On Tuesday evening, two Danske Bank Premiership games went ahead without any intervention from the wonderful weather that has been upon us lately. Champions Linfield travelled to the Showgrounds to take on Ballymena United and came away with a hard-fought 2-1 win. Glenavon and Institute went head-to-head in Tuesday evenings other game, with the home team coming away with a 3-1 win.
Ballymena United 1-2 Linfield
After Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Glenavon, this game couldn’t have come any sooner for the Blues: get themselves back to winning ways, and continue their drive towards that top spot. The Blues were straight out the traps and straight on the front foot with intent, and it didn’t take them long to register the first goal. Northern Ireland International Shayne Lavery made a powerful run down the left into the box and delivered a pinpoint cross to the feet of Kirk Millar who had the easy task of putting the ball into the net.
Number two for the Blues was not far behind. This time it was ex-Manchester City defender, Ryan McGivern to get his head onto a Kirk Millar corner, and power it home. The Sky Blues captain, Jim Ervin, tried in vain to stop it going in at the near post. But his effort fell short.
The Sky Blues got themselves on the score sheet before half-time. Adam Lecky who has been a welcome return for David Jeffery, sprung onto a long ball, beating the offside trap and firing home.
The second half had no more goals to report on. But there was the little incident of a red card that was shown to Bastien Hery for a second bookable offence. Hery kicked out at a Sky Blue player in what the referee deemed to be a yellow. There have been a lot of complaints and rants about the officials this year and you could probably do a percentage analysis of this one for each referee in the league. How many of them would have given a straight red, or went for the yellow? I will leave that thought there.
The defeat means the Sky Blues are now in joint 7thplace with Glenavon. There is still a lot of work to be done after the wonderful season they had last season. For the Blues, they stay in 4th, five points behind leaders Coleraine. But with the two games in hand on the Bannsiders, the Blues look to be in a very strong position coming up to the busy Christmas period.
Glenavon 3-1 Institute
I have to have my say on how well Sean Connor has done since taking over the hot seat at Institute. When he went for the interview, he knew what he was taking on. The team’s record sat at seven defeats and one draw. What a challenge for any manager. This is what he arrived to, and yes it hasn’t all been sweetness and light. His record shows five draws, one win, and two defeats. But Connor has got pedigree – A League of Ireland title as a manager with Sligo Rovers in 2005, before moving onto Bohemians, Dundalk who at the time were transitioning into a professional set up and Galway Town. All top teams in their own right.
Glenavon were just too strong. Gary Hamilton’s men have not been having the greatest of times this season. But Saturday’s home win against the champions Linfield was just what the doctor ordered. On Tuesday evening they started where they left off on Saturday… on the front foot.
The Lurgan got this game off to a flyer. Stephen Murray opening the scoring. Robbie Garrett, for the second game in a row, was on hand to hammer in number two. There was no question this time, after Saturday’s game, that this was Garrett’s goal. Murray got his second and the Lurgan Blues’ third of the game. Murrays’ initial shot was saved by Stute keeper Rory Brown, but he followed up and converted the rebound. Stute rallied and got a goal late on but it was all too little too late.
The win is the Lurgan Blues’ first back to back win this season and sees them go level with Ballymena in 7thwith two games in hand on the Sky Blues. Stute still sits in 11thplace two points ahead of bottom club Warrenpoint Town.
This Saturday has a full fixture list ahead of it. Pick of the games sees the second place, and the league’s best defence, Cliftonville take on Glentoran at Solitude. It will be interesting to see which Glentoran team turns up and whether they can handle the in-form Joe Gormley. Linfield are also at home to Larne, who just cannot get a win against any of the big four clubs. Close but just not there yet.