- Linfield give themselves daylight at the top of the table after a six-goal thrashing for Warrenpoint Town
- Crusaders and Larne played out a 3-3 draw live on Sky Sports.
- Coleraine runs out as 2-0 winners at home to struggling Dungannon Swifts.
After a two-week circuit break, the Danske Bank Premiership was back with a bang on Saturday. Frustrating, to say the least, for some clubs, as the weather cancelled three games with only three surviving. We are now into late January and some of the clubs have still to play 13 games. We are nowhere near the halfway point of the season, yet the clubs are just expected to play on. Let’s face it – you could not curtail this season after the power struggle of last season. Money pays the men in the board rooms mortgages.
On a plus, the NIFL/IFA have taken it upon themselves, at last, to start testing players for COVID-19. It has only taken them to mid-January to start to look out for the welfare of the players and their families. But it’s done, and it should help to push the season on, weather dependent.
Crusaders 3-3 Larne
The game of the day was the live Sky Sports lunchtime top of the table battle between these two. And what a game of football they produced. I have to say, both clubs put a real marker down to the rest of the UK, of how competitive our little league is. The Crues have not got the rub of the green against the two teams above them this season, and for the second time this season, they couldn’t get all three points against a very impressive Larne team.
The Crues just couldn’t – once again get to grips with Larne’s style of play. As the teams went into their respective changing rooms for half-time, Larne were two goals up through Ronan Hale. Another player that Stephan Baxter left to rot on the Seaview bench coming back to score against them just like his brother Rory did last time out.
The Crues got themselves right back into this game in the second half. Goals from Jamie McGonigle and Chris Hegarty got them back on level terms. But this game was not finished. Larne substitute Jonny McMurray put them back in front before the Crues levelled late on from the penalty spot through Ben Kennedy. Kennedy replaced Caddell in the middle of the park late on. Once again, the Crues have themselves a very talented player sitting on the bench. I really do hope this one does not go the same way as Rory and Ronan Hale.
Linfield 6-0 Warrenpoint Town
Linfield extended their lead at the top of the Premiership with a very professional win against Warrenpoint. This was a clear statement of intent from the Blues. They are not going to let the title go without a fight. How this game changed. With a scoreless first half, the Blues came out for the second half and were one up within a few minutes. In total four goals for their top marksman and for me the man that the Blues should have leading the line every week. ‘Andrew Waterworth’.
Two further goals from Jordan Stewart and Navid Nasseri pushed the Blues 4 points clear at the top of the table. As for Point, the two-week circuit break just came at the wrong time. A lot of work is still to be done here for the team sitting in ninth. Teams around them have games in hand, but it’s up to those teams to collect the points and put the pressure on.
Coleraine 2-0 Dungannon Swifts
Before I even go into this one, not for the first time I have to make comment to the state of the pitch at the Coleraine Showgrounds. How that game got the go-ahead is beyond me. It would be easier playing a game of football in a quarry rather than the Showgrounds. The board of directors within that club need to address it once and for all. It had been one of the worst playing surfaces within the league for a lot of years. There has been talk of a 4G pitch coming in from the European money, but only time will tell if that money is ‘needed’ for other interesting things that directors of Irish league clubs find.
Goals from Aaron Jarvis and Eoin Bradley secured the win and moved the Bannsiders up into the fifth position. A long way to go still in the season, but for the Swifts, they sit bottom of the pile and really do need a change of fortune. Yes, they have games in hand, but they need to start winning the odd one. But as we still have not seen a ball kicked in the Championship, this might be a free one this season for the Danske Bank Premiership clubs. There will be no relegation as there are no teams to come up.