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.
|Matches||Stato’s Predictions||Actual scoreline|
|Coleraine v Portadown||2-0||1-1|
|Dungannon Swifts v Carrick Rangers||2-1||0-2|
|Glenavon v Ballymena United||1-1||2-1|
|Glentoran v Cliftonville||2-2||1-0|
|Larne v Warrenpoint Town||3-0||1-1|
|Crusaders v Linfield||1-1||1-2|
A dismal Saturday for me with absolutely nothing right! But as Yas would say, the Only Way Is Up! Onto this week’s midweek matches.
Player of the week: Jimmy Callacher (Linfield)
After a potentially title winning contribution on Saturday night, my player of the weekend award has to go to Linfield’s Jimmy Callacher.
The Blues looked to be denied all three points at Seaview after Philip Lowry bundled in an equaliser for Crusaders but with the game deep into stoppage time, Callacher got up from the back to nod in at the back post and get the winner for David Healy’s men. The centre half has now notched 41 goals for the Blues and nearly 75% of those have come from headers.
His winner on Saturday night may be his most important contribution of the season. Linfield were outplayed for much of the match by Stephen Baxter’s team but champions find a way to win ugly and not at their best.
Healy’s men did just that on Saturday night to open up a five point lead at the top of the Irish Premiership standings.
It’ll take a good side to usurp them from here.
Team of the week: Carrick Rangers
After what has been a really rotten time of things, I am so pleased to give basement boys Carrick Rangers my team of the weekend after their first away win of the season on Saturday.
Niall Currie’s side have not been able to gather any momentum into their season since they last won at home against Portadown all the way back in November. Since then, a combination of waterlogged and frozen pitches, COVID and a suspension in the league has disrupted their season.
However, Currie’s men showed tenacity and fighting spirit on Saturday to pick up only their second league win of the season and a first on the road since they won away at Ballymena United, a year ago this week.
Carrick remain bottom of the table but are now just three points behind Portadown and four behind Dungannon with at least 2 games in hand. With some renewed momentum, Currie and Carrick will be keen to make sure they now stamp their authority and start stringing some results together.
They do face Linfield and Crusaders next though. But…you never know!
Tuesday 9th February – Carrick Rangers v Linfield, Taylor’s Avenue, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
Speaking of both Carrick and Linfield, both meet on Tuesday night at Taylor’s Avenue and both sides will be keen to kick on after some good momentum at the weekend.
I was pleased to see Mark Surgenor (pictured) score on Saturday for Carrick.
He’s an ever presence at the back and the Amber Army’s skipper has been very astute this season. Surgenor, for me, was wrongly sent off in the reverse game between the two sides on the opening day at Windsor Park so I’m convinced he will have a few professional scores to settle on Tuesday night.
Jordan Gibson got on the scoresheet too at Dungannon on Saturday and he is also developing into another tidy playmaker in midfield.
Linfield were well off the pace at Seaview on Saturday but the champions dug themselves out and you feel that result could be a massive boost for David Healy’s men coming to Taylor’s Avenue. I’m not sure Niall Quinn (pictured) meant his goal from a corner but it totally deceived Jonny Tuffey in the Crusaders goal. Wind assisted or not, Quinn just crossed the ball into an area and it proved too hot to handle for the Crues defence.
Quinn reminds me of midfielder Barry Robson from his playing time in Scotland. The Linfield full back does the simple things well and his quality from dead balls is up there with the best in the league. Robson liked a goal direct from a corner too and did it many times for Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee United and other clubs!
I think Linfield will win this game but I do feel Niall Currie’s side will be competitive and make life difficult for David Healy’s men.
If Carrick can get the first goal they have a chance of getting something. The only time they have done that was in 2015 at Windsor Park.
However, I feel Linfield’s quality will be on show and they’ll run out comfortable winners in the end.
Stato’s Prediction: Carrick Rangers 1-3 Linfield
Tuesday 9th February – Cliftonville v Warrenpoint Town, Solitude, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
Losing a late goal on Saturday to their bitter rivals Glentoran will feel like a kick in the teeth for Cliftonville but the games come thick and fast for Paddy McLaughlin’s side and they need to get back on the bike quickly at home to Warrenpoint on Tuesday night.
Despite failing to win either of their last two away games, Barry Coffey (pictured), who has arrived from Celtic has impressed me in midfield.
Coffey, who enjoyed first-team experience ahead of Celtic’s 2019/20 season impressed at Coleraine last Tuesday night and did the same at Glentoran on Saturday. He has a good range of passing but is not afraid to get involved in the dirty side of the game too. He’s only 18 but got plenty of energy which may be a useful attribute to Cliftonville as the season progresses.
Warrenpoint upset many football coupons and predictions yet again on Saturday as they claimed another excellent point on their travels at Inver Park. Daniel Byrne (pictured) grabbed a deserved equaliser for the Point at Larne with a fine finish.
We should learn to not write off the Milltown club by now. They have been a breath of fresh air this season and continue to upset the odds.
However, Warrenpoint have a very poor record at Solitude and the Reds are unbeaten in the last thirteen meetings between the sides stretching back to 2009. I fancy McLaughlin’s new signings to find their feet here and help to contribute to a comfortable home victory.
Stato’s Prediction: Cliftonville 3-0 Warrenpoint Town
Tuesday 9th February – Dungannon Swifts v Crusaders, Stangmore Park, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
After a great win at Ballymena on Tuesday night, it was back down to earth for Dungannon on Saturday. I do worry for the Swifts at home against similar ranked opposition. The Swifts have lost to Warrenpoint, Portadown and now Carrick at home, all sides in and around them at the wrong end of the table. I do like Caolan Coyle (pictured) for Dungannon though.
He’s a player with real promise and having just come back from injury is impressing me at the back.
I’ve seen Stephen Baxter (pictured) and Crusaders get some very harsh criticism in recent weeks but I genuinely do not understand why.
They are still in good position to qualify for Europe and are still only two points behind Larne in second, who everyone has been talking about this season. The Crues, until recently, had been flawless at home and you could argue were very unlucky to leave with nothing from their match with Linfield last time out. They also showed great character to come from 2-0 and 3-2 down to draw with Larne as well.
Their away form is a worry but if they keep working away, I think finishing second or third would be a good season for them.
Linfield have the biggest squad and resources in the league and should be the team to beat every season on paper. Crusaders, for many seasons though, have shown remarkable consistency to be there challenging with the Blues. Baxter’s men are still a quality side and I still fancy them to be in the European places come season end.
I fancy Crusaders to win this game at Stangmore Park too. The Crues will want to react from that late loss to their Belfast rivals on Saturday night and I think, after a tough battle, they’ll edge this encounter here.
Stato’s Prediction: Dungannon Swifts 1-2 Crusaders
Tuesday 9th February – Glenavon v Coleraine, Mourenview Park, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
Glenavon picked up a massive 2-1 win at home to Ballymena last time out and they’ll be looking to make it back to back home victories as they place their third straight match at Mourneview Park against Oran Kearney’s Coleraine team.
It was Conor McCloskey and a penalty from Michael O’Connor that helped to win the game for Gary Hamilton’s side but this was a really good team performance from the Lurgan Blues (pictured) who were coming into the game off the back of a 4-1 loss to Larne last Tuesday night.
Coleraine will have been frustrated not to have won either of their last two home matches against Cliftonville and Portadown having been in front in both. Had they won those two games, they would be only a point behind second placed Larne.
Stewart Nixon (pictured) grabbed the goal for the Bannsiders but they could not kill the game off and for the second consecutive match were punished. Those four dropped points may prove costly for Kearney and his team come seasons end.
I think this could be a tough game to call.
Last time out, we saw an eight goal thriller which finished 4-4 and Ben Doherty netting a hat-trick for Coleraine. I think it’ll be a tighter game but ultimately I fancy a draw to be the outcome again.
Stato’s Prediction: Glenavon 1-1 Coleraine
Tuesday 9th February – Glentoran v Ballymena United, The Oval, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
Mick McDermott’s Glentoran will be looking to kick on from a huge win over Belfast rivals Cliftonville last time out as they welcome Ballymena United to the Oval on Tuesday night.
Jamie McDonagh (pictured) will never score a better goal than the one he scored at the weekend against the Reds.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game of football as he smashed it high into the top corner of the net to win a very tight derby and give McDermott’s side a massive three points.
It’s in my personal short list to win goal of the season so far it was that good.
After going eight games unbeaten, David Jeffrey’s (pictured) Ballymena have lost back to back matches against Dungannon and Glenavon in recent days. The Sky Blues are still in a good position but they face the Glens in this game followed by four home matches against Linfield, Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville.
It’s a challenging run for Jeffrey and Ballymena but it is also an opportunity to get back on the bike and go on a run.
After these next five games, we will have a better idea whether the Sky Blues can finish in the top six or not.
I think Glentoran will snatch this game and move into the top six as a result. In fact, I would not rule out a late charge from the Glens for a European spot yet. Watch this space!
Stato’s Prediction: Glentoran 2-1 Ballymena United
Tuesday 9th February – Larne v Portadown, Inver Park, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI
With no wins from their last four at home, Larne will be hoping to get back to winning ways at Inver Park on Tuesday night as they host a Portadown side playing a third consecutive fixture on the road.
Many pundits, including myself, thought Larne would go unbeaten at home this season but in recent weeks they have gone off the boil of late.
I can’t put my finger on it either.
There’s a lot of good play and quality in this team as players like Mark Randall and Johnny McMurray (pictured) have shown in recent weeks. However, I do feel Tiernan Lynch’s men are giving up a few more chances than they were earlier in the season and their results are now being affected as a result.
Portadown dug in well last time out at Coleraine and despite his sending off Adam Salley scored a richly deserved goal for Matthew Tipton’s side and got them a much needed share of the spoils. I like Portadown’s blend of youth and experience across the team and Barney McKeown (pictured) has been a breath of fresh air in recent weeks with his youthful energy in midfield.
I think the Ports could take advantage of Larne’s stuttering form and nick something from this match. I think they’ll set up to frustrate and play to their strengths. Tipton’s men can be a threat at set pieces and won’t be afraid to get stuck in the midfield battle.
I’m going to go bold and say score draw in this one.
Stato’s Prediction: Larne 1-1 Portadown
Player to Scout: Marcus Kane (Glentoran)
My player to scout this week is a legend and a leader of Glentoran Football Club: club captain Marcus Kane (pictured).
Kane has just surpassed over 300 appearances for the Glens and has been a consistent stalwart for many seasons at the East Belfast Club.
Marcus joined Glentoran from Linfield in 2012 after a season playing for Carrick Rangers on loan. He made his debut in a 3-1 home win over Donegal Celtic later that season and scored his first goal for the Glens in an away League Cup match over Institute two months later.
Kane doesn’t score many tap-ins either. He has scored some spectacular long range strikes in his time at the Glens and has 30 first team goals so far for Glentoran.
Kane has won three Irish Cups and has played on the European stage for the Glens, including most recently away at Motherwell in the Europa League.
Marcus will be an important player for the Glens in the second half of the season, especially if they are going to mount a challenge to get into Europe. Watch out for his leadership, composure and quality on the ball the next time you watch a Glentoran game. Up there with the best in the league.
Useful Links and sources which you should check out:
NIFL Premiership Highlights Show:
The Score NI with Michael Clarke:
The Waffle – Irish League Podcast
That’s What I Call Football
Check out quality Irish League content from some of the Leagues top names:
Joel Taggart, Liam Beckett, Michael Clarke, Nicola McCarthy, Colin Hopkins, Steven Beacom, Mark McIntosh and find some of the characters I’ve interviewed so far by visiting the Campbell’s Footballs archive.