The ‘Halliday’ season started with a party under the sunshine at Donegal Celtic Park at the weekend, where debutant Crusaders striker Michael Halliday quickly forgot his disappointment at leaving boyhood club Glentoran.
The Glens, who thumped Lisburn Distillery 6-1, may not have needed Halliday, but the 31-year-old will certainly be required by the Crues if they are to make a dent in Linfield’s dominance.
He was pivotal in his new team’s surpassing newcomers Celtic, scoring the opening goal of a game the visitors largely controlled.
Jordan Owens bagged two second-half goals for Crues, the second in the 88th minute killing off a Celtic fightback after new boy Darren McNamee scored.
But while Crusaders took the points and Owens and Halliday the goals, it was teenager Stuart Dallas who took the plaudits.
Signed from Coagh United during the summer, Dallas displayed qualities that made him look like a seasoned campaigner at this level, moving his manager Stephen Baxter to describe him as “the find of the season”.
In praising Halliday, who has had to overcome the somewhat abrupt end to his glorious Glentoran career, Baxter said: “Michael reminds me a lot of myself in that I arrived at Crusaders from Linfield and my first four years at the club were phenomenal, with two championships won. That proves there is life after being part of the Big Two and Michael’s personality will ensure he is a success.
“He has settled in well, works hard and wants to do well because the hunger is still there.
“He still has a lot to offer, as shown with his first goal in his competitive debut. I didn’t know him well before he came to us but he has made a big impression on the team.
“I now have a nice dilemma in that Jordan and Michael have found the net and David Rainey will be available for the next game.
“We relied on David a lot last season, especially after Mark |Dickson got injured and it showed that we need an extra option |up front. I think we have that |now with Jordan, Michael and David all vying for places.”
Baxter's old playing-days foe Marty Tabb was pleased with his team’s effort but disappointed in equal measure that naivety played a part in this defeat.
He said: “The manner of the defeat was disappointing because we were in the game until we conceded the third.
“We went out for the second-half to start as we had finished the first — on top. But conceding an early goal set us back.
“It’s looks bad on paper. A 3-1 result sounds worse and does not reflect the overall game and it will feed people who claim we will struggle. We won’t struggle. Once we settle, we will be alright.”