Irish Premiership: Glentoran go top as title rivals slip up

Robbie McDaid and Navid Nasseri
Glentoran's hot streak of form continued with a comfortable win at the Brandywell

Glentoran moved top of the Irish Premiership table after a 2-0 victory over Institute, as Cliftonville and Linfield both dropped points.

Linfield were held by Dungannon Swifts while Cliftonville were stunned by Carrick Rangers at Taylor's Avenue.

Crusaders are up to second after a convincing win over Larne while Coleraine's title hopes remain alive with victory over Warrenpoint Town.

Elsewhere, Glenavon secured a much-needed win over Ballymena United.

Having topped the table for the first time since 2013 last weekend, Glentoran continued their unbeaten streak in the league that dates back 15 games to October.

Navid Nasseri opened the scoring with a powerful finish on 20 minutes, moments after Marijan Antolovic had kept out Aidan McCauley at the other end.

Mick McDermott's men were always in control at the Brandywell and Keith Cowan made it two on his debut, tapping home when Rory Brown spilled Hrvoje Plum's free-kick shortly before half-time.

There was very little to report in the second half at the Brandywell as Glentoran underlined their title challenge in comfortable fashion.

Lloyd Anderson
Lloyd Anderson's goal was decisive at Taylor's Avenue

Paddy McLaughlin's Cliftonville suffered their second defeat in a week after Lloyd Anderson's well-taken finish gave Carrick Rangers a well-deserved 1-0 victory.

It was a deserved victory for Niall Currie's men, however, who bossed the midfield battle and created the better chances. Darren Murray, making his Carrick debut 24 hours after joining on loan from Glentoran, could have scored the opener but misjudged his shot after being put through one-on-one with Richard Brush.

Six minutes after the restart, Conor McDermott almost opened the scoring with a tremendous solo effort but the right-back shot wide after having embarked on a mazy run from deep inside his own half.

Jamie Harney thought he had marked his 100th Cliftonville appearance with a goal when he nodded past Harry Doherty, but the defender's goal was ruled out for offside.

The winner arrived on 66 minutes as Anderson pounced after Cliftonville failed to clear a ball into the box, hooking his volley into the top corner.

While some may have expected a Cliftonville onslaught, it was Carrick who kept creating chances and should have killed the game off, but Brush - excellent once again - produced fine saves to deny Reece Neale and Anderson before the latter shot wide when he should have hit the target.

It was Carrick's biggest scalp of the season and sees them leapfrog Ballymena into eighth, while Cliftonville are down to fifth after two defeats in five days.

McGonigle inspires Crues to second

Crusaders continued their impressive form since the turn of the year with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Larne.

The game was effectively over as a contest after the Shore Road men scored three times inside the opening half-hour.

The home side took the lead from a third minute penalty - awarded after referee Ross Dunlop adjudged that Tomas Cosgrove had handled inside the area - and Jamie McGonigle fired the resultant spot kick past Conor Devlin.

The home side doubled their lead on 22 minutes when Jordan Owens' deflected header from a Jordan Forsythe cross crept in at the back post.

Owens was also involved in Crusaders' third goal, on 29 minutes, winning a headed knockdown for McGonigle, who cut inside Harry Flowers and beat Devlin at the near post with a left-foot shot.

Larne rarely threatened to find a way back into the game as Crusaders claimed a fifth successive clean sheet.

Ethan Boyle
Linfield were left frustrated by a youthful Dungannon Swifts side

Linfield lost their lead at the top of the Irish Premiership as they were unable to get the better of a stubborn defensive display from Dungannon Swifts at Windsor Park.

After a poor first-half performance, the title holders had a series of chances to score after the break but a combination of poor finishing and fine goalkeeping from 16-year-old keeper Conor Byrne ensured the game remained scoreless.

Shayne Lavery had a shot blocked and headed over during a scrappy first half, and the Northern Ireland international hit the post with a snapshot as he went close with a number of chances after the interval.

Blues defender Mark Stafford missed an easy chance as he headed over unmarked from close range, while Swifts substitute Daniel Hughes almost stole the win for the visitors as he volleyed over when well positioned in the box late on.

Kirk Millar came on as a second-half sub for the hosts and had a positive impact on the game but the youthful Swifts, who had midfielders Douglas Wilson and Kris Lowe playing centre-half, held on for an away point.

Glackin hits treble at Milltown

Jamie Glackin was the hat-trick hero for Coleraine as his side avenged their 3-1 defeat at Milltown earlier in the season to move up to fourth place in the table, ahead of Cliftonville on goal difference.

The former Dungannon and Crusaders player lobbed Mark Byrne exquisitely for his first in the 37th minute and made it 2-0 with a 25-yard effort midway through the second half.

Glackin completed his treble with a well-placed finish eight minutes later and then Matthew Fitzpatrick marked his first start for the visitors by lobbing Byrne.

Bottom side Point's misery was compounded when recent signing Colm Deasy was sent-off for a second yellow card offence, a rash challenge on Aaron Traynor, four minutes from time.

Jamie McGonigle
Jamie McGonigle is Crusaders' top scorer in the league this season with 12 goals

Glentoran lead the Irish Premiership by one point over Crusaders, who in turn are one point in front of David Healy's Blues.

Cliftonville, who topped the table eight days ago, slip to fifth with Coleraine moving into fourth, three points off the top.

Seventh-placed Glenavon moved six points clear of Ballymena United, who drop to ninth, by avenging their last-gasp 2-1 defeat at the same venue before Christmas by winning 3-0.

Conan Byrne gave the visitors the lead in the 35th minute when his free-kick from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection off home defender Kyle Owens, before flying into the net.

Danny Purkis grabbed his second in as many games since signing from East Belfast, rounding Jordan Williamson and scoring from a tight angle after 65 minutes.

Substitute Greg Moorhouse completed the scoring with a half-volley in added time as his side secured a first win in four league outings and condemned Ballymena to a fourth straight Premiership defeat.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership results
Ballymena United0-3Glenavon
Carrick Rangers1-0Cliftonville
Institute0-2 Glentoran
Linfield0-0Dungannon Swifts
Warrenpoint Town0-4Coleraine
Bluefin Sport Championship results
Ards0-1PSNI (Friday)
Knockbreda2-6 H&W Welders
Queen's University0-1Newry City
Ballyclare Comrades2-0 Dergview

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