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Calling all the shots: Champions are in the mood for three in a row


Gary Hamilton

Gary Hamilton

Blues boss Warren Feeney

Blues boss Warren Feeney

Gary Hamilton

I felt at the start of the season that Cliftonville would make it three titles in a row and I haven't seen anything that will make me change my mind.

At Windsor Park on Saturday, they proved once again that they are the benchmark and the team to shoot down.

What more evidence do you need of their title-winning power than victories over Crusaders, Portadown and the Blues?

It's true that every team in the league has the firepower to embarrass even the Reds but I don't see a team out there that can find the consistency necessary to give Tommy Breslin's boys a run for their money.

Even at this early stage of the campaign and with only two points separating the top five sides, it would take a brave man to bet against the Gibson Cup returning to Solitude.

Of course it's early days, but when Cliftonville flex their muscles they are the best side in the league by some distance.

Despite making a slow start and going a goal down against the Blues, their resilience, never say die spirit and character shone through.

There is room for improvement in that Linfield side but they are moving in the right direction and it will take time before their title-winning jigsaw can be completed.

Meanwhile, are there fresh doubts again over Crusaders' ability to go the distance after they capitulated against Glenavon?

While they greatly missed the suspended Colin Coates, his absence can be no excuse for their lack of concentration at the back.

But significant credit must go to Glenavon who produced a classic away performance featuring swift and deadly counter-attacks.

Crusaders' meeting with Linfield at Windsor Park gives both sides an opportunity to get the show back on the road.

Portadown, after beating Ballymena United 2-1, now lead the table on goal difference but it was a hard earned win and once again Peter McMahon underline d his value to the mid-Ulster side.

Every side needs goalscoring midfielders and McMahon is one the aces in Portadown's pack.

A day to remember:

What a result for Glenavon at Seaview, where they hadn’t won in the league since 2003. The Shore Road venue’s artificial surface is one of the league’s most feared fortresses but the Lurgan Blues have exorcised that ghost. There’s a great blend of youth and experience in Gary Hamilton’s side and those younger players are performing without fear. Gary’s tactics worked a treat as he nullified the threat of Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte. How many visiting teams will score four at Seaview this season?

And one to forget

The pictures of Blues boss Warren Feeney looking disconsolate during the match at Windsor Park sum up Linfield’s weekend. A home win would have sent out a defiant message that the Blues are back in business but, as the action unfolded, it became clear they will need to sharpen up at both ends of the pitch. Their first half performance was encouraging and they put the league champions on the ropes but teams must score when they are on top or opponents like Cliftonville have the class to make them pay.

Belfast Telegraph