As we fast approach the business end of the season we loom ahead to this weekends fixtures. Cliftonvilles new boss Paddy McLaughlin takes charge for his first game at to Newry City. Another big game comes at Windsor Park where Coleraine travel to face Linfield.
This week The Reds appointed new boss Paddy McLaughlin and he is in the Solitude hot seat this weekend for his first encounter. Cliftonville face Newry City at home and in my eyes this is an ideal game for the start of the McLaughlin tenure. He will be demanding a better level of performance from his players on a more consistent basis to try and climb the table before the split. The North Belfast club have one win in eight games and I can see them cruising to victory this weekend.
Darren Mullen’s Newry side picked up a valuable point midweek with a 1-1 draw at home to Glentoran. They are certainly keeping one eye over their shoulder on Ards as it between the two clubs in a relegation dog fight. This game is no easy task and I can see them coming away from Solitude with a sore defeat this weekend.
This has the makings of a cracking game at Stangmore tomorrow. The Swifts have already tasted victory over Crusaders this year coming in a 3-2 victory back in September. The Co.Tyrone side were on a good run of form until midweek where they suffered a 0-2 defeat to Coleraine. Following that good run they are now only two points off seventh spot in table. I could see Kris Lindsay’s side sneaking a point here.
Crusaders are off the back of an impressive Irish Cup victory over Linfield. A game which could give Baxter and his side huge confidence going into the remaining months of the league campaign. He will be warning his players not to be complacent in this tie as they have already tasted defeat at Stangmore this season!
The Lurgan Blues have not win in the league since the 14th of December. This weekend is an opportunity for them to put this terrible record behind them. They host Ards at Mourneview Park in a game that should be winning. Gary Hamilton’s side have defeated Ards twice already this season and I think they will make that three times this weekend. Also, Glenavon will be boosted with the loan signing of Cameron Stewart from Linfield and will be available for selection this week.
Colin Nixon has a really tough job on his hands to try and keep his Ards team in the Premiership. With just one win in seventeen games that is relegation form! The Co. Down men have not defeated Glenavon since 2017 and I do not see that changing this weekend.
What a week it has been for Institute. Loosing their manager and coaching staff to Cliftonville and then the statement from star man Michael McCrudden who told the club he will never play for them again. On a run of four straight defeats does not make life any easier for caretaker boss Kevin Doherty. The North West side are currently in seventh spot twelve points above the relegation play-offs. Could this week have a negative impact on the rest of their season?
David Jeffrey’s sky blues are flying high. Six points off the top with a game in hand it has been a remarkable season this far. DJ and Bryan McLaughlin will be demanding their players do not let their foot off the gas and keep pushing Linfield all the way. Ballymena already enjoyed success at the Brandywell back in October in a 1-2 defeat over Stute.
The fixture everyone will be keeping a very close eye on comes at Windsor Park where Linfield play host to the Bannsiders. The Blues were on a fantastic run of unbeaten form until last weekend when the Crues dumped them out of the Irish Cup. David Healy will be demanding a reaction for his players as they approach the important run in to the split. That defeat to Coleraine back in November at Windsor will also be fresh in their minds and will be gunning for revenge here!
Coleraine have been in a good run of form themselves. They picked up an impressive 0-2 away win at Dungannon midweek. However, during that game Josh Carson a key player for Rodney McAree’s side picked up a ligament injury and is sidelined for six-eight weeks. Its been a tight affair between the two clubs in their last five against each other with three draws and a victory each. I have no doubt it will be a similar game this weekend!
Its been a fantastic turnaround for Warrenpoint and Stephen McDonnell. Once flirting with relegation they now find themselves eleven points clear of the relegation play-offs and on level points with the Glens. The Point were worthy winners last time out in the local derby with Newry winning 2-0. A victory for them here could see them leapfrog Glentoran into eighth spot!
The Glens were disappointing midweek drawing away at Newry 1-1 and by all accounts Newry could have nicked it! It is vital Glentoran start a run of form and begin to pick up all three points from games if they are to climb the table before the split. Gary Smyth will be demanding his players begin to put in performances he knows they are capable of.