Danske Bank Premiership

Week seven sees Linfield remain top, Crusaders keep their first clean sheet of the season and Barry Gray’s position put under all sorts of pressure with a late double.

Ards 0-0 Coleraine

Coleraine started a new era without Oran Kearney with a scoreless draw. Oran deserves the break he has got and I am sure he will do himself and his family proud.

Interim boss Rodney McArea watched from the stands after signing a two-year professional contract. Yes, a professional contract!  Rodney turned down Glentoran at the start of the season and with this offer from Coleraine thought the time was right to leave his beloved Dungannon.

Ards have become a solid team at the back. Wise heads in there with Jonny Taylor and Craig McClean, the latter I am sure the Crues could be done with due to Rodney Browns injury problems. Coleraine found this out today the could not unlock the sturdy back line of Ards.

The best early opportunities fell to Ards. A lazy pass by Jamie McGonigle into the feet of David McAllister, who ran unopposed from his own half into the Coleraine box only to see his shot saved by Chris Johns. McGonigle then showed what he is all about. Some really intelligent work on the Ards right by McGonigle saw him unleash a shot from outside the box which cannoned off the crossbar. The second half had one main opportunity. Ciaron Harkin and Aaron Traynor combined well down the Ards right. Trainer delivered a wonderful ball to Stephen Lowry who tried to direct the ball into the net, only to see Samuel Johnston make a wonderful save.

Time will tell if the departure off Oran Kearney will have any effect on Coleraine. Rodney McArea has proved he can do it as a manager and as a player.  Think everyone will wish him luck in the new adventure he has taken.

Crusaders 1-0 Newry

What a difference a new season brings. The champions have been unable to keep a clean sheet in 11 and let a 20 plus goalscorer go and not replace him. Crusaders have not won a home game from the start of the season which, when you tally all this up, shows something is not right.

For me this season, yes Gavin Whyte has gone and his goals are missed but I think the Crues are missing the beast, Brian Jenson. His cool calm professional manner the way he talked the back line through the games and the odd sublime save that pulled the Crues from a bad result to good. 

Today Crusaders registered a home win and a clean sheet but it was a flat game, which on another day the Crues would have scored 3 or 4. First real opportunity for the Crues fell to David Cushley. Cushley received a free kick from Jamie Glackin only to pull his resulting shot wide. Crusaders, looking like they were still in second gear, were awarded a corner. Paul Heatley put his corner to the back post where Colin Coates couldn’t direct it home.

A long ball from Coates was knocked on by Rory Patterson into the feet of Paul Heatley. Heatley gathered and tried to place his shot, only to see Andy Coleman save. Into the second half and a long ball from Coates, “yes another long ball” was controlled beautifully by Cushley but he couldn’t produce a finish. Coates again with a long ball, this time Patterson flicks it to Heatley, this time he was calm controlled and rounded the keeper to put the Crues one up on 58 mins. Cushley had a goal disallowed and nearly a free kick which was saved by Sean O’Neill but the game was won and Crues got a needed home win.

The Patterson/Heatley link up is working because his week and last you can see the progress. The only downside is Gavin Whyte has gone and the Crues never replaced him. 

Institute 1-4 Glenavon

The work that is going on at Institute has to be applauded. No ground and the season on a knife edge they came up with the solution to play at the Brandywell. It has been a great move for them as a club. First 4 home games unbeaten and no goals conceded, this team surely have been playing here longer than they let on.

Glenavon for me was going to be there or thereabouts by the end of the season. The way Gary Hamilton has gone about his business has been exceptional. The mix of youth and experience is really paying off. Joel Copper has gone, but the endless supply of talent just keeps on coming.

It took Glenavon 10 mins to score the first away goal at the Brandywell this season. Josh Daniels delivered a pinpoint cross into the box where Andy Hall turned the ball into the net. The second was either a wonderful finish or across that got out of control. Either way, Stephen Murray picked the ball at the right side of the Stute box. He either intended to shoot or deliver a cross to the onrushing Andrew Mitchell, either way, the ball flew into the top left corner of the net. If you want to question me I’ll do it again and how he did. Murray this time with a wonderful turn on the edge of the box again despatched a wonderful effort into the same corner on 38 mins.

Stute got themselves back into the game on 42 mins. Michael McCrudden played a delightful ball into the path of Darren Henderson whose first shot was blocked, but no mistake was made with the follow-up. Stephen Murray rounded the scoring off by collecting the match ball on 81 mins. Another wonderful finish. A cross from the right saw Murray flick the ball into the Stute net.

A great team performance from Glenavon. They have a structure and look to be a team that will only grow from strength to strength.

Linfield 3-0 Dungannon Swifts

So Linfield move four points clear in the Danske Bank Premiership. What a difference a summer makes. The hoards that descend on Windsor would have been happy for David Healy to walk at the end of last season. But in all fairness, the well done has to go to the board. They had faith in the man and he clearly had a plan. The loss of Paul Smyth was hard on the team but he has gone and brought in quality, and it is showing.

Dungannon is now in a place where I am sure they never wanted to be in. Losing a manager that had brought stability to them and their first major trophy. So where do they go from here? What type of manager is out there that will be interested in the job? This will be one to watch.

As for the game Linfield made sure they stayed top and got the win. The Blues started the scoring on 27 mins. Now if you are watching certain highlights show they will tell you Joel Cooper scored the first goal. This may be because it was Joel Cooper commentating but in all fairness, it was an own goal. Great work from Joel Cooper on the left seen him take a shot towards goal only to see it deflected by Seanan Clucas past Stuart Addis into the Swifts goal. Cooper doubled his tally and Linfield’s lead on 29 mins. Cooper drilled a low shot into the net after a Daniel Kearns shot was partially cleared by the swifts defense. Andrew Waterworth wrapped up the scoring for Linfield on 84 mins. A wonderful team move by the Blues was finished off by Waterworth tapping in for the Blues third.

Joel Copper has become a wonderful free signing for Linfield. Cooper for me should be playing across the water and should have been given the chance. David Healy must be commended for pursuing and getting his man. He is proving to be a shrewd piece of business as Linfield stride on in the quest to claim back the league title.

Warrenpoint Town 2-1 Cliftonville

Where do Cliftonville go from here? Rumblings that enough is enough etc. To be fair on them they probably thought they had the game won. But in football, the game is not over until the referee blows the whistle on time. That either came from bad management or the players switching off, but it seems hard to see where Barry Gray goes from here. 

Warrenpoint went into the game looking for their first points of the season. The pressure must have been surely building on not just the management team, but the club as a whole to where they go next. A win is something to build on and move onto next week where they travel along the road to the on neighbours Newry City.

The first half was a half to forget. Not many chances and two teams that looked like they were lacking a little confidence. One chance of note in the first half was a Jay Donnelly effort which was saved by Berraat Turker, and Ryan Curran who sent an effort wide moments earlier. The breakthrough came on 72 mins for the Reds through that man Joe Gormley. Ryan Catney picked out a ball to Gormley who shot into the net. Then, when the game was running into time added and everyone was heading for the gates, something just exploded. On 90+4 Anto Reilly headed in from a point free kick, then a min later a strong Alan O’Sullivan run into the box which he held his cool and slotted passed Richard Brush.

Therefore a quick lesson. Keep going to the finish and never thinking the game is over until it is over!