Irish Premiership: Crusaders nine clear after Portadown hold Linfield

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Crusaders beat Dungannon Swifts 2-1 to continue title march

Crusaders inched closer to retaining the Irish Premiership title after a 2-1 win over Dungannon Swifts while Linfield drew 1-1 at home to Portadown.

Josh Carson's late header rescued a point for the Blues at Windsor Park after Adam Foley fired the Ports into a shock lead with seven minutes left.

Paul Heatley and Colin Coates struck for the champions at Stangmore Park as the leaders moved nine points clear.

Cliftonville drew 1-1 with Glentoran and Glenavon beat Ballinamallard 3-0.

Linfield's slim hopes of catching Crusaders at the top look to have evaporated after David Healy's men failed to beat the league's basement club.

Foley stunned the home support with a lobbed effort that beat Roy Carroll on 82 minutes, but substitute Carson headed an equaliser in stoppage-time to salvage a point.

The home side were guilty of missing chances throughout the match but Niall Currie may be disappointed not to walk away with all three points after Carroll's excellent stop denied Robert Garrett making it 2-0.

Josh Carson scored a late equaliser for Linfield against Portadown
Josh Carson scored a late equaliser for Linfield against Portadown

Healy was sent from his touchline to the stands late on for arguing with the match officials on a frustrating night for the Blues boss.

Portadown, on the other hand, finally stopped the rot after a miserable run of six straight defeats.

A couple of first-half headers from Heatley and Coates ensured Crusaders made it six league wins in a row.

Heatley found himself unmarked to convert Jordan Owens's flick to the back post before Coates expertly finished off a pinpoint cross from Jordan Forsythe.

Cormac Burke pulled one back for the Swifts but it was not enough to stop the Belfast club stretching their winning run on the road to seven games.

Nobody at Crusaders will dare admit the title race is over, but nine points clear with as many games left to play looks like an unassailable advantage at this stage.

Cliftonville were unable to bounce back after last week's defeat to Ballinamallard as they drew 1-1 with Glentoran in an entertaining game at Solitude.

Curtis Allen headed the away side into a first-half lead before Daniel Hughes struck an equaliser to avoid back-to-back defeats for Gerard Lyttle's side.

The Reds are now only four points clear of fourth-placed Coleraine, who have a game in hand.

Andrew Hall fired Gary Hamilton's side into an early lead, calmly slotting the ball home to punish the Mallards defence for not clearing their lines.

Mark Sykes added a second on 85 minutes before Greg Moorhouse wrapped up a convincing three points for the Lurgan Blues.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Friday 17 February
Cliftonville1-1Glentoran
Dungannon Swifts1-2Crusaders
Glenavon3-0Ballinamallard Utd
Linfield1-1Portadown

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