Belfast Telegraph

Irish League Round Up: Crusaders go five clear in Premiership table as Ballymena seal League Cup final spot

By Gareth Hanna

Crusaders stretched their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership to five points while Ballymena United sealed their spot in the League Cup final.

Here's all you need to know about a busy day of Irish League action:

Crusaders 4-2 Glentoran

Crusaders are five points clear at the top of the table after their 16th win in their last 18 Premiership games.

Former Liverpool midfielder Alex O'Hanlon gave Glentoran an early lead, driving an unstoppable effort across Brian Jensen and into the bottom corner.

It was to prove only temporary frustration for the Crues, who were 2-1 ahead by the break. The hosts had hit the bar three times before Jordan Owens levelled and Billy Joe Burns made it 2-1 late in the half, owing much to a strong run and a square ball from Gavin Whyte.

Colin Coates powered home the third, heading in Paul Heatley's corner, before Whyte made sure of the points, blasting home from a narrow angle.

Robbie McDaid netted a late consolation for Glentoran.

Coleraine 1-1 Glenavon

Coleraine fell further behind in the title race after a thrilling draw with third placed Glenavon, who ended the match with 10 men.

The Bannsiders forced two one-on-one saves from Jonny Tuffey in the opening two minutes and the Glenavon keeper ended the half in the spotlight as well. He made a strong penalty save from Ciaron Harkin after Jamie McGonigle had been brought down by Caolan Marron. Tuffey was booked for protesting but recovered in time to stop the spot-kick.

Coleraine were punished on 53 when Andy Hall bundled the ball over the line from a dangerous Bobby Burns corner. It was with more style that Coleraine equalised on the hour, ex Glenavon man Eoin Bradley curling a free-kick into the top corner from the edge of the area.

There were chances to win at either end as Jonny Tuffey held a long range Harkin drive before Andrew Mitchell was denied by a strong Chris Johns save.

Glenavon were down to ten men when Mark Sykes was dismissed on 87 minutes for a challenge on Eoin Bradley that referee Ian McNabb deemed to be wreckless.

BetMcLean League Cup semi-final: Ballymena United 3-1 Cliftonville

Ballymena United will meet Dungannon in the final of the BetMcLean League Cup next weekend.

The Sky Blues were sent into the final thanks to strikes from Leroy Millar, Tony Kane and Cathair Friel.

Millar opened scoring in the second-half after Brian Neeson couldn't hold Kane's drive and it was Kane himself who made it two when he glanced home a long Conor McCloskey throw.

Jude Winchester pulled one back with a minute remaining before Cathair Friel netted from his own half as the Reds pushed for an equaliser.

Linfield 0-0 Dungannon Swifts

Linfield missed the chance to close the gap on third placed Glenavon. The Blues remain three behind the Lurgan side as Dungannon warmed up for their League Cup final with a credible draw.

Swifts stopper Stuart Addis denied the hosts on several occassions, stopping efforts from Niall Quinn, Achille Campion and Kurtis Byrne.

Dungannon had chances of their own as Daniel Hughes forced a save from Gareth Deane after Jarlaith O'Rourke had struck the bar.

Ards 0-4 Carrick Rangers

Carrick Rangers are now four clear of bottom side Ballinamallard after their biggest Premiership win since beating the same team by the same scoreline at the same ground just over a year ago.

Jonathan Smith, on loan from Glentoran, opened the scoring on eight minutes but it was in the second half when the hosts turned the screw. Defender Paddy McNally made it 2-0 on 48 before Lee Chapman added a third and then assisted Eamon Scannell for the fourth.

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