, made her senior international debut in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying win away to Slovakia for Northern Ireland ladies.

A memorial was unveiled in the Linfield office in the Railway Stand honouring and paying tribute to the club's former players who served in the World Wars.

On the final day of the month Linfield recommenced training at Midgley Park - or more precisely the new Midgley Park 4g pitch.





December

The final month of this memorable year was eventful as always. It started with another three points as Linfield overcame Dungannon Swifts at home, thanks to an Andy Waterworth header. Snow wiped out the game away to Carrick. Warrenpoint Town were next to visit Windsor Park and they left with a point following a 3-3 draw which was another dent in Linfield’s title aspirations.

Yet again, the Blues had no margin for error, this time it was Cliftonville they had to overcome. Captain Jamie Mulgrew made a timely return after six weeks out and spurred the team onto a big three points, as Linfield ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from the impressive Stephen Fallon and Andy Waterworth who netted on his 200th Linfield appearance.

The annual Boxing Day derby in front of a sell-out crowd of 6,000 at the Oval didn’t produce a favourable outcome for Linfield, as Curtis Allen struck an injury time winner for the Glens as they ran out 2-1 winners despite Cameron Stewart’s opener.

Linfield were hoping to bounce back against Crusaders on Saturday at Windsor Park but were beaten 2-1 despite taking an early lead through Josh Robinson.

Linfield Swifts took on Newington in the Steel and Sons Cup final on Christmas morning in the hope of making it back-to-back successes but they were unfortunately marginally beaten by a single goal late on. Nonetheless, the Swifts’ oldest player was aged just 19 and they had a number of 16 year-olds involved and it will be a learning curve for them, as they’ll no doubt have plenty of better days ahead.

Linfield U16s capped a great year for the Linfield Academy by becoming All Ireland champions for a second year running with victory over College Corinthians of Cork at Dundalk’s Oriel Park.



All in all, a very successful year for the Club, with various Linfield teams picking up trophies and hopefully the Blues’ first team can kick off a successful year tomorrow with victory away to Coleraine. This also marks the end of a remarkable year for this very website as LinfieldFC.com received more than five million views in 2017 – a record number by a distance, so many thanks to our supporters for their ongoing support.

Happy New Year

Audaces Fortuna Juvat



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