DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: 20 JANUARY PREVIEW

In another action packed week of Danske Bank Premiership action, it's first against second at the Coleraine Showgrounds and third versus fourth at Windsor.

Ards v Ballymena United (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Colin Nixon’s Ards will still be reeling from their last minute sucker punch defeat to Crusaders and will be aiming to get back on track against visitors Ballymena United this Saturday. Nixon will look to add new loanee signing Cameron Stewart to his panel after signing from Linfield during the week.

Ballymena United’s midweek BetMcLean League Cup semi-final fell foul of the weather but last Saturday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Carrick Rangers will gave his side back-to-back wins and clean sheets for the first time this season as they consulted their sixth place position. United have defeated Ards in both the BetMcLean League Cup and County Antrim Shield.

Carrick Rangers v Glentoran (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Despite an influx of new faces, David McAlinden’s Carrick Rangers have now gone 15 games in succession without a win and their slender advantage over Ballinamallard United reduced to four points after their defeat to Ballymena United on Saturday. One of the East Antrim side’s few victories this season came against Glentoran in the BetMcLean League Cup in October.

Returning his former club Gary Haveron will be under pressure to get his team into the top six ahead of the split and their draw away to bottom placed Ballinamallard United last week will not help their cause.

Cliftonville v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Solitude; kick-off: 3pm)

Both teams missed the opportunity to progress to the final of the BetMcLean League Cup during the week. Both teams were also hit with late goals last Saturday which denies them picking up valuable points. Cliftonville were the victim of a late Sammy Clingan equaliser against Glenavon, whist Eoin Bradley’s goal for Coleraine denied the Swifts at point at home.

The Reds have ran out winners in both of the two Danske Bank Premiership meetings between the sides this season winning 2-1 (at Solitude in September) and 4-0 (at Stangmore Park in October). The Swifts are continuing to chase Ballymena United and Glentoran for sixth place but have now slipped nine points behind, with time running out before the split.

Coleraine v Crusaders (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

The game of the day in the Danske Bank Premiership sees first against second at the Coleraine Showgrounds in a game that could have huge significance in the title race. A win for the Bannsiders could send them back to the top of the table – a position they held all season until recently.

Another win against Ards last Saturday took Crusaders’ impressive unbeaten run to 20 games as they continue to battle on all fronts but with the primary importance being on bringing the Danske Bank Premiership title back to the Shore Road.

The Bannsiders are far from over yet, another hard fought win against Dungannon Swifts may not have been pretty but is the hallmark of all good Championship winning teams – they go into this game unbeaten in ten games with Oran Kearney seemingly still active in the transfer market in search of potential new players.

Linfield v Glenavon (venue: Windsor Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Not only is it first v second at the Ballycastle Road, it’s third v fourth at Windsor Park this Saturday. The Blues will have the advantage of an additional week’s rest after a waterlogged pitch stopped them against Warrenpoint Town.

Only three points separates the sides who will be clinging onto any lingering hopes of a title challenge with a win in this crucial Premiership fixture. The two teams have only met once this season with Linfield the winners at Mourneview Park back in November, Cameron Stewart scored the only goal in 1-0 win – but this week he made a loan move to Ards.

Warrenpoint Town v Ballinamallard United (venue:Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s a relegation dogfight at the newly rebranded Q Radio Arena, as Warrenpoint welcome a rejuvenated Ballinamallard United side who have picked up a win and a draw from their last two games and have strengthened their side with a number of vital signings, including Coleraine midfielder David Kee as they look to make inroads on moving off the foot of the table for the first time all season.

It’s been a tough January for Warrenpoint Town, losing Stephen Murray to Glenavon, an agonising Irish Cup exit to Cliftonville and the late postponement of last week’s game against Linfield has not made for an enjoyable time. Speculation still surrounds a number of Matthew Tipton’s key players, but the focus will surely be on three vital points against the Mallards this Saturday.