It was the double delight within the Lowry household this week. The talented duo both got two goals each: Stephen got his in a 4-0 away win for Coleraine against Glenavon; Phillip was once again on the score sheet this week. He scored two and helped himself to an assist as Crusaders pushed themselves to the top spot on their own with a 3-0 home win against Dungannon Swifts who stay in second but now joined by Cliftonville.
I start my round-up with the two Friday night fixtures. What a Friday it was for Oran Kearney and his Coleraine team. They travelled to Lurgan and took on Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon. Did I see this result coming? No! A 4-0 win for the Bannsiders. What is going wrong at Mournview Park? One win in their first five games conceding 10 goals. There seems to be a lot of discontent within the ranks at Mournview Park. Added to this the inability to tie down Rhys Marshall to a long-term contract. Another one of the club’s top talents about to leave, following in the footsteps of Joel Cooper and Mark Sykes. Whispers are Linfield and Larne will battle it out for his signature. But one thing is for sure, this has all the hallmarks of a player that will be leaving, sooner rather than later.
The Bannsider’s, now unbeaten in five games and sit third, must have gone into this game full of confidence. Aaron Jarvis, who I have been reporting about eventually signed for the Bannsider’s from Institute, went straight into the starting line-up. Stephen Lowry put them 2-0 up with two goals at either side of the interval. Then to rub salt into the wounds, the Bannsiders’ third came from the penalty spot through Ben Doherty, who spent time at the Lurgan Blues on loan last season. The Bannsiders’ fourth was scored by debutant Nedas Maciulaitis. The ex-Armagh City, Portadown, Dundalk and Annagh United striker introducing himself to the fans in the best way possible.
Friday evenings second game saw Carrick Rangers entertaining Ballymena United. Both teams were out for a win after coming off the back of defeats last week. On the road, the Sky Blues have been in good form. Seven points collected from three games. Carrick have yet to collect a point at home. No surprise to see the Sky Blues as run out winners, with a 1-0 win. The Sky Blues solitary and winning goal came through the ever-impressive Jude Winchester. It will be one of the simplest of goals he will have scored, but as we say, “they all count!” He poked the ball home after ex-Carrick defender Stephen McCullough played a ball into the Carrick box. The defence couldn’t deal with it and Winchester was on hand to poke it in at the near post.
The game took a turn for the worst with a horrible tackle by the Sky Blues captain Jonny Addis, which resulted in a straight red card. Carrick needs to get themselves off and running. The only saving grace they have at the moment is the indifferent form of the two teams around them at the bottom. But they need to be getting more from games at home. They have just not got the rub of the green but it needs to come sooner, rather than later.
Overachieving and flying high Dungannon Swifts travelled to Belfast on Saturday to take on Crusaders. Both clubs went into the game in the joint top spot on ten points. This game was just one step too far as the Crues ran out 3-0 winners. That said, it has been a wonderful start to the season for Kris Lindsay and his team. This was the second chapter of the Lowry brothers’ wonderful weekend. This time it was the turn of Phillip Lowry, who scored two goals and also was the provider for another in a man of the match performance.
The first goal was a great link-up from the Crues. David Cushley, who started the game up front, laid a nice ball off into the path of Lowry who finished low and hard past Sam Johnstone in the Swifts goal. It was truly great to see the build-up play to this. The Crues can play football with the ball on the ground and not be tarnished with the route one football cries. The second for the Crues came through Billy Joe Burns: good work from Lowry to pick out Burns in the box and the rest is history.
The Crues rounded off the scoring and the match through Lowry. Paul Heatley’s shot was saved by Johnstone, but the ball rolled into the path of Lowry who passed it into the net. Today the Crues also announced the signing from the Swifts of Paul McElroy. Whatever the hold up with the transfer was, “probably the fee that the Swifts were seeking”, McElroy becomes the third signing from the Swifts. Jarlath O’Rourke and Chris Hegarty who both have moved straight into a Crusaders backline that conceded 55 goals last season. So far this season they have four clean sheets from five.
My worst fears at the start of the season are starting to come together. Warrenpoint Town have been tinkering in and around the bottom for a few seasons, relying on loan and free signings from the League of Ireland. On Saturday they entertained Cliftonville and ended up on the wrong side of a 5-1 drubbing. Four games in, four defeats. The win for the Reds puts them into joint second place with the swifts on 10 points. Rory Donnelly got the first latching onto a great Levi Ives ball into the box. Then it was the turn of two of the Points’ old boys to get on the score sheet. First was Conor McMenamin who rose highest in the box to get onto the end of a free-kick. The next was a wonderful 30-yard finish from Liam Bagnall.
Next up for the Reds was last season’s top scorer Joe Gormley. He waltzed unchallenged into the box and finished. That goal puts him to the top of this seasons scoring chart with four goals. Rory Donnelly got his second of the day and the Reds’ fifth. Point got a consolation goal from the penalty spot. Alan O’Sullivan converting.
Yes, it has been a great start for some teams to the season, and not the greatest for others. Let’s remember that Linfield has only played two games. They now have no European football holding them back. Watch this space in the next few weeks as I will predict a big push from them to the top end of the table. What an interesting season we are in for this year, which can only be good for the local game as a whole.