Crusaders, Linfield and Glentoran all recorded pre-season victories in their final uncompetitive fixtures before their European campaigns get underway this week.
The Crues overcame Welsh outfit Airbus UK 3-2 at Seaview, Linfield defeated Championship Two side PSNI 6-0 in a behind-closed-doors match at Windsor Park while Glentoran edged out Knockbreda 1-0 at Breda Park.
Champions Crusaders host Levadia Tallinn in the Champions League on Tuesday night, and warmed up for this in an entertaining friendly against Welsh opposition.
Diarmuid O’Carroll fired Stephen Baxter’s men ahead from the penalty spot in the 11th minute but a complacent fifteen minute spell saw Airbus turn the game on its head and take a 2-1 lead.
However, two astonishing goals saw Crusaders go into their first Champions League clash in 18 years off the back of a victory. 2014-15 Player of the Season Paul Heatley equalised with a stunning long-range strike before the break, before Michael Carvill’s half-volley late on won the game.
Carvill’s old side Linfield played their second behind-closer-doors friendly of the week, having narrowly lost out 2-1 on St. Johnstone on Wednesday they hit Championship Two side PSNI for six at Windsor Park today.
New striker Guy Bates made his first appearance for the club since returning from Australia, and even though he wasn’t amongst the scorers his new strike partner Andy Waterworth netted a hat-trick.
Other scorers for the Blues included new midfielder David Kee, before late goals from young attacking duo Jonny Frazer and Adam Salley.
A late Francis McCaffrey strike was enough to give Glentoran a slender 1-0 victory at Breda Park against a determined Knockbreda side. The Glens included new signings Kristian Gibson and Conor McMenamin in their side, and this was their second friendly in a week having lost out 3-1 to TNS at The Oval on Wednesday.
Glenavon did not have a friendly this weekend but have contested three fixtures over the course of the past week. They kick-started their preparations with a 1-1 draw at PSNI, before a thrilling 3-3 draw with TNS before concluding with a 1-1 draw with SPL side St Johnstone.
Crusaders XI: O’Neill, Burns, McClean, Robinson, Coates, Clarke, Caddell, Heatley, O’Carroll, Owens, Carvill
Linfield XI: Deane, Ward, M Clarke, Hegarty, Haughey, Kee, Burns, Lowry, Sproule, Waterworth, Bates
Linfield second half XI: Ross Glendinning, Reece Glendinning, Bradley, Wallace, Devine, Murray, Millar, Softley, Frazer, Salley, Patton
Glentoran XI: Morris, Gray, Birney, Magee, Kane, McCaffrey, Nelson, Gibson, Gordon, McMenamin, Stewart
This week’s European fixtures:
Crusaders v Levadia Tallinn
Glenavon v Shakhtyor Soligorsk
Glentoran v MSK Zilina
Linfield v NSI Runavik