Week 15 of the Danske Bank Premiership saw four games take place. Coleraine maintained their wonderful start to the season as they defeated out of sorts Glenavon. Cliftonville moved into the second spot with a strong win against bottom club Warrenpoint Town. Institute, for the third weekend on the bounce, hold out for a draw against the might of Glentoran.
I have to start and congratulate what is going on at Coleraine. Plans are in place for a redevelopment of the Showgrounds and the club are currently flying high at the top of the premiership. 15 games in and they are unbeaten – this has been no flash in the dark. They have travelled to both of the league favourites, Linfield and Crusaders, and put four past both of them. What a re-signing Oran Kearney has been. Seems he went away and, like the great coach he is, has learnt, listened a lot and brought it all back and applied it well. Some managers within the league should take a leaf out of his book!
Coleraine entertained Glenavon on Saturday and sent them home on the end of a 4-0 defeat. Glenavon are dicing with trouble – what with Institute having themselves in a bit of a revival and are now only three points behind them. With the inevitable move of Rhys Marshall in January, it leaves Gary Hamilton with a job on his hand to steady this ship. The first goal for the Bannsiders came from the head of the Lurgan Blues defender Caolon Marron.
Not the start that the Lurgan Blues needed. The day only got worse for them when Daniel Larmour got his marching orders for what was adjudged to be a rash challenge. Again, it was questionable if it really should have been a straight red. The officials in this league are again showing their naivety and inexperience. Take a minute, consult with all your assistants before pulling the card out as quick as their free bus pass.
It didn’t take the Bannsiders long to make it 2-0. It was great work from Eoin Bradley in the channel, who found James McLaughlin. McLaughlin was on target again to score number three and his eighth of the season. Jamie Glackin was also excellent and has to be commended for keeping control of the ball on what looked like a terrible playing surface. He moved it to McLaughlin who did the rest. The game was then rounded up by Ben Doherty as he converted from the penalty spot, just as always.
Cliftonville stayed in second place and have been going full steam ahead. Before today they had won four in a row, conceding only one goal. That is the form of a team that has got it together, and in this league the type of form that will see them moving on. Today they entertained bottom club Warrenpoint Town and made it six wins in a row (only conceding one goal) with a 4-0 win. Mark McKee got the first for the Reds after a good one-two with Joe Gormley. Once again Gormley is showing he is not just a goal scorer.
Number two was just something else. If you get a minute in your busy schedule I advise you check out Conor McDermott’s effort – you won’t be disappointed. A long ball up the field by the Point was picked up in his own half by McDermott. He controlled the ball, beat the on-coming player and upon looking up, saw Berat Türker off his line. While still within his own half, McDermott hit the ball into the net. Even the one Point fan in the away stand couldn’t believe what had happened. Hats off and what a great piece of individual skill and quick thinking. For me though, I have to question Turker. Is he actually a goalkeeper? He seems to be in a world of his own in most of his games.
Gormley made it three just before half-time after a great, well worked, team goal. Gormley again was involved in the fourth as he was brought down in the box and up stepped Ryan Curran to convert the penalty.
What a turnaround Sean Connor is having at Institute. Eyebrows were raised within the Irish League when he was signed, due to not many around the scene knowing much about him. Yes, he has had a few hard years but he has proven himself before to be a very competent manager, and in the last few weeks he is doing it again. Last week they travelled to Crusaders and came away with a 1-1 draw. On Saturday they entertained Mick McDermott’s Glentoran and held them to a 1-1 draw. On paper, the players McDermott has at his disposal, this should have been a win for the Glens, but Connor got his team set up and got a point, which for them is just what they need.
Elvio van Overbeek got the first goal of the game for the Glens, turning the ball into the net from the tightest of angles. But the Glens couldn’t finish the game off – Stute came back into the game and had a few chances to level before they actually did, with Niall Grace latching onto a ball in the box to fire home. What a turn-around at Stute: the last three games, three draws. Not just three draws, but draws against Crusaders, Larne, and Glentoran. Had they beaten all three, we would be talking about them being title challengers.
Last but not least, out-of-form Ballymena United entertained Carrick Rangers. The Sky Blues are in the midst of a mini-slump. Before today, they had three defeats in a row. Yes, injuries and inconsistencies will play a big part, but this is the same team that steamrolled through the league last season. Have other teams just worked out how to play against them? Well, except for the Crusaders. Today Carrick inflicted more pain on them, defeating the Sky Blues 2-1, making that four games on the bounce without a win.
Daniel Kelly tapped the first home for Carrick. A Carrick corner caused a few issues in the Sky Blues’ box and Kelly was on hand to stab the ball home. The Sky Blues got the game level through a corner of their own, and then Aaron Burns ghosted in at the back post to head it home. Carrick grabbed the winner through a long throw. Stewart Nixon delivered a long ball into the box, and not for the first time, the Sky Blues’ defence couldn’t deal with it. Lee Chapman took full advantage and poked the ball home.