The bright lights of Sky Sports returned to the Irish league as Glentoran hosted Crusaders at the Oval, Coleraine continued their unbeaten streak and extended their lead at the top while Cliftonville came back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Linfield at Solitude.
Glenavon 1-1 Dungannon Swifts, Friday 7.45pm
Both sides had their fair share of chances in an action-packed first half but Ryan Mayse will perhaps have been kicking himself for not giving the Swifts the lead when he raced clear of the defence only to see his weak shot saved by Johnny Tuffey. Moments later Glenavon opened the scoring from a quick breakaway, Dungannon failed to deal with the ball bouncing in their box and Foley capitalised to set up Bobby Burns from close range. Both sides again had opportunities early in the second half but it wasn’t until four minutes from time that Dungannon found their leveller. Paul McElroy’s thunderous strike from outside the area hit crossbar bar on its way in, giving Tuffey no chance.
Ballinamallard United 0-2 Ards
Ards left it late to secure victory against 10 men Ballinamallard at Ferney Park. The Mallards lost Josh McIlwaine just before half time thanks to a second yellow card. Ards took the lead on 84 minutes when David McAllister’s superb cross from the left was met by the head of Jonny Frazer for his third goal of the season. The lead was doubled in the final minutes of the game when Jonny Frazer turned provider for substitute Michael McLellan to open his account for the season.
Ballymena United 0-2 Coleraine
Ballymena were up against it when local rivals Coleraine came to The Showgrounds but couldn’t match the league leaders who extended their lead over Linfield in the table. Cathair Friel had an early chance cleared off the line before the Bannsiders took the lead courtesy of a Stephen O’Donnell header at the back post. The defender grabbed his third goal this season. On the cusp of half time Cathair Friel picked up a book for his complaints at not being awarded a penalty, the footage suggests the referee made the correct decision. Coleraine had their second on 57 minutes when Jamie McGonigle struck hard and low into the corner from the corner of the six yard box when Ballymena failed to deal with a high free kick from deep.
Cliftonville 3-2 Linfield
Aaron Burns grabbed the only goal of the first half, heading in from close range thanks to a neat cross from Chris Casement on the right wing. Despite the early Burns goal it was Cliftonville who had the better of the first half chances with Gormley failing to deliver on more than one occasion. The Blues would have thought they had won the game on 69 minutes when Aaron Burns, who was brought down in the area, picked himself up to despatch the penalty to give Linfield a two-goal advantage. Cliftonville’s late comeback started in the 80th minute when Chris Curran struck a sweet shot from the edge of the area to pull a goal back. Cliftonville grabbed their equaliser in the 85th minute when substitute Jay Donnelly rose high to head in from Chris Curran’s cross. Chris Curran was the supplier again in the second minute of injury time as his cross was headed over the line by defender Garry Breen.
Warrenpoint Town 2-2 Carrick Rangers
It was Carrick who took the lead in the opening minutes when Mark Surgenor crossed to Andrew Mooney at the back post to head the Rangers 1-0 up. Rangers goalkeeper Harry Doherty has been the subject of much praise this season but there is little he could have done about Neil McCafferty’s 25-yard free kick just before half time, the midfielder’s strike nestled nicely into the top corner. Point took the lead on the other side of the break when Sean Mackle laid on Stephen Murray to slot a neat finish beyond Doherty in the Carrick goal. Carrick denied Warrenpoint their second win of the season when substitute Michael Smith scored in the 76th minute to give the sides a point each.
Glentoran 0-3 Crusaders, Monday 7.45pm
As the Sky camera graced Irish League stadia once again, it was Crusaders who shone brightest against an ineffective Glentoran. The Crues grabbed their opener in the 11th minute courtesy of left back Rodney Brown who pounced to head in after a quick short corner routine caught Glentoran off guard. Glentoran struggled to create anything of note in the first half and were finding it difficult to deal with the potent attack Crusaders have at their disposal, yet the sides entered the break with just one goal separating them. Crusaders did find their second very quickly in the second half with Rodney Brown finding the net again from a header before Jordan Owens made it three on 55 minutes with yet ANOTHER header from a superb curling BJ Burns cross. It’s a result that means Crusaders climb up into 3rd place just a point behind Linfield in 2nd.