Ballymena keep the pressure on Linfield making it 12 games undefeated at home with a 3-1 win against Ards. Crusaders stay in third but with a game in hand on the league’s top two teams after a 3-1 away to Institute. It’s third time lucky in the Mourne derby which ended with Warrenpoint coming away with a 2-0 win after the last two encounters ended in a stalemate.
After Linfield’s midweek win away to Newry, it was over to Ballymena United to keep themselves right in the mix for the league title. That they did by recording a 4-1 home win against lowly Ards. The writing was on the wall for Ards even before the kick-off. The Sky Blues are a team bang in form at home. 12 games unbeaten and scoring two or more goals in 10 of the games they have played, the afternoon looked like it was going to be a long one for Ards.
It took the Sky Blues four minutes to get this one off and running. Cathair Friel hammering home the first after James Knowles was brought down in the box. Then Adam Lecky scored the first of his two goals today. Lecky latched onto the ball before rounding Samuel Johnston then sliding the ball into the net.
Ards got themselves a lifeline with a goal to crawl back into the game. A long ball forward was met by the head of the former Sky Blues’ striker Darren Henderson who powered the header home. Lecky’s second and the Sky Blues’ third was weak. Take nothing away from Lecky, he did what any good striker would have done and finished. But the defending by Ards tells the story of why they are propping up the league table.
The game was wrapped up when Steven McCullough’s free-kick was directed into his own net by Michael Kerr. Friel will claim it but after a second look, the ball came off Kerr.
Crusaders got themselves back to winning ways, after last weekend’s defeat to leaders Linfield, with a 3-1 win away to Institute. Stephen Baxter made changes, six in total for this one. Not through choice this time but a lot to do with suspensions.
The Crues got off to a flyer. A quick counter-attack saw the impressive Ronan Hale find Heatley who finished off to score his 14th of the season and the Crues’ first of the game. Heatley was causing the ‘Stute defence problems and it was his tantalising run then shot that could not be cleared. The ball eventually dropped to the ‘evergreen’ Rory Patterson who smashed the ball home.
The Crues’ third came from Hale. It has been a great week for the ex-Birmingham City forward. He has been called up to the Ireland Under 21 squad, and today registered his first goal for the Crues. Heatley again had a shot only parried, and Hale was the first to react and finish. He is one that should not be sitting on the bench week in and week out.
The Crues’ weakness has been at the back and it showed again today. The build-up was sublime and great work from the team as a whole, but the finish was just top drawer from Michael McCrudden. That’s goal number 19 for the hitman and the question is still, where will he be at the end of the transfer window?
A fresh start at Solitude as Barry Gray has gone and all the talk is about who is taking over. Michael Press is in the hot seat. Michael is a family friend of mine and is a Cliftonville man through and through. He has done a lot around the youth and reserve setups with the Reds and is held in high esteem at the club. Today his Cliftonville team came away with a 1-1 draw at home to Glenavon.
Ryan Curran got the Reds off to a good start, slotting home after Joe Gormley and Rory Donnelly both failed to finish in the build-up. Lurgan Blues got the equaliser in the second half when Stephen Murray got onto the ball before the out-rushing Reds keeper Richard Brush to score. Better from Lurgan Blues this week after last week’s home defeat at the hands of the Sky blues. But it’s seven games without a win now and manager Gary Hamilton has a little bit of work to do to get them back to winning ways.
So old against new as Rodney McAree’s Coleraine went down to his old club Dungannon Swifts 2-1. Hats off to Kris Lindsay’s team. He came to a club that was sitting at the bottom. Now they sit 11 points away from Newry who sit in the play-off position. A wonderful transformation and a well done to all involved at Dungannon.
It took 30 minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it was the Swifts that did it. Oisin Smyth sent a perfectly weighted pass into the feet of Paul McElroy who finished to make it 1-0 Swifts. The lead lasted only 60 seconds as the Bannsiders went straight up the other end and got an equaliser through Jamie McGonigle. He was given time to steady himself, pick his spot and finish. The Swifts just switched off after scoring.
The Swifts got their second and winner through their impressive young star Smyth. Some lovely team play in the build-up saw the ball played through to Smyth. He fired home from the edge of the box and is a great talent that has come of age in the league this season. The boy is one to watch.
So, for the third time this season we had the Mourne Derby. The last two meetings ended up in score draws with nothing between Newry City and Warrenpoint Town. But this one was a different affair with Point running out 2-0 winners.
Stephen McDonnell has got the Point playing some really attractive football. With the added bonus of Alan O’Sullivan, who is proving his worth to the club scoring crucial goals that they need. The first for ‘Point was just something else. Recent signing from Drogheda United, Lee Duffy made and finished this one. A wonderful turn inside the defender gave him the space to move into and fire the ball into the net.
O’Sullivan wrapped the game up for Point. He controlled a ball into the box on his chest, and with one touch fired the ball into the top corner of the net. When Newry look back on it the will realise you cannot give a player like O’Sullivan so much time in the box. It will only end up one way!
Player of The Weekend
Paul Heatley: Heatley was a thorn in the side of Stute all day. The defence just couldn’t handle his movement and pace, as well as getting himself on the score sheet today.