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Irish League Round-Up: Coleraine suffer title blow at Cliftonville as Donnelly does it late for Glentoran

 

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Cliftonville's Jamie Harney celebrates after scoring against Coleraine (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

Cliftonville's Jamie Harney celebrates after scoring against Coleraine (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

Cliftonville's Jamie Harney celebrates after scoring against Coleraine (Inpho/Stephen Hamilton)

It was another thrilling day in the Danske Bank Premiership as Coleraine's title challenge took another significant blow as they were beaten by Cliftonville.

Elsewhere, Glentoran continued their excellent run and moved just two points behind Coleraine with a late winner over Crusaders, while Ballymena hit Dungannon for five at the Showgrounds.

Check out all the action here...

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Cliftonville’s Paul O’Neill celebrates his winner against Coleraine at Solitude (Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)

Cliftonville’s Paul O’Neill celebrates his winner against Coleraine at Solitude (Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)

Cliftonville’s Paul O’Neill celebrates his winner against Coleraine at Solitude (Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)

 

Cliftonville 2 Coleraine 1

MATCH winner Paul O'Neill says Cliftonville have targeted making Cliftonville a fortress after the Reds ended title-chasing Coleraine's 17-game unbeaten run.

Jamie Harney and O'Neill helped the Reds maintain their incredible home record which has seen them amass 32 of a possible 42 points at Solitude and keeps them firmly inside the top-six in fifth.

Ben Doherty responded from the spot for Coleraine but it wasn't enough to prevent the Bannsiders - who had Eoin Bradley sent off for a second yellow card in the second-half - from seeing their exceptional run come to an end.

And that was proof to O'Neill that Paddy McLaughlin's side are going in the right direction when it comes to making them a prospect no team wants to face away.

"It was a brilliant result. We knew it was going to be tough coming into the game because Coleraine were on that unbeaten run, and what an achievement that is, but we were really confident. Thankfully we came out on top and got the three points," smiled the striker.

"If you win all your home games then you have a chance if you can sort out your away form. We're turning Solitude into a fortress and anyone who comes here isn't getting an easy game, as we proved today.

"We're just taking it game by game. If you look ahead then that'll be your downfall, you'll start picking up bad results if you think too much about where you are in the table.

"Anyone who's put in front of us, we'll go out there and give it a good go."

Harney had given the Reds the lead just three minutes shy of half-time, Aaron Donnelly on his 21st birthday playing the perfect cross to find the captain, who diverted in his first goal of the season.

Shortly after the restart, O'Neill doubled the hosts' lead when his shot just about made its way over the line. Coleraine protested but the assistant referee was adamant it did go in.

Doherty did pull one back from 12 yards to make it a tense finish at Solitude, however their hopes of stealing a point and making it 18 games without tasting defeat came to an end when Bradley saw yellow for the second time in the afternoon.

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Glentoran's Jay Donnelly celebrates his winner against Crusaders (Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Glentoran's Jay Donnelly celebrates his winner against Crusaders (Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Glentoran's Jay Donnelly celebrates his winner against Crusaders (Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

 

Glentoran 1 Crusaders 0

JAY Donnelly's late goal won it for Glentoran, but Mick McDermott was left describing their frantic 1-0 win over Crusaders as 'heart attack material'!

The east Belfast club edged a 1-0 win over their city rivals at The Oval that had more action in the final four minutes than it did in the rest of the game.

Donnelly got the winner with a fantastic lobbed effort with four minutes remaining before Luke McCullough just got enough of a touch on a cross to force Philip Lowry to head over the bar instead of finishing into an empty net deep into stoppage time.

That intervention allowed Glentoran to win their third straight game and take themselves right into the title picture, now third and only nine points behind Linfield with a game in hand.

However, it was another loss for Crusaders, their fourth in succession, and the Shore Road men are now seventh, three points behind Ballymena United.

"We left it late. We scored a great goal, great time to score it. It was heart attack material at the end, they had a couple of chances but thankfully we held on for the three points," said McDermott.

"I thought the first-half performance from us was better, I thought we were the better team. Second half turned into a more scrappy game of football for both teams.

"But I thought we were comfortable, they didn't really threaten us while we got in behind them a few times. Over the course of the 90 minutes we deserved the three points even though the second-half was quite scrappy.

"Other results went our way today, which was good. All we want to do is stay attached to the top group and that's our focus going forward, and that's all we can do for the remainder of the year."

All of the action seemingly took place within the last four minutes of the game, besides Ross Redman clearing an effort from Lowry off the line to prevent Crusaders from going ahead.

Indeed, just whenever it seemed like the game was destined to end a stalemate, with very few talking points, up stepped Donnelly with only a couple of minutes remaining to dink a beautiful finish over the onrushing Sean O'Neill for a fantastic winner.

But that wasn't even the end of the drama. Crusaders piled everyone forward in a desperate attempt to snatch a late equaliser and they nearly had it when Lowry was unlucky to see the cross get a nick off McCullough and he couldn't steer his header on goal.

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Glenavon's  Peter Campbell keeps a close eye on Larne's Tomas Cosgrove (Alan Weir/Pacemaker Press)

Glenavon's Peter Campbell keeps a close eye on Larne's Tomas Cosgrove (Alan Weir/Pacemaker Press)

Glenavon's Peter Campbell keeps a close eye on Larne's Tomas Cosgrove (Alan Weir/Pacemaker Press)

 

Glenavon 2 Larne 2

REFEREEING decisions were at the forefront of Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton's mind after his side were held to a 2-2 draw by Larne at Mourneview Park.

Twice the Lurgan Blues had to come from behind to rescue a point, Matthew Fitzpatrick cancelling out Marty Donnelly's opener before a Conan Byrne penalty negated Davy McDaid's strike.

It's a result that does little for either side, Larne now down to fourth and 12 points back of leaders Linfield with one game in hand, while Glenavon are eighth, six points off sixth-placed Ballymena with a game in hand.

And Hamilton was left bemoaning the officials' decisions again as he felt his side were denied a couple of penalties in the game that could have swung the result their way.

"We always knew it was going to be tough. Larne came in fresh after a week off and we had played Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, so it was always going to be tough," insisted Hamilton.

"Few tired legs out there. Today, to put out a performance like that was a credit to the players. It all goes down to them.

"It wasn't made easy by a couple of refereeing decisions again, I thought in the first-half there was a stonewall penalty on Danny Purkis when Albert Watson jumped into the back of him, and there was also a handball in the box that the referee didn't see.

"Those things are killing us. It's just the way it is, that's out of our control. But it's frustrating when you're going out against a full-time team, working so hard and decisions like that are costing you the chance to get three points."

Donnelly had opened the scoring early at Mourneview Park, the lethal striker converting McDaid's cross into the box, firing low past Craig Hyland in the Glenavon goal.

But the lead lasted all of four minutes, the in-form Fitzpatrick striking low and hard from just inside the box to equalise for the home side and make it 1-1.

However, it would be Larne who would lead at the interval, McDaid profiting from being in the right place at the right time to tap in Jeff Hughes' glancing header which had come back out off the uprights.

Hyland had to be alert to deny John Herron after the break, the Glenavon stopper having another fine game between the sticks, and he was rewarded for some good saves when Byrne got the equaliser.

It was he himself who was upended inside the box to win the penalty and when he dusted himself off, the midfielder finished from 12 yards with aplomb to earn a share of the spoils.

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Ballymena's Trai Hume was delighted at finding the back of the net against Dungannon Swifts (Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press)

Ballymena's Trai Hume was delighted at finding the back of the net against Dungannon Swifts (Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press)

Ballymena's Trai Hume was delighted at finding the back of the net against Dungannon Swifts (Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press)

 

Ballymena United 5 Dungannon Swifts 1

DAVID Jeffrey was overjoyed his Ballymena United side showed no signs of a hangover after beating Linfield in midweek as they dismantled Dungannon Swifts at the Showgrounds.

Paul McElroy struck a double before half-time, at which point Ballymena were four goals to the good having also had strikes from Joshua Kelly and Trai Hume, and Tony Kane rounded off the scoring from the spot after the break.

The Swifts got a response from Ben Gallagher just after half-time, but ultimately this was a step too far for them after the midweek win over Crusaders, and Dean Shiels' side are still marooned at the bottom, two points behind Carrick.

But the Sky Blues are now up to sixth in the table and are unbeaten in their last nine games, and Jeffrey admitted he couldn't be happier with how his men applied themselves.

"Delighted with the attitude of the players and particularly their reaction to beating Linfield. I made it clear it wasn't about the opposition on Tuesday night but about the victory and the three points," he beamed.

"People always look at a team who do beat Linfield and the suggestion is they won't be up for the next game, but I was delighted with my players' reaction, they were so professional. Very efficient, worked extremely hard.

"We were going in against a Dungannon team who played fantastically well and had a great result against Crusaders, and the last time they were here, while on the evening we should have the game, we didn't.

"Very proud of the players. A good day."

It took just 16 minutes for the hosts to forge two goals ahead as they took control of the tie and it was Kelly who put them 1-0 up in the fifth minute, quickly followed by Paul McElroy's first of the afternoon.

Hume then got in on the scoring act having provided an assist for McElroy's strike, finishing to make it 3-0, and then with the final touch of the first 45, McElroy rapped in his second to make it 4-0 at the break.

Impressive second-half substitute Ben Gallagher pulled one back after the restart for Dungannon as the hosts took their foot off the gas slightly, but Kane finished the scoring for Ballymena with a 74th-minute penalty.

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Carrick's Lloyd Anderson and Warrenpoint's Luke Gallagher fight for possession (Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press)

Carrick's Lloyd Anderson and Warrenpoint's Luke Gallagher fight for possession (Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press)

Carrick's Lloyd Anderson and Warrenpoint's Luke Gallagher fight for possession (Andrew McCarroll/ Pacemaker Press)

 

Carrick Rangers 1 Warrenpoint Town 1

CARRICK Rangers boss Niall Currie couldn't hide his disappointment after watching his side concede a 93rd-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Warrenpoint Town at the Belfast Loughshore Arena.

Kyle Cherry's first-half goal looked to have given the hosts only their third-ever back-to-back home wins in the top flight, but Ryan Swan nodded in a back-post header three minutes into injury time to steal a point.

The draw takes Carrick one point further away from bottom side Dungannon Swifts, while Warrenpoint stay ninth and look to be pulling away from the bottom three.

But that was no consolation for Currie, who knew his side had blown a golden chance to pick up another three points that could have taken them up to 10th.

"We're disappointed. You have to be disappointed after that finish. We weathered the little onslaught at the end of the game when they threw bodies forward but it wasn't enough," sighed Currie.

"We controlled the game well, deserved the three points, but we switched off at a critical time and we got punished for it, which is a massive sickener. The points were there for us.

"I thought the two sides gave it everything. The quality wasn't much given the conditions but we thought the points were there. Massive opportunity that we've missed out on today.

"The biggest positive is the last time Warrenpoint came here it was comfortable for them and they took us apart. Today, that was two very evenly-matched teams, and that shows how far we've come since the last time we played them."

The first-half was one that won't live long in the memory and with the only chance of the opening 45, Carrick took the lead as Cherry glanced in Lee Chapman's cross.

The second-half, in contrast, was one of half-chances as both teams had opportunities to score but no gilt-edged opportunities presented themselves.

However, just when it appeared the points would stay on Taylor's Avenue, Andy Coleman pumped in a hopeful last-ditch free-kick, Daniel Byrne headed it back across goal and Swan turned it in for the leveller.

Belfast Telegraph


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