Belfast Telegraph

No need for Cliftonville fans to hit panic button

By Graham Luney

If you're a Cliftonville fan you'll be feeling a bit frustrated with the way your side's title defence is going but let's all take a chill pill.

We are only 10 games into the season and, when the dust settles after the weekend action and once the inquest has been held into where it went wrong in the 2-0 defeat to Crusaders at Solitude, the reality is that the champions are only four points behind new league leaders Linfield.

No-one should be surprised that Tommy Breslin's side are having a bumpy ride. Last year's triumph was only the fourth in the club's history and only three clubs in the league – Linfield, Glentoran and Portadown – have ever won back to back titles.

David Jeffrey's side won six doubles in seven seasons before their last campaign which finished trophyless but Glentoran haven't managed to achieve two successive title wins since 1967 and 1968.

The Ports delivered the goods in 1990 and 1991.

After Saturday's game, Breslin said his players had "the wrong attitude" and that will be a huge concern to him but there's no question his squad is good enough to retain the title – if they can get their act together.

Last season sides were turning up at Solitude fearing a hammering but, now that they have lost three of their five clashes at the north-Belfast venue, are opponents smelling blood? Are players becoming more accustomed to, and therefore more competent on, the artificial pitches at both Cliftonville and Crusaders?

Nobody wins all the time and sometimes teams need to suffer a few setbacks just to remind the players of how focused and hungry they need to be if they want to keep winning silverware.

One side who aren't on a trophy chase are Warrenpoint Town but what a result they enjoyed at the weekend – holding Portadown 2-2.

It was always going to take time for the minnows to adjust to life in the top flight and there are signs that they are here to stay.

Barry Gary's men have also beaten Ballymena and Ards and held Crusaders. Not the form of whipping boys.

A day to remember

A big result for Crusaders at Solitude – they hadn't won there since October 2009 – at the tenth time of asking. It's a result that sows a few more seeds of doubt into the minds of their neighbours while lifting them into the top four. Chris Morrow and Declan Caddell, when he entered the fray, were dominant in the middle while Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens (right) produced fine finishes. Questions will be asked of the Reds, but Crusaders deserve credit too.

...and one to forget

Ballymena United are going to have to stop the rot soon or start worrying about a relegation battle. Manager Glenn Ferguson (right) never had a problem scoring goals in his Irish League career – he found the net 563 times, with only the prolific Jimmy Jones (646) ahead of him in the charts. There is no better man to give his own strikers a few lessons in the art of finishing, but the 1-0 loss at Ballinamallard on Friday was their third league game on the spin without scoring. The players need to shape up or they could be shipped out in January.

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