Crusaders, at last, got the better of Coleraine, Dungannon were made to work for three points at home to Warrenpoint Town. Also, Institute beat Ards in a result that saw the end of Ards manager Colin Nixon as he was sacked.
So, Friday was the fixture time slot this week for the three games that went ahead in the league. There was the simple matter of Linfield against Ballymena United in a League Cup final on Saturday evening. And on Monday night, the Sky TV cameras will be at the Oval in Belfast to screen the Glentoran – Glenavon encounter. Anyone from the mainland that needs a football fix, give it a watch. Today, I will concentrate on the three fixtures from Friday’s pulsating encounters.
So, another week and another topic of conversation across many social network communities. Nixon’s sacking. Ards 3-0 defeat at home to Institute was the final straw for the board at Ards. Has he been made a scapegoat? Let’s remember he turned down the chance to manage Glentoran at the start of the season so he could push on with what he started at Ards. I feel that he has been hard done by, and been made into the scapegoat for whatever is going on off the field at that club. Nixon is a winner, always was on the pitch, and I am sure he will be back stronger and wiser… sooner rather than later.
In the same game, the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) has decided to investigate an incident from the encounter between the two. Institute’s Thomas McBride was brought on to replace Jamie McIntyre. Not a real problem when you look at it, but the problem the NIFL have is that McBride had originally been listed in the Stute team before kick-off then was subsequently removed to the bench.
The NIFL rules stipulate (and trust me I have had a read of this, it is like trying to find your way around a maze) clubs must input their team line-up via the online system no later than 75 minutes before kick-off. One hell of an interesting rule when players only warm up 45 minutes before kick off. World of hurt if you pick up a niggle 10 minutes before kick-off and cannot start. End-state the referee Tony Clarke said no rule was broken. If the NIFL investigation finds that the rule has been broken it will be a 3-0 reverse of the score, with the three points going to Ards. Got to love the NIFL and its weird and wonderful rules and regulations.
Onto the action and I might as well start with the encounter between Ards and Institute. This ended in a 3-0 for Stute. Before the game Ards had gone three games without a win at home, conceding two or more goals in each of the games they’ve played. No change then after tonight’s result. Stute have now put the Michael McCrudden dilemma to bed and moved on. He got what he wanted: a release from his contract and free to play for Derry City. Ards had their chances to take the lead and were punished for not doing it through Stute’s Dean Curry. His shot inside the box came off the foot of Ards keeper Samuel Johnstone to make it 1-0 Stute.
The next two goals for Stute were just sublime. First up, Jake Morrow with a touch, turn, then shot which was beautifully finished into the top corner. The next came through Kevin Doherty, with a wonderful curling effort past Johnstone. 3-0 and enough to keep Ards rock bottom, and Nixon gave the spare key for the exit door.
After Coleraine’s valiant effort against Linfield last week. Rodney McAree took his rejuvenated team to North Belfast to take on Crusaders and came away on the end of a 4-2 defeat. The Bannsiders had the upper hand between the two before this one, winning the previous two games. The Crues manager was out drilling his back four before kick-off and not surprising. 38 goals against this season and up against Jamie McGonigle who just loves playing against the Crues.
Coleraine, and especially McGonigle, were causing Crues all sorts of trouble today. Hats off to Rory Hale for his last-ditch goal-line clearance which kept Crues in the game. But Crues held them off and got the first goal of the night through club captain Colin Coates. Coates controlled the ball inside the box and cleverly finished low into the corner past the Bannsiders’ keeper Chris Johns. Number two and what a goal was a long ball forward picked up David Cushley, who then delivered a thunderbolt into the top corner to make it 2-0 for the Crues.
Cushley then got his second and the Crues’ third when he headed home a Billy Joe Burns cross. The Crues’ Achilles-heel all season has been conceding. Today wasn’t any different. A deep cross into the Crues box was headed home by Dylan King. But the Bannsiders were not finished there. This time Coates got in a tangle, not for the first time this season, with Eion Bradley and gave away a penalty.
Every time the two clubs meet, it’s the Bradley-Coates wrestling match, and more often than not Bradley comes away victorious. From the resulting penalty, McGonigle converted. The Crues secured all three points through substitute Ronan Hale who fired home past Johns. Credit to Crues for the battling first-half performance. Coleraine did not take the chances and that could have had the been game over by half-time.
Game of the night has to be the encounter between Dungannon Swifts and Warrenpoint Town. The Swifts running out in the end as winners by 4-3. Danny Wallace got the first of the match for Point. It was like watching a kid in the park just run the length of the place and fire home against a wall. Only Wallace fired home to give Point the lead 0-1.
Mark Griffin made it two for Point. A little bit of pinball inside the Swifts box saw the ball fall to Griffin and the striker calmly finished 0-2. The Swifts pulled a goal back before half-time with Mark Patton converting a Rhyss Campbell cross from one yard out. Point got the two-goal cushion back again after the break, through Deane Watters. Neat link-up play between Philip Donnelly and Watters saw the latter score to make it 1-3.
The Swifts then got themselves a lifeline through an own-goal by Hernany Marques who converted a Patton cross into his own net 2-3. The third for the Swifts came through Daniel Hughes. He showed great determination to get to the ball before the defenders and keeper to lift the ball into the net 3-3. The Swifts got their winner through Patton, but the question has to be left to the actions of the on-loan Chelsea stopper for Point, Jared Thompson, and his part on the goal. An encounter that could have been dead and buried for the Swifts if the Point had been more clinical on numerous occasions.