Five key points from the Irish League action as Coleraine prove title credentials and Joe Gormley joins 200 club
It was another big day in the Danske Bank Premiership.
So just what can we take away? Here are the key points:
1. Coleraine are genuine title contenders after all
While David Healy might not be in the mood to say much this evening, he could, if he wanted, say he told us so. In this morning's Belfast Telegraph, the Linfield boss professed that the Bannsiders are genuine title contenders but will have been hoping they didn't prove it so emphatically at the Showgrounds in their 1-0 win over the reigning champions.
Oran Kearney's side have now beaten Crusaders home and away and beaten Linfield home and away this season. Oran's back and so are the title-challenging Bannsiders.
The big question is just who got Coleraine's winner? Aaron Canning claimed it.
"I think he gets a touch and maybe it hits somebody else on the way in," said boss Kearney. "I'm not really caring right now. The ball crossed the line and that's good enough for me.
"It was a good leap from Aaron. He's good in the air and scored a good goal against Glentoran earlier in the season. I'm more than happy to give him the credit."
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2. Joe Gormley joins the 200 club
Joe 'The Goal' Gormley bagged his 200th goal for Cliftonville, sandwiched between his 199th and 201st in a nine-minute hat-trick at Solitude.
It's just over a year ago that the star striker surpassed Kevin McGarry's club record 170 goal tally. On that day, he wrote his name forever into Solitude folklore and his dedicated chapter continues to get longer.
At only 29-years-old, he has a good decade or more to go yet (judging on the Glenn Ferguson timeframe) and he'll be quietly confident this won't be his final centenary celebration.
It was after Gormley rejoined the club from Crumlin Star in 2011 that he took the league by storm. Within three years, he had scored 30 goals in two separate season and was named NIFWA Player of the Year. A brief spell in full-time football didn't suit and the Reds are certainly reaping the dividends of his undoubted, enviable talents.
3. Boost for Portadown's top-flight return bid
Portadown are now in their third consecutive season outside the Irish League's top tier.
How far away the title-winning days of 2003 must seem at Shamrock Park but the celebrations if they could land the Championship crown come April would be right up there.
They are now at least on top of the table, albeit only on goal difference, despite being held 3-3 by Queen's in a thriller, the Ports goals coming from Callum Ferris, Adam Salley and Stephen Teggart.
They've got Ballyclare to thank for their rise to the summit after the Comrades smashed previous leaders Loughgall 4-1.
The race to the Premiership is well and truly on.
4. Who'd be a manager?
Barry Gray has spent the last nine months hankering for a return to management. This afternoon, it finally arrived with what he had billed as a crunch relegation clash at Carrick Rangers.
"If we were to lose tomorrow, Carrick would be nine points ahead of us with a game in hand and, in my opinion, that would, given where we are at the minute, would pretty much rule us out of every getting out of the bottom two,” he had told the Newry Reporter.
Fast forward 90 minutes on the east coast and it was Carrick 1-0 Warrenpoint. How did the winner come? In the last minute via 21-year-old sub Lloyd Anderson's first ever Premiership goal.
Gray must have been left wondering why he bothered coming back.
"Yes and no," he said, mustering an admirable smile. "It's frustrating obviously. It's disappointing to lose in the fashion we did but credit to the players, they had to patch it up after the week we had."
5. Larne under pressure?
Institute picked up only their sixth point of the season via a credible 1-1 draw at Carrick Rangers. It's now just one win in eight for the full-time side, who will have been hoping for better runs that that when they coasted to the Championship title last season.
They're no ordinary newly-promoted team with the likes of David McDaid, former Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall and ex-Northern Ireland international Jeff Hughes amongst their ranks.
Now only in the top six on goal difference, the pressure will be beginning to mount.
Belfast Telegraph Digital