Belfast Telegraph

Irish League Round Up: Crusaders cut Coleraine's lead and condemn Linfield to back-to-back defeats

Coleraine's lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership has been cut to two points, although Linfield are now 16 adrift.

That's after second-placed Crusaders beat the Blues and Coleraine drew 1-1 at Cliftonville.

Glenavon slipped to defeat in Ballymena while Warrenpoint drew with Ards and Glentoran drew at Dungannon.

Linfield 1-2 Crusaders

Crusaders completed a second-half come-back to heap more misery on struggling Linfield.

It's the Blues' second successive defeat, adding to the Boxing Day loss to Glentoran, and means they've won just one in four.

Linfield are now 16 points off the top while Crusaders close the gap on leaders Coleraine to just two points with a game in hand.

Linfield were ahead in just the second minute as Robinson burst into the box and powered a header beyond Sean O'Neill, getting on the end of Stephen Lowry's cross.

When the 24-year-old joined Linfield in the summer, the move was filled with controversy as both the Blues and the Crues announced his signature on the same night.

Jordan Owens hit the bar for the Crues during the first half while Roy Carroll also had to stop Gavin Whyte's free-kick.

It takes something special to beat Carroll and BJ Burns duly provided it against his former employers. The full-back unleashed an unstoppable effort from long-range, wide on the right and it flew across Carroll into the top corner.

The comeback was complete when Gavin Whyte took advantage after Robbie Garrett lost possession to beat Carroll and seal the win, albeit thanks to a late goal-line clearance from Colin Coates.

Cliftonville 0-0 Coleraine

Missed chances were the order of the day at Solitude as the leaders slipped to a draw and saw their advantage at the top cut to two points.

Rory Donnelly and Daniel Hughes were both culprits for the Reds during the first half as the hosts missed a rake of chances to open the scoring. That was after Coleraine's Eoin Bradley, making his return to the starting line-up, missed the target in the opening minute.

Donnelly tested Johns after the break and Bradley also missed a chance for the visitors chipping wide of goal.

Coleraine went down to ten men on 75 minutes when Aaron Traynor was given a straight red for pulling back Rory Donnelly, who was running through on goal.

Ballymena United 3-1 Glenavon

Ballymena United came back from the earliest of goals to claim a deserved three points at the Showgrounds and overtake Glentoran into sixth spot.

Glenavon were awarded a penalty kick after only 16 seconds of play. Bobby Burns swung a shot towards goal and when it was blocked by Kofi Balmer, referee Raymond Hetherington pointed to the spot. That was predictably converted by Sammy Clingan, his tenth goal of the season and ninth from the spot.

But the lead wasn't to last. Former Glenavon forward Kevin Braniff levelled on 12 minutes, lobbing neatly over Jonny Tuffey after getting on the end of Stephen McCullough's long ball forward.

Plenty of chances followed at either end. Kyle Owens and Cathair Friel missed the target from close range for United while Rhys Marshall and Mark Sykes should have scored for the visitors.

Soon after Sykes' one-on-one miss, Cathair Friel put Ballymena ahead on 77 with a clinical header from a Tony Kane corner. It was another of those deliveries that settled it, Kyle Owens bundling home on 81.

Warrenpoint Town 3-3 Ards

Warrenpoint captain Liam McKenna earned a draw in injury-time of a thrilling game at Milltown.

Darren Murray's tenth goal of the season opened the scoring for Point just two minutes in as he rounded Ards keeper Sam Johnston before slotting home.

Michael McLellan's equaliser was spectacular as he volleyed home his seventh of the campaign from the edge of the area. And Scott Davidson capped a fine individual festive period when he fired home Reece Glendinning's through-ball to reverse the early decifit on 26 minutes.

Things turned sour for Glendinning midway through the second period when he was dispossessed in his own box by Conor McMenamin, who fired ruthlessly home to level the scores. Craig McMillen looked to have won it but Liam McKenna grabbed a draw in injury-time.

Dungannon Swifts 0-0 Glentoran

Dungannon played out their second scoreless stalemate in four games to stay five points behind the Glens.

Eric Foley fired over for the visitors towards the end of the first half and Curtis Allen saw a goal ruled out at the start of the second while Chris Hegarty headed wide for the hosts.

Carrick Rangers 2-2 Ballinamallard United (Friday)

Bluefin Sport Championship results

H&W Welders 1-0 Ballyclare Comrades

Institute 2-0 Limavady United

Lurgan Celtic 1-1 Knockbreda

Larne 3-2 Newry City

Portadown 3-0 PSNI

Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League results

Banbridge Town 3-0 Portstewart

Dundela 4-4 Newington

Queens University 1-0 Lisburn Distillery

Annagh United 1-2 Armagh City 

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