Crusaders 1 Lisburn Distillery 1

They say that November is a month for sombre reflection.

There were a fair amount of sombre reflections looking back at me as i hastily exited Seaview Stadium at full-time yesterday. At the going down of the sun Crusaders had surrendered a lead at Seaview for the fourth time this season. Draws with Coleraine, Cliftonville and this latest one and the criminal 2-1 defeat to DC.

Any dropped points are hard to take, but it was the manner of the performance and the imbalance of the team selection that caused the most consternation. Lest we forget, the team had come into this game with a great showing of form. The draw at the Oval and the wins at DC and on Wednesday night against Carrick had been the best football of the season and picking a starting eleven on current form was never going to be easy with so many knocking the Managers door for selection.

A Dallas dead leg and Morrow feeling a strain in the warm up hamstrung selection somewhat creatively , but the decision to start Rainey on the left at the expense of Hazley who had been chief architect in tandem with McBride on Wednesday night in that seven goal demolition against an albeit weakened Carrick side was bizarre. At this stage of his career Davy Rainey is as poor an imitation of a left winger there’s been since Tony Blair was in office. Yet he laboured gainfully for the cause as we have come to expect.

The contrast between the football played in the previous week and yesterday was stark. The fast zipping ball to feet and excellent delivery was replaced by an almost without thought, aimless punt up the park brand of lower league football that is unbecoming the stature of the players we have at this club and is as unappetising to our supporters as the result.

When Stephen Baxter purrs about the great delivery feeding his strikers in midweek in post match interviews , why abandon it for the percentage game of punting the ball into the box? Michael Halliday chested the ball more than he kicked it and Timmy Adamson just can’t cut it with his back to goal. His withdrawn role is better suited to the game of Rainey or Owens.

Credit to Lisburn Distillery. They came to frustrate and win their personal battles. Once Thompson grabbed their equaliser they played the better football. Rainey when moved back into the middle almost nicked it with a sublime piece of skill , but an even better stop from Brennan kept honours even!

Football is a simple game . Pick your best player in each position, at that position. accommodating players in unaccustomed positions is counter productive.

We have three massive games on the bounce now, starting with Coleraine away next week. If we don’t get some positive results , the epitaph writers will be in business and there’ll be very few paying homage.

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Crusaders v Cliftonville 17-9-2011 match preview

Jordan Owens celebrates scoring in the 5-0 rout at Seaview last season. Will Marty's Da enjoy a similar result this time!

Saturday is a red-letter day in North Belfast. No it’s not bru day , it’s derby day when North Belfast sees more blow in’s than the 12th of July!

The Cliftonville Road, puts down the blow for a second and puffs out it’s chest as the great unwashed descend on the Shore Road in large numbers .

Yet like the Loyal orders , this cultural awakening is under threat!

The march down to Seaview, from Cassidy’s Bar at the top of the Limestone via Glandore and Skegoneill Avenues, is the highlight of the travelling Redman’s season. Yet at a time, when the sectarian scarred North Belfast tinderbox has largely kept its powder dry over the summer, this rite of passage for young reids has suddenly faced opposition from the PSNI and the joint efforts of a cross community Glandore/Skegoneill residents group!

The PSNI say that operational costs are prohibitive. They say that due to the walk down to Seaview , it takes more than twice as many Policemen to secure this game as it does the corresponding fixture at Solitude. They would like Cliftonville to supply buses for the journey, but why should they have to fit the bill. Crusaders supporters aren’t forced to bus to Solitude! Our supporters clubs do it through choice, at their own expense. The games aren’t all-ticket either , so it is very hard to enforce a busing restriction without doing so.

The PSNI had asked for the game to be switched to Solitude, as their resources on the ground are stretched to breaking point this Saturday.

There is an Apprentice Boys march at Clifton Street on Saturday Morning. There is a cross-community event in Alexandra Park to celebrate the re-opening of the peace-line gates for the first time in years (as a result of the thawing of sectarian tensions). Whitewell Young Defenders are holding a band contest in the White City in the afternoon, followed by one on the York Rd/Shore Rd in the early evening.

The Friday night option was discounted as an operational nightmare. A loss of a home revenue was unthinkable in Crusaders current financial plight. Thankfully, the PSNI agreed to an earlier 2PM kick-off when officers on the ground are more easily come by.

The opposition of the combined residents groups raises its own more serious in the long-term issues.

The residents in the mixed Glandore area are unhappy at drink-filled Cliftonville supporters spilling off the main thoroughfare of the Antrim Road and using their gardens and alleyways as public toilets. In fairness , I wouldn’t be happy to put up with it in my street.

Skegoneill residents claim they have been threatened and made prisoners in their own homes while yobbish football fans are herded up and down their road.

The efforts of the Red Revolution, who were either thrown out or left of their own accord at the last league game at Seaview haven’t helped matters either. Youtube videos of them singing Republican ditty’s, that in fairness to the bulk of Cliftonville’s support are no longer part of their match-day rituals , caused offence to residents , who weren’t even there on the day to be offended!

Cliftonville, to their credit, have warned supporters to observe their own code of conduct while walking to the game. The PSNI are videoing the march and i’m led to believe that residents groups will be handing out leaflets and keeping a watching brief.

Here’s hoping it passes off incident free. Health and Safety legislation, coupled with the new Justice Act , has taken a lot of the fun out of following Irish League Football. Lets keep one tradition intact!

As Tommy Breslin says in his pre-match interview , derby matches take care of themselves. Players shouldn’t need team talks. Everyone should want to play in it.

The return of Marty Donnelly should add some spice to the occassion. One fella said he’ll hardly get a kick all game with McKeown about. Knowing Big G, I bet he does!

Cliftonville hold a three point lead going into this one and the current bragging rights. Last weeks disappointments for both clubs will bring added pressure to the day. Marty Donnelly returns from suspension for Cliftonville. Chris Morrow misses out after seeing red last week at Windsor, Matt Hazley should make his competitive Crusaders debut.

C’mon the Crues!

REf Watch

Red card King Hugh CarvillHugh Carvill takes charge of this game! He has shown 9 yellow cards this season in 4 games. He was in charge of our 3-0 win at Ballymena and was fourth official in last weeks game at Windsor.He refereed Cliftonville’s 2-1 win at Lisburn Distillery where he booked Joe Gormley!

Stats

Cliftonville have held the upper hand in the previous two seasons winning eight games to Crusaders two. In the last 61 games between the clubs , they only hold a slight advantage in wins of 23-21 with 17 drawn.

Goalscorers

Timmy Adamson and Colin Coates have 4 each

Chris Scannell has 4

Bad Boys

Chris Morrow has 1 red card

George McMullan and Marty Donnelly have both seen red

Young David’s Irish League review 10-9-2011

Young David

What a week its been. My mummy has been in a right strop. I think she has given up bikini waxing, as I heard her on the phone telling a friend “I can’t believe I used to love that baldy t**t!”

They say beauty is only skin deep, pity ugly goes all the way down to the bone!

Mummies friend Elizabeth is from the Shankill Road. She has just had a baby boy called Billy. She has four other sons, they are all called Billy too. She says its handy as she just shouts ‘Billy’ and they all come running. Mummy says if she just wants one to come she will call them by their surname!

Glentoran fans claim Scott Young is out of his depth managing them, that wee man would be in too deep in a baby pool. Cliff Richard is among the favourites to take over at the Oval after Aubrey heard the fans griping that the manager ought to play  the young ones! Meanwhile, the Newsletter reports that Gary Hamilton has had concussion. Explains why he took a pay cut and started running about again. Glentoran missile throwers were all thought to have taken inspiration from  Richard Gibson, they couldn’t hit a barn door either. Ronald McFall couldn’t contain his delight that Glentoran were swept to the side, just like his hair parting.

Martin Quinn loses again and is still in employment. Mr McAllister was left wondering should he Packie his bags! He needn’t have worried , as Adrian Teer has offered severance packages to the tea lady and the ball boys! Thomas Wright, thought his team fairly played well!

Carrick Rangers have abandoned plans to install an artificial surface on their Taylor’s Avenue ground. They say that 4G is old hat now and that South East Antrim Supergrass is all the rage! After Coleraine’s great win,  Leon Knight has taken the hump again. He heard camera crews were coming to interview the Black player scoring all the goals at Coleraine. It’s the left back #dropmeout

Poor wee Martin Donnelly lost his rag and got sent off at DC, thankfully Gerry found his comforting blanket and he slept well in his cot that night. His team didn’t miss him against Ballymena, they just thought he was standing side on! Thomas Breslin, always looking to be positive , was delighted that his team took the lead three times and were only behind the once. Roy Walker took pleasure in lording it over North Belfast once again!

The mighty Glasgow Rangers are coming to Seaview to take on Crusaders. Ally McCoist was sold on the idea of taking on a bunch of plastic Paddy’s! Linfield overcame ten man Crusaders where the officials decisions were the main talking point. Big David Jeffrey is seething that some official gave manager of the month to Ronald McFall! Heads will roll!

Patrick Kelly was upbeat after DC lost to Dungannon Swifts. He was particularly pleased that they had managed to attract an extra two spectators in their quest to overtake Cliftonville for the hearts and minds of West Belfast. On the downside, it was Paul McVeigh and Ryan Henderson. Dixie’s confederates headed westwards with the three points 

Right I’m off. I’ve got this new remote-controlled car and I don’t know how to put the batteries in. Think I’ll ask Nigel Worthington. He can always find the positives!

Linfield 2 Crusaders 0 10-9-2011

Oh, you are awful, but I like you!

The Referee was awful, the tactics were awful, Morrow’s tackle was awful, the standard of play was awful, the burger wasn’t bad and the result was par for the course!

I often say to my Blue-nosed chums, “we’d have no luck , if there wasn’t bad luck”.

This is something I roll out, time, after time, after time,  when we’ve been on the receiving end of another sour-tasted defeat to our greatest rivals. The bitterest pills are always the hardest to swallow!

Yet, the long line of excuses are only papering over the cracks. The truth is we are our own worst enemy, architects of our own downfall, prophets of our own doom!

The buck should stop here.

I alluded to it in the match preview on Friday. Beating Linfield , has as much to do with matching them mentally , as it has to do with matching them physically.

All the pre-match talk on the Crusaders forum, was of fearing the worst, getting humped , another bend over session.

When the fans are being so negative, it soon filters down to the players and definitely filters down to the Manager. We all know he reads them.

This 4-5-1 tactic , it’s just so negative. Why only play it against Linfield? It clearly doesn’t work. Is it a psychological effect from the 8-1 drubbing? We are more than a match for Linfield , Big Davy know’s it only too well.

Why, when you have the physical advantage up front , do you retreat Owens into a wide right role? Why have Adamson ploughing a lone furrow up top, when the ball sticks to him like wet cellotape? Why then have your centre-backs hump long balls up to him all day? When Douglas was struggling to make one clean header all day, why not revert to 4-4-2 to at least make a challenge for the dropping second ball?

Even in the 4-5-1 formation, both wide men had poor games. Why leave it so long to make a positive substitution? Ask yourself, who would the Linfield full-backs rather have faced? The immobile Owens? The out of sorts,Dallas? Or the trickery and elusiveness of a Rainey or McMaster?

Referee, Arnold Hunter , was poor. He made a lot of bad decisions. The big decisions went Linfield’s way, but I wouldn’t put it down to bias. Perhaps he was more influenced by the crowds oohs and aahs than by what was blatantly obvious to those watching.

Both sets of fans will claim they should have had penalties.

Several players on both sides got off leniently with bad challenges.

He got the Morrow red card right in my opinion. No place in the game for two-footed challenges , regardless of intent. Of course it was a game changer, but the letter of the law is quite clear on the outcome. Anyone crying Linfield bias would do well to remember they have had Hanley and Garrett both red carded this year for similar tackles.

For a game with the top two sides in last years league, the standard of play was awful. To watch hoofball on such an expansive pitch is soul-destroying. Can’t recall one cross from the bye-line by either side. There was the odd flash of creative play from Morrow and Carvill , but until Garrett’s sublime drive dipped beyond the diving O’Neill , there was very little quality. It was a top finish , from a top player.

We are now eight points off the pace and only seven games in. We have the little matter of a North Belfast derby to contend with next . If we don’t start playing to our strengths, with in form players, in their preferred positions, then it’s going to a long struggle to salvage a season that promised so much and thus far has delivered so little.

Linfield v Crusaders preview 10-9-2011

Bend over time all over again?

Is there ever a good time to play Linfield?

This time last year we headed to Windsor full of confidence and in reasonably good form. 90 minutes later , we sat shell-shocked in the North Stand, on the wrong end of an 8-1 scoreline and our goalkeepers confidence in tatters.

The anger and anguish of the opening twenty minutes, was soon replaced by howls of laughter, as with each conceded goal the situation became more comical.

Fast forward three weeks , and a spirited ten man Crusaders overcame the odds to win 2-1 at Seaview.

What I’m trying to say is that form is no indicator to how we fare against the Blues. Whether you like Big Davy Jeffrey or loathe him, you have to respect his record and the positive mental attitude he instills in his team. He’s a winner, ergo his team are winners. They don’t know when they are beat, as we have found to our cost on many an occasion.

Who can forget Spike’s dramatic two goal injury time turnaround in the League Cup final a few years back or last years Jamie Mulgrew inspired reverse in the Irish Cup final.

Beating Linfield is as much about mental attitude as it is about anything else! It’s no surprise that we won that league game so quickly after the 8-1 thrashing. We had a point to prove, pride to be restored, a score to settle!

Is it a good time to be playing Linfield?

On the positive side.

They are conceding more than normal, Blayney hasn’t been his assured self, Mulgrew is a doubt for the game and they lost their last home game to their biggest rivals.

On the negative side.

They are top of the league, earlier than usual, Patterson has started scoring and we know what he did to Crusaders previously, our performances have been error strewn and our strikers are as accurate as a witnesses testimony at a supergrass trial! Defensively, Davy Magowan remains sidelined and we have the added worry of a hobbling Colin Coates in midweek.

Losing to Lisburn Distillery on Wednesday night was a terrible blow, but there’s no better way to come out of the doldrums than a win against all odds. Many tout us as Linfield’s main challengers this season, now’s the time to see if we can live up to the expectation!

Ref Watch

Arnold Hunter takes charge of the game. This is the first time he has refereed Linfield or Crusaders this season.

So far he has brandished 3 red cards and 11 yellows in four games!

Goalscorers

for Linfield

Lowry 4 Patterson 3 Mulgrew and Armstrong 2 each

for Crusaders

Adamson and Coates 4 each Owens 2

Bad boys League

Garrett and Hanley have seen red for Linfield

No sending offs for Crusaders