By Ronan Murphy
West Bromwich Albion moved to third place in the Premier League table with a deserved 4-2 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Ireland international Shane Long showed great ingenuity to steal the ball off Simon Mignolet for the Baggies' second goal. James McClean was introduced by Martin O'Neill in the second half, but could not spur on a Sunderland comeback.
Elsewhere, Ciaran Clark's heroic defending earned Aston Villa a point against Arsenal on Saturday evening, with the Villans keeping a rare clean sheet. Clark made some crucial interceptions to move Villa out of the relegation zone, while fellow Irishman Enda Stevens looked assured at left-back.
Two goals from former UCD striker Conor Sammon helped Derby County to a 3-2 win over Birmingham City at Pride Park. Sammon opened the scoring with a well-taken header, and lashed in from 10 yards near the end to move the Rams closer to a playoff spot.
A late goal from Paul Green helped Leeds United end Crystal Palace's 14-game unbeaten run and knock Ian Holloway's side off the top of the Championship table. Green's second-half volley put Leeds 2-0 up before Peter Ramage scored a late consolation goal.
Notts County leapfrogged Swindon Town into a playoff place with a hard-fought 1-0 victory on Saturday afternoon. James Collins had an early chance turned on to the post for Swindon early on, but a clever run from Alan Judge on half an hour provided the only goal of the game.
Ireland under-21 international Rob Kiernan made his first appearance for Brentford since joining from Wigan Athletic on loan, and helped the Bees defeat Sheffield United 2-0 with a very composed performance in central midfield.
Milton Keynes Dons climbed into the top two thanks to a 5-1 win over Colchester United. MK Dons' Irish trio of Stephen Gleeson, Darren Potter, and Shaun Williams all did well, with Williams scoring from the spot in a comfortable victory.
Bradford City came from behind three times to draw 3-3 with Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium. Ireland under-19 defender Carl McHugh netted Bradford's second with a header before later going into the referee's notebook for a heavy challenge.
Former Ireland under-21 international Michael Timlin was impressive for Southend United in their 3-1 win over Rochdale. Timlin put in the cross for Southend's third, which sees them climb up to fourth in the table, just three points behind tha automatic promotion places.
Celtic once again suffered post-European fatigue as Inverness Caledonian Thistle defeated them for the first time ever at Celtic Park. Ireland under-19 international Philip Roberts created the only goal of the game with a dazzling run down the right before crossing in for Billy McKay to score.
Despite Celtic slipping up, Pat Fenlon's Hibernian failed to go top, suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Aberdeen. Northern Ireland forward Niall McGinn volleyed home Jonny Hayes's cross for his eighth goal of the season.
Liam Lawrence returned from suspension for PAOK as they faced Olympiakos in a top-of-the-table clash in the Greek Super League. Lawrence played 67 minutes and was taken off with PAOK a goal behind after failing to breach Roy Carroll's net. However, striker Stefanos Athanasiadis left it late, with his 88th minute strike beating the Northern Irishman to see the game end 1-1.
Sandnes Ulf guaranteed their Tippeligaen safety with a 7-1 aggregate victory in the relagtion playoff against Ullensaker/Kisa. Former Arsenal youth Sean McDermott kept a clean sheet in the away leg, showing why manager Alse Andersen has installed him as the club's new first choice keeper.
|IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND
Goalkeeper: Sean McDermott (Sandnes Ulf)
Defenders: Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Michael Timlin (Southend), Carl McHugh (Bradford), Enda Stevens (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen), Rob Kiernan (Brentford), Paul Green (Leeds), Philip Roberts (Inverness)
Forwards: Shane Long (West Brom), Conor Sammon (Derby)