Linfield slip up with a rare away defeat at Glenavon. Ballymena take full advantage to close the gap at the top. A Derby day win away to Coleraine. Newry’s season just can’t get any worse after a ‘late-late’ win for Dungannon.
On another note can I take this opportunity to congratulate Larne on their promotion to the Danske Bank Premiership. It’s been a hard slog for the fans that have followed this club through thick and thin. Now they have money, a healthy support base, and look to be heading in the right direction.
Linfield were unable to take the chance to open the gap at the top of the league. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Glenavon showed that the league’s in-form team are not unbeatable. Glenavon are a very frustrating team. They started the league like a house on fire, going 11 games undefeated. Some were even saying they would win the league… then something happened. It must be hard being a Glenavon fan this season. Frustrating to say the least. It’s a case of “what if?”
Before this game the Blues had gone 12 games undefeated, only conceding five goals. The Blues have been the in-form team but Friday night just wasn’t their night. Will they win the title? Of course they will. There are still games to play but every team will have a slip-up and that is exactly what happened here. Not taking anything away from Glenavon, but Gary Hamilton must take some of the blame. The change of fortune this team has had since the start of the season has been drastic. But Hamilton would rather blame other teams and their high wage budgets that his club can’t match, rather than anything within his control.
The Blues will feel that they should have had this game wrapped up in the first half. Only the brilliance of Jonny Tuffey in the Lurgan Blues’ net who had a game to remember prevented this from happening. The Lurgan Blues got the game off and running in the second half. Aaron Harmon picked the ball up outside the box and delivered a wonderful shot past Gareth Deane in the Blues’ net. Number two came through Josh Daniels. Another wonderful talent that they would do well to keep hold of. The chance fell to Daniels who gambled on Josh Robinson misjudging the ball which he did. Daniels then did the rest with a cool, calculated finish.
Points definitely dropped by the Blues and for the Lurgan Blues, if only they had kept the fight up through the middle of the season.
So, it was the turn of Ballymena United to put the pressure on Linfield with a comprehensive 4-0 win away to arch-rivals Coleraine. Controversy, contentious decisions and the blame-game had started when Rodney McAree gave his post-match interview. But I will take nothing away from the Sky Blues. The Coleraine Showgrounds is one of the hardest of grounds to go and get a result. But to come away with not just the three points but four goals speaks wonders for their overall performance.
The Sky Blues have scored in 88% of the games they have been involved in. You could have put your house on them getting a goal today, and that they did. I suppose the turning point for this game was the straight red card that was handed out to the Bannsiders’ Gareth McConaghie on 27 minutes. Johnny McMurray was sent through on goal only to upended by McConaghie. Would it have been a clear scoring opportunity? Yes, it would. His first touch was perfect and McConaghie caught him. Straight red! Not the start that the Bannsiders needed with a quarter of the game gone. This was going to be a long afternoon. The Sky Blues took just three minutes from the sending off for their first. A scrappy goal but Andrew McGrory at the second time of asking headed the ball home.
Number two was to follow. This time Adam Lecky getting his head to the ball to finish. The Bannsiders’ bench and players were not happy with the decision saying that the ball hadn’t crossed the line. But the officials decided it had and it stood. David Jeffrey has used Lecky to his advantage. Big, good in the air and a pain for defenders to line up against. This reminds me of how Crusaders utilised Jordon Owens, and still do, to good effect.
Number three was route one. A long ball from Kofi Balmer was headed down into the path of McGrory by McMurray with the latter finishing. Number four was a long kick forward which was missed by everyone. Ryan Mayse pounced but his shot was saved by Chris Johns only to fall at the feet of McGrory to finish and claim the match ball and the victory for the Sky Blues.
Newry City must have thought they had got a much-needed point only to have it stolen late into the game giving Dungannon Swifts a 2-1 win. Football can be a cruel game and when you’re sitting at the bottom of the league it must feel like everything is against you. City will feel they should have won this one and yes, they should have. The looked more confident and up for the game today. It was City that took the lead through the impressive Declan Carville. Carville getting his head on the end of a Karl Moody cross to finish.
That was the score until the 86th minute when the Swifts got themselves back on level pegging. Paul McElroy with a tap in at the back post after Daniel Hughes’ initial effort. Three minutes later the Swifts scored their second and took all three points through Jonathan Lafferty. A Jarlath O’Rourke cross was powered into the net by Lafferty. The defeat leaves City at the bottom, one point behind Ards.
So, Paddy McLaughlin took on his old employers for the first time today. His Cliftonville team entertained Institute and came away with a 1-0 victory. On a plus side, the goal was made and scored by the league’s top scorer Joe Gormley. He has been out of the goals the last few weeks but McLaughlin will be happy he has his ace marksman scoring again.
Over at the Oval Glentoran and Ards played out a 1-1 draw. Ards had to play the second half with 10 men after the ex-Glens midfielder got his marching orders. Ards took the lead on 41 minutes through Michael McLellan. McLellan finished off a Craig McClean cross. The Glens’ equaliser came through Darren Murray. Murray was on hand to connect with a Curtis Allen header.