Belfast Telegraph

Irish League Round Up: Ballymena stay top while one of chasing pack slips up

Ballymena's Cathair Friel opened the scores.
Ballymena's Cathair Friel opened the scores.
Adam Lecky celebrates his goal and Ballymena's third during today's game.

Ballymena United go into 2019 at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table as three of the top four sides won to close out the year.

Chasing Linfield and Crusaders also took maximum points while Glenavon slipped up. Meanwhile, there were wins for Coleraine and basement side Ards.

Here's all you need to know about today's games:

Ballymena United 3-1 Newry City

Ballymena will enter the new year two points clear at the top of the table after their 3-1 win over Newry City.

The league leaders took almost an hour to open the scores but eventually Cathair Friel found the net, slamming home the rebound after Jude Winchester's shot had been saved.

The lead didn't last as Mark McCabe soon levelled but United responded through Ryan Mayse almost immediately after Friel had touched on Kofi Balmer's cross.

Newry's cause was not helped just two minutes later when Declan Carville was sent off. Ballymena duly took advantage, Adam Lecky glancing a header in for his fifth goal of the season.

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Cliftonville 0-2 Linfield

Cliftonville's run of eight straight Premiership home victories was ended by Crusaders on Boxing Day and the Reds had to wait just three days for another defeat at Solitude.

Jordan Stewart opened the scores when got up high to head home Kirk Millar's cross. It was two just after half-time as Niall Quinn converted Andy Waterworth's assist.

Michael O'Connor then came on as a Linfield sub but was soon back in the changing room, picking up two quick yellows, resulting in a red on 77 minutes.

Glenavon 3-3 Institute

It was a case of de ja vu as the two teams played out their second 3-3 draw at Mourneview Park this month.

Two Rhys Marshall goals had the Lurgan Blues two up at the break. First, the full-back headed home Stephen Murray's cross and he was again well placed just minutes later to convert Andrew Mitchell's delivery.

Stephen Curry chipped in a long-range effort after keeper Jonny Tuffey had punched clear to given Stute hope on 55 minutes.

There was no surprise who got the leveller just five minutes later, Michael McCrudden heading home his 16th goal of the season.

The stunning turnaround was soon complete when Colm McLaughlin drove home Stute's third to end a move that was launched by a skillful McCrudden backheel.

Andrew Mitchell's first-time finish continued a thrilling second half to level at 3-3 before substitute Ben Doherty hit the bar for Glenavon.

Glentoran 0-1 Crusaders

David Cushley netted his second penalty in as many games to win this one in injury time, Glentoran's late misery compounded when Marcus Kane was sent off.

Warrenpoint Town 0-1 Coleraine

Coleraine got their rewards for an improved second half display when Jamie McGonigle fired home. The Bannsiders end the season level on points with fifth-placed Cliftonville.

Dungannon Swifts 0-3 Ards

Ards are now only two points adrift at the bottom of the table thanks to their third win of the season.

The basement side deservedly led at half-time via an uncharacteristic error from Dungannon keeper Alex Moore.

Eamon McAllister smahed in a hopeful effort from wide on the right and a stretching Moore could only fumble it into his own net.

Dungannon failed to punish Ards stopper Sam Johnston for a couple of errors of his own and his side took advantage, Mark Kelly heading in the second before McAllister netted his second of the day.

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