Danske Bank Premiership

Ballymena beat Linfield to go top, three red cards, ugly scenes at the Oval and hats off to Newry City as they claim their first win away from home this season.

Into December we go and it is all change at the top once again. This unpredictable league just keeps giving. Cards, goals, and now Latvian referees, you just got to love a weekend of Irish League football.

Friday night saw the first game of the weekend. Coleraine entertained Newry City. Newry have yet to register an away win so far this season and have the lowest goals scored of just 18. So cue a live BBC game on a Friday evening for them to turn things around and register a 1-0 win against one of the best teams from last years league. The all-important goal was scored by Mark McCabe in the first half. McCabe got himself onto a through ball and finished by lobbing Chris Johns in the Bannsiders net. Where has the Bannsiders team of last season gone?

Bottom team Ards played host to Warrenpoint. This game had a draw wrote all over it and it didn’t disappoint. With Ards in so much need of a win at home, and the Point who have scored at least one goal in each of their last five games. If Ards are to get anything here they would need to score in this game. That they did! After a low key first half, it was Ards’ Michael McLellan that gave his team the lead. Talk about short-lived celebrations. A minute later the Point were back level through Eamon Scannell. 1-1 draw and a point apiece.

Game of the day and top of the table clash was between Ballymena who hosted league leaders Linfield. The Blues got themselves off to a flyer and it was that man Andrew Waterworth who was on hand to score. Into the second half and it was Sky Blues that turned the screw. A Stephen McCullough free-kick was knocked into the Blues net by Johnathan Addis. Roy Carroll needs to shoulder some of the blame here. Terrible judgment from the big stopper for this one. Sky Blues wrapped up the game and took top spot off the Blues with a winning goal through Leroy Millar. Wonderful work by Millar to make room to get a shot away. A 2-1 home win for Sky Blues who have kept up that 100% home record.

In North Belfast, it was a really one-sided game between Cliftonville and Dungannon. It has been a horrible week for the North Belfast team with other goings on, but that’s not for me to report on. It is about the football, and today Kris Lindsey’s team got schooled in a 5-1 defeat by the Reds. The Reds have scored in each of their last eleven games. The Swifts started brightly taking an early lead through a Jamie Harney own goal. That was short lived… three long minutes to be precise. Rory Donnelly followed with a wonderful header to score the equaliser. Chris Curran then scored an absolute peach of a goal for the Reds’ second, followed by Joe Gormley. After the break, Donnelly was on hand to head in his second. Leaving the last for the man that can do no wrong, Gormley – making it his 16th of the season.

One team every club has underestimated is Institute. They have been scoring freely, and yes, they have lost their last four games, but you got to hand it to them they just keep scoring. Glenavon got this off to a flyer with their top scorer Stephen Murray. 75% of games played they have conceded at home and it wasn’t long until they conceded again. Two minutes after taking the lead it was level. What can only be described as terrible defending didn’t stop Joe McCready converting the chance given to him. Stute then took the lead thanks to Mark Scoltock’s header from a free-kick. Glenavon then got themselves back in the game through Andrew Mitchell. Rhys Marshall with some great work to set up Mitchell to convert from three yards out. Stute re-took the lead in the second half through their top scorer Michael McCrudden. More terrible defending and goalkeeping for this one, but McCrudden takes the credit. Stute must have thought they had done enough here only to see them lose their lead with three minutes left on the clock. Conor McCloskey finished making it 3-3 after some really bad, scrappy, build up play.

Where do we go with this one next? Glentoran entertained Crusaders at the Oval. The powers that be used this to bring in an exchange referee from Latvia to be precise. Those that made the decision to do this, need to have a good long hard look at themselves in the mirror. We have enough debates week in, week out about our own referees without bringing in some random circus act with a FIFA badge stitched on his shirt. I think whoever picked him up at the airport picked up the wrong person, as this was one horror of a refereeing show. Not realising he had booked a player twice, and letting a player get away with trying to end another’s career with a terrible tackle. As for the rumble at the Oval, I will leave that to be blamed on everyone else except the people that let it get to that stage. The game ended 2-2 with three red cards. Yes, three!

The Crues got the game off and running through Paul Heatley. The Glens were soon level through a John Herron header. The Crues took the lead again, this time Heatley turning provider for Rory Patterson to fire home. The Glens were level just before the break through Robbie McDaid. Inbetween this, Kyle Owens got his marching orders after the referee forgot he had already booked him. Good to see the players kept him informed. Then we had the horror tackle from Marcus Kane that ended up with all sorts of stupid goings on in a technical area, already with not enough room to fit everyone into the dugouts. From that Crusaders’ Rory Patterson and Glentoran’s John McGuigan got straight red cards.

What a shocking afternoon at the Oval. Whoever booked that referee needs to be booking themselves back on a flight to Latvia with him.

Danske Bank Premiership