All was well at the Brandywell – two hat-tricks in a 10-goal thriller. Ballymena remain four points clear of Linfield at the top of the Christmas tree.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all that read my roundup a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year. I hope your team in 2019 deliver what we all want – “silverware”.
So, the last games before Santa delivers his presents and before the Boxing Day mayhem takes over five matches survived the weather.
Friday’s game between Newry City and Glentoran was called off. This was due to the match officials being involved in a serious road traffic accident. I would like to wish everyone involved a quick and a speedy recovery.
Ballymena are top. Well for Christmas at least. How they deserve it! 11 games unbeaten in the league before this one says it all. Hats off to big Davy Jeffrey and his men as they keep getting the results that will only push them in the right direction.
Ards were the visitors today and in fairness without the brilliance of Sam Johnston between the sticks who saved two penalties, the 2-0 scoreline might have been worse. Ards have gone nine games without a win and with that form, the future looks bleak.
The first goal of the game came through the highly impressive Leroy Millar. Then Jude Winchester produced a lovely finish to make it 2-0. James Knowles and Winchester both had their spot kicks saved but it didn’t matter as the Sky Blues go marching on.
Coleraine entertained Dungannon. It was old against the new as the Swifts stalwart and now manager, Rodney McAree took on his old employers and came away with a 2-1 victory. Coleraine have only registered three wins at home all season. Form that needs to change. Goals from Darren McCauley, a penalty, and a great finish into the roof of the net from James McLaughlin put the Bannsiders in control.
The Swifts got a late consolation through Daniel Hughes with a wonderful individual goal. That’s now five games without a win for the Swifts and the loss of Ryan Harpur to Ballymena means Kris Lindsay may need to dip in and pluck a few new players for the second half of the season.
Over at Seaview, it was high scoring Crusaders who entertained WarrenpointTown. The Crues have scored a staggering 23 goals at home this season and are quietly collecting points. Point have conceded 41 goals this season.
So it was no surprise that it was the Crues that got the scoring off and running with Philip Lowry getting his head on the end of a corner. It was David Cushley who made it two. It’s been a hard struggle for ‘Cush’ at Seaview and if he keeps putting in performances a few more starts will be justified. Colin Coates then put the ball into his own net, but Ross Clarke rounded off the scoring for Crues making it 3-1.
Next was the game of the day for me and probably a few other fans, but it produced a 0-0 scoreline. The league’s top scorers Glenavon with 44 against the tightest defence of Linfield with just 15 conceded.
A tin of white paint will be needed for the posts after this one. The number of times the bar and crossbar were struck was frightening. The Blues had the ball in the net when Andy Waterworth finished off a lovely move only for the linesman to rule it out for offside. Waterworth wasn’t happy as he clearly thought he was on.
Then we had a goal-line clearance for the Blues. Now VAR would have been ideal in this situation but if it got introduced into the Irish League, the camera would probably be fitted facing the wrong way. So, a draw and the Blues remain behind Ballymena but only one point ahead of the Lurgan Blues.
Institute and Cliftonville produced a 10-goal thriller with Stute running out 6-4 winners. This is the league all over – unpredictable and entertaining. Stute had not registered a win in six games before the start of this one. The Reds have only won three games away from home all season.
Michael McCrudden got the game off and running with the first of his four goals today. The build-up play was a pleasure to watch. It didn’t take the Reds long to equalise with Rory Donnelly getting his head onto a cross. McCrudden then put Stute back in front. The one-touch control and finish was just something else from the marksman.
Joe McCready made it 3-1 to Stute. Then the Reds got themselves back into the game with Joe Gormley the provider for Donnelly to head in his second. The equaliser came from Gormley also. It was Gormley’s 18th of the season. Barry Gray has his work cut out trying to hold onto him.
Donnelly then won a penalty, dusted himself down to take it but missed! A tame effort to say the least. Next up was a penalty to Stute after the Reds keeper Brain Neeson got his marching orders for a dangerous tackle. McCrudden stepped up and made no mistake hitting it low and hard past Jamie Harney who had to don the goalkeeping gloves.
McCrudden then turned provider for the next one, laying the ball off to McCready to bag his second and Stute’s fifth. McCrudden rounded off the scoring for Stute with a chip over Harney to make it 14 for the season. Donnelly got his hat-trick to pull a goal back but it wasn’t enough in this all action game.