Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville star Liam Boyce must show his class

By Graham Luney

If you want to win the league title, your big players are going to have to do the business.

Linfield's big names are doing just that... Cliftonville's big guns are misfiring.

There's plenty of time left for the familiar twists and turns we always witness in the championship race, but the Blues are already motoring on in the style of Sebastian Vettel.

The Formula One world title scrap is significantly easier to predict than the Irish League results, though I'm proud to boast that I managed six correct results and one right scoreline last week.

That's no mean feat in a league that throws up more surprises than one of Sir Alex Ferguson's books.

But there is a pattern developing and it's looking pretty as far as the Blues are concerned.

Andy Waterworth has shaken off the disappointment of an early season injury and is currently wreaking havoc, displaying all the pace, power and finishing prowess we expect of him.

But can we say the same about one of the other best strikers in the league, Liam Boyce?

Last season the Northern Ireland international was unplayable. He oozed class and confidence.

He played with a swagger and a smile on his face. He was ghosting past defenders as if they weren't there and producing a devastating touch in front of goal.

Cliftonville badly need their talisman to come to the party again.

In the 12 league games Boyce has played, he's scored four goals and been substituted five times.

Joe Gormley, with 15 goals this season, is leading the Reds charge but he can't do it alone.

Meanwhile, at Linfield, many more goal-hungry players are stepping up the plate, not least Matthew Tipton and Aaron Burns.

And at Crusaders, Paul Heatley is also proving how crucial he is to Crusaders' hopes of winning silverware.

Although defeated, I was impressed with Warrenpoint Town's work-rate and hunger for the fight at Seaview – with that approach they could well prolong their stay in the top flight.

And what about Glenavon who are now third in the table – easily winning the prize for the most improved team.

And Davy Rainey's goal was a real cracker.

A day to remember

Portadown produced a five-star show just when their players' appetite for the title challenge was being questioned. Defeats to Glenavon and Ards had a few alarm bells ringing at Shamrock Park but their class came to the surface in a 5-0 demolition of Dungannon Swifts.

Darren Murray, Tim Mouncey and Gary Twigg did the damage and, with such classy performers in the Ports ranks, it was no surprise they got back on track.

...and one to forget

It's always disappointing to concede four goals at home but Linfield look favourites to go on and win the title with Cliftonville stuttering.

Ballymena United shouldn't be too downhearted and a County Antrim Shield semi-final win over Crusaders on Wednesday would be the perfect pick-up.

Boss Glenn Ferguson will at least be heartened by the fact his side created chances against the Blues. Another Shield final appearance would put a spring back in their step.

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