17 Feb 2024

With the number of games remaining beginning to run out this weekend could well prove to be a pivotal one in the Sports Direct Premiership.

Defending champions Larne moved three points clear at the top following a one goal defeat of Ballymena United at The Showgrounds.

Tiernan Lynch’s side moved in front with what turned out to be the only goal of the game on eight minutes when Andy Ryan and Lee Bonis combined for the latter to head past Sean O'Neill.

Cliftonville are now in second place, but they had to come from behind to defeat Glenavon 4-2 at Solitude.

The visitors opened the scoring midway through the first half when James Doona cut in from the left before beating David Odumosu with an unstoppable strike.

Rory Hale levelled for Cliftonville on 51 minutes with a header from Sam Ashford's ball into the area before, three minutes after that, Ashford found the net himself with a calm finish past Gareth Deane after Ronan Hale had played the ball into his path.

Glenavon hit back to bring the game back onto level terms on 73 minutes thanks to Matthew Snoddy's close range finish after an initial effort had come back off the post but, six minutes after that, Joe Gormley restored Cliftonville's lead from the spot.

Then, in stoppage time, Gormley struck again to make sure of the points for the Reds with a calm chip over the advancing Deane.

Linfield slipped to third spot after going down by three goals without reply away to Coleraine on Friday evening.

Scoreless at the break, Oran Kearney's side seized the advantage on 66 minutes, with Matthew Shevlin heading from six yards after David Walsh had misjudged a Jamie Glackin corner.

And Coleraine doubled their lead ten minutes after that. On this occasion Lyndon Kane provided the low cross into the box for Jamie McGonigle to direct towards goal amid Linfield claims that the ball hadn't crossed the line.

Then, with six minutes remaining, the game was settled as a contest when Conor McKendry sent an inswinging free-kick in from the right with the ball bypassing everyone on its way into the net.

Glentoran went goal crazy at the BetMcLean Oval, knocking eight past bottom of the table Newry City.

David Fisher opened the scoring after just four minutes after racing onto an Aidan Wilson ball to slot past Conor Mitchell from the edge of the area.

Newry levelled soon after, however, when Adam Salley connected with a Georgie Poynton free-kick from the right to head beyond Aaron McCarey.

Glentoran moved back in front on 19 minutes after Bobby Burns slotted home from the edge of the six yard box from Junior's ball from the left before, on 27 minutes, Daire O'Connor made it 3-1 following a goalmouth scramble from a Jonny Russell throw-in.

O'Connor struck again nine minutes after that to extend Glentoran's lead with a tap in after Marcus Kane's initial header had come back off the post.

Then, in first half stoppage time, Fisher added a fifth to double his own tally for the afternoon with a close range finish after his initial header had come back off the crossbar.

The rout continued just after the hour with O'Connor's hat-trick goal, a superb right-foot finish from 25 yards into the top left corner with Junior adding a seventh from the spot on 67 minutes after he had been upended by Ryan McGivern.

Adam Carroll grabbed a consolation for the visitors with eight minutes remaining after pouncing on a poor back pass but, in stoppage time, Charlie Lindsay knocked home Glentoran's eighth after a goalmouth scramble.

Crusaders needed just one goal to get the better of Loughgall at Lakeview Park when, a couple of minutes after the break, a Paul Heatley ball from the edge of the area appeared to be touched home by Phillip Lowry although both Heatley himself and Ross Clarke could also legitimate claims for the goal.

Meanwhile, at the Loughview Leisure Arena, Carrick Rangers got past Dungannon Swifts by the odd goal in three.

The deadlock was broken in favour of the home side in first half stoppage time when James Teelan found Danny Gibson with a clever through ball to finish confidently past Declan Dunne.

Carrick doubled their advantage just after the hour, however, when David Cushley fired home from a spot-kick awarded after Gibson had been upended by Dunne.

Dungannon responded positively, and pulled a goal back on 70 minutes through Gael Bigirimana's low strike into the bottom corner but Stuart King’s side held on to claim the points.