Crusaders left it late to earn all three points against Ards while Coleraine kept up the chase, beating Dungannon.
Elsewhere, basement side Ballinamallard were denied their second win of the season by an injury-time Glentoran equaliser. Cliftonville drew with Glenavon while Ballymena United beat Carrick and Warrenpoint’s game against Linfield was called off.
Crusaders 1-0 Ards
Crusaders almost dropped points for only the second time in their last 14 Premiership matches but were rescued late by Jordan Owens.
Ards’ 21-year-old keeper Sam Johnston had produced a string of saves to all but earn his clean sheet, most impressively from Gavin Whyte, Declan Caddell and BJ Burns. But Owens popped up late to win it from a corner kick to keep the Crues a point ahead at the top.
Dungannon Swifts 0-1 Coleraine
Coleraine were made to work for their win at Stangmore Park and have substitute Eoin Bradley to thank for it.
The 34-year-old’s first Premiership strike since August proved enough to secure all three points as he pounced on a rare Dungannon defensive error. Dungannon had created their fair share of chances, going closest when Mark Patton’s dangerous corner was inches away from being converted by both David Armstrong and Ryan Harpur. Darren McCauley saw a last gasp penalty saved but Coleraine held on to win.
Glenavon 1-1 Cliftonville
Sammy Clingan rescued a point for Glenavon in injury-time on his 34th birthday, having gifted the opening goal to the Reds.
The visitors took the lead when Joe Gormley hammered home the rebound after Rory Donnelly saw his effort stopped, the Reds punishing Clingan for uncharacterisically losing possession on the edge of his own box. Glenavon did threaten an equaliser, Andrew Mitchell and new signing Stephen Murray both hitting the post while Murray also forced a top save from Bam Neeson. But Neeson couldn’t stop Clingan in injury-time, the midfielder saving his own birthday blushes with his 11th goal of the season.
Ballinamallard 2-2 Glentoran
James Knowles netted an injury-time equaliser to deny Ballinamallard their second win of the season.
Sean Noble’s first league goal for the Mallards opened the scoring, converting Shane McGinty’s pass but the Glens were level six minutes later through Curtis Allen’s 10th Premiership strike of the season.
Ryan Curran’s penalty on 40 restored the hosts’ advantage while Stephen O’Flynn missed from point-blank range during the second half, failing to ease the nerves at Ferney Park. Penny for his thoughts tonight after Knowles’ injury-time free-kick denied the hosts.
Ballymena United 3-0 Carrick Rangers
Ballymena stretched their gap on seventh placed Glentoran with a routine win.
The hosts’ pressure told during the second half when Kevin Braniff converted Kyle Owens’ flick from a throw-in, the former Glenavon man’s third league goal of the season.
Matthew Shevlin made it 3-0 to put sixth-placed United three clear of the Glens and eight points behind Cliftonville.
Warrenpoint Town P-P Linfield
Warrenpoint’s game against Linfield has been called off following a lunch-time pitch inspection, which had been called by home side Warrenpoint this morning.
The official Warrenpoint club twitter at 12.03pm said: “We are still waiting on the arrival of an official at the @goQradio Arena. We requested this at 10:30 this morning. Outside our control to call the game off officially. There is pools of water all over the playing surface following torrential rain.”
The match was called off before 1.30pm.
Belfast Telegraph Digital