Belfast Telegraph

Comment: How streaky Coleraine proved the Irish League title race will lack last season's drama

By Gareth Hanna

It's all tied at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with Linfield, Coleraine and Glenavon protecting their 100% records on Saturday afternoon. But it won't stay like that for long.

The Bannsiders fully deserved their 2-1 success at Seaview and put the spotlight onto some deficiencies in Crusaders' play. Meanwhile, over in County Tyrone, it was business as usual for the champions as they dispatched Dungannon Swifts with consummate ease.

Linfield were 3-0 up at half-time on Saturday and, as they did against Carrick in their opening game of the season, could afford to take their foot off the pedal. Three wins from three, no goals conceded, and they've managed to conserve some energy along the way.

On the other hand, Crusaders were rightly beaten and in truth, looked a different side at both ends of the pitch than the one that had smashed Ballymena United in the season's opening fixture.

That night Paul Heatley was an unplayable terror while Howard Beverland and Colin Coates safely marshalled the defence.

Without Coates on Saturday afternoon, that rock-solid back line looked that little bit more crumbly while Coleraine keeper Chris Johns' most impressive save until Jordan Forsythe's late consolation was from a deflection off his own man.

Add in to the mix a Cliftonville side who are already five behind the Blues and, in truth, this could be a title race with none of the drama we've been used to over recent campaigns. I don't think even those inside the camp at the likes of Coleraine or Glenavon truly believe they can pose a threat to David Healy's Linfield.

In saying that, the stats show that the Bannsiders might keep pace for a few weeks yet. You see, when Coleraine start winning, they're hard to stop. The Bannsiders are arguably the most 'streaky' team in the Irish League. Last season, they enjoyed a run of 17 consecutive games without defeat.

But that followed immediately after a six-game run that yielded just one draw and five defeats. And, of course, their five-game winless run to end the season meant there was no silverware to show for a positive campaign with Irish Cup final defeat.

When they're good, they stay good - but when it ends, it takes them a while to pick up the pieces. Whether or not that has changed this season, we can't yet tell. Because at the minute, they look all but unstoppable.

Eoin Bradley and Jamie McGonigle - power and pace - are a match for any defence. In midfield, Ciaron Harkin showed Decky Caddell on Saturday that he can mix it with the best, and in defence, Stephen O'Donnell looks composed, not to mention his added goal-threat at the other end.

Three home games up next - Warrenpoint, Larne and Glenavon beware, Kearney's kids are on one of those streaks.

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