In a brand new segment for Football CFB, Dr. Grant Campbell of the ‘Campbell’s Footballs’ podcast (a.k.a. Stato) discusses his predictions and thoughts each week in the Danske Bank Premiership in Northern Ireland. Grant will provide his thoughts on the upcoming league matches and offers his predictions.
Game week 2 Results – How did I fare?
|Matches||Stato’s Predictions||Actual scoreline|
|Crusaders v Cliftonville||1-2||1-0|
|Carrick Rangers v Larne||1-2||1-2 (3pts)|
|Dungannon Swifts v Warrenpoint Town||1-1||0-2|
|Glentoran v Glenavon||2-1||1-1|
|Portadown v Coleraine||2-2||0-3|
|Ballymena v Linfield||1-3||2-3 (1pt)|
Last week, I got 2 correct outcomes and one perfect score from the second round of matches. Decent again but I should be doing a bit better. The last minute Ballymena goal robbed me of two perfect scores and I thought Glentoran would get a winner against Glenavon’s nine men at 1-1 but that’s football.
Onto this week’s games to see if I can do better.
Player of Week 2
My player of Week 2 from the Danske Bank Premiership is Linfield’s Kirk Millar (pictured).
It’s the second weekend in a row where I have picked a Linfield player in this but I thought Millar’s performance at Ballymena was sensational. It all started with him superbly heading off the line from Ciaran Kelly’s header early in the game with the score at 0-0. Within moments of that great piece of defending, Millar showed his prowess in front of a goal with a superb swivel and shot which gave Ballymena keeper Ross Glendinning absolutely no chance to put Linfield in front.
Millar’s work rate throughout Saturday’s match at the Showgrounds was nothing short of magnificent. He provided an outstanding cross which led to the killer goal early in the second half scored by Jordan Stewart to make it 3-1.
Millar is a player I feel is grossly underestimated in the Irish League and it was fascinating to hear David Healy’s response to Thomas Kane’s similar sentiments post-game at the Showgrounds. He is always involved in so much of Linfield’s good play and is definitely one of their go-to-players in key games.
I had a great conversation with Marshall Gillespie this week about Millar and wanted to know about his contribution in numbers. Millar’s 35 goals in 260 appearances may not seem much but it’s his assists which light up proceedings. 111. Phenomenal. He’s also growing in consistency as well. In the last three campaigns, Millar has popped up with 69 assists alone and already has 3 assists this campaign.
There is no doubt Millar, like Navid Nasseri who I mentioned last week, will be a big factor in Linfield’s league and cup campaigns.
Team of Week 2
I am picking Warrenpoint Town for Week 2’s team of the week.
Barry Gray’s men only picked up eight points away from home all of last season. To have gone to Dungannon Swifts and turn them over 2-0 at Stangmore Park last weekend is a superb victory. The Milltown side have strengthened well in the transfer window bringing in a wealth of youth and experience across the pitch. They acquitted themselves well on the opening day at home to Crusaders also, with some quarters feeling they were perhaps unlucky not to get something from that game.
Warrenpoint, in the past, have often been regarded as one of the weakest sides in the division but there are lots of managers, including David Jeffrey at Ballymena and Stephen Baxter at Crusaders, who are quick to acknowledge that they are an improving side. That is credit to Gray’s man management and his new signings for digging in and working very hard. In Alan O’Sullivan (pictured), they have a goalscorer in their team and at the back, Gavin Peers and goalkeeper Gabriel Sava, look astute signings. I’ll be interested to see if they can continue their decent start to the season.
Honourable mentions to Coleraine for their excellent 3-0 win at Portadown after losing last week to Ballymena in the derby and to Larne for a gritty win away at Carrick Rangers.
Now onto this week’s preview and predictions for Week 3.
Friday 23rd October – Linfield v Crusaders (Windsor Park, 19.45 KO, BBC Sport NI website)
Two of the three sides in the Irish League with 100% records go head-to-head this Friday night as Linfield and Crusaders meet in a Belfast derby at Windsor Park.
Derbies such as these two are often hotly contested and I am really looking forward to seeing how both sides fare in what should be a pulsating contest across the pitch. The midfield battle between these two sides is often very good to watch and I am looking forward to seeing how particularly Jamie Mulgrew and Philip Lowry shape up against one another.
The prior (pictured below) will be facing an anxious wait to find out if he’ll be fit for the match on Friday night after pulling up injured at Ballymena last weekend. If he does not make it, that will be a huge blow for David Healy’s men.
Lowry was outstanding in Crusaders win over Cliftonville last Friday night and another leadership performance like that this Friday night could swing the pendulum in Steven Baxter’s side’s favour. His recent discussion with Darren Potts (The Pottscast Podcast) is well worth a listen by the way. A top professional.
Linfield have been excellent to watch so far and seem to have no problems in scoring goals with eight from their first two league games. However, there is a measured way in how Crusaders have been playing so far this season. They have won both matches 1-0 but they look disciplined and well drilled defensively which you are going to have to be when you play Linfield.
I think the Crues can get at the Blues from set pieces too. If I was Stephen Baxter, I’d be looking at what Ballymena did a few times in Matchday 2 as they got a lot of joy at corners and free kicks and caused David Healy’s men all sorts of problems. Crusaders have a few players such as Jordan Owens who can be a threat in the air as well, as was illustrated in his winning goal against Cliftonville.
Balancing everything up, I am going to sit on the fence and back a score draw here.
STATO’S PREDICTION: Linfield 1-1 Crusaders
Saturday 17th October – Cliftonville v Carrick Rangers (Solitude, 15.00 KO)
Cliftonville will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing derby loss to Crusaders last Friday night.
After beating Glentoran in Match day 1, the Reds struggled to break down a well drilled Crues defence and lacked imagination at Seaview especially in the second half.
I think a lot of flak has been thrown the way of goalkeeper Richard Brush (pictured) too for the goal he conceded to Jordan Owens. It’s one of those ones where he anticipates the striker coming and hesitates. David Jeffrey, the Ballymena manager, absolutely nailed it in co-commentary. It’s unfortunate but incidents like this happen all the time. Owens was opportunist and took advantage. Brush is an excellent keeper though and I back him to make a strong recovery long term.
For Carrick Rangers, it has been a tough start to the season for Niall Currie’s side (pictured). They were edged out narrowly 2-1 against rivals Larne last week and once again were felt hard done by a refereeing decision that went against them.
I thought the penalty David McDaid won was very soft at 0-0. Don’t get me wrong, McDaid was clever in the way he went down but I don’t think there was a lot of contact on him. Carrick also found Larne keeper Conor Devlin in excellent form. He made a string of superb saves to deny the Amber Army getting what would have been a great result at Taylor’s Avenue.
Carrick should take a bit of confidence in the way they are playing into the game at Solitude on Saturday. They are not being outclassed in their matches but they are not getting any reward for their efforts which must be frustrating.
Alas, I think Cliftonville will win this game here. I think Joe Gormley will open up his league account for the season and be a big factor in Paddy McLaughlin’s side getting back on the bike after a disappointing showing at Seaview.
STATO’S PREDICTION: Cliftonville 2-0 Carrick Rangers
Saturday 17th October – Coleraine v Glentoran (Coleraine Showgrounds, 15.00 KO)
Coleraine got back on the horse themselves last weekend as they went to newly promoted Portadown and blew them away 3-0. It was a great response from Oran Kearney’s side as goals from Ben Doherty, Jamie Glackin (pictured) and James McLaughlin sealed a convincing display for the Bannsiders.
Glentoran will be massively disappointed at only drawing last week against a Glenavon side who finished with nine men at the Oval. After Robbie McDaid’s penalty gave the Glens the lead, they conceded a poor goal from a set piece which ended up costing them all three points.
Mick McDermott will be looking for a response from his players but I am backing Coleraine to win this game at the Showgrounds. The Glens have an absolutely shocking record against the Bannsiders having not beaten them home or away since 2016. With Coleraine having won three of the last five encounters too, I do not see things going against the grain here.
STATO’S PREDICTION: Coleraine 2-1 Glentoran
Saturday 17th October – Glenavon v Dungannon (Mourneview Park, 15.00 KO)
Both Glenavon and Dungannon (pictured) come into this game still searching for their first win of the league season. The Lurgan Blues got a point last week against Glentoran with nine men whilst the Swifts went down to a 2-0 loss against Warrenpoint Town at Stangmore Park.
That draw for Glenavon will feel like a win for Gary Hamilton’s side. Despite their poor discipline, they defended stoutly throughout the game at the Oval and took their chance with a goal from a set piece from Calum Birney. I felt the red card for Peter Campbell for two yellows was correct, however, the straight red for Andrew Doyle was harsh in my view.
I think Dungannon will be massively disappointed with their display against Warrenpoint. Results against sides such as the Point will be vital in terms of the Swifts season as you would fancy them to be in a scrap at the wrong end of the table.
Dungannon had opportunities in the game at Stangmore on Saturday but could not take them. They were unlucky not to have gone in front when Michael Carvill saw his effort cleared off the line but after that Warrenpoint showed their quality to unpick the Swifts defence.
Dungannon are the only team yet to score in the Irish League so far this campaign. Add that to the fact that they also concede too many is not a good recipe for success. Only Warrenpoint conceded more than them last season and this season they seem to be making similar mistakes. Their lack of experience across the pitch is definitely a cause for concern as well.
I am backing Glenavon to get the three points here. They were poor in their last home match againat Portadown and I expect Hamilton’s men to learn from their mistakes against the Ports and pick up the win. I also unfortunately cannot see the Swifts scoring again…I hope I am wrong though!
STATO’S PREDICTION: Glenavon 2-0 Dungannon
Saturday 17th October – Larne v Ballymena United (Inver Park, 15.00 KO)
This could be the underrated game of the weekend.
Ballymena and Larne are two sides who are guaranteed to put on a show. Larne come into this off the back of two good victories while Ballymena have a 50/50 success from their first two matches.
Larne are impressing me as a team. I commented on how well the balance of their team is in previous blogs but they have a bit of steel about them as well. I was impressed by goalkeeper Conor Devlin’s display at Carrick but also with Mark Randall and Martin Donnelly who have so much quality on the ball.
They have also won ten of their eleven games played in 2020 and have kept six clean sheets in that run. It is superb stats from Tiernan Lynch’s side.
Even though Ballymena lost last week, David Jeffrey will be delighted with the way his side have started the season. They look like they have a bit of quality themselves and they are always a tough nut to crack home or away. On paper, they have had a tough start to the season having played last season’s top two already. The Sky Blues competed well in both matches and I expect them to do the same again on Saturday at Inver Park.
We are always guaranteed goals between these two sides. You have to go back to 2005 for the last 0-0 draw. I wonder if we will see another amazing goal like Jonny Addis’ back in 2019? If so, it could be a good luck charm for the Sky Blues.
However, i’m edging towards a Larne win. Lynch’s men have won five of the last six encounters and I expect them to nick it.
STATO’S PREDICTION: Larne 2-1 Ballymena
Saturday 17th October – Warrenpoint Town v Portadown (Milltown, 15:00 KO)
This is a big opportunity, even at this early stage in the season, for Warrenpoint and Portadown to get themselves onto six points from their first three matches.
I was impressed by Warrenpoint last week. As mentioned above, they seem to have bought well in the transfer window and looked to have shored things up defensively, an area which caused them so many issues last season. Alan O’Sullivan and Ryan Swan are finding form early in the campaign and their goals will be important in their quest to avoid the dreaded relegation trapdoor.
Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Matthew Tipton’s Portadown last week at home to Coleraine.
They finished up with ten men when Lee Bonis was sent off, Tipton was sent to the stands and they were comfortably beaten by Oran Kearney’s men at Shamrock Park. I don’t expect them to have many performances like that though and I think key players such as Paddy McNally (pictured) will be important in the long run in this campaign.
I fancy Warrenpoint to continue their excellent showing last week at Dungannon and back it up with a narrow win here. Barry Gray’s men know how to battle and that will be a good trait to have as the season unfolds. It’ll be tight though and you can be sure that Tipton will be determined to get one over one of his former teams.
STATO’S PREDICTION: Warrenpoint Town 2-1 Portadown
Player to watch out for in Gameweek 3 – Paul Heatley
Every Gameweek, I will preview one player from the Irish League who I feel you should go and check-out throughout the season.
This week I am picking one of the Irish League’s most exciting wingers: Paul Heatley at Crusaders.
Last week against Cliftonville, Heatley made his 250th league start for the Crues and in that time he had some journey. With 168 goals in 344 games, Heatley certainly contributes to the team well from wide areas but also through the middle as well. He’s also a magnificent team player as well with a total of 109 assists in all competitions.
Heatley consistently is one of Crusaders top performers. He has reached double figures for goals in each of his eight seasons he’s been at the Crues, with his best innings coming in the 2014/15 season where he scored 29 goals in 41 games. It is simply phenomenal stats by a guy who I immediately connected to when I started following the league back in 2015.
Heatley’s honours are not to be sniffed at either. Three Gibson Cups, an Irish Cup and two County Antrim Shields is some going for a guy who continues to light up the Irish League. He is also a former football writers Player of the Year and won Ulster Footballer of the Year in that 2014/15 campaign.
Heatley remains a massive player for Steven Baxter’s men and I think you should keep an eye on him because this guy can do the lot. Score goals, assist, track-back and ultimately be a winner.