Irish Premiership: Linfield earn vital win over Crusaders

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Linfield edge out Crusaders 1-0 to reduce gap at top of the table

Second-placed Linfield blew the Irish Premiership title race wide open by beating leaders Crusaders 1-0 to reduce the gap at the top to just one point.

Aaron Burns shot in the crucial goal in the 19th minute and soon after that Andrew Waterworth hit the post.

Linfield, already through to the Irish Cup final, are unbeaten in 10 league matches, winning nine of them.

Seven weeks ago the Crues were nine points ahead but now they lead by a single point with four matches left.

In an understandably cagey affair, Burns's quality footwork and composed finish proved decisive. With Crusaders failing to clear their lines, Burns dragged the ball back into his path to poke beyond Sean O'Neill.

Relive Saturday's Premiership action

Stephen Baxter lost Jordan Owens to a calf injury before the game and the striker's absence was evident throughout as a series of Crusaders crosses failed to find a target in the box.

The champions did have a great chance to equalise in the second half when Paul Heatley went through one-on-one with Roy Carroll, but the former Northern Ireland keeper made a crucial save.

The league leaders travel to Solitude next Saturday while Linfield are away to Ballymena United.

How they stand in the top half of the Irish Premiership season
How they stand in the top half of the Irish Premiership season

Brilliant Bannsiders march on

In the battle for third place, Coleraine saw off Cliftonville 2-0 to move five points ahead of their opponents.

Darren McCauley netted both goals in the second-half to extend the Bannsiders' unbeaten streak to 16 games.

The Reds have won just once in their last seven games and manager Gerard Lyttle has demanded an immediate improvement in the remaining four games.

"We just looked lethargic and I can't put my finger on it," Lyttle said.

"We didn't show up and the boys let themselves down. It was just not good enough."

"I thought they looked sharper in the first half but we came out and were a completely different side in."

Plucky Ports live to fight another day

At the bottom of the table, seemingly-doomed Portadown delayed automatic relegation by scoring two late goals to beat one-from-bottom Carrick Rangers.

Niall Currie's Ports came from behind after Martin Murray fired Rangers into the lead from the penalty spot, Niall Henderson and Luke Wilson both scoring late to edge the contest in dramatic fashion.

Teenager Jordan Jenkins scored two goals and Greg Moorhouse got the other as Glenavon beat Ballymena United.

The 17-year-old capitalised on poor defending for his first on 43 minutes before adding another on 52 with a close-range volley.

Ballinamallard look safe after goals by Ryan Mayse, Colm McLaughlin and Shane McGinty gave them a 3-0 home win over Glentoran.

Mayse opened the scoring when he got on the end of Ryan Curran's shot before McLaughlin reacted quickly to rebound home after Niall Owens's free-kick struck the crossbar.

McGinty, outstanding throughout, wrapped up the win with a clinical finish on the break, prompting Glens boss Gary Haveron to offer a withering assessment of his team's display.

"We didn't deserve anything from the game," he said.

"The way we conceded the goals was pathetic. We started off much the better team but it was a day when anything that could go wrong did go wrong."

Ards are up to eighth after their 4-1 victory over Dungannon Swifts. On-loan striker Matthew Shevlin got two after a Michael Ruddy penalty opened the scoring.

Guillaume Keke struck the fourth with Dungannon's goal coming from Chris Hegarty.

Danske Bank Premiership
Coleraine2-0Cliftonville
Glenavon2-0Ballymena Utd
Linfield1-0Crusaders
Ards4-1Dungannon Swifts
Ballinamallard Utd3-0Glentoran
Portadown 2-1Carrick Rangers

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