Irish Premiership: Top two Coleraine and Cliftonville win 4-0

Coleraine have won their last six matches in the Irish Premiership
Coleraine have won their last six matches in the Irish Premiership

The Irish Premiership's top two teams, Coleraine and Cliftonville, bolstered their title challenges with easy wins on Saturday.

Unbeaten Coleraine saw off 10-man Glenavon to stay one point ahead at the top while second-placed Cliftonville beat Warrenpoint by the same score.

Ballymena United, without a league win since September, were beaten 2-1 at home by Carrick Rangers.

Glentoran's four-match winning run was ended by a 1-1 draw away to Institute.

Third-placed Crusaders and champions Linfield, who are fourth, were not in action.

The Crues take on Larne in the league on Monday while Linfield play the second leg of the cross-border Champions Cup match against Dundalk on the same night.

Glenavon players protested to referee Arnold Hunter after Daniel Larmour's red card
Glenavon players protested to referee Arnold Hunter after Daniel Larmour's red card

Coleraine and Cliftonville took the opportunity to pull away from their rivals at the top of the table as the Bannsiders won their eighth consecutive game in all competitions.

Coleraine's opening goal in the 10th minute looked like it came off Caolan Marron as the visiting defender seemed to get the final touch when he and home striker James McLaughlin challenged for a cross.

Glenavon were well in the game in the first half and Andrew Mitchell missed a good chance before they were reduced to 10 men when Daniel Larmour was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on James McLaughlin just outside the box in the 40th minute.

McLaughlin doubled the lead four minutes later when he added the finishing touch to a square pass from strike partner Eoin Bradley.

McLaughlin got his second of the game in the 63rd minute, applying a delicate finish to a clever pass from Jamie Glackin.

Ben Doherty rounded off the scoring for the Bannsiders 13 minutes from time, slotting home from the penalty spot after Coleraine sub Nedas Maciulaitis was brought down by Eoin Wearen.

Conor McDermott's long-range strike made it 2-0 to Cliftonville
Conor McDermott's long-range strike made it 2-0 to Cliftonville

Meanwhie, Conor McDermott submitted a spectacular entry into the goal of the season competition as Cliftonville brushed Warrenpoint Town aside with a 4-0 win at Solitude.

After Mark McKee marked his first start for the Reds with a well-taken goal to open the scoring on 23 minutes, McDermott plucked the ball out of the rainy north Belfast sky, flicked it over Alan O'Sullivan's head and launched a shot from 10 yards inside his own half which sailed over Berraat Turker's head and into the net.

Joe Gormley poked home his 18th goal of the season after 41 minutes to give the Reds an unassailable lead at the break, while Ryan Curran added a fourth from the penalty spot following Dermot McVeigh's foul on Gormley.

It could have been much more for Paddy McLaughlin's side with Gormley and Thomas Maguire spurning chances in the second half on another deeply demoralising afternoon for bottom-placed Warrenpoint.

Cliftonville remain second, just a point behind leaders Coleraine and six ahead of third-placed Crusaders, after securing their sixth league win on the bounce and ensuring a miserable return to Solitude for Barry Gray, who suffered a third straight defeat since beginning his second spell in charge of Warrenpoint.

Carrick's victory was their third away league win this season
Carrick's victory was their third away league win this season

Institute's recent resurgence under Sean Connor continued as they held on to secure a point against Glentoran at the Brandywell.

Elvio van Overbeek fired the visitors into a first-half lead but Niall Grace hit back for 'Stute two minutes before the break.

It was one-way traffic in the second half as Glentoran pummelled the home defence but Connor's outfit stood firm to deny the east Belfast side the three points.

Ballymena United suffered a fifth straight defeat in all competitions as they were beaten 2-1 by Carrick Rangers at the Showgrounds.

The visitors went in front inside the opening 50 seconds as Daniel Kelly smashed home the rebound after United keeper Ross Glendinning had made a good save from James Ferrin's initial header.

United replied on 12 minutes when Carrick keeper Aaron Hogg lost the flight of Steven McCullough's corner kick and Aaron Burns was on hand to nod home his first goal for Ballymena.

Carrick regained the lead on 23 minutes as Lee Chapman forced the ball home from inside the six yard box after Stewart Nixon's long throw-in was flicked on by Kelly.

Ballymena thought they had restored parity on 29 minutes when Ross Lavery's low cross was met by Andy McGrory. His effort beat Hogg and crashed off the underside of the crossbar but the referee's assistant adjudged that the ball hadn't crossed the goal-line.

Irish Premiership
Ballymena Utd1-2Carrick Rangers
Cliftonville4-0Warrenpoint Town
Coleraine4-0Glenavon
Institute1-1Glentoran
Bluefin Sport Championship
Ards3-2Ballinamallard United