February is meant to be the shortest month in the calendar year, but for me, it might as well have been the longest. On the football front, it has been one of the most inconsistent we have witnessed. We have had a debate about summer again due to the high number of games that have been cancelled. But let’s face it. We need to realise that we are not the Barclays Premiership. We do not have the all singing and dancing stadia – pitches to go with it.
Teams have found it hard to get a run of games and results together. Crusaders, Larne and even the all-conquering Linfield have been struggling for form. On the other side, Glentoran and Coleraine have taken full advantage of the situation. Both teams are in great form which makes for a great second half of the season.
Glentoran 3-1 Linfield
Did I expect this result? Yes, I did. The Glens have got themselves a little bit of momentum and their team cohesion looks good. They are strong at the back – only conceding two goals in February. You can probably put this down to the strong partnership between Paddy McClean and Luke McCullough. The latter has been a signing to beat all signings this season in my eyes.
The Blues in comparison have now hit a bit of an indifferent patch of form. Before Tuesday night’s game, it had not been the greatest month for their high standards. Three wins, two draws and one loss. Not great for a team that should be powering on through the second half of the season. They do need to keep one eye looking over their shoulder, as the Glens now have two games in hand over them and the Bannsiders are now thriving under Oran Kearney’s stewardship.
The Glens took a two-goal lead through Jay Donnelly and the impressive new signing Conor McMenamin. The Blues responded through Stephen Fallon but it was the Glens that took all three points as another top signing, Rhys Marshall scored the third.
Larne 0-3 Crusaders
A win the Crues needed. We have been hearing for weeks that we just need to get a run together, well from the start of the New Year they have only registered two wins, three draws and 4 defeats. Not the form for a team that is supposed to be challenging for the Championship.
Larne on the other hand have moved down into fourth place. Three defeats on the bounce does not make great reading for the Inver Park men. Teams are starting to read their style of play and as I have mentioned before, Tiernan Lynch’s constant changing of the team cannot be a good thing. He has taken to the local papers complaining about the tag his club has got about being big spenders. He quotes “we have not spent a penny on a transfer”. Well, Tiernan, your club is happy to put down 30+k signing on fees for players which might as well be buying them, added to that putting players up in rented accommodation and giving them all full-time contracts.
The game turned on its head when Larne’s Fuad Sule got his marching orders for what was a clear movement of his head towards another player. “Headbutt”. I was interested to hear the commentator on the live stream try and make out that it was not a headbutt. Some fans eh. The Crues sealed the win through a hat-trick from Adam Lecky. The big man is a technically good player. The Crues should now start to play to this big man’s strengths and keep the ball on the ground.
Coleraine 2-0 Portadown
Except for the Glens, I see the Bannsiders as the real challengers to the Blues title charge. Sitting in second and only two points behind the blues – they are ready to pounce. After Tuesday’s game, why would you not class them as title challengers? They are in a great run of form. 13 games unbeaten. If I was David Healy – I would be getting a little worried. They are starting to line up behind you.
Portadown are sitting joint bottom and really can be thankful that there is no relegation this season. This will give manager Mathew Tipton time to mould this team to what he wants and work on his philosophy and direction for the club going forward.
Ben Doherty is a welcome face for all the Bannsiders fans. He is back from injury and back with a bang. Two goals from the penalty spot from Doherty was enough to give the Bannsiders all three points.
Ballymena 1-1 Cliftonville
Ballymena sits in eighth position but seem to be steadying the ship. After going five games without a win, they have no picked up three points at Portadown and now this draw at home to an in-form Reds team. Injuries have not helped David Jeffery’s team, but I can see them climb further up the table in the next few months.
The Reds after the influx of signings in the transfer window have started to get a run together. This draw makes it six games undefeated. Again, another team that is starting to build up a head of steam – which will make the remainder of the season very interesting.
Glenavon 1-1 Carrick Rangers
Two teams with indifferent form played out a 1-1 draw in this encounter. Rangers took the lead through Daniel Kelly. Rangers were then reduced to 10 men when Chris Rodgers got is marching orders. It was roll back the clock for the Glenavon equaliser. Colin Coates the talisman of the Irish League, doing what he does when he finds himself inside the opponent’s box. The big centre half showing his clinical side with a perfect finish.
Warrenpoint Town 4-1 Dungannon Swifts
Two teams will be very happy that there is no relegation or play at the end of this season. The point has really shown that they have something to build on for the new season. Five wins, five draws and nine defeats. It is actually a good return for one of the smallest clubs in the league – with one of the smallest budgets. If they have one.
The Swifts on the other hand need a re-think of the direction they want to take. Manager Kris Lindsey has now left the sinking ship, and it is hard to see how they steady this for next season. The Swifts took an early lead in the game through Ben Gallagher. But goals from, Daniel Byrne, Adam Evans and two from top marksman Alan O’Sullivan secured the win.