Danske Bank Premiership

Is it me, or was it better when the games over the Easter period were actually played on Tuesday afternoon? Not sure about the league’s stance on why it changed but it was a night full of action, defensive horror shows, and the most precious clean sheet of the season for Ards and Samuel Johnston.

Newry have more or less sealed their relegation from the league after going down 2-1 away to Institute. That leaves them three points behind Ards with one game remaining. They need to beat Dungannon Swifts at home by more than four goals and hope Ards get beaten without scoring themselves. Ards hosted Dungannon Swifts and came away with a win which keeps them ahead of Newry City. Can they hold it out at Warrenpoint Town on Saturday? Let’s see! Ballymena United secured second spot and a place in European football with a 4-3 win over Glenavon.

Ards have Samuel Johnston to thank for this 1-0 win at home to Dungannon Swifts. The young stopper, not for the first time this season, had a ‘man of the match’ performance between the sticks. I have said it a few times now, but there must be some team in the league looking at Johnston and thinking of giving him a shot. And why not? The all-important goal came in the seventh minute through Michael McLellan. A wonderful ball lifted over the defence by Gareth Tommons saw McLellan connect with a volley and forced it home.

For the Swifts it has not been the best finish to the season. Kris Lindsay has a big summer ahead of him to try to shape this team. Michael Carvill will go back to Crusaders, but can he keep hold of captain Chris Hegarty, and marksman Paul McElroy? Players that have been talked about in certain corners for possible moves away. For Ards, yes, they might be safe but if they hold to 11th spot and end up with a play-off against the impressive Carrick, it will not be plain sailing.

Glenavon’s charge to take the second spot off Ballymena United ended with a 4-3 defeat at the Ballymena Showgrounds. You have to say “hats off” to both teams. While other clubs for the last two to three weeks have been on holiday, these two have kept going. The Sky Blues were first off the mark. A defensive mistake let in Johnny McMurray who squared the ball to Andy McGrory and the former Lurgan Blues man did the rest 1-0. Glenavon got themselves level from a corner on 18 minutes. Conor McCloskey floated in the ball, where Seamus Sharkey got up unchallenged to head home for 1-1.

The Sky Blues regained the lead by doing what they have done well all season. A long ball was headed on by Adam Lecky to McGrory, who could only try but failed to lift the ball over Jonny Tuffey. McMurray was first onto the rebound to fire home 2-1. The Sky Blues then made it 3-1 in the second half with Adam Lecky finishing off after being put through one-on-one with Tuffey. It took two minutes for the Lurgan Blues to pull a goal back when James Singleton fired home a volley into the net for 3-2.

On the 86th minute, the Lurgan Blues must have thought they had sealed a point. Player-manager Gary Hamilton headed a long ball into the feet of Andrew Mitchell who fired home to make it 3-3. This end-to-end game full of drama was not over yet though. Two minutes after the Lurgan Blues equalised the Sky Blues were in front again when substitute Shane McGinty fired in the winner. What a game these two put together and fair play to both sets of players. It’s a case of ‘what if’ for Glenavon. What if they had of held onto Mark Sykes? What if they had finished the season the way they started it? It is now over to their board. Will they do everything in their power to hold onto the great crop of young players they have? Or will we see some of them in Belfast next season?

Coleraine ran out 4-2 winners in this game against Crusaders. Jamie McGonigle just loves playing against the Crues. Five games this season and five goals, and tonight he bagged himself a hat-trick. A very nice return for the young forward. Cormac Burke was the other scorer for the Bannsiders. For the Crues, Michael Ruddy and a David Cushley penalty were not enough to save the game. If you still question my thoughts week in and week out about this Crues’ team, then you didn’t witness the defensive comedy show last night. A keeper and a solid back four is needed. 52 goals against and counting it was a horror show last night. How has it not been addressed?

Glentoran have more or less secured the last Europa league play-off as long as they avoid defeat to Institute after this 2-2 draw at home to Warrenpoint Town. The ‘Point took the lead through ‘makeshift’ forward Simon Kelly. The Glens then got themselves level through John Herron. After the break ‘Point were ahead when Philip Donnelly converted a penalty. The Glens secured a point late on when Darren Murray headed home to equalise.

Newry City more or less have cemented their place in the Championship next season after this 2-1 defeat at the hands of Institute. Callum Moorehead fired Stute into the lead only to see City fight back and level through Tiarnan Rushe. Stute took all three points when Ronan Doherty struck in the second half.

Normal service resumed at Windsor Park last night for Linfield as they defeated Cliftonville 5-1. The party was in full swing on Saturday but tonight Jordan Stewart was the party animal on the pitch. A ‘man of the match’ performance from the ex-Swindon man and what a turnaround of a season he has had. The Blues’ goals came from Michael O’Connor with two, Daniel Kearns, Kirk Millar, and Stewart, with Conor McMenamin getting a consolation for the Reds. A typically strong performance from the Champions.

Danske Bank Premiership