The first Tuesday night fixtures of the Danske Bank Premiership saw five matches and 20 goals scored. This is going to be a season of goals, goals, and more goals. Larne on their return to the top flight had to work hard for the 2-1 win over fellow newly promoted club Carrick Rangers. Crusaders joined them on top spot with a 4-0 home win against Warrenpoint Town. There were good wins as well for Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts, with Glentoran and Coleraine playing out a 2-2 draw.
What a lovely place to go for a walk along the shores of the Belfast Lough. But these two local rivals were in no mood for friendly walks in Carrick on Tuesday night. Larne were the visitors for this East Antrim derby. Even with all the investment that Larne have had, they were surely in for a test. When I saw the team sheet, I really did think to myself “with one game in, Tiernan Lynch was being just a little disrespectful by making a lot of changes.” Post your mind back to the Irish Cup game when they were winning against Coleraine. He then took off David McDaid and they ended up losing. It worked on Tuesday night though, they won. They will come up against better, well-organised teams in this league, and they will not get it all their own way.
Larne opened the scoring through summer arrival Johnny McMurray. His goal was cancelled out by a Caolon Loughran free-kick. The winning goal came for ex-Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall. He unleashed an unstoppable free-kick from 25 yards out. Carrick can feel hard done by with the result but they gave it a good go up against a full-time, full-professional club.
Along the Shore Road and a change of venue due to floodlight problems at Warrenpoint, Crusaders took full advantage of the change of venue to collect all three points with a 4-0 win and another clean sheet. Trust me when I say this after last season and the 50 plus goals conceded this is just what the doctor ordered. Ross Clarke netted twice for the Crues, that’s three goals in two games. A Jordon Forsythe volley and a magical Paul Heatley goal made it four. In all fairness, if it had not have been for the heroics of the Point keeper Berraat Turker, this score could have been a lot worse for the men from Co. Down. Two games in and it’s seven goals scored for the Crues, with two clean sheets.
In the East of the city, the excitement was back. The much-anticipated return of Glentoran was underway. The fans had come out in their numbers to support the club. It has been a hard few years for the Glens and even with the stupid problems that were allowed to happen, everybody deserves to see their team do well. Coleraine were the visitors and the game did not go to plan. 2-2 was the score with the Bannsiders reduced to 10 men.
The Bannsiders got themselves into a two-goal lead. Eoin Bradley won a penalty, then dusted himself down and scored the penalty to give the Bannsiders the lead. Number two came directly from a corner. Aaron Canning rising highest to power a header home. The turning point of this game was the red card for the Bannsiders’ James McLaughlin. He got dismissed for a rash challenge on Patrick McClean. The Glens to their credit pushed hard and fought to get in the game. That they did! Hrvoje Plum got a goal back with a beautiful free-kick. Then the Glens were level. Paul O’Neill prodding the ball home from close range.
For both clubs, two games two draws but for the Bannsiders they will be fuming this one got away from them. The Glens are still in the building phase, and it will not be long before they start taking full points from games in the future.
Up at Solitude, it was a night to remember for the late Tommy Breslin. A great servant not just to Cliftonville, but the local game as a whole. Tommy will always be remembered especially by myself. I had the privilege to see Tommy play in the Red of Cliftonville in a good few feisty North Belfast derby’s, but also when he managed a few. From myself and everyone in the team, or thoughts are with everyone connected within the Breslin family circle.
Glenavon were the visitors, and it was the home side that ran out 3-1 winners. Last seasons top goalscorer Joe Gormley bagged himself a brace before the Reds stand out player of the season last year, Ryan Curran got the third. The Lurgan Blues pulled one back through Andrew Mitchell, but it wasn’t enough, and the reds notched up their first league win of the season.
Last but not least. Dungannon Swifts travelled to Institute and came away with a wonderful 3-2 win. The Swifts took the lead through Kris Lowe, only to see it cancelled out by a Joe McCready penalty. The Swifts then got themselves a two-goal advantage through Ryan Strain and Seanan Clucas, only to see Stute claw one back late on through Ryan Morrow. Too little too late for Stute as the Swifts made the long journey home with all three points.