02 Dec 2023
© Stephen Hamilton/INPHO John McGovern celebrates his late equaliser for Newry City

As usual the weekend Sports Direct Premiership action didn’t disappoint as we move into the busy festive period.

Glentoran kicked proceedings off on Friday night with a thumping defeat of great derby rivals Linfield, while Cliftonville clocked up a big win on the road on Saturday afternoon.

Defending champions Larne were held to a scoreless draw away to struggling Ballymena United while bottom of the table Newry City bagged a late equaliser at Seaview.

Ten-man Glenavon also picked up a valuable point with a late leveller at home to Coleraine, while Carrick Rangers and Loughgall battled to a share of the spoils in east Antrim.

Daire O’Connor struck twice for the Glens at the BetMcLean Oval as they hit four without reply past the Blues, with other goals coming from Shay McCartan and Niall McGinn.

That opened the door for second placed Larne to move into top spot, all they needed to do was get the better of Ballymena United at The Showgrounds but, in a game that defied the formbook, neither side was able to find a way through.

Cliftonville had no such issues - in the end - away to Dungannon Swifts. The Swifts led at the break through Matthew Lusty’s 39th minute opener, but a couple of goals from Joe Gormley and Ronan Hale early in the second half tipped the balance in favour of the Reds before a Ben Wilson double late on more than settled the issue.

Newry City bagged a crucial point away to Crusaders with John McGovern’s 89th minute close range finish earning Gary Boyle’s side a return after the hosts had led for most of the game following Jordan Forsythe’s early goal.

And Glenavon also hit a late equaliser to salvage a point from Coleraine’s visit to Mourneview Park. Scoreless for most of the game, Jamie Glackin edged the Bannsiders in front with less than a quarter-of-an-hour to go, but Calum Birney popped up right at the end to earn Stephen McDonnell’s side something for their endeavours.

Meanwhile, at the Loughview Leisure Arena, Lewis MacKinnon and Danny Purkis found the net for Carrick Rangers either side of strikes from Jay Boyd and Benji Magee.