Cliftonville reduce gap on Linfield

Published Wednesday, 01 January 2014
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Defending champions Cliftonville took advantage of Linfield's postponed game to reduce the gap on the leaders to three points.

Cliftonville reduce gap on Linfield
Cliftonville's Martin Donnelly scores during the game at Solitude (© Pacemaker)

With Linfield's clash with Glenavon failing a pitch inspection due to a waterlogged pitch, the Reds eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over Coleraine at Solitude.

Tommy Breslin's men could even afford the luxury of missing an early penalty, with Liam Boyce seeing his spot kick brilliantly saved by stand-in keeper Greg Shannon.

The Reds took the lead on 10 minutes when Boyce was on hand to tap the loose ball in after Shannon had made a fine save to deny Joe Gormley.

Martin Donnelly produced a sensational strike to double the lead on 23 minutes, collecting a pass from Boyce and after cutting inside his unstoppable shot flew into the top corner.

The Reds continued to dominate controlling the midfield through Catney and Johnston while Coleraine to their credit did well to prevent any further damage in the first half.

Chances for the visitors were very few and it was the home side who should have added more goals, with efforts from Murray and Johnston going over the bar.

In the end it was a job well done for the Reds who face Glenavon next at Mourneview Park on Tuesday 7 January.

Third placed Crusaders had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw at Shamrock Park, but the big talking point was the disallowed goal near the end that would have given Stephen Baxter's men all three points.

Portadown, still smarting from their late defeat on Boxing Day at Glenavon, had the Crues on the ropes in the opening minutes.

Goalkeeper Sean O'Neill made a fine save to keep out a shot from Sean Mackle and in the next attack Darren Murray's cross should have been turned in by Shane O'Conner.

With three minutes gone that early pressure paid off for the Ports when Mackle fired the ball home after good link-up play with Keith O'Hara and Murray.

The visitors were level on ten minutes thanks mainly to a great run by Eamon McAllister who then fed Paul Heatley who drilled a shot past David Miskelly.

That lifted the Crues and they had two further chances to go ahead, first Jordan Owens nodded down for Heatley whose shot was blocked and then Declan Caddell broke clear and tried to lob the ball over Miskelly but the Ports keeper made a fine save.

Crusaders suffered a blow just before the break with Colin Coates forced to retire with an ankle injury.

The Ports did their best to edge ahead again in the second half when a free kick by Chris Casement seemed to be heading into the net but O'Neill did well to get his hand to the shot and turn it away for a corner.

Crusaders responded with a chance of their own when centre half Josh Robinson got on the end of a corner but Darren Murray cleared his effort off the line.

Crusaders thought they had hit the winner on 83 minutes when a shot from Paul Heatley flew into a ruck of players and hit off Paul Leeman and into the net. At first it seemed referee Raymond Crangle was awarding the goal, but with Portadown claiming offside and after consulting with his assistant he ruled it out.

The drama continued as Portadown might have won it with Darren Murray producing a great turn and volley they was inches over while with a minute to go Miskelly saved well from Caddell.

Glentoran's fine form on the road continued as they secured their eighth away win in the league with a 1-0 win at Dungannon.

However, Eddie Patterson's side had survive a tense last ten minutes after having a player sent off at Stangmore Park.

Glentoran opened the scoring on 15 minutes when a Jordan Stewart corner was not collected by keeper Buchannan and William Garrett was free to head home.

The Glens continued to carve out the better chances and should have found the net again when Mark Miskimmon rounded the keeper and cut the ball back for David Scullion but his shot was blocked and cleared.

A bit of good fortune saw Wayne Buchanan a relieved goakeeper when his attempted clearance hit off Boyd and the woodwork.

Scullion had an effort well saved but it was Dungannon who should have scored when Jamie Glackin glanced a header just wide when in a great position in front of goal.

The Glens were left to battle out the last ten minutes with ten men after Aaron Boyd was sent off after picking up a second yellow.

Elliott Morris was alert to gather a shot from Costello as the Swifts pushed for the equalier, but in the end it was a deserved three points for the visitors.

Despite picking up a point in their 0-0 draw with Ballymena, Ards remain bottom of the table.

Ards boss Niall Currie made six changes to his team for this game and it certainly provided the spark for a bright first half by the home team.

They were denied an opening goal on seven minutes when Ryan Henderson hit a fine volley only to be denied by Yohan Lacroix, on loan from Crusaders and making his debut for Ballymena.

Two minutes later Andy Hunter hit a 40 yard free kick that again was well saved while at the other end Alan Blayney, also making his debut on loan from Linfield, did well to keep out a shot from United's Gary Thompson.

Mark Surgenor fired over the bar and on 30 minutes Hunter's header was also over the target. The final chance of the half fell to Thompson but Blayney made a comfortable save.

Ards went close to finding the opening midway through the second half when an Andy Mitchell shot was spilled by Lacroix, but the United keeper did well to save the follow up from Neil Dougan.

United created few real chances but Gary Thompson almost found a way to goal but his well struck shot was tipped over the bar by Blayney.

Warrenpoint's recent good run continued as they defeated Ballinamallard 3-2 at Ferney Park.

Padraig Smith proved the hero for the visitors when he popped up with the winner in an all action encounter.

A dramatic opening 28 miniutes saw four goals shared and also two ruled out for Ballinamallard.

David Kee edged United ahead on 14 minutes but Warrenpoint recoved well to take the lead thanks well struck efforts from Daniel Hughes on 15 minutes and Stephen Hughes on 22 minutes.

It was 2-2 when Mark Stafford did well to nod home from a corner and game on again.

Early in the second half Richard Leckey brought a great save out of Blaine Hughes as the ball spun off his legs while for the Point Stephen Hughes almost grabbed his second of the day when his shot hit the side netting.

It was then left to Smith to seal the points and set Barry Gray's team up nicely for Saturday's home clash with Linfield. The game will see Blues manager David Jeffrey celebrate 17 years in charge.

New Year's Day Danske Bank Premiership Results:

Ards 0-0 Ballymena

Ballinamallard 2-3 Warrenpoint
Ballinamallard: David Kee (14), Mark Stafford (29)
Warrenpoint: Daniel Hughes (15), Stephen Hughes (23), Padraig Smith (90+2)

Cliftonville 2-0 Coleraine
Cliftonville: Liam Boyce (10), Martin Donnelly (23)

Swifts 0- 1 Glentoran
Glentoran: William Garrett (15), Aaron Boyd (SO)

Portadown 1- 1 Crusaders
Portadown: Garry Breen (45+1)
Crusaders: Paul Heatley (10)

Linfield OFF Glenavon

© UTV News
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