Irish League Round-Up: Millar strikes late to decide Big Two derby, Glenavon pay penalty at Crusaders while Ballymena and Coleraine share spoils
There was late drama across most of the games in the Danske Bank Premiership today as the Big Two derby was decided in the dying stages at Windsor Park.
There was a hat-trick at Warrenpoint and two sendings-off at the Ballymena Showgrounds in the other derby today as the Irish League continued to entertain at every turn!
Linfield 1-0 Glentoran
YOU just knew the first Big Two derby of the season was going to end in fireworks, and Kirk Millar's winner four minutes from time certainly qualifies as that.
The midfielder's deflected strike was the difference in a nip and tuck game at Windsor Park, some good work from Bastien Hery and Mark Stafford opening up the opportunity.
The best chance of a nervy first half fell to Glentoran's Dutch midfielder Elvio van Overbeek as he passed up a great chance late on to put the visitors ahead in front of a boisterous crowd typical with the fixture.
A tentative start to the second half saw Jamie Mulgrew fire straight at Marijan Antolovic, while at the other end Rohan Ferguson did well to deal with a Hrvoje Plum free-kick.
John Herron came oh so close to breaking the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining when his effort smashed against the crossbar, but that just set up the dramatic finish that saw Millar be the game-winner.
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Ballymena United 1-1 Coleraine
THE other derby of the day saw Ballymena United and Coleraine play out the only draw of the afternoon as they finished tied at 1-1 at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Lethal finisher James McLaughlin put the visitors ahead, but Scot Whiteside, against his former side, earned a share of the spoils on the stroke of half-time.
It was some questionable defending from the hosts that allowed McLaughlin to put Oran Kearney's men ahead after 13 minutes, Eoin Bradley crossing for the completely unmarked striker to fire home.
Bannsiders defender Stephen O'Donnell then went from hero to villain in a short space of time as he made an excellent defensive intervention to deny Leroy Millar, only to be sent off for a second yellow card shortly after for a high boot.
With the extra man, Ballymena levelled from a corner when Whiteside rose highest to nod home to send the sides in at the break level.
A tentative second half finally sparked into life in the late stages when Cathair Friel passed up a major chance to give the hosts all three points when he failed to convert after picking up a poor back pass from Aaron Canning.
The visitors would even finish with only nine men on the pitch as Adam Mullan hauled down Ross Lavery clean through on goal, but the two sides would finish in a draw.
Crusaders 3-2 Glenavon
DAVID Cushley's penalty ten minutes from time gave Crusaders a hard-fought 3-2 win over a resilient Glenavon outfit at Seaview.
The midfielder converted from 12 yards to hand Stephen Baxter's men their sixth win of the season that takes them six points clear at the top of the table, with their other goals coming from Paul Heatley and Philip Lowry.
Rhys Marshall had given the Lurgan Blues the lead and Andy Mitchell had pulled them level again midway through the second half, but the hosts' spot kick would prove the decider.
Marshall had put Glenavon one to the good after just a minute when he bundled in a cross, however a sublime acrobatic volley from Heatley drew the Crues level again in the 13th minute.
That's how it would stay until nine minutes into the second half when Lowry leaped highest at a corner to nod home from close range to put the hosts ahead for the first time.
The offside flag denied Mitchell an equaliser, but he wouldn't have to wait too long to get on the scoresheet as he made it a tied game against in the 69th minute from the penalty spot after he himself was fouled by Howard Beverland.
Just as it looked like both sides would share the points, up stepped Cushley to settle the tie with a well struck penalty after Heatley was fouled by Aaron Harmon inside the box.
There was even late drama as Glenavon won a second penalty in injury time, giving them the chance to level it late, but Sean O'Neill saved Josh Daniels' spot kick with his feet to secure the three points.
Dungannon Swifts 0-4 Cliftonville
THREE goals in the ten minutes around half-time broke up a dour game at Stangmore Park and saw Cliftonville romp home with a comfortable 4-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.
After Gary Breen had put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half-time, two quick goals after the restart from Joe Gormley and Ryan Curran settled the result.
Indeed, very little happened in the game until Breen's opener, which came just moments before the half-time whistle as he stabbed home at the back post from Levi Ives' free-kick.
The Reds came out after the break with a spring in their step and they put the game to bed with two quick goals, Gormley tapping in at the back post following some good work out wide by Ryan Curran before Curran himself added the third, heading in Ives' cross.
The Swifts could muster little in response, and all that was left to do was for Gormley to add his second of the game, prodding the ball past Sam Johnston after breaking through and tapping it into the empty net.
Institute 1-4 Larne
TEN-MAN Larne made light of a tricky trip to the Brandywell as a brace each from Johnny McMurray and Marty Donnelly saw them home and dry against Institute.
Joe McCready pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot, but it was too little too late for 'Stute, who confirmed Sean Connor as their new manager before the game.
It took just a quarter of an hour for McMurray to grab his first of the game, the Inver Reds' top scorer in the perfect spot to head home Tomas Cosgrove's cross from eight yards out.
Donnelly then got in on the scoring action ten minutes later when he fired home from 20 yards out, before McMurray grabbed his second on the half-hour mark when he put the finish on an excellent passing move from the visitors.
Despite the three-goal lead, things got nervy for Larne when goalkeeper Conor Mitchell was sent off after racing out of his box and fouling x when through on goal, bringing debutant McKenzie Pauley into the fray.
But any hopes of an Institute comeback ended when Donnelly's deflected shot found the back of the net on the hour, with McCready's 12-yard strike nothing more than consolation for the hosts.
Warrenpoint Town 0-3 Carrick Rangers
A HAT-TRICK from Stewart Nixon saw Carrick Rangers win the battle at the bottom over ten-man Warrenpoint Town at the Q Radio Arena, triumphing 3-0.
The visitors were aided by Dermot McVeigh's sending-off after just half an hour as they opened up some daylight between themselves and the hosts, who are sit pointless at the bottom of the table.
Nixon was superb on the day, but he was gifted his first goal when he gobbled up Evan White's poor back pass after just 20 minutes and slotted home for the opener.
Two minutes later he had his second of the game when he powered home a finish, and that effectively led to McVeigh's dismissal for kicking out at the striker on the 30-minute mark.
From there, Warrenpoint had no response to the Rangers, and Nixon was on hand to complete his treble after Eamonn Scannell handled in his own box and the Carrick man duly converted from 12 yards.
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