The league leaders Crusaders travelled to unbeaten Coleraine and came away on the end of a 4-2 defeat. A change in the back four again and a change in the formation to compensate for playing a certain player was the Crues’ downfall. Glentoran maintained their great start to the season as they defeated the only team without a league win, Warrenpoint Town 2-1 at ‘The Oval’. Dungannon Swifts travelled to Larne and put on a valiant display to stop the free-scoring new boys, holding out for a 0-0 draw.
I start my round-up with the two unbeaten teams in the league this season, Coleraine and Crusaders. I say, “Crusaders got it all wrong”, it was really Stephen Baxter who got it all wrong with his team selection as his team was on the receiving end of a 4-2 defeat. Why was Rory Hale left on the bench? Changing his formation to a 4-4-2 and leaving themselves overrun in the middle of the park, and then there was the questionable decision regarding the back four. Last season he only had a few games with that same central defensive partnership which conceded an astonishing 55 goals, and yet, they started again. This week, Howard Beverland dropped out and Sean Ward came into the middle of the defence. The Crues really need to tie down a partnership in there, sooner rather than later.
The Crues got the game off and running with the first goal. This game was an exhibition on how not to defend. A mix up in the Bannsiders’ defence saw Jamie McGonigle finish at the second attempt against his former club. The Bannsiders got themselves back on level terms through more defensive mistakes. A long ball over the top was not dealt with by the Crues. Sean Ward got his head to the ball, but only headed it off Ben Doherty and into the Crues net. The Bannsiders’ second goal came through Stephen Lowry.
A free-kick found Lowry at the back post. His shot was diverted into his own net by Jordan Owens. Owens who walked straight back into the team this week, after missing last. The Bannsiders made it three through an Eoin Bradley free-kick, but big questions have to be asked of Sean O’Neill’s positioning. The Bannsiders’ fourth goal wasn’t long in coming- this time the former Crues player Jamie Glackin finishing. The Crues got a consolation second late on through Chris Hegarty, but it was all too little, too late.
Bottom of the league Warrenpoint Town stay there after this 2-1 defeat away to Glentoran. The Point before today had lost all six games played, conceding 22 goals. They have yet to collect a point. The Glens have started to get a little momentum going and look strong throughout the team. The first goal of the afternoon came from a wonderful free-kick from Hrvoje Plum. He struck the ball from all of 35 yards out into the Point net. The Point, to their credit, got themselves right back into the game as Alan O’Sullivan was later on hand in the box to convert a wonderful cross.
The Glens had to fight to get all three points in this one. It took a little bit of good fortune and a mistake by the Point keeper Evan Moran, but they all count! Patrick McClean’s goal-bound header was pushed into his own net by Moran, and he will not want to watch that one back again. All in all: it was not the greatest of games, but the Point must take positives from this. It has been the worst possible start they could have imagined, but they need to go away and build on this.
Another team which seems to have too many players and needing to rotate every week is Larne. On Saturday they entertained a Dungannon Swifts team whose season has taken a dramatic change. The Swifts’ last three games had ended in defeat, shifting 12 goals in total. On Saturday they will not have been happy walking away with a 0-0 draw against free-scoring Larne. This game was the Sam Johnstone show- the Swifts keeper produced save after save to keep the Larne forward line at bay. I, for one, was an advocate of Johnstone last season and knew he would be a great signing for someone within the top league.
The Larne manager has come out this week and stated, “they are learning lessons from life at the league’s tops table”. Well, I am personally not sold on that, and he has made himself a target. Thumping teams week in, week out last season, having one of the biggest squads in the league, and all the talent he has brought in from the lower leagues of English football should be enough for him and his team to be doing more. Is he the right man to lead this team forward? That’s a question we can ask at the end of the season. So much money has been pushed at this experiment, and with this team now full-time and training every day together, the fans should be getting more for their money, not a 0-0 draw at home to Dungannon Swifts.
Glenavon entertained Ballymena United and got themselves back to winning ways with a 3-1 win. The Sky Blues took the lead through Cathair Friel. This goal came off the back of some wonderful build-up play: Leroy Millar’s cross found Friel in the box, and if you wanted any striker in the box for a ball like that, it would have to be Friel. The Lurgan Blues got themselves back on level terms through Rhys Marshall who blasted a wonderful shot high into the Sky Blues net. The Lurgan Blues then took the lead through a Stephen McCullough own goal. The score was rounded up by Jordan Jenkins who finished off from close range. The Sky Blues stay in sixth place and the Lurgan Blues move up to ninth.
Last but not least, is Saturday’s encounter between Cliftonville and Institute, with the Reds running out as 1-0 winners. Stute has been struggling and still sit in 11thplace after this encounter. They have lost seven and drew one. The only goal of the game came through Rory Donnelly who got on the end of a Ryan Curran cross to score. The win leaves the Reds joint second with the Bannsider’s.