We look ahead to this weekends fixtures from the Danske Bank Premiership and there is two stand out games this coming weekend. Glenavon travel to Solitude to face Cliftonville after the sacking of Barry Gray and Linfield host Glentoran live on Sky Sports on Monday evening.
The Sky Blues are still flying high in second place and keeping on the tails of Linfield. Ballymena were very impressive in there 2-0 victory last weekend away at Mournview. Many have anticipated that Ballymena would fall away out of the title challenge but it is them keeping the pressure on Linfield at the top. This is a game I see Ballymena winning comfortably at the showgrounds.
Ards are really struggling for a result. A last minute goal last Friday night really shows when you are on a run of poor form in football its extremely difficult to get out of. Ards played well in patches of their game last week against Coleraine and maybe deserved a draw. Colin Nixon has a real up hill battle on his hands to keep Ards in the Premiership.
Cliftonville have appointed Michael Press as interim manager following the departure of Barry Gray. Press, former manager of Cliftonville reserve team will be assisted by ex-players Barry Johnston and Marc Smyth. The Reds are in an awful run of of form, one win in seven games. Their supporters will be hoping for a positive reaction with the appointment of the new interim boss.
Glenavon themselves are in a sticky run of form. One win in seven games for Hamilton’s men has seen them drop out of the title race. Following the departure of Mark Sykes they have struggled to get going. The Lurgan Blues have Coleraine and Cliftonville breathing down their necks and will be desperate to register three points again.
The Bannsiders host Dungannon this weekend at the Ballycastle Road, Rodney McAree’s former employers. Coleraine picked up a valuable three points last Friday night with a late from the in form Josh Carson. They have started to pick up some consistency under Rod and are now seven games unbeaten. However, a tough game this weekend against a Dungannon team who are also finding some form.
The Swifts are off the back of an impressive victory over Cliftonville last weekend. Like Coleraine they have found a structure and form under Kris Lindsay. They will be out to get one over former boss Rodney, however it will be no easy task as they have not win in the North Coast since 2016.
Stute play host to North Belfast men Crusaders this weekend. After a very positive start to life back in the Premiership, Institute have suffered back to back defeats. A 4-0 hammering away to Warrenpoint last weekend was a worrying watch for boss Paddy McLaughlin. They still sit thirteen points clear of the relegation play-off place and will be aiming for a few more three points to pull clear of that. However, this weekend is another tough encounter for the North West side.
Crusaders come into this game following an extremely disappointing result and performance against Linfield last weekend. They were beaten 2-0 at Seaview and it is fair to say comfortably beaten! Stephen Baxter will be demanding his side do not drop anymore points in the run in to the split. They now sit in third spot and are nine points off Linfield at the top will this be to much to claw back?
A local derby on the cards this weekend in Newry and what a big game it could be! Newry have not win in nine games and have lost their last six games. They will be gunning to get all three points in this derby to try and pull further clear of automatic relegation. The last time the two sides met at Milltown it finished 2-2. A win here could bring them within five points of Dungannon and 6 of the Point.
Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint side have started to pick up valuable points off the teams around them. In recent weeks they have defeated Institute, Glenavon and drawn with Newry and Ards. They will be aiming for four/five more victories to secure their safety in the Premiership. This tie should be a cracking derby and I would imagine a big turnout from the local people from both clubs.
Belfast’s ‘Big Two’ meet on Monday night at Windsor Park live on the Sky Sports cameras. After embarrassment on Boxing Day the Glens will be out for revenge. Linfield find themselves in terrific form and have not suffered defeat since the first of December. The Blues haven’t conceded a goal in nearly eleven hours of football. David Healy will be demanding his side keep pushing forward and remain in the driving seat in the race for the title.
Glentoran have had a season from hell and are currently eighth. However, results have picked up over the last two weeks since new manager Gary Smyth took full control. This will be a huge test for his side as they travel to Windsor again after that embarrassing Boxing Day defeat. With the arrival of Gavin Peers, an experienced centre half should boost the Glentoran morale. Smyth and Paul Leeman will be demanding their players leave everything on the Windsor Park turf on Monday evening!