Andrew Waterworth struck twice for Linfield to keep them at the summit of the Danske Bank Premier league as they strolled to a routine victory over Dungannon Swifts at Windsor Park on Saturday afternoon.
The former Glentoran striker - who made the move across the city last summer - has hit the ground running, continuing his rich vein of form as he pounced on Matthew Tipton’s rebounded effort to open the scoring on 40 minutes. Tipton was then instrumental in setting up the second as he crossed for Waterworth to head home just before the hour mark for his seventh goal of the season.
Matthew Hazely forced Johnny Tuffey into a great save late on as Dungannon tried to force their way back in the game, but to no avail as the Tyrone side slip to seventh with only one win in their last four games.
The win opened up a four point lead at the top of the table but Portadown had the chance to cut that lead to the bare minimum as they welcomed Glenavon to Shamrock Park in the Mid-Ulster derby in front of Sky’s cameras on Monday night. Guy Bates was the hero for Glenavon as his hat-trick meant that Gary Hamilton’s men moved into second place with a 4-2 win over their fierce rivals.
Bates punished poor defending from a long-throw to blast in a 19th-minute opener and former Ports player Kyle Neill struck to make to 2-0 eight minutes later. Gary Twigg got one back for Portadown almost immediately but Bates grabbed his second five minutes before the break to ensure the visitor’s dominant first half display was reflected on the interval score board.
The former Drogheda United striker then completed his treble when he curled one in from the edge of the area just before the hour mark and only the post denied him a fourth in a rampant man of the match display. Peter McMahon pulled one back for the hosts but it was scant consolation for Portadown who were unbeaten in five before the game. Glenavon now have the chance to go top on Friday night – albeit possibly only for 24 hours – as they welcome Ballinamallard United to Lurgan on Friday night.
Crusaders good form continued as they followed up their victory in the North Belfast derby with a comprehensive 4-2 home victory over Ards that sees their unbeaten run stretch to twelve games in all competitions. The game was virtually over in the opening ten minutes as the Crues raced into a two goal lead courtesy of a Chris Morrow penalty and a Timmy Adamson tap in.
The newly promoted side couldn’t get near their Belfast rivals in the opening half and when Paul Heatley added a third just before the break their were real concerns that the flood gated would open in the second half, such was the home sides dominance. It was to Ards credit that rallied somewhat after the interval with Craig McMillan lashing home to reduce the deficit just before the hour mark but veteran midfielder Gary McCutcheon restored Crusaders three goal cushion on 86 minutes.
The visitors claimed another back with time almost up but it was merely a consolation as Stephen Baxter’s men go third in the league while Ards remain rooted to the bottom with only six points gained in eleven attempts.
Controversy reigned at Ferney Park as referee Colin Burns dismissed former Monaghan United keeper Alvin Rouse for a foul on Joe Gormley after only ten minutes. Replays showed that there was slight contact between Rouse and the inrushing Cliftonville striker and by the letter of the law the referee had little option but to send the Mallards custodian to the line. There was to be further punishment as when the game, resumed after a lengthy stoppage to treat both players, Gormley fired home the free kick to add insult to the home side’s injury.
It was then a battle for Ballinamallard to chase the game with only ten men although Andy Crawford really should have done better when the ball came through to him at the far post but he failed to make a connection that would have garnered an equaliser. George McMullan wrapped up the points for the resurgent champions in the second half but Cliftonville are down to fifth with much work to do if they are to regain their title this campaign.
Elsewhere Glentoran moved up to sixth as Marcus Kane's second-half goal was enough to see off Warrenpoint Town at Stangmore Park while Ballymena United came from two goals down to grab a share of the spoils against Coleraine at the Showgrounds.