Danske Bank Premiership

23 goals in a Boxing Day bonanza and Ballymena stay top with a draw but their lead is cut to two points. David Cushley, at last, he starts, he scores – it’s like having a new signing. While Ards are still rock bottom as they, along with Glentoran, couldn’t register a goal today.

What a Boxing Day thriller this one was. The crowds had turned out for the game against league leaders Ballymena, who had to come from two goals behind to take a share of the spoils against bitter rivals Coleraine. The Bannsiders, before this one, had lost their last two away from home.

Stephen Lowry got them off and running today. Some really lacklustre defending in the Sky Blues’ box saw the ball fall to Lowry. Keeping control, he hit the ball into the ground and the Sky Blues’ net. Now the Sky Blues have gone 12 games without losing before this one and it wasn’t long before they got themselves back on level terms three minutes later. Cathair Friel scored a penalty past the outstanding Chris Johns after a foul on Adam Lecky.

James McLaughlin then made it 2-1 to the Bannsiders showing predatory instincts in the box to finish. The Bannsiders were then reduced to ten men when McLaughlin got himself sent off for a second bookable offence. The Bannsiders made it 3-1 with a cool finish from Ian Parkhill but it lasted all of a minute. This time a corner from the Sky Blues saw Andrew Burns move into the box unopposed and put the ball in the net. The Bannsiders must have still been celebrating at this stage as the Sky Blues hit back straight away.

The points were shared when the much talked about Jonathan McMurray came off the bench to claim a point for the Sky Blues. Fair play to the lad he’s on the transfer list and with whispers of clubs talking to him, he still came on and produced. What a game – 3-3 the final score

The Turkey had just about been digested when Cliftonville entertained Crusaders in the North Belfast derby at Solitude.

Before today’s game, the Reds had gone eight games unbeaten at home, scoring a sky-high 25 goals on the way. Last time the Crues were on their travels in the league, they fell to a hefty defeat to Linfield.

It took the Crues all of two minutes to register. The man that we have all been calling out for and even wondering why he is never given a chance finally got it “David Cushley!” A foul on Declan Caddell in the box gave Cushley the chance from the spot and he confidently stepped up and scored.

It wasn’t long before the Crues were two up. This time it was their little in-form magician Paul Heatley to put one high into the net from a tight angle.

Cushley then got his second of the game straight after the interval. He picked up a ball from Ross Clarke to hit a thunderous shot past Richard Brush. Cushley then turned provider for the fourth. This time hitting a ball across the box towards Heatley, who steadied himself and placed the ball into the Reds’ goal. Heatley completed the hat-trick four minutes from time after an inch-perfect pass from substitute Matthew Snoddy to make it five.

The Reds bagged a consolation through Rory Donnelly after some poor defending in the box. But it was the Crues that went home with the 5-1 win.

Dungannon hosted the league top goal scorers. Last time out Glenavon went to the National Stadium and came away with a goalless draw. Dungannon, on the other hand, have not had a win in five games which didn’t change after this 1-1 draw.

Let’s start this one with pure stupidity from the Swifts’ Seanan Clucas. He decided it would be a good idea to throw the ball into the face of Rhys Marshall. The referee had no option but to give him a straight red. Stupidity was the name of the day here and what a way to throw your team to the lion’s den when they need points.

The ten men fought hard and to their credit got the first goal of this game through Paul McElroy. He got himself onto a through ball and lifted it over the out-rushing Jonny Tuffey.

The Swifts held out, even with ten men until injury time when Glenavon equalised. Stephen Donnelly was in the right place at the right time to put the ball into the Swifts’ net. Hard on Dungannon but stupidity was their enemy today.

Today bottom placed Ards travelled to the Brandywell to face Institute. The Co. Down outfit until today had failed to register a goal in three games. Stute have the prolific marksman Micheal McCrudden who sits second in the goals chart with 14.

So… with only 13 mins on the clock. Stute were awarded a penalty. Last week saw Ards keeper Samuel Johnston save two. This time around he could do nothing to stop Michael McCrudden registering his 15thof the season, and putting Stute one up. A good home win for Stute with a well needed three points in the bag after the 1-0 win.

The transfer window will be an interesting one for McCrudden. Will there be anyone having a punt on the striker? Will he want to leave? A lot of ‘what ifs’, but let’s see where this one goes by the end of January. Will Jim White be outside the Brandywell on deadline day?

As for Ards, they sit four points adrift at the bottom. More bad news this week with Jonny Fraser moving to Australia indefinitely. So where does Colin Nixon go from here? Does he have the finances to go out and bring in quality? Because quality is what’s needed here.

So, Belfast’s big two locked horns at the National Stadium. Linfield entertained Glentoran. It was the return of the old to beat the new as three former Glentoran players got themselves on the score sheet. Someone should have let the Glens’ players know that the biggest game for their club in the fixture list is a derby against your biggest rivals – they showed no desire ending up on 4-0 drubbing.

I have been critical of Crusaders lately but the problems can be solved there and are being addressed. For Glentoran, I don’t know what’s going on, what their problems are, or why it is going wrong. Only the men in the black suits that sit behind the closed door in the boardroom can know.

Jimmy Callacher opened the scoring for the Blues. The former ‘Glenman’ getting in, unchallenged at the back post to make it one. The next for the Blues was just sublime. From a Glens’ corner, the Blues broke. Another former ‘Glenman’ Jordan Stewart started and finished the move. He ran half the pitch before moving the ball to Joel Cooper who drove on towards the box. He looked up and fed Stewart who finished.

From another corner, the Blues made it three. The ever-impressive Cooper was the right man in the right place. Number four came through another ex ‘Glenman’ Andrew Waterworth. This time finishing low and hard past Elliot Morris in the Glens net.

On a sour note, and not for the first time this season, anther Glentoran player saw red- Robbie McDaid with a straight red.

Today saw the second Mourne derby between Warrenpoint Town and Newry City. The last was a tight affair ending in a score draw. And today was nothing different ending 2-2.

The ‘Point’ earned a point the hard way twice coming from a goal behind. Newry took the lead in this one with Mark McCabe latching onto a long ball to coolly finish. The lead lasted two minutes. Danny Wallace putting the ball in the net when it eventually came to him from a corner.

The ‘Point’s afternoon went from bad to worse with Anto Reilly getting his marching orders for upending McCabe in the box. From the resulting penalty, Dale Montgomery put Newry back in front. Newry’s Darren King was the next to get his marching orders with the referee giving him a second yellow card.

So, ten men against ten men. The ‘Point pushed for the equaliser and it came through Deane Watters. Last gasp, scrappy and late, but it’s a point won.

Danske Bank Premiership

Standings provided by Sofascore LiveScore