First and foremost I would like to wish you all had a very Happy New Year, and come May I hope you all still have a smile on your faces when your team lifts the old Gibbo high.
It is tight at the top. Six points from 5th place, ‘Crusaders’ to the team that is top going into the New Year, ‘Cliftonville’. On New Year’s Day the top five in the running all conjured up a win, but further to that, they all kept a clean sheet too. It really is going to be a fight to the finish to see who has the steel to stand up and be counted and take control of the league.
Cliftonville remain top of the lot after they got themselves a 1-0 win over Glenavon. Second-placed Linfield got themselves back to winning ways with a 3-0 win over struggling Institute after what can only be described for them as a very underachieving holiday period. Coleraine in third had a good 3-0 win away to Carrick Rangers. Not the easiest places to go at the minute but a good result for Oran Kearney’s men.
Cliftonville 1-0 Glenavon
What a December this has been for the Reds. The only mark on the month was the defeat to Linfield in the first week of December. But they have not looked back since. Four games on the bounce now they have claimed maximum points. The Boxing Day victory away to Crusaders will go down as the result of the month for them. Can they go all the way? Why not! They are playing some great football at the minute. Yes, there is talk of a couple of players leaving the club in the January window. But if the rumours are right, the individuals are not even getting a game.
On New Year’s Day, they entertained a Glenavon team who have had an indifferent December. Three wins, two defeats and a draw – not the most consistent form. Gary Hamilton has now added to his playing squad. Greg Moorhouse re-signs for the club after spells at Sligo Rovers and Shelbourne. But out of all four of Hamilton’s signing, I am personally looking forward to seeing how striker Danny McKee does in the Premier League. McKee has been scoring goals for fun for the Amateur League’s top side East Belfast. It will be an interesting signing for sure.
The all-important goal was scored in the first half by substitute Thomas Maguire. Maguire finishing low and hard after a neat flick into his path by the in-form Reds player Conor McMenamin.
Linfield 3-0 Institute
The Blues maintain second spot after this 3-0 home win. The Blues still have a game in hand on the Reds and seem to have signed a few players that will bolster the squad and make it more competitive. Just what every manager wants. Competition for every position. Stute after this result remain joint bottom.
The goals for the Blues came courtesy of an Andrew Waterworth penalty. Mark Haughey, who has been a welcome return after injury, got the second. The scoring was rounded off by Shayne Lavery. The out of sorts striker got a well-needed goal to boost his confidence.
Carrick Rangers 0-2 Coleraine
This was a hard-fought win for Coleraine. Josh Carson missed a penalty for the Bannsiders. Rangers’ stand-in keeper Liam McCauley making the save. Aaron Traynor got the first for the Bannsiders, and Alex Gwane got the second and final goal of the encounter. A win that keeps the Bannsiders right in the mix in third place.
Warrenpoint Town 0-4 Crusaders
Another game that the Crues should have been winning and did. It has been a time to catch their breath and reflect. A win against out of sorts Dungannon Swifts on Saturday and today against the bottom team Point makes everything look good. Jordon Owens got the first for the Crues followed by a wonderful effort from all of 25 yards by Jamie McGonigle. An own goal in the second half followed by a Paul McElroy finish rounded off the scoring for the Crues. Happy to see McElroy get a game and also to see Kyle Owens get a run. Well… a run for all of two minutes. Makes you wonder why?
Dungannon Swifts 0-2 Glentoran
What a run the Glens are on… 13 unbeaten, and in the last four games, they have kept four clean sheets. What a turnaround there has been at the Oval. So, Wednesday’s encounter on paper only had one winner. The Swifts are a team going the wrong way. One win in 14 games. Terrible form that would see most managers sacked and replaced quick time. The Goals for the Glens came curtsey of a Wille Garrett header and in-form and star man, Elivo van Overbeek.
Ballymena 2-3 Larne
Larne kept up their constant form against teams below the top six with a win away to the Sky Blues. A great affair with five goals, the fans definitely got value for money with this one. The Inver men ran into a 2-0 lead through ex-Sky Blues striker Johnny McMurray. But the Sky Blues dusted themselves down and got themselves level. Goals from Ross Lavery and Andy McGrory. But it was Inver men that stole all three points late on in the game with a Conor McKendry free-kick.
It will be an interesting couple of weeks in the transfer market for Larne. I am sure we will all sit back and watch how they will flex their muscles with money in the next few weeks. They will be needing more house to rents I am sure!