28 Jan 2023
© David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press Eetu Vertainen with his second match ball in successive Saturday's

The long weekend of Danske Bank Premiership action kicked off with victories for Cliftonville, Linfield and Coleraine while it finished honours even between Carrick Rangers and Glenavon.

Leaders Cliftonville swept to a four-goal defeat of Ballymena United at Solitude.

Joe Gormley opened the scoring for the Reds after half-an-hour with a composed finish at the back post from an acute angle. He then doubled up from the spot moments from the break after Sean Moore had been brought down on the edge of the area.

Ronan Hale added a third with just over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining after combining with brother Rory before, just three minutes after that, Moore completed the scoring with a low finish past Sean O’Neill.

Linfield moved into second spot with a thumping 6-1 away win over bottom of the table Portadown.

Eetu Vertainen claimed the match ball for the second Saturday in a row with a hat-trick while Joel Cooper – with two of his own – and Chris McKee also found the net.

Cooper opened the scoring as early as the tenth minute, with Vertainen adding a second midway through the first half.

Patrick McNally pulled one back for the Ports just before the break, but Vertainen struck again around the hour mark before bagging his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining. Cooper doubling his own tally on 86 minutes with Chris McKee wrapping things up not long after that.

Matthew Shevlin, the league’s leading scorer, added another couple of goal to his tally as he helped Coleraine hit three without reply past Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park.

The 24-year-old marksman opened the scoring in first half stoppage time after Andy Scott had slipped the ball into his path.

That was how it stayed until nine minutes from the end when Eamon Fyfe notched up his first goal for the Bannsiders before Shevlin made sure in the closing moments.

Meanwhile, at the Loughview Leisure Arena, Carrick Rangers and Glenavon shared the goals – and red cards – in what was a tightly fought tussle.

Both sides went in at the break scoreless and with ten men each when Kyle Cherry and then Jack Malone were dismissed in separate incidents.

Rangers edged in front midway through the second half when Calum Birney was unfortunate to see a Kurtis Forsythe come off him into his own net but the visitors levelled with a couple of minutes remaining after Danny Wallace fired home from close range.

The action continues tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon when Newry City play host to Larne at 3pm and, on Monday night, Glentoran welcome Crusaders to the BetMcLean Oval (kick-off 7:45pm).