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Premiership

SLIM PICKINGS FOR TOP THREE

26 Jan 2021
football
© Brian Little/PressEye Cliftonville celebrate Michael McCrudden's goal
None of the top three sides managed to win on what was an entertaining Tuesday evening of Danske Bank Premiership football.
 
Leaders Linfield remain four points clear at the summit but they were on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller with Cliftonville at Solitude.
 
Jordan Stewart opened the scoring for the Blues after 12 minutes but this was cancelled out by Michael McCrudden not long after.
 
That was how it stayed until midway through the second half when Jamie Mulgrew restored Linfield's lead with a deflected effort but, within eight minutes, Conor McMenamin levelled for the Reds.
 
McMenamin then fired Paddy McLaughlin's side in front with eight minutes remaining, with Ryan Curran making sure with a fourth after that.
 
Linfield did pull one back in stoppage time courtesy of a Kirk Millar free-kick but it was too late to alter the outcome of an engrossing encounter.
 
Larne went into the evening in second spot but came up against a Coleraine side who have now stretched their winning streak to five successive games.
 
The Bannsiders raced into an early lead through a Stephen Lowry spot-kick on six minutes followed swiftly by a James McLaughlin goal barely five minutes after that.
 
Larne did press hard to get back into the game but they had to wait until the 74th minute to find the net thanks to Albert Watson's thumping header, and they almost levelled later in the game only for Johnny McMurray to strike the woodwork.
 
Crusaders, the only one of the top three not to lose, had to settle for a point away to Portadown - although that was enough to move them above Larne on goal difference.
 
Stephen Baxter's side twice held the lead at Shamrock Park but twice surrendered it.
 
Declan Caddell opened the scoring midway through the first half but Adam McCallum, who had earlier rattled the crossbar, levelled just before the break.
 
Paul Heatley restored the visiting advantage four minutes after the interval but just as it looked like the Crues had done enough Lee Bonis popped up right at the end to level matters once more.
 
Meanwhile, at The Oval, Glentoran defeated Carrick Rangers by two goals despite playing the last half-an-hour with ten men.
 
It was a strong performance by Carrick, but they fell behind just before the break through Jay Donnelly's close range header.
 
Donnelly was sent-off early in the second half for a challenge on Mark Surgenor but Robbie McDaid grabbed Glentoran's second with around a quarter-of-an-hour remaining to make sure of the points.