• Linfield beat Coleraine to continue their impressive start to the season.
  • Larne gives Crusaders a technical football masterclass, but Crusaders’ tactical decisions leave us all baffled.
  • Carrick Rangers’ game against Glenavon was called off at the weekend as 14 of their players were self-isolating due to COVID-19.

There were only two games this weekend as Carrick Rangers against Glenavon was called off due to 14 Carrick players being asked to self-isolate in the Rangers camp. That has further implications this week with their fixture against the Coleraine being called off this coming weekend. The other fixtures: Cliftonville vs Ballymena, Dungannon vs Portadown, and Glentoran vs Warrenpoint, were also all postponed. There is a lot to say about cancelling these games for one or two players being away on international duty. We need to push on with the league, not waste time – the fixtures are clogging up already.

Coleraine 0-2 Linfield

The Blues continue to push on in their charge to retain the title with five games in and five wins. 14 goals scored and already this season they have seen off the Crues and now Coleraine. Meanwhile, the Bannsiders seem to be in a little decline – since they had the 4-4 draw against Glenavon, they have now had defeats against the teams they would class as title contenders, the Blues and Crues. It’s not been the start Oran Kearney would have imagined.

It was another weekend and another Andrew Waterworth goal with the big striker opening the scoring for the Blues to make that his sixth of the season. The Blues’ second came through the impressive Jordon Stewart. Stewart is a player that doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves. He had a hard time trying to adjust when he made the switch across the water to take up football with Swindon Town, but he is starting to show the talent that made English teams sit up and take notice of him.

Larne 2-1 Crusaders

Saturday evening’s live showing on the BBC gave us a lesson in some wonderful technical football from Larne as they outplayed the Crues on the pitch. However, one mistake late on let the Crues back into it, but in fairness, the Inver Reds are a few levels ahead of the Crues at this early stage. The Crues have the players in depth, but still, week in-week out Stephen Baxter plays players out of position. On the other side, Larne have the tightest defence in the league, it has been unchanged and why would you.

I have been saying for the last 2 years, the amount of times the Crues change the back four is unhealthy. Once again on Saturday evening, there was a change. Billy Joe Burns moved out of the centre-back position to play at left-back. It is not a position he is familiar with and with two left-backs already on the bench – which says to me that Baxter does not trust them.

I still wonder to myself why the Crues do not have a technically gifted player through the middle. Yes, Philip Lowry and Gary Thompson will give you 100% effort, but there needs to be something different in there. Which begs the question, what has Rory Hale done to find himself stuck on the bench? Baxter has form with this, just ask David Cushley – he has a reserved seat every Saturday on the bench. Another player that must have said something that Baxter didn’t like.

The Crues set up in a shape to try and contain Larne. It worked for a while until Larne eventually struck through David McDaid. There was a call for a free-kick in the build-up, but it was just what Larne deserved and Thomas Cosgrove then added a second. Baxter then decided to then go for it – he had already taken off Jordon Owens, so he decided to pull Philip Lecky and on came Declan Caddell. The formation was then all over the place.

Caddell scored a consolation goal late on for the Crues. But this was a mistake at the back from Larne trying to play out, as Caddell slid in and the ball somehow went into the net. But in fairness, it was a good win for Larne and they are going to be a hard team to beat. For the Crues, someone somewhere needs to question Stephen Baxter’s treatment of certain players and the rotation system at the back. It is not right and not healthy.

Danske Bank Premiership

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