Gameweek 2 of the Danske Bank Premiership got underway with two Friday evening encounters at Windsor Park and in Newry, where the Showgrounds hosted top flight domestic football for the first time in seven years.
Dungannon Swifts were the visitors; the Mid-Ulster side proving to be the perfect guests to the Newry City party – the type of friend that doesn’t just bring a bottle of Jameson, but brings a mixer and a bag of ice too.
Club stalwart Rambo Hughes accepted gleefully, converting from the spot twice inside five second half minutes to send the home fans away happy, despite Jarlath O’Rourke’s consolation strike in the final minute of normal time. A mention too, to Newry goalkeeper Andy Coleman, who marked his return to his hometown club with a penalty save from Swifts’ Daniel Hughes in the first-half.
Having conquered the border club last week at the Brandywell, Institute travelled to Windsor Park to take on Linfield, with things a little more straight forward than the penalty fest in Newry.
The Drumahoe side offered half an hours worth of resistance before ‘you know who’ opened the scoring for Linfield – veteran striker Andy Waterworth registering his first strike of the season. The second half proved to be one way traffic, with David Healy’s side duly putting the tie to bed.
Chris Casement made it two just shy of the hour mark, sliding in to claim a real poacher’s goal after good work down the Linfield left, before summer recruit Joel Cooper glanced a header into the net eight minutes later. The Blues running out 3-0 winners, in the end.
Pacesetters Coleraine travelled to Solitude to take on Cliftonville in the pick of the Saturday afternoon ties. And pace was certainly to the fore.
In an end to end game, both goals lived an extremely charmed life before Aaron Burns strolled off the Bannsider’s bench to break the deadlock with eighteen minutes left.
Things were level again soon after; Joe Gormley’s free kick nicking off the dome of Stephen Lowry, on it’s way to hitting the back of the net.
But it was Coleraine, and that man Burns who were to have the last laugh. The former Linfield man picking up the ball on the edge of the Reds penalty area in injury time, before delivering a sumptuous left foot curler wide of the outstretched arm of Richard Brush. Cue delirium in the away end and another three points for the Irish Cup holders.
If goal fests with a sprinkling of dodgy defending is your thing, then do yourself a favour and get down to Seaview. Having been porous in eventually overcoming Ards on Monday night, champions Crusaders were at it again on the Shore Road.
Jonny McMurray opened the scoring for Ballymena United in the thirteenth minute, firing across Sean O’Neill on the half volley from the right hand side of the penalty area. The Crues equalised in the first minute of the second half, Ross Clarke tapping in at the back post after good work from Paul Heatley on the left.
Ballymena retook the lead on the hour, Ryan Mayse the beneficiary after the Crusaders defensive line looked to zombify momentarily, allowing the midfielder to poke past O’Neill having been teed up by Andrew McGrory.
The champions restored parity for a second time only seven minutes later, when Rory Paterson scored his second Crusaders goal. And some of the Crues faithful may have been struck down with déjà vu; the big striker’s equaliser bore striking similarity to his goal against Ards on Monday night, controlling a Decky Caddell header into the box with his back to goal, before holding off his man and shooting on the swivel past Ross Glendenning.
In a frantic last twenty minutes, the Sky Blues had Glendenning to thank for ensuring they went home with a share of the spoils; the Ballymena goalie matching everything Crusaders could throw at him.
More goals were on the menu at a drizzly Milltown, where Warrenpoint succumbed to an Andrew Mitchell inspired Glenavon performance. The big striker scored two and laid on the extras in a 4-2 victory for the Lurgan Blues.
The Point took an early lead. Alan O’Sullivan’s left boot doing the damage from just inside the Glenavon area, before Mitchell glanced a long ball into the path of Mark Sykes, who levelled matters in the thirty-second minute.
Mitchell was provider again three minutes later, squaring the ball for a Stephen Donnelly tap in and managed to get on the scoresheet himself just before half-time, poking past an on-rushing Jonny Parr in the ‘Point goal, having been put through.
The home side pulled one back with fifteen minutes of the match left after Conall McGrandles rose highest to meet a corner from the left. But Mitchell restored the two goal cushion a matter of seconds later, capitalising on an almighty balls-up from Jonny Parr who attempted to clear a long ball through with a diving header. Not a great weekend for the Rostrevor man, who tasted defeat in the Down GAA Senior Football Championship on Sunday night, also.
In the weekend’s other clash, Colin Nixon welcomed old friends to Ards’ Clandeboye Park in the shape of Glentoran, with the visitors wrapping up all three points thanks to first half strikes from John McGuigan and Curtis Allen.
Next weekend see’s the leaking Crues take on Linfield at Seaview, whilst two-from-two Coleraine travel to the Oval to meet Glentoran. Newry host Glenavon under lights on Friday evening, with Ards – Ballymena, Dungannon – Cliftonville and Institute – Warrenpoint making up the rest of the gameweek 3 fixtures.