Irish Premiership: Bannsiders beat Glenavon to go four points behind Blues

Stewart Nixon slides in the opener for Coleraine in their victory over the Lurgan Blues
Stewart Nixon slides in the opener for Coleraine in their victory over the Lurgan Blues

Coleraine edged Glenavon 2-1 to reduce the gap on Premiership leaders Linfield while the north Belfast derby ended goalless and Dungannon beat Ballymena.

Goals from Stewart Nixon and James McLaughlin secured a Showgrounds win for the Bannsiders as they moved four points off the top.

Crusaders and Cliftonville missed good chances as a Seaview stalemate hit the slim title hopes of both teams.

Dungannon defeated Ballymena 1-0 to move above the Sky Blues into ninth.

Douglas Wilson's 23rd-minute header was enough to clinch a victory for Dungannon at Stangmore Park which saw them leapfrog the Sky Blues in the table.

Wilson stooped to nod home a Mark Patton free-kick and the Swifts went close to increasing the lead before the break as Daniel Hughes and Shane McGinty were denied by last-ditch defensive interventions.

Johnston save

Ballymena pressed for an equaliser after the restart with home keeper Sam Johnston denying Kenneth Kane - when the Braidman should have buried the chance - and Scot Whiteside heading the resultant corner wide.

Dungannon regrouped to produce pressure of their own with Ballymena keeper Ross Glendinning making superb saves to stop Mark Patton and Ryan Waide efforts.

Ballymena had the ball in Dungannon's penalty area on several occasions in the closing stages but the home side held on to earn their eighth win of the campaign.

Crusaders remain ahead of Cliftonville on goal difference after the north Belfast rivals played out a tepid 0-0 draw.

Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell puts pressure on Cliftonville's Chris Curran at Seaview
Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell puts pressure on Cliftonville's Chris Curran at Seaview

In a first half lacking regular goalmouth action, Joe Gormley had a goal ruled out for offside after 20 minutes before Chris Hegarty produced a magnificent save from Richard Brush after the Crusaders defender got his toe on the end of Paul Heatley's cross.

Paul McElroy also forced a sharp stop from Brush after the fleet-footed forward skipped past Cliftonville captain Chris Curran.

After the break, Jordan Owens struck a post with his powerful header before Gormley passed up the biggest chance of the night, slicing his shot wide after he was found by Jamie Harney's brilliant long-range pass.

Missing out

Crusaders came close to snatching a late win after 88 minutes when Heatley again found Hegarty with a free-kick, but the defender guided his header just wide of Brush's right-hand post.

The result leaves both sides 10 points adrift of pacesetters Linfield - Cliftonville face Glentoran at the Oval on Saturday while Crusaders host strugglers Institute.

Coleraine maintained their title push with a deserved win over Glenavon on Gary Hamilton's 400th game in charge of the Lurgan Blues.

Coleraine beat Glenavon to maintain title push

McLaughlin squandered an early chance for the hosts but the striker set up Nixon to slide home the opener after 12 minutes.

The pair combined again for the second goal after 34 minutes - this time Nixon, after his shot was parried by keeper Jonathan Tuffey, played in McLaughlin for a simple finish.

Glenavon were poor defensively in the first half but they improved after the break and Colin Coates fizzed just wide of the woodwork.

Nixon managed to miss from two yards out before Conor McCloskey set up a tense finale when he fired his 20-yard free-kick past Chris Johns with 15 minutes left.

The Bannsiders held on to earn the win which also takes them four points clear of third-placed Glentoran.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership fixtures: Tuesday 3 March
Coleraine2-1Glenavon
Crusaders0-0Cliftonville
Dungannon Swifts1-0Ballymena United

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