Irish Premiership: Leaders Crusaders held to 1-1 draw at Ballymena

Crusaders were unable to to beat Ballymena in a gripping game at the Showgrounds
Crusaders were unable to to beat Ballymena in a gripping game at the Showgrounds

Irish Premiership leaders Crusaders dropped points for just the third time this season after they were pegged back to draw 1-1 with Ballymena United.

Ryan Harpur's header cancelled out Jamie McGonigle's penalty in a dramatic game at the Showgrounds.

Second-placed Coleraine narrowed the deficit to three points with a 3-0 win over Warrenpoint Town.

Linfield made light work of Dungannon Swifts, Cliftonville edged Larne and Glentoran saw off Carrick Rangers.

Crusaders had the better of the chances in the first half but had to wait until the 48th minute to go ahead when referee Andrew Davey adjudged that Ryan Harpur had handled inside the area and substitute Jamie McGonigle fired home from the spot.

Harpur drew Ballymena level after 66 minutes when his flicked header from Scot Whiteside's delivery flew past Ger Doherty and into the corner of the net.

Both sides had chances to secure the win but Ross Glendinning excelled with a series of fine saves, particularly from the lively Paul Heatley, and then Jude Winchester was unable to convert when one-on-one with the keeper in the dying seconds.

Champions too strong for Swifts

A hugely effective and clinical first-half display from Linfield got the Irish Premiership holders back to winning ways in the league with an easy 4-1 win over Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park.

Kirk Millar scored twice - his first a sublime chip over keeper Niall Morgan - with Andy Waterworth and Joel Cooper also on the scoresheet before substitute Daniel Hughes grabbed a late consolation for the hosts.

Waterworth opened the scoring with a close-range finish in the seventh minute after a fine run and low cross by Cooper.

Millar added the second on 25 minutes, latching on to a through ball and superbly lobbing the ball over the advancing Morgan for a classy goal.

Cooper made it 3-0 four minutes later with a well-drilled strike into the bottom corner when the Swifts defence stood off, and Millar headed in his second at the back post three minutes before the break.

The second half was something of a non-event apart from a well-taken goal from Hughes, who controlled a Michael Carvill cutback and finished well past Rohan Ferguson.

Curran strikes late as Reds edge Larne

Substitute Ryan Curran was the hero at Solitude after his 87th-minute strike gave Cliftonville a hard-fought 1-0 win over Larne.

Curran fired high into the net after Joe Gormley had missed a penalty in a drama-filled second half in north Belfast.

In a cagey opening half, Jamie Harney headed wide for Cliftonville after being found by Ronan Doherty's corner.

The game alive after the break, as Albert Watson hauled Gormley down inside the box on 54 minutes. The Reds striker stepped up but fired his spot-kick wide of Conor Devlin's right-hand post.

Substitute Ryan Curran scored Cliftonville's winner in the 87th-minute
Substitute Ryan Curran scored Cliftonville's winner in the 87th-minute

Larne could have scored the opener on 58 when Martin Donnelly found David McDaid, but the striker was unable to beat Richard Brush.

With time running out, Seanan Foster's wayward shot found Curran and the Reds No.9 lifted his effort into the roof of the net in front of the ecstatic home supporters.

In a breathless climax, Harry Flowers was denied an equaliser when his volley produced a brilliant fingertip save from Brush, before Flowers failed to head home at the far post in the last action of the game.

Cliftonville stay within a point of Coleraine and just four behind Crusaders.

Doherty double as Bannsiders close in on Crues

Coleraine moved to within three points of leaders Crusaders with a comfortable 3-0 win over Warrenpoint at the Showgrounds.

The Bannsiders went in front from a Ben Doherty penalty on 23 minutes after Point skipper Danny Wallace was adjudged to have impeded Nedas Macuilaitis' run into the penalty area.

Eoin Bradley doubled the home side's lead on 38 minutes, curling home a free kick from just outside the penalty area via the inside of the post.

Ben Doherty continued his fine form with two goals in Coleraine's 3-0 win
Ben Doherty continued his fine form with two goals in Coleraine's 3-0 win

Coleraine had to wait until the final minute to wrap up victory when they were awarded a second penalty after keeper Berraat Turker brought down Lyndon Kane.

Doherty's spot kick was saved by Turker but the rebound fell kindly for the midfielder to tap home his second goal of the game form close range.

Glens back to winning ways

Robbie McDaid inspired Glentoran back to winning ways and into the top six with a 3-1 win over Carrick Rangers at the Oval.

Guillaume Keke's 18th minute goal put the visitors into the lead, but McDaid brought the Glens level on 23 minutes after good work from Hrvoje Plum and Navid Nasseri.

McDaid then won a penalty on 48 minutes, which was converted by Plum, before the striker scored his second of the game after sprinting clear three minutes later.

Glenavon weren't in Irish Premiership action, but the Lurgan Blues were unable to put their wretched recent form behind them as they were dumped out of the Scottish Challenge Cup following a 3-1 defeat by Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballymena United 1-1 Crusaders
Cliftonville 1-0Larne
Coleraine3-0Warrenpoint Town
Dungannon Swifts 1-4Linfield
Glentoran3-1 Carrick Rangers
Bluefin Sport Championship
Ballyclare Comrades2-0Ballinamallard United
H&W Welders2-1Portadown
Newry City5-1Ards
Queen's University5-2Dundela