What a weekend of Irish league football. The big game at the top saw Crusaders beat Linfield 1-0 to stay in the top spot. Glenavon for the second time in a week were humiliated, and Warrenpoint Town have eventually collected their first points of the season, defeating Dungannon Swifts 4-3.
The League champions Linfield travelled across the city to take on the league leaders Crusaders on Friday night. In a tight game with both keepers not really being tested much, the Crues ran out 1-0 winners. The Blues knew this was going to be a hard game- the Crues at home this season have been a hard nut to crack. Played seven, won six, with one draw; the Blues have been playing catch up. They have still got three games in hand over the Crues, but it was the Crues that got the win in the first game between two of the leagues’ top teams.
The only goal of the game came through Rory Hale. He picked the ball up 25-yards out and unleashed a shot into the top corner of the Blues net. Hale had a great battle with the Blues’ Bastian Hery all night until he had to go off injured. The Crues midfield has more control when he is in it, which was proven when he sat on the bench for the humiliating defeat away to Coleraine. The Blues had the majority of the possession the encounter but the Crues kept their shape and discipline to claim the win and all three points.
Not for the first time over the weekend, the officials have been put to the sword. In this game, some of the decisions and cards against both teams left a lot to be desired. Then there were the six minutes of injury time at the end of the game- the fourth official must have picked his watch up at Nuts Corner weekend. Six minutes from five substitutes and an injury. Absolute crazy.
From the Northside of Belfast to the East: Cliftonville travelled the short trip to the Oval to take on Glentoran. Another tight affair saw the Reds come away with a 1-0 win. Another game and another refereeing decision- Darren Murray got his marching orders for a second bookable offence. But instead of going off at the nearest point, he ran across to the opposite touchline. It was clear to see he was not wasting time as he made the effort to get off the pitch, but again there are so many grey areas to the rules and a lack of consistency. Paul Heatley did the same thing, on the same night, with no repercussions. So where is the line with the officials?
They either learn the rules, or stop trying to improvise with them. It makes me wonder what the referee’s adjudicator actually does sitting in the stand with his clipboard. Are they advising the referees when they are wrong? I really doubt it as the standard of officials is the worst we have had for a long time.
The second half was where this game was won. A corner for the Reds eventually landed at the feet of Joe Gormley in the six-yard box, and the rest is history- Gormley finishing off like the predator he is. The Glens with 10 men nearly earned a draw, but for the brilliance of Richard Brush in the Reds’ net. He pulled off what could already be the save of the season from John Herron. The win keeps the Reds in second if only for 24 hours, behind their North Belfast rivals the Crues.
Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton this week has asked for more from his players after they were humiliated by Linfield 7-0. Well, they never listened and instead travelled to Larne on Friday night and came back on the end of a 6-0 thrashing. I think Hamilton has lost the dressing room. If this was any other manager, they would have had their bags packed for them. Five games played away with five defeats, and in all nine games played this season they had conceded 21 goals before this one- now we can make that 27. Only Warrenpoint have shipped more. I’m not sure where Hamilton goes from here.
Martin Donnelly got the first for Larne curling a free-kick into the net. Number two came from a long ball forward to Johnny McMurray, who just turned the defender and finished perfectly. It was bad defending again for the Lurgan Blues that let Donnelly in to score his second of the evening. It was then over to David McDaid to finish off for the Lurgan Blues. He scored a hat-trick of goals to kill off any fightback from a team that has no fight.
Coleraine travelled to Carrick Rangers as the only unbeaten team in the league, knowing a win would put them back into the second spot, and came away with a 4-1 win. The Bannsiders couldn’t have got off to a better start. The Rangers defence did not deal with a corner by Ben Doherty, and Eoin Bradley was on hand to poke the ball home. Rangers got themselves a lifeline from the penalty spot with Caolan Loughran converting. Loughran then scored again this time heading the ball into his own goal. The Bannsiders extended their lead through Aaron Jarvis, and the scoring was complete when Aaron Traynor finished off from close range.
Warrenpoint Town, the only team that had still to register a win and a point entertained Dungannon Swifts on Saturday. Who expected this? Probably the game of the day and what a result for the Point. A 4-3 win and what a welcome win for the men from Co. Down. The Swifts got off to a flyer and I, like a few people, thought “here we go again”. Oisin Smyth and Micheal Carvill gave the Swifts a two-goal lead. The Point that came out after the interval were a different beast and got themselves back into the lead.
Goals from Conall Young, who converted a free-kick, and Alan O’Sullivan with two made the score 3-2. The Swifts hit back through Michael Carvill to bring the game to 3-3. But the fight and the determination shown by the Point deservedly led to a winner late on through Lorcan Forde to secure their first points of the season.
Last but not least, Institute entertained Ballymena United and the two of them played out a 1-1 draw. Stute took the lead through an Aaron McGurk strike. It wasn’t till the second half that the Sky Blues drew level through a Jonny Addis header from a corner.