They look like two teams that should not be in the league. Warrenpoint Town and Institute lie at the foot of the table. Stute with one point and Point with no points. Combined with 5 games gone the two teams have shipped a combined 35 goals. On Saturday Point went down 4-0 away to 10-man Ballymena United, and Stute lost 6-0 at home to the league leaders Crusaders. It is going to be a long hard season for these two, and every team that plays them will be full of confidence that they can collect maximum points.
I start my round-up this week with Champions Linfield. They travelled to Cliftonville and collected all three points with a 1-0 win. The Blues have games in hand to catch up with after their eventful European campaign. Meanwhile, the Reds have started the league well- sitting in second with their only defeat coming at the hands of table-topping Crusaders. This was always going to be a game the Blues would have to work for. The solitary goal came from the head of Jimmy Callacher after getting on the end of a corner and powering home a header.
I have to question the Reds and their utilisation of Joe Gormley. He is 100% proven as a goal scorer at this level and was the league’s top goal scorer last season. So why play him wide left? Surely, he is at his most dangerous straight through the middle. I say free Joe up and let the goals flow!
Over to the league leaders, Crusaders who travelled to struggling Institute. The Crues, before the game, were the league’s top scorers with 14 goals. They also have the tightest defence only conceding two. Stute, on the other hand, have conceded 15 goals in six games. Make that 21 goals in seven games after the Crues came away with a 6-0 win. Paul Heatley got the first of the afternoon for the Crues. A Ross Clarke cross found Heatley who volleyed home, indicating that the Clarke-Heatley partnership seems to have been taken to a new level. The Crues’ second came from Phillip Lowry. He passed the ball into an empty net after a knockback to him from Jordon Owens. Any other league in Europe would have probably given a free-kick against Owens. But the goal stood.
Stute’s afternoon went from bad to worse as they were reduced to 10 men after Mark Scoltock saw a straight red card for a challenge on Ross Clarke. The Crues went three up through Jordon Forsythe after his penalty was saved, and he followed up with the rebound to convert. The Crues went four up through Rory Hale. Great work from new signing Jamie McGonigle who found Hale at the edge of the box, who didn’t hesitate and took the shot first time and scored. It was that partnership of Clarke to Heatley again causing all sorts of problems for the next goal, then later making it five. The scoring was rounding off by substitute and new signing Paul McElroy. He latched onto a great through ball from Hale and coolly finished.
Over to the Oval for this entrepreneur’s high rolling fixture between Glentoran and Larne. Larne have had in the region of 4 million-plus pushed into the club and the Glens have had 1 million investment from a private investor. What I will say when you play with investors… they will want returns! These two clubs need to be in the top three and European money to start helping feed the investors’ need for returns. There is only so much money an entrepreneur will invest into something without making any money before they pull the plug.
On Saturday’s game, you can see that these two clubs are going to be hard to beat, and will be in and around the top three come May. Some wonderful talent on show and it is great for the game in Northern Ireland. Glentoran were the winners notching up a 2-1 win.
Larne started as the better team taking the lead through a Jeff Hughes thunderbolt. Questions need to be asked of the Glens’ keeper Marijan Antolovic. Could he have done better? The jury is out.
The Glens got themselves back on terms through a sublime finish from Paul O’Neill. He converted after being set up by the very impressive Elvio van Overbeek. The Glens secured all three points after a mistake by the Larne Keeper Conor Mitchell. He couldn’t hold on to a long throw and the Glens’ captain Marcus Kane was on hand to stab the ball home. The win put the Glens up into third place.
To the league’s bottom team Warrenpoint Town, who were on their travels on Saturday to take on David Jeffery’s Ballymena United, only to make the long journey home at the end of a 4-0 defeat. It has been a good week for the Sky Blues tying down five players. Steven McCullough, Scot Whitehouse, Andrew McGrory and Jude Winchester all signed on for an extra two years. Jonny Addis signing on for another year. Great work from David and the team tying down some important players.
Leroy Millar opened the scoring placing a shot low into the net after good build-up play by Andrew McGrory. The Sky Blues were reduced to 10 men when new signing Andrew Burns got his marching orders for studs showing in a tackle. It was that man McGrory who was having a great game and got on the scoresheet with number two. A beautiful free-kick from the edge of the box. Cathair Friel then got in on the action. He found himself with all the room he could ever imagine inside the Point box to head home. It was Friel who rounded off the scoring with his second and the Sky Blues’ fourth. Leroy Millar played a ball into the path of Friel, who went through one-on-one with Evan Moran and coolly chipped the ball over him into the net.
Last but not least Coleraine. Five games in and still unbeaten they entertained a very impressive Dungannon Swifts team. Didn’t see this result, a 4-0 home win for the Bannsiders and that keeps them unbeaten and still going strong. What a day for Bannsiders’ striker James McLaughlin. Four goals today in an impressive display of finishing. First of the afternoon came in the second half- Ben Dohertys’ inviting ball across the box was met by MacLaughlin who finished. The second came from new signing Aaron Jarvis, who smashed the ball high into the roof of the Swifts’ net. Number three came through McLaughlin who was on hand in the box to divert the ball home.
Number four was just pure magical from McLaughlin. His quick feet got him clear where he went one-on-one with Sam Johnstone in the Swifts’ net and lifted the ball over him into the net. McLaughlin got his fourth and the Bannsiders’ fifth as he meets the ball at the back post and slotted it past Johnstone. A great result for the Bannsiders which keeps them unbeaten and sitting in second.