Belfast Telegraph

Calling all the Shots: Can challengers halt Cliftonville's charge to three-in-row?

By Graham Luney

The champions have just won six matches in a row and are three points clear at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership… the rest of the league should be hearing alarm bells.

And the bad news doesn't end there... goal machine Joe Gormley is scoring hat-tricks and his treble against Warrenpoint Town makes it six goals in three games for the ace marksman.

Only consistent teams win championships and Cliftonville appear to be the only side capable of producing a winning run that will blow rivals out of the race.

The other title contenders are going to have to rise to this challenge quickly to stop the champions embarking on another title procession.

Midfielder Jude Winchester has emerged as one of their star performers and he has been deservedly named BT Sport Player of the Month for October.

There is no question the Solitude side has the quality to make it a title hat-trick but doubts remain over the challenge from Portadown, Linfield, Crusaders and Glenavon. The Crues dropped two points at Ballinamallard United on Saturday and take on Cliftonville at Seaview this weekend having already lost once to Tommy Breslin's men this season.

The Hatchetmen must rediscover their cutting edge if they are to prevent their neighbours getting out of sight at the top.

The performance of the weekend was arguably Glenavon's 4-2 win at Glentoran, particularly as they trailed 2-0 after only 11 minutes.

An eligibility row regarding Gary Hamilton's participation in the game should not be allowed to mask the home side's shortcomings.

The Glens fans hoped their side had turned the corner with a handsome win over Ballymena United but they crumbled against the Lurgan Blues on Saturday.

They now face a big week ahead.

Meanwhile, Coleraine's resurgence continues and their revial really is startling. Seven wins from nine league matches is title-winning form!

They are now the model for other clubs to copy when rough times are hit.

A day to remember...

Linfield’s ‘crisis’ might be over. They are even winning at home so it could be argued their thumping win over Dungannon Swifts was perhaps the shock of the weekend!

Back to back wins over Glenavon and the Swifts was just the medicine the doctor ordered going into Saturday’s Big Two battle. Aaron Burns is in red hot form for the Blues and I always felt Linfield’s midfielders had to deliver on the goalscoring front this season after Philip Lowry’s exit. Warren Feeney and co are purring again.

And one to forget...

Another four goals conceded by Institute and back to back heavy defeats will dent confidence.

The Premiership new boys made a promising start to the season and you would expect Paul Kee’s side to be hungry to make a positive early impression but they are now hitting a few hurdles. Perhaps other teams are brushing up on their homework. They were always going to hit a few bumps on the road and the 4-1 loss at Portadown, as disappointing as it is, should not give them too many sleepless nights.

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