Larne draw with Linfield to all but win Gibson Cup

Larne have one hand on the Irish Premiership title after a 1-1 draw with nearest rivals Linfield at Windsor Park.

An own goal from Leroy Millar had put Linfield in front before Andy Ryan equalised from the penalty spot.

The draw keeps Tiernan Lynch's side three points ahead of the Blues with one game remaining.

Yet with Larne holding a vastly superior goal difference [17] over Linfield they are set to retain the Gibson Cup in their final home game against Coleraine.

It was a feisty opening to the high stakes encounter with niggly fouls from both teams preventing either side from getting into a rhythm.

Linfield, knowing it was a game that they must win to keep their faint title hopes alive, eventually began to dominate possession but failed to fashion any clear-cut chances to test Rohan Ferguson.

David Healy showed great faith in handing 16-year-old Braiden Graham a start in a game of such magnitude and the young striker was close to repaying him on 21 minutes.

He burst forward and saw a low curling strike blocked before Chris McKee also had a goal bound effort deflected behind.

Linfield would make the breakthrough from the resulting corner on 21 minutes with Leroy Millar inadvertently turning Kirk Millar's dangerous delivery into his own net.

Larne had claimed that Rohan Ferguson was fouled which prevented him from reach the ball, but the goal stood.

Larne were handed a route back into the game on 35 minutes when Joel Cooper bundled over Tomas Cosgrove in the box and the referee awarded a penalty.

Andy Ryan, who had been a peripheral figure in the game up until that point, stepped up and coolly slotted home his 23rd league goal of the season to equalise.

McKee wasted a good chance to put Linfield back in front five minutes before the break, blazing over the crossbar after Daniel Finlayson had knocked down Millar's free-kick into his path.

Linfield started the second half with renewed intent and squandered another fine opportunity two minutes after the restart as Graham headed over the crossbar from Millar's pin-point cross.

Lee Bonis had a fine opportunity to win the game and the Gibson Cup for Larne on 77 minutes.

Chris Shields, who was playing in defence due to Linfield's injury crisis, uncharacteristically played a loose back pass which Bonis latched on to and he drove forward before being thwarted by Chris Johns in his attempt to loft the ball over the goalkeeper.

Aaron Donnelly also saw a low shot drift wide for the champions, who had until that point appeared content to settle for the draw which would all but secure back-to-back titles.

Linfield brought on the returning Jordan Stewart, returning after a long injury lay-off in their attempt to find a late winner.

It was fellow forward McKee who went closest to scoring, as he diverted Kirk Millar's free-kick goal wards, but it hit the outside of the post and went wide, with Ferguson beaten.

They continued to press hard, but to no avail as Larne extended their unbeaten run in the league to four games and all but ensured the Gibson Cup will stay at Inver Park this season.