Unimpressive Larne fend off plucky Loughgall

Sports Direct Premiership: Larne 1-0 Loughgall

Loughgall's Berraat Turker and Larne's Andrew Ryan in tonight's game Larne v Loughgall in the Sports Direct Premiership. 22/12/2023 Pacemaker Press (Desmond LougheryPacemaker Press/Desmond Loughery Pacemaker Press)

JOE Thomson’s early goal sealed an important three points for Larne as they ran out 1-0 winners at home to Loughgall.

It keeps them a point behind leaders Linfield, who also won on the night, going into a busy Christmas period.

Despite their recent form of just one point from their last six outings, Loughgall started this game on the front foot, taking the game to their visitors.

Larne's Andrew Ryan and Loughgall's Caolan Loughran in tonight's game Larne v Loughgall in the Sports Direct Premiership at Invar Pk Larne 22/12/2023 Pacemaker Press (Desmond LougheryPacemaker Press/Desmond Loughery Pacemaker Press)

However, from their own corner they were caught out by the game’s opening goal on 18 minutes.

Joe Thomson led the breakaway for the home side, feeding the ball to Andy Ryan on the left channel to gallop clear of the Loughgall defence.

Ryan’s cutback was touched on by Lee Bonis into the path of Leroy Millar and he found Thomson, allowing the Scottish midfielder to slam the ball home from 12 yards, for his 12th goal in all competitions this season.

Larne didn’t kick-on immediately after this goal, however, and had to wait until 11 minutes before the break for their next opportunity.

On-loan Wigan Athletic man Kieran Lloyd was introduced for the injured Sean Graham and his first contribution was a superb right-wing cross which was met inside the six-yard box by Millar, however the ball sat up just before he connected with it, and the in-form midfielder fired over, via the crossbar.

Andy Ryan went close with a header soon after, getting on the end of a Levi Ives cross, but he was unable to generate the power needed to beat Berraat Turker.

Larne’s next chance came 10 minutes into the second half when Lee Bonis got in behind the Loughgall defence, but his low drive from an acute angle was well saved again by Turker.

After this the home side toiled in an effort to get a second goal which would gone a long way to killing off the contest, but often their final ball let them down as they saw out the game to win 1-0.

Elsewhere, a Joe Crowe goal was enough to separate Carrick Rangers and Newry City, as a 60th minute strike secured three points and moved Rangers four points clear of Glenavon in seventh place.

The night’s other match saw Linfield edge out Coleraine. Having went in level at the break, Euan East opened the scoring in an eventful second half.

Rhys Annett added a second that looked to have put the game beyond doubt, and despite of an 86th minute Andrew Mitchell goal, Linfield held on.

Larne: Ferguson, Donnelly, Farquhar, Thomson, Bonis, Ives (’46 Glynn), Millar, Cosgrove, Graham (’33 Lloyd), Ryan, Orozco

Subs: Dowling, O’Neill, McCart

Loughgall: Turker, Carson (’77 Harvey) Rea, Murdock, Brogan (’78 Teggart), Ferris (’67 Boyd), Hoey (’77 Gibson), Norton (’62 Kelly), Patton, Magee, Loughran

Subs: Devine

Referee: Steven Gregg