Belfast Telegraph

Deja vu looms for Crusaders

By Graham Luney

Is lightning about to strike twice for Crusaders? Are the boys from the Shore Road destined to be bridesmaids once again?

Only the astonishing form of Cliftonville last season prevented the ribbons around the Gibson Cup from being red and black and now normal service appears to have resumed at Linfield.

The Blues, who have won 51 league championships, have got their mojo back as they set about exorcising the ghosts of last season.

Great Linfield teams crush sides they are expected to roll over at Windsor Park and on Saturday it was Warrenpoint Town who took a beating.

The performance of David Jeffrey's side sent out a powerful message to the rest of the league and particularly to Crusaders who failed to finish the job at Glenavon despite leading 2-0 with just 15 minutes left on the clock.

The Crues underestimated the Lurgan Blues' capacity to fight to the finish and, without former Northern Ireland international Colin Coates who was suspended, they failed to deal with the home side's aerial bombardments.

The end result is that the Blues have opened up a six points lead at the top of the table and even at this stage of the season that's a commanding lead.

Within a matter of weeks that advantage could turn to nine or 12 points and then the title race becomes a procession.

Meanwhile, there was a collective sigh of relief at the home of champions Cliftonville where Ballymena United suffered a 2-1 defeat.

It wasn't a convincing performance from Tommy Breslin's charges but at least it offers them something to build on and it could be a massive three points in the context of their season.

Glentoran's revival continues and Eddie Patterson's side celebrated a superb 2-1 win at Dungannon Swifts, the mission completed after the dismissal of Jimmy Callacher.

The east Belfast outfit may have a youthful look but there is plenty of fight and character in that dressing room and it was nice to see Jason Hill, who is celebrating his testimonial, slam home the winner.

There was also redemption for Ballinamallard who exacted revenge on Portadown following that 11-0 horror show earlier in the season.

After that victory on Saturday would have tasted very sweet.

A day to remember

What a result for Ards – winning 3-1 at home to Coleraine and leapfrogging Warrenpoint Town in the battle for survival. Niall Currie's (right) men now have two more wins than their fellow new boys and if they can tighten up at the back a little more they will stay on the right track. Rival teams will not relish playing on the artificial surface at Clandeboye Park so the north Down men can reap the benefits of this weapon in their armoury.

...And one to forget

Not a good few days for Warrenpoint Town. The County Down side were hit for five by Linfield at Windsor and sank to the bottom of the table. Their confidence will be dented but Barry Gray's side should not be too downhearted.

 Their destiny this season will not be shaped by events at Windsor where Linfield are embarrassing most teams. Up next for Town is a tricky trip to Portadown and it's important they hold onto that belief they can consolidate their position in this league. Somehow, they are going to have to grind out a few wins.

Belfast Telegraph

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