By Ronan Murphy
Stoke City climbed to eighth in the Premier League table with a 3-1 Boxing Day win over Liverpool. Irish forward Jon Walters struck twice for the hosts, cooly slotting the ball past Pepe Reina for the equaliser and then showing great technique to volley in the game's fourth goal. Fellow Irishman Glenn Whelan had a hand in Stoke's other, sending in the corner for Kenwyne Jones to head home.
Norwich City almost caused an upset against Chelsea, with only a long-range effort from Juan Mata separating the sides. Mark Bunn was in fine form in the Canaries goal, while Wes Hoolahan offered the hosts an attacking outlet throughout.
Sean O'Driscoll finds himself out of a job despite leading Nottingham Forest to within a point of the playoffs with a 4-2 win over Leeds United. The three-time Ireland international was dismissed by the Forest board, who are looking for a manager with Premier League experience to take the club to the next level. O'Driscoll's Forest had been in fine form, and chalked up another win on St. Stephen's Day, despite an early goal for the visitors from Paul Green.
Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town moved five points clear of relegation with a 2-1 away win over Charlton Athletic. Daryl Murphy set up DJ Campbell for Ipswich's first before firing in from close range on the stroke of half-time.
Former Ireland under-18 international defender Anthony Gerrard scored his first goal since joining Huddersfield Town in the summer as the Terriers drew 1-1 with Blackpool. Gerrard headed in from a corner to open the scoring, but Nathan Delfouneso rescued a late point for the Seasiders.
Crawley Town sit just a point behind the playoff positions after a 2-1 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Cork striker Billy Clarke grabbed the winner for Crawley with a neat second-half strike, his ninth goal of the season in all competitions.
Northern Irish striker William Grigg struck twice for Walsall in their 4-2 win over Milton Keynes Dons, while Larne-born forward Adam McGurk found the net in Tranmere Rovers' 2-1 triumph over Crewe Alexandra.
Graham Stack kept a clean sheet for Barnet in their 1-0 away win over leaders Gillingham, and picked up a booking for timewasting at the end of the match as Barnet survived a late onslaught. The win keeps Barnet above the relegation zone.
Two-time Ireland international defender Alan Bennett had a standout performance in the Cheltenham Town back four in their 4-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers, restricting his former club to just one shot on target in the entire game.
Gavin Gunning proved a constant thorn in St Johnstone's side as they drew 1-1 with Dundee United. The Tangerines defender opened the scoring after just two minutes, and was unlucky not to add a couple more later in the game, causing problems in the Saints box during set-pieces.
Richie Foran scored Inverness Caledonian Thistle's second in their 2-2 draw with St Mirren, with his diving header giving ICT a share of the points and keeping them second in the table.
Jonny Hayes found the net for Aberdeen, but they were on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline against Motherwell. Hayes beat Darren Randolph with a 25-yard goal, but it was little more than a consolation for the Dons.
|IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND
Goalkeeper: Mark Bunn (Norwich)
Defenders: Anthony Gerrard (Huddersfield), Alan Bennett (Cheltenham), Gavin Gunning (Dundee Utd)
Midfielders: Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Paul Green (Leeds), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen)
Forwards: Jon Walters (Stoke), Daryl Murphy (Ipswich), Billy Clarke (Crawley)