Irish Premiership: Leaders Ballymena stay two points ahead of Linfield

Ryan Mayse of Ballymena
Ryan Mayse scored in Ballymena's 3-1 home win over Newry City

Ballymena United saw off a dogged Newry City 3-1 at the Showgrounds to maintain their two-point lead over second-placed Linfield in the Irish Premiership.

Linfield won 2-0 at Cliftonville but had Michael O'Connor sent-off less than five minutes after coming on as a sub.

Crusaders are up to third after a late David Cushley penalty gave them a 1-0 win away to Glentoran who had Marcus Kane dismissed right at the end.

Glenavon drew 3-3 with Institute while bottom club Ards won 3-0 at Dungannon.

Coleraine battled to secure a 1-0 win away to Warrenpoint Town.

Ballymena's Kofi Balmer in action against Mark McCabe of Newry City
Ballymena beat Newry to stay top of the table

If Ballymena had failed to take all three points they would have been replaced at the top on goal difference, but three second-half goals sealed victory over Newry and extended their unbeaten Premiership run to 12.

Cathair Friel broke the deadlock on 55 minutes with a close-range finish after a cross was not cleared, but Mark McCabe equalised for Newry.

Ryan Mayse followed up to restore United's lead after keeper Steven Maguire could not hold on to Kofi Balmer's right-wing delivery and Adam Lecky's glancing header from a Steven McCullough corner made it 3-1.

Linfield made it 10 points from 12 with their 2-0 success away to Cliftonville.

Jordan Stewart squeezed a 39th-minute header in at the near post and Niall Quinn capitalised on a defensive lapse early in the second half.

Linfield's win at Cliftonville keeps the pressure on leaders Ballymena
Linfield's win at Cliftonville keeps the pressure on leaders Ballymena

But the Blues had substitute Michael O'Connor dismissed within five minutes of coming off the bench.

The former Shamrock Rovers player was booked for kicking the ball away after the whistle had gone, and quickly picked up a second yellow for clipping Damien McNulty round the back of the head after a tackle.

Crusaders looked like they were destined to drop two points at the Oval but got a late penalty when Ross Redman was deemed to have fouled Jordan Owens.

David Cushley confidently netted the spot-kick while Glens skipper Kane got a straight red in stoppage-time for a rash tackle.

The win takes the Crues into the top three, replacing Glenavon who were held 3-3 at home by Institute.

Two goals by Rhys Marshall seemed to have Glenavon in the driving seat, but Institute hit back to lead after goals from Stephen Curry, Michael McCrudden and Colm McLaughlin.

Glentoran finished with 10 men after Marcus Kane's stoppage-time red card
Glentoran finished with 10 men after Marcus Kane's stoppage-time red card

Andrew Mitchell nipped in to poke in Glenavon's 77th-minute equaliser.

Jamie McGonigle struck in the 75th minute to give Coleraine a 1-0 victory away to Warrenpoint Town.

Ards started the day five points adrift of one-from-bottom Newry at the foot of the Premiership table but a 3-0 win at Dungannon means they now trail by just two.

Eamonn McAllister netted twice and Mark Kelly got the other in what was just a third league win of the season for Colin Nixon's side.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballymena United3-1Newry City
Cliftonville0-2Linfield
Dungannon Swifts0-3Ards
Glenavon3-3Institute
Glentoran0-1Crusaders
Warrenpoint Town0-1Coleraine
Bluefin Sport Championship
Ballyclare Comrades2-2PSNI
Carrick Rangers2-0Larne
Dergview1-2Portadown
H&W Welders1-2Knockbreda
Limavady United1-3Ballinamallard United
Loughgall1-2Dundela

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