Five things we noticed: Seaview struggles, magic McDaid and Ballymena's battle

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Linfield claim comfortable win over Carrick

Six more games and plenty of talking points - it's been another busy week in the Irish Premiership.

From Crusaders' patchy form, Bannsiders' brilliance and magic from Robbie McDaid - BBC Sport NI pick five talking points from Saturday's action.

Coleraine keep plugging away

Let's take a minute to appreciate what Oran Kearney is doing at Coleraine. Seven straight wins and sitting pretty at the top of the league.

Linfield and Crusaders threw everything they had at the Bannsiders, but Kearney's men stood firm and those wins will be huge mentally in the title race.

Expected wins away to Dundela and Dungannon Swifts followed, but momentum is building around the Showgrounds.

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Lowry double keeps Bannsiders top

Ben Doherty is in the form of his life, while Adam Mullan and Aaron Canning have formed quite the partnership in the heart of the Coleraine defence.

Goals are coming from left, right and centre too, with Stephen Lowry's double giving Kearney's outfit victory at a rather soggy Stangmore Park on Saturday.

It's a case of so far, so good, and Bannsiders' fans have to enjoy this journey as Kearney's stock continues to rise.

Not time to panic at Seaview

It was all looking so rosy for Crusaders and Stephen Baxter after their win over Linfield at the start of October.

Now, after three draws and a defeat against title rivals Coleraine, the Seaview outfit trail the Bannsiders by four points after a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Institute at the weekend.

Despite their sparkling early-season form tailing away, Baxter isn't worried about the Crues' recent run.

"It's football, you don't get things your own way all the time," he said.

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Crusaders lose ground in home draw with Institute

"It's about how we respond and how we dig ourselves out of these things.

"We're not doing enough to get over the line at the moment but that can turn at the flick of a switch so we'll not panic."

Make no doubt about it, Crusaders have the quality to respond, especially when Paul Heatley is fit and firing.

However, with the way the league table is shaping up then every point will be crucial come now and the end of the season.

Speaking of crucial points, Sean Connor has guided Institute further away from Warrenpoint Town at the bottom as his influence in the north-west continues. Things seem to be heading in the right direction for Stute.

Reds under the radar

Cliftonville keep going about their business in a similar way to Coleraine, and keep collecting the points. Paddy McLaughlin has done a fantastic job with the Reds' squad this year.

The north Belfast outfit only lost one of their seven games in October, a narrow defeat in the League Cup at Linfield, and kick-started November with a strong win away to Glenavon.

When you consider the praise Coleraine have been getting, the Solitude side are quietly going about their business in impressive fashion.

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Reds defeat Glenavon at Mourneview

If we're being honest, putting the ball in the net has never been an issue for Cliftonville, but they've only conceded nine goals in 14 games - which is the joint-best in the league.

McLaughlin has been working hard at the other end of the pitch to tighten up a defence that used to leak goals for fun, and now he is seeing the reward.

Whisper this quietly, but if the Reds can keep the consistency up and keep goals out, then they could be dark horses for the title.

McDaid steps up

Glentoran's goal-scoring burden has been heavily placed on Curtis Allen in recent seasons, but with the striker sidelined through injury, his team-mates have really stepped up in his absence.

With his pace, power and technique, Robbie McDaid has been an incredible attacking presence for Mick McDermott's outfit this year, netting six times.

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Warrenpoint v Glentoran

Hrvoje Plum has been in the headlines for his free-kicks, but the Croatian has now scored from open play for two games in a row and taken his season's tally to six.

Paul O'Neill, who is very highly-rated at the Oval, scored twice in the dramatic televised win over Larne in an impressive display, has found the net five times as he finds his feet in the Irish Premiership.

Marcus Kane, Gavin Peers and Paddy McClean have all been chipping in too from the defensive line.

The Glens possess a goal-scoring threat from every area of the pitch, and while this season may be a year too soon to mount a title charge, things keep growing around the Oval as their rebuild continues.

Ballymena in survival mode?

It never rains but it pours. Especially for Ballymena United this week.

Adam Lecky's long-awaited return from injury for the Sky Blues was short lived after his red card against Crusaders midweek in the County Antrim Shield, with Leroy Millar limping off with a broken metatarsal in the same game.

Cathair Friel was then forced off with a suspected broken collarbone in the defeat against Larne on Saturday. All of a sudden United's three biggest threats from last season's title challenge are out of action.

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Lee Lynch double sinks Ballymena

Joshua Kelly and Declan Carville also went off injured against Larne, and with Jude Winchester and Steven McCullough also out, manager David Jeffrey has some huge selection head aches coming up.

"When times get tough, that's when you have to stand up and be counted," said Jeffrey.

You just have to battle, fight and work as hard as you can. You can't let your head get down and you don't walk away from a fight.

"The minute you don't want to fight then you do walk away."

Jeffrey has set the standard, now it's up to his remaining troops to respond.