Irish Premiership: Linfield strike late to stay five points behind Crusaders

Jimmy Callacher gave Linfield the lead with a backward header
Jimmy Callacher gave Linfield the lead with a backward header

Linfield secured a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ballymena United to remain five points behind league leaders Crusaders, who defeated Glenavon 3-1 at Seaview.

Mark Stafford stooped low to head in Aaron Burn's cross in stoppage time.

Third-placed Cliftonville triumphed 3-0 at Carrick Rangers, Portadown beat Dungannon Swifts 2-0 and Ballinamallard United saw off Glentoran 2-1.

New boss Colin Nixon led Ards to a 1-1 draw at Coleraine on a day when five players were sent-off in the league.

Re-live all the action from Saturday's Premiership action as it happened

Linfield had the better of the first half at Windsor Park, with Andrew Waterworth squandering the best chance when he sidefooted the ball over from six yards out.

Jimmy Callacher's backward header from a long Ross Gaynor free-kick gave the hosts a 50th-minute lead but Tony Kane levelled with his 11th consecutive successful penalty conversion in the 87th minute after Niall Quinn was adjudged to have handled inside the area.

Stafford's late intervention sealed the win for Linfield and made it a disappointing return to Windsor Park for Sky Blues manager David Jeffrey.

Declan Caddell
Declan Caddell sent Crusaders on their way to victory against Glenavon

Crusaders took immediate control of their game when Declan Caddell had the simple task of slotting home on five minutes after Gavin Whyte squared the ball to the midfielder.

Glenavon goalkeeper Johnny Tuffey distinguished himself with a series of fine saves to prevent the hosts extending their lead and Mark Patton brought the visitors level in the first minute of the second half.

Gavin Whyte took advantage of a poor Tuffey clearance to fire into the net from seven yards on 58 minutes and Jordan Owens hammered home the champions' third after 79.

David McDaid ran onto a Tomas Cosgrove pass to give Cliftonville a second-minute lead at Taylor's Avenue, then Stephen Garrett fired in from close range for his eighth of the season in the 27th minute.

Striker Garrett netted his second from the penalty spot on 78 after his team-mate Daniel Hughes had been sent-off for an altercation with Carrick goalkeeper Brian Neeson.

Stephen Garrett was on target twice in Cliftonville's 3-0 win at Carrick Rangers
Stephen Garrett was on target twice in Cliftonville's 3-0 win at Carrick Rangers

Basement side Portadown move onto positive points for the first time this season courtesy of their victory over Dungannon, in a game which saw both sides reduced to 10 men in quick succession.

Stephen Hughes and Andy Mitchell went close for their respective sides, before Mark McAllister, restored to the squad under new manager Niall Currie, scored the opener on 37, finding the net from a rebound after Hughes had hit the post.

Swifts defender Chris Hegarty was sent-off for a foul on Aaron Haire on 65 minutes, his second yellow card offence, and Keith O'Hara followed him to the dressing rooms seven minutes later, having also been booked twice.

Hughes fired the winner low into the net in the 74th minute for the first win of Currie's tenure in charge of the mid-Ulster club.

Rodney Brown and Ross Arthurs
Rodney Brown and Ross Arthurs in action during Coleraine's 1-1 draw with Ards

Ards took the lead against Coleraine through David McAllister in the 39th minute after Chris Johns had saved his initial close-range effort, but Brad Lyons restored parity when he headed in from a Neil McCafferty corner six minutes after the break.

Visiting defender Johnny Taylor was dismissed in injury-time after being shown a second yellow card for a show of dissent.

Ballinamallard earned a morale-boosting triumph over Glentoran, who had Stephen Gordon sent-off by referee Raymond Crangle on the stroke of half-time for his part in a scuffle.

Ryan Mayse fired into the bottom corner five minutes after the interval and striker Joshua McIlwaine smashed into the top corner to double his side's lead soon after.

The Glens pulled one back through Jay Magee's goal in the final minute but the result made it two defeats from two games for Gary Haveron's East Belfast charges.

Irish Premiership - Saturday 17 December
Ballinamallard Utd2-1Glentoran
Carrick Rangers0-3Cliftonville
Linfield2-1Ballymena Utd
Portadown2-0Dungannon Swifts