Away from the league action has been a week of incidents and clubs now starting the process to apply for the taxpayers’ money to help clean up local stadia. On two occasions in the last week, we have had reports of sectarian abuse towards players: players attacking ball boys and a goalkeeper throwing a bottle back at the fans. “Seems that it is ok for fans to throw bottles onto the pitch no-days”. Both clubs involved in the sectarian abuse claims have come out and strenuously denied it, but as of yet, Crusaders have not come out and explained the actions of their players. “They seem to be quicker to punish their own fans”.
But as a fan of Irish League football, I am one of those getting sick of listening to the abuse the players get on the pitch – on a weekly basis from certain parts of the terrace. Individuals that couldn’t even lace up a pair of football boots is enough – without any of the sectarian stuff. Now I am not saying players are getting sectarian abuse on a Saturday, but what they do take is enough for me.
We have also had the news that the Northern Ireland executive has granted money for stadia upgrade. This money needs to be evenly spread amongst all clubs – promising one club a major chunk is not how it should be done. Certain clubs within the league are happy to pay big signing on fees and wages for players, but forget they have a ground to maintain. Expecting someone else to fix it – when you have let it go and your only worry is about signing overrated players, is your fault, not that of the taxpayer.
Onto the action: Linfield stays 4 points clear at the top of the league with a 2-0 win away to Carrick Rangers. Coleraine stays in 2nd with a 2-0 derby day win over rivals Ballymena United. Crusader are now joint 3rd with Cliftonville after the Reds defeated the high rolling East Belfast outfit Glentoran, and the Crues narrowly defeated bottom club Institute.
Carrick Rangers 0-2 Linfield
A great result for the Blues as they travelled along the East Antrim coast to take on Carrick Rangers. Not always the easiest place to go and get a result but the Blues did what they needed to do, and came away with all 3 points as Kirk Millar was the Blues’ hero on Saturday after getting himself a brace. To think he was a player on the wrong end of the boo-boys not so long ago.
The Blues first came after a serious mix up in the Carrick 6-yard box. Carrick could not deal with a Chris Casement cross and when it eventually came off the post, Millar was standing in the right place to put the ball into the net to make it 1-0 to the Blues. Millar scored his – and the blues’ second in the second half through a wonderful free-kick by curling the ball around the wall into the Rangers net. A good win for the Blues and 3 more points as the move closer to the finish line.
Ballymena United 0-2 Coleraine
The Bannsiders maintained the second spot and that all-important European spot after this derby day win against fierce rivals, ‘the Sky Blues’. Stephen Lowry opened the scoring for the Bannisders from the penalty spot. Then with around 20 minutes left on the clock, Aaron Canning who seems to be getting on the end of everything in the box, rose highest to score number two. The Sky Blues’ afternoon went from bad to worse when manager David Jeffery was shown his marching orders from the technical area as he showed his frustration at the number of fouls his team had been penalised for.
Glentoran 0-2 Cliftonville
A little blip at the Oval! Sitting top, then second – their league form has hit a little slump. The Reds were the visitors on Saturday and came away with a good 2-0 win. It was the tale of the Currans as Captain Chris Curran opened the Reds account straight after the half-time interval. Then it was over to Ryan Curran with a great individual effort. That leaves the Reds in joint second but the Glens now find themselves 11 points behind the Blues in first as they prop up 5th place. But right over their shoulders are Larne, 2 points behind in sixth.
Crusaders 2-1 Institute
The Crues huffed and puffed but got the result that they needed in the end. It might iron over the problems for another week, but what problems? All seems to be well at Seaview. Well, all amongst the board and manager, they seem to be happy. On the terrace, it is a little different, especially with the rumours circulating that Josh Robinson will be a Crues’ player next season. To be fair, against the league’s bottom team, this should have been straightforward. It didn’t start too well for the Crues when Stute got off to a flyer with Conor Tourish looping a header over Crues’ keeper Sean O’Neill.
The Crues went back to the manager’s philosophy in the second half and introduced Jordon Owens and it paid off. One long ball over the top was headed down by Owens into the path of Philip Lowry who fired home. The second came from another long ball over the top, this time to the on-rushing Paul Heatley who fired home.
Larne 1-0 Glenavon
This win puts Larne right in the wing mirror of the Glens. Two points now separate the clubs from 5thand 6th places. Ex-Arsenal man Mark Randall scored the only goal of the game in the first half as the ball found its way to Randall in the six-yard box – and all he had to do was put it in the empty net. Larne just needs to keep winning to get to that all-important European spot, as the Irish Cup defeat last weekend has left that door closed.
Dungannon Swifts 4-4 Warrenpoint Town
What a game this one turned out to be – 8 goals in total! Now, this is how you get value for you £12.00. Swifts took the lead through a Colm Deasy own goal. But two minutes later Deasy went up the other end and fired in an unstoppable shot to make it 1-1. Michael Carvill put the Swifts back in front from the penalty spot – but again Point fought back and got level through their leading marksman Alan O’Sullivan. Point then pushed into a two-goal lead. Goals form Mark McKee and Brandon Doyle made it 4-2. That kick-started the Swifts into a comeback. 3 minutes later – Ryan Waide scored for the Swifts to make it 4-3. Then in stoppage time at the end of the game, the Swifts grabbed an equaliser with Rhyss Campbell as the scorer. What a game, and what entertainment.