Danske Bank Premiership

Week 11 saw Linfield go back top, a three header hat-trick for Jimmy Callacher, Crusaders up to third and Ards slip deeper into a relegation battle.

Crusaders 3-0 Glentoran

Two teams coming off the back of two indifferent derby matches. Crusaders beat North Belfast rivals Cliftonville 3-2, while Glentoran lost to Linfield 1-0.

The season so far for Crusaders has not been what you would expect for reigning champions. Five wins, one draw, and four losses. The main problem is in the goals they concede. The Crues have scored an impressive twenty goals this season, but on the other hand, have conceded nineteen. Not hard to work out where the problems lie. 

Glentoran have had a great start to the season. Seven games undefeated until they took on their big rivals Linfield. A game screened live on Sky Sports on Monday evening saw the Glens lose their first game of the season. A big change in the fortunes this season for the East Belfast side. The Glens sit fourth in the league one point behind Crusaders with a game in hand. 

From the kickoff, long ball, flick on and a nice finish by Matthew Snoddy. Yes, 10 seconds. Blink and you missed it. Is there an official record? Well, apparently not. What a start from the Shore Road men and I am sure not what the Glens had in mind. On 20 mins it was two. Another Ross Clarke free-kick delightfully put past Elliot Morris into the Glentoran net. This is not the Glentoran that we have seen start the season well.

Maybe a hangover from Monday, but losing to your biggest rival should have been enough for this teams personal motivation. Into the second half and on the 61st minute the Crues were reduced to 10 men. Sean Ward got his marching orders for a second bookable offence. The Crues, to their credit, secured the win with only ten men. Colin Coates got himself onto a Clarke cross and finished.

We probably saw one of the fastest goals the league has seen. Crusaders push to three wins on the trot and move into third spot. The Glens once again have been beaten by another Belfast team within the week. Plenty for Ronnie McFall and his backroom staff of Glentoran legends to ponder. 

Linfield 3-1 Newry City AFC

Linfield remain one point behind leaders Glenavon. 10 games unbeaten so far this season and its been a bright start for the Blues. The last team to go a whole season without losing was Glentoran in the 1980-91 season. Good news this week for the Blues saw the match winner of the ‘El Belfastico’ on Monday evening, Michael O’Connor, sign a new contract that will see him stay with the club until 2020. The former Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk frontman has made an impressive start to the season.

Newry sit ninth in the league. Eight points from ten games. Its been an indifferent start to their first season. There is a lot of work to be done as we are still in the early stages of the league. Their away form has been nothing more than dreadful having not secured a single point. Their home form might not be enough to get them through the season.

Linfield got the game off to a flyer. A Joel Cooper corner was whipped into the box where Jimmy Callacher fired an unstoppable header into the net. Another corner and again another goal. This time from the opposite corner Kirk Millar delivered the ball to the front post. Callacher attacked the ball at the front post to head the ball into the Newry net. So nothing to talk about until 20 mins to go. Crazy piece of action inside the Linfield box. This was something you would probably see on a tabletop football game. But the outcome saw the ball somehow fall at the feet of McArdle whose deflected shot went into the net. Newry got a lifeline. Not what we have come to expect from a Linfield team that has only conceded two goals all season. It took Linfield a minute to respond. Another set-piece and more danger for Newry. Corner from the Linfield right was cleared. The follow-up cross was again met by the head of Callacher for him to register Linfield’s third, and his own hat-trick.

Great day at the office for the Blues. Back at the summit and their 100% league record still intact. Newry City’s run of games without a win on the road. Darren Mullen will hope he can put together the puzzle that will help him unlock teams away from home.

Warrenpoint Town 1-0 Ards

Warrenpoint sit tenth, two points ahead of bottom team Dungannon. It was a tough start for the County Down team but with a draw and a win in their last two games, they would’ve hoped to take full points. The next two fixtures for them do not make pleasant reading. Away at Glentoran and Linfield. Not much short change to be had there so all the points they can gather at this stage will be priceless.

Ards sit one point off the bottom. Three defeats in a row for the North Down club has seen them hit a mini-slump. Gone is the watertight defence from the start of the season and the question must be asked, “what has happened?” The games don’t get any easier for them. Next up Linfield home. Last time the two met last month the game ended up a draw. So they will be hoping this is a good omen. 

Warrenpoint started strongly in this cagey affair and registered their first effort. A Ciaran O’Connor through ball was collected by Phillip Donnelly who could only shoot wide of the goal. Next, it was Donnelly to turn provider to deliver a ball to on-loan Robbie Norton who put his effort wide. Norton again had a chance to give the home side the lead. This time sliding in he couldn’t direct his effort on target from six yards. The best chance of the first half fell to Donnelly. Some great work by Eamon Scannell saw the ball end up sitting nicely on the half volley. Only to see the Ards keeper Sam Johnston save it.

Into the second half and O’Connor was causing more problems for the Ards defence. O’Connor made a run down the Ards left and passed the ball into the box. After one blocked shot Matty Lynch fired wide. The goal eventually came and it was that man O’Connor once again who set it up. Great work by O’Connor to trick his way past two of the Ards defenders and deliver a ball into the box. The ball eventually fell to O’Sullivan who coolly finished the game off as a contest. 

Another weekend and another win for the Co Down side. A start-stop-start to the season has seen them steady the ship. Ards have now been drawn into a dogfight at the foot of the table. Not sure if Colin Nixon as a player would remember being that far down the table, but I am sure behind closed doors he is working on solving the problems.

Institute 1-2 Ballymena United

Last week saw Institute notch their first win after going four defeats in a row. Home form has been hit and miss, two wins, one draw and two losses. They sit in ninth position, five points off the bottom. It is very congested there and teams need to be collecting points before they start falling away into space on their own.

So Ballymena sit seventh in the league. A good return, as for the first five games they have played them away from home. Last weekend saw them play Newry in the first game that was played at The Showgrounds this season. A long overdue change to the pitch will hopefully be a benefit for David Jeffery’s men.

Not much to talk about for both teams in the first half. In the 50th min, a James Knowles free-kick was crossed into the box and put into the net by the head of Cathair Friel. A cool finish from the Ballymena hitman, but the delivery from Knowles into the box was first class.

The game was finished on what can only be described as silly defending. Call it a striker’s tackle but why Michael McCrudden went into the tackle when it was not necessary to bring down Balmer, only he can answer that. James Knowles stepped up and coolly finished the penalty. Joesph McCready got a late consolation goal for Stute but it was too little too late for the team from the North West.

Ballymena move up into 4th after today’s win. Institute are now five points off the bottom spot. It is getting very congested down there and they need to take action now to get themselves to a safe place.