Danske Bank Premiership

Pinball at the top! Coleraine had to fight to get back to the top by defeating a resilient Carrick Rangers. Cliftonville’s stay at the top lasted all but a week after they could only conjure up a draw away to Larne. The continued slump of Dungannon continued as they were heavily defeated at the hands of Glentoran.

What a difference a few months make. Top of the pile three weeks in, Dungannon Swifts had started the season on such a high note. Into week 15, they sit 10th and have started to spiral out of control. Saturday, they travelled to Glentoran and ended up on the wrong end of a 6-1 thrashing. That makes it seven games defeated in a row, and on that form, Kris Lindsey is a man under pressure to keep his job. If the Glens could just get some consistency, they would be flying at the top. Too many points have been dropped but it is a work in progress at the Oval. 23-time League champions, this club is now on its way back to the sort of environment its fans crave.

The super Robbie McDaid was the man on the match for the Glens after bagging himself a hat-trick. His first came after keeper Stuart Addis could only parry a shot back into the area where McDaid was on hand to finish. Two minutes later, it was McDaid once again on hand to double the lead. A wonderful through ball over the top from Navid Nasseri to McDaid who in turn coolly lifted the ball over Addis.

Swifts then rallied and got themselves back into the game. Ben Gallagher was pouncing on a ball in the box to fire a shot under the Glens’ keeper Marijan Antolovic.

It was then the turn of the Glens’ talented youngster Paul O’Neill to get himself on the score sheet with a double. First, he headed in a Gavin Peers cross. Then he was on hand to finish off a rebound into an empty net. McDaid then came back to complete his hat-trick from the spot. But the best was kept for last with Hrvoje Plum scoring a wonderful free-kick.

After rising to the summit last week, Cliftonville travelled to Larne who themselves have just not been able to crack the top teams in the league. The game played out to a 1-1 draw, which was probably the better result for the Reds. But for the Inver men, the excuses of “it’s our first season back” are now wearing thin. You have the money, infrastructure and the team at your disposal. You should be doing so much better.

Larne took the lead through a Gary Breen own goal. Jonny McMurray can claim it all day long, but it was 100% Breen that got his head to a Davy McDaid cross to direct it onto his own net. The equaliser was something else. Gary Breen launching a long ball forward, and with one instant touch and control, Joe Gormley then thrashed the ball into the Larne net with an absolutely marvellous goal. I am sure the superstars that had been playing in the lower leagues of England in the Larne team were impressed.

After one week of the top of the table, Coleraine were made to work hard for the 3-2 win at home to Carrick Rangers. That’s two weeks in a row, against so-called top teams, that Carrick Rangers have been pipped at the last.

Rangers were the first to get on the score sheet. Lloyd Anderson robbed the Bannsiders’ defender Lyndon Kane, and then went one-on-one with Chris Johns in the Bannsiders’ net and fired home. The Bannsiders’ equaliser came through James McLaughlin. Aaron Canning lifted the ball over the top into the path of McLaughlin who fired home. Rangers got themselves back in front soon after. This time the ball was not cleared in the box and Theodore Wilson was on hand to fire a shot high into the net.

Into the second half and there has been a lot of talk about referees and the one in charge of this, Tim Marshall. He gave a penalty to the Bannsiders as he adjudged Jamie Glackin to be fouled in the box. This was clear as day not a penalty, and the way Glackin went to the ground was embarrassing. But it fooled the referee who was probably not in the position to see it, but his linesman was. Ben Doherty stepped up and converted the resulting penalty, but was made to take it again. The Bannsiders secured all three points late on after Rangers’ keeper Aaron Hogg parried a Josh Carson shot. It fell to the feet of Alexander Gawne who didn’t hesitate to finish.

I feel for Carrick on this one. One horrible decision which was wrong. It is time that something is done about the terrible decisions that referees in this country can get away with, and then move onto making the same mistakes next week without being educated.

Crusaders’ stuttering season continues on as they struggled to motivate themselves to a 1-0 win against bottom team Warrenpoint. Point had a great result last time out against Coleraine, but that is no excuse for the Crues. This team is rotated too much and players are being accommodated in different positions just because the manager is fond of them. The all-important goal came from Jordan Owens. But this is another big question point: did the ball cross the line? Point’s keeper Mark Byrne was adamant he kept the ball out. Having had a second look at this online, I see his point. I think that’s enough from this game.

Linfield’s run to the top was halted on Friday evening’s game as they were beaten by ‘out of sorts’ Glenavon 1-0. That’s two live games which the Blues have been on the big screen and they faltered. But this team has too much talent and will have off-days – this was just one of them. Hats off to Gary Hamilton who got his tactics just right. The all-important goal came courtesy of a deflected shot, as Robbie Garrett’s shot from outside the box deflected off Jimmy Callacher into the Blues’ net.

On another topic, Gary Hamilton is very quick to go on about the amount of money other clubs have compared to him. The game was shown live on Friday and the turnout from the home support was terrible. Matchday revenue is a big part of financing your club. If you are not in Europe and not getting that bounty of money, then it has to be generated somewhere. Last season two sides of that ground were full on their mini-run to the top. The fans need to get back, support the club through the bad times, not just the good.

Institute have become the 1-1 draw specialists. In the last seven games they have played they now have played out four 1-1 draws, including Saturday as they travelled to Ballymena and came away with a 1-1 draw.  Joe McCready fired home a first-half penalty for Stute. But the Sky Blues then got on the score sheet with a penalty of their own with Andy McGrory firing home.

Danske Bank Premiership

Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore