Irish League title race: Twists and turns but no change at the top

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Linfield and Glentoran drew 1-1

Weekend round-up

It was another weekend of twists and turns in what has been an enthralling and intriguing Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

Linfield remain in pole position following a 1-1 draw with Glentoran in the Big Two derby at Windsor Park on Friday night. It was a potentially pivotal game in the race for the title but, in the end, it was a result neither camp really wanted.

Both goals came in the latter part of the first half with Jordan Stewart firing the Blues in front just after the half-hour mark before Conor McMenamin levelled just six minutes later.

That left the stage clear for Cliftonville to go back to the top with victory over Larne on Saturday afternoon at Solitude but the Reds were frustrated in what turned out to be a scoreless draw.

Crusaders closed the gap on third placed Glentoran with a thumping 4-1 win away to Coleraine. Stephen Baxter's side moved in front through Adam Lecky on 17 minutes before goals from Paul Heatley and David Larmour before the break, and Jude Winchester early in the second half put the visitors into a commanding position. Josh Carson popped up with a stoppage time consolation for the Bannsiders as their poor run continued.

Glenavon remain slightly ahead in the battle for a possible European play-off spot despite going down by the odd goal in five away to Dungannon Swifts.

James Convie opened the scoring for the Swifts after just 12 seconds, with James Knowles adding another from the spot with just over a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock. Glenavon hit back with two goals in three minutes midway through the first half but it fell to the unfortunate Matthew Snoddy to turn the ball into his own goal with seven minutes remaining to tip the balance in favour of Dean Shiels' side.

Ballymena United closed the gap on Glenavon after coming from behind to defeat Portadown at The Showgrounds. Billy Stedman edged the Ports in front towards the end of the first half but a Paul McElroy penalty and Steven McCullough free-kick after the break saw the Sky Blues win through in the end.

Meanwhile, two Alexander Gawne goals were enough to earn Carrick Rangers the victory away to Warrenpoint Town after Luke Wade Slater had fired Barry Gray's relegation haunted 'Point in front just before half-time.


Linfield and Glentoran battled to a pulsating 1-1 draw in the final 'Big Two' derby of the season at Windsor Park on Friday night.

It was a game that lived up to the billing, in the first half at least. Glentoran almost seized the early advantage when, after six minutes, a Hrvoje Plum corner was flicked against the left upright by Michael O'Connor.

The Glens threatened again soon after following Dillon Powers' lofted ball into the path of Jay Donnelly but the Glentoran frontman just failed to make contact to turn it home.

Then, not long after that, the woodwork came to Linfield's rescue again after O'Connor then clipped the outside of the right post with a low strike from the edge of the area.

Another chance followed midway through the first half with O'Connor again involved after he played the ball through for Conor McMenamin but he couldn't find a way past Chris Johns with a left-foot strike.

But the deadlock was broken just after the half-hour mark - and in Linfield's favour too - when Jordan Stewart's cross from wide on the left bypassed everyone in the area before ending up in the net in front of the Kop.

Glentoran responded positively with the equaliser just six minutes after that. McMenamin found himself one-on-one with Jimmy Callacher inside the area and unleashed a tremendous left-foot drive past the experienced defender into the far corner to give Johns no chance.

Moving into the second half, Conor Pepper created an early opening for Chris McKee but the striker could only fire just wide after turning well.

At the other end Plum teed himself up with a free-kick from around 25 yards only to fire just narrowly over before play switched again for Eetu Vertainen to turn an effort into the side netting.

The chances continued with Kyle McClean having an effort blocked on the line and Jack Hastie produced a good stop from Aaron McCarey.

Glentoran had a huge opportunity with ten minutes remaining. After breaking on the counter attack McMenamin got past Mulgrew in a race for the ball, running into the area and electing to have a shot on goal himself despite Bobby Burns being well placed and available in the middle of the box.

Linfield had one chance, too, when Vertainen found Stewart with a great pass but McCarey was on hand to deal with the subsequent shot and follow up header.

The draw moves Linfield two points clear at the top of the table, but Cliftonville can go top tomorrow with a win at home to Larne while, for Glentoran, they are now six adrift of the summit.

Linfield: Johns, Shields, Callacher, Millar, Stewart, Hall, M. Clarke, McKee, McClean, Mulgrew, Pepper subs Walsh, Roscoe, Vertainen, Devine, Quinn, Salam, Hastie

Glentoran: McCarey, Burns, Marshall, J. Donnelly, McClean, Clucas, O'Connor, Marron, McMenamin, Powers, Plum subs Kane, McCartan, R. Donnelly, Crowe, Jenkins, Glendinning, Cole

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