We may be barely into the month of November, but already there is a familiar pattern developing at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.
While their rivals appear happy to cut each other’s throats at the top end of the table, Linfield and Crusaders are continuing on their merry way as they target Gibson Cup glory this season.
At the weekend both clubs bolstered their respective unbeaten runs with impressive victories – Linfield easing to a 5-2 triumph over basement club Ards, while the Crues earned a pivotal win at title rivals Portadown at Shamrock Park.
Already some observers have declared the battle for the championship as a two-horse race, their reasoning based on the consistency of the two front-runners.
After 14 games David Jeffrey’s Blues lead the way by four points.
Sitting in their slipstream is a Crusaders side which hasn’t lost since August 17 when Ballymena United claimed a 2-1 win at Seaview.
Second-placed Crues are three points ahead of the rest of the pack, now headed by Glenavon and Glentoran.
The growing consensus is that the Belfast duo are set to battle it out for the Gibson Cup, but Linfield chief Jeffrey refuses to subscribe to such premature opinion.
“I am sure the media will give its views, so write away. But talk of a two-horse race in November is crazy,” he said.
“Portadown and Cliftonville have dropped points today, but they are still firmly in contention.
“This will be the most topsy-turvy season in years, mark my words.
“There will be many twists and turns.
“Cliftonville and Crusaders both have mature, well-balanced squads, and they have strengthened over the summer. You could put Portadown in that bracket too.
“The likes of Glentoran and ourselves are striving to get that balance. We have a squad of 23 – three of which are goalkeepers. Of our 20 outfield players, at least five are 20 years or younger. So we are a work in progress.
“There are other squads who are further down the line with regards building, so we have work to do.”