Danske Bank Premiership

Samuel Johnston clean sheet, Crusaders shift a few more and Linfield stay top. Just another Saturday in the wonderful world of the Danske Premier League.

The weekend began with the news that the BBC and the league have signed a three-year contract to show live games. Ten live games will be shown on BBC NI on a Friday evening. The contract also adds an additional two Irish cup games. Wonderful stuff for the league and will help promote it further.

Newry City 1-1 Warrenpoint Town

A night to remember for both clubs. From the day Ollie Ralph re-launched Newry City in 2013, this has been a long journey. The weekend saw the neighbours playing each other in the Danske Premier league for the first time. 

First real chance of the evening fell to the feet of Warrenpoint’s Francis McCaffery. Eamon Scannell’s long ball fell at the feet of McCaffery whose finish, well the little said about it the better. Newry were next to open up a chance. Stephen Hughes weaved his way past three Warrenpoint players before his shot was blocked. Minutes into the second half Newry broke the deadlock. What only can be described as terrible defending and a certain easy fall in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and James Walker stepped up and slotted the ball home. The equalising goal came in the 92nd min. A Ciaran O’Conner cross was flicked on but the head of Phillip Donnelly to score. 

A draw for both teams but Warrenpoint really do need to correct the mistakes that are happening at the back week in and week out.

Cliftonville 3-2 Ballymena

The pressure has sure been rising on Cliftonville. Last week saw them surrender the lead in injury time. Barry Gray who in some eyes has been walking a tighter tightrope than that you would find at a circus. Ballymena have played all six of their games on the road. Their last outing saw them put six past Warrenpoint.

It was the visitors the got the game off and running. A complete mess up in the Reds defence saw Gary Been and Richard Brush collide. The ball fell to Ryan Mayse who accepted the chance to slot the ball into the open net. £250.00 for your clips to be sent into “you’ve been framed”, why not! This spurred the Reds on and on 6 mins they were level. Ryan Curran was fouled in the Sky Blues box and from the resulting penalty, Joe ‘the goal’ Gormley slotted home. The Reds doubled their lead on 39 mins. Chris Curran picked up the ball and powered his way into the box and dispatched a wonderful finish to make it 2. Barry Gray must have been thinking let us keep this today or maybe even try and push for the winner. But it was Ballymena that got themselves right back into the contest on 67 mins. Mayse showed wonderful quick feet to beat Ryan Catney and deliver a ball to the head of Jay Quigley who finished. The Reds fans must have been thinking, “not again this week”. But their worries where quashed when on 84 mins Jay Donelly scored their 3rd. Substitute Stephen Garrett was the provider with a cross to the back post. Donnelly got himself up ahead of the defender to head the ball back across the goal into the net.

A much well-deserved win that Barry Gray and his Cliftonville team needed, and with the firepower he has at his disposal they should be in a better position than they are. Ballymena could really do with sitting down with the council and sorting the problems at home out. They need football back there, not a recreation sport that is destroying the pitch.

Coleraine 0-0 Linfield

The game between the two clubs brought out a bumper crowd. Both clubs went into the game unbeaten and were not willing to give this up. Rodney McAree took charge from the technical area for the first time this week for the Bannsiders and we all wish him well. The Blues sit at the top of the pile looking to maintain momentum on the title challenge.

Coleraine had the first chance of what would become a day of McGonigle versus Carroll. A Stephen O’Donnell long ball over the top was picked up by Jamie McGonigle. The following shot by McGonigle was saved by the evergreen Roy Carroll. Another long ball from Coleraine this time by ex-Blueman, Stephen Douglas, was collected by Ian Parkhill who produced a wonderful first touch, then shot which was saved by the feet of Carroll. Aaron Burns followed up but the shot was again saved by Carroll. Into the second half and again Coleraine put more pressure on the Linfield back line. This time Parkhill became the provider with a cross which somehow found McGonigle who couldn’t finish from 6 yards. Then we have the VAR moment. Well not quite in the Irish league just the linesman if he is up with the play to call it. Niall Quinn delivered the cross into the box which was met by the head of Josh Robinson. Robinson’s header hit the woodwork and fell down to the line. Now I have had a look at the TV footage but the referee decided it didn’t cross the line. Big call in a big game but I am sure he called it correct. Coleraine again opened up the Linfield defence. A long ball from Aaron Traynor was collected by McGonigle who run on before releasing a shot which was saved by Carroll. A big well done to McGonigle for not going down in the box as he had his heels clipped. The young lad showed what strikers should do in his position and try and put the ball in the net. Linfield nearly stole all three points near the end. Michael O’Connor’s shot was deflected onto the post and Chris Johns picked up the rebound for Coleraine.

Just like when Linfield won the league the season before, Roy Carroll was instrumental. Today he schooled one of the most promising young striking talents in the league. McGonigle will take a lot away from this game and so will Linfield. Keep Roy Carroll fit and you have a fighting chance of collecting the Gibson Cup at the end of the chance.

Dungannon Swifts 0-0 Ards

Four clean sheets in a row for Ards and they have shown what a resilient team they are. I am sure with Colin Nixon at the helm has a big part to play in that. The plaudits are all going to Samuel Johnston. 375 mins without a goal conceded and so they should. Clean sheets mean points on the board, but the back four of Ards have to take some of the credit as well. A well oiled set up at the back which is becoming harder to break down every week. 

Not much to talk about in the first half. Ards might have broken the deadlock when a Ryan Strain through ball was stopped on its way by Seanan Clucas. Next, it was Dungannon keeper Alex Moore who did well to deny Eamon McAllister. Moore this time with a long ball found Daniel Hughes. Hughes tried to lob the ball over Johnston only to see it go over the bar. Johnston then upended Ryan Harpur in the box. From the resulting penalty, Harpur saw his shot saved by Johnston. Swifts had a chance to steal the game at the end of the game but Rhyss Campbell’s shot went wide. 

Goalless draw and I am sure positives for both.

Glenavon 3-2 Crusaders

What a horrible start to the season this has been for Crusaders. Linfield, Coleraine, and now Glenavon inflicting defeats on them. The constant changing of personnel at the back and shipping 14 goals in 7 league games, not including the cup games for any other manager the writing would be on the wall. In the last 7 meetings between the clubs at Mournview, there has been a total of 35 goals scored. 24 of them by Baxter’s outfit. Glenavon is a different proposition this season. Sitting 2nd, the way Gary Hamilton has them playing is a credit to him and the backroom staff which he has been working with for the last few years.

Crusaders got off to the best possible start. On 26 mins Paul Heatley sent over a cross which was met by the head of Colin Coates. Coates’ head went back across the box where Ross Clarke was on hand to glance a header home. On 30 mins Glenavon equalised. What has been Crusaders’ problem already this season? Defending? Billy Joe Burns missed a controlled a ball under no pressure that Ben Doherty picked up and drove towards the Crusaders box unopposed to fire a shot past the helpless Sean O’Neil in the Crusaders goal. Crusaders regained the lead on 68 mins. A Jordan Owens flick on finding its way to Clarke who dispatched a wonderful shot low past Tuffey. Take nothing away from the next two goals. But if you have any knowledge of football the defensive mistakes were just unforgivable. Some lazy defending inside the Crusaders box on 79 mins saw the ball not cleared. The ball fell to Mark Sykes who delivered a sublime overhead kick past O’Neil and Mark McCrystal on the line. Glenavon sealed all three points on 85 mins. Daniels ran with the ball past a half-hearted challenge from Burns. Next was a half-hearted tackle by Snoddy which left Copper with the chance to dispatch a wonderful strike past O’Neill.

A great game of end to end football, which meant Crusaders’ defensive Frailties have been found out once again, the problem needed to be addressed but Stephen Baxter thought he had enough in reserve from the same team that lifted the title back in May.

Glentoran 2-1 Institute

Glentoran sit 3rd in the league after a good home win against Stute. The three wise men in the technical area at the Oval have been working hard to bring in the right player that will bring this great club back to where they belong. Stute have started the season well and I am sure they’ll keep themselves above the drop line come the end of the season.

Ross Redman opened the scoring on 13 mins. A cross from the left from Curtis Allen eventually found its way across to Redman who poked home the winner. Stute were level on 32 mins. Jamie McIntyre dribbled down the right then delivered a cross to the feet of Michael McCrudden. McCrudden turned and delivered a shot which went under the body of Elliot Morris and into the goal. Stute will have to work hard to keep possible moves from prizing McCrudden away from them as he is showing he is a finisher. A good one at that. The Glens sealed the win on 48 mins. A corner on the left from John McGuigan was not cleared by Stute. Allen’s effort was knocked back into the box by Marcus Kane, where William Garrett was on hand to direct his header home.

Things are looking good over in the east side of Belfast and its about time. Over the course of the long season, we will see where it goes but things are very positive. Stute can take a lot away from today, even in defeat and personally they are doing enough that will ensure they are in the league next season.