Cliftonville maintained their slender advantage at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Glentoran at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.
The Glens made the short journey from east to north Belfast anxious to get back to winning ways after losing their unbeaten record in this year’s campaign in their last outing with a 3-0 thumping at the hands of Crusaders. The Reds on the other hand were looking to banish the memory of last season’s cup final defeat that denied them a place in the record books with a historic treble and they went ahead on three minutes when Liam Boyce opened the scoring after he calmly dispatched Chris Curran’s cross.
The champions doubled their lead in injury time of the first half when Boyce jinked his way into the Glens half and, with the defence backpedalling furiously, laid the ball into the path of Martin Donnelly who thundered the ball across Elliot Morris and into the bottom corner of the net.
The visitors came out in the second half a different side and were back in the game on 66 minutes as Mark Miskimmin blasted into the roof of the goal at the second time of asking. The life line was to be short lived however as Jimmy Callacher brought down Stephen Garrett five minutes later for Boyce to restore the two goal cushion from the penalty spot. Joe Gormley copper fastened the three points with twelve minutes remaining as his deflected shot looped over Morris to see Glentoran slide into eighth place - a long drop from the top of the table after two consecutive defeats.
It took Portadown only 47 seconds to take the lead at home to Dungannon Swifts when Darren Murray took advantage of some lax defending to curl a shot into the top corner for his fifth league goal this season. He was soon joined on five goals by Kevin Braniff when the former Millwall striker latched on to David Miskelley’s long punt up field to tuck the ball under Gareth Buchanan in the 32nd minute.
Dungannon replied with a Jamie Douglas goal five minutes later but could not find an equaliser and Portadown remain in second place after a fine start to their campaign.
An Andrew Waterworth hat trick helped Linfield to a 4-1 victory over Ballymena United at Windsor Park to give David Jeffreys’ men their third league victory on the spin and propel them to fourth in the table. Waterworth’s first came in the tenth minute when the former Glentoran striker rounded off a superb Linfield passing move to head in Jamie Mulgrew’s inviting cross. He then helped Michael Carvill’s goal bound shot across the line nine minutes later before completing his treble with a 60th minute penalty.
Gary Liggett had replied for Ballymena but the resurgent Blues were full value for their victory and Rodney Brown added a fourth for the home side in stoppage time.
Glenavon also recorded a 4-1 win when they came from behind to beat Ards at Mourneview Park while Ballinamallard showed great character to rebound from last week’s 11-0 annihilation at the hands of Portadown to overcome Coleraine by two goals to one.
In the weekend’s final fixture a Josh Robinson injury time goal gave Crusaders a point against second from bottom Warrenpoint Town.