Irish Premiership: Five things we noticed

Nasseri earns Glens three points

Joel Cooper rescued Linfield, Cliftonville moved into second and Glentoran edged an emotionally charged clash with Carrick Rangers at Taylor's Avenue.

It was another engrossing day in the Irish Premiership. Here are five of our main takeaways from Saturday's action.

Irish Premiership community comes together on emotional afternoon

Carrick manager Niall Currie

Football took a backseat at Taylor's Avenue as Carrick Rangers and Glentoran joined together before the game to pay an emotional tribute to the late Jerry Thompson, the Carrick player who took his own life earlier this month.

Thompson's family, including his parents, partner and infant son, wore commemorative t-shirts which paid tribute to Jerry and held aloft a t-shirt bearing #ITSOKNOTTOBEOK.

Moments later, players from both clubs emerged from the changing room wearing that same t-shirt and stood around the semi-circle together, bowed their heads and silently remembered Jerry.

It was an emotional day for both clubs with condolences expressed to Glentoran captain Marcus Kane, who is mourning the death of his baby son Harrie Marcus.

"Deepest condolences to our captain, Marcus Kane, Aimee and their daughter Mollie on the tragic loss of their baby boy, Harrie Marcus Kane. The love and thoughts of everyone at Glentoran is with the Kane family at this saddest time," said Glentoran on Twitter.

Navid Nasseri scored the only goal as Glentoran ran out 1-0 winners in the game but there were many inside Taylor's Avenue who didn't have football on their minds on a day when football understandably paled into insignificance.

Windsor Park comes in for scathing criticism

Linfield fight back to rescue draw against Crusaders

David Healy's Linfield have the capacity to play devastating football. With the beguiling talents of Joel Cooper, Jordan Stewart and Bastien Hery at their disposal, they can slice teams open with their razor-sharp passing and clever movement.

In recent weeks, however, they have been prevented from doing that by their own playing surface. After beating Cliftonville two weeks ago, Healy apologised to the Reds for the state of the Windsor Park pitch, which currently resembles a patchy, brown shadow of its former self.

Healy, who had been critical of the Solitude playing surface earlier this season, may have been disappointed with the lack of improvement as the Blues hosted Crusaders.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound, former Glentoran player Scott Young certainly wasn't impressed.

"The Windsor Park pitch is a disgrace, it really is," said Young.

"For a national stadium it should be much better than it looks today. You could see past it if we were in March or April, or if we had had a long period of bad weather, but we haven't."

With Northern Ireland potentially hosting a Euro 2020 play-off final in March, and with Linfield very much in the title race, the Windsor ground staff have their work cut out for them to keep all parties satisfied in the weeks and months ahead.

Stute and Swifts squads depleted for busy festive season

Carvill strike earns Swifts draw with Institute

There was drama aplenty at Stangmore Park with as many red cards as goals between the sides second and third from bottom in the table.

Cormac Burke fired Institute ahead before Douglas Wilson levelled for Dungannon Swifts with a superb free-kick. Evan Tweed restored the visitors' lead before Wilson was shown a red card following a coming together with Brendan McLaughlin.

Michael Carvill snatched a point for the Swifts before an unsavoury incident shortly after the match resulted in three further red cards, with Institute pair Niall Grace, Gareth Brown and Swifts captain Seanan Clucas the players involved.

While Institute boss Sean Connor would not comment on the incident, he did express concern over the safety of his players.

"For me, there's far too many people hanging about outside the changing rooms, even now - is it safe for players to walk in off the pitch? I don't know," said Connor.

While it's unclear exactly how the incident started, there will be repercussions for both sides who will be without key players for their Boxing Day clashes, with Dungannon away to Glenavon and 'Stute at home to Warrenpoint Town.

Friel and Lecky underline Sky Blues influence

Friel the hero as Sky Blues beat Glenavon

David Jeffrey put it bluntly: by their own admission, Cathair Friel and Adam Lecky did not play well on Friday night.

They did, however, come up with, as the Ballymena United boss put it, 'massive' moments that ultimately won the game.

For both goals, Lecky was released down the right wing before finding Friel who supplied the finishing touch.

Lecky and Friel, who scored 25 league goals between them last season, are natural match winners and having them fully fit and on form will be crucial to Ballymena closing the gap on the top six.

While Jeffrey would ideally want his two most clinical attackers operating at maximum efficiency, he'll be happy as long as they continue to demonstrate their match-winning prowess.

Coleraine fail to take their chances

Cliftonville edge out Coleraine to move into second place

"We're happy with the chances we are creating and the key thing is we've just got to be more ruthless and put the ball in the back of the net."

That was the warning from Oran Kearney ahead of Saturday's game with Cliftonville, and unfortunately for the Bannsiders boss, his worries about finding the net came to the fore once again.

Jamie Glackin missed a sitter, with Josh Carson and James McLaughlin both guilty of wasting guilt-edged opportunities.

However, it's not all bad news for Kearney as the Bannsiders firmly remain in the title race.

With two of their four rivals guaranteed to drop points on Boxing Day, a result against Ballymena would move them into a prime position to challenge for their maiden Gibson Cup come the turn of the year.

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