Who will be getting a belated Christmas present of three Danske Bank Premiership points this Boxing Day? (c) William Cherry/Presseye
Sunday, 24 December 2017
The most eagerly anticipated date in the local football calendar, we preview the traditional Boxing Day games in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Ards v Carrick Rangers (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)
Just how important was Lee Chapman’s late equaliser for Carrick Rangers at The Oval on Saturday? It firstly stopped an unwanted losing streak for Davy McAlinden, but can give a lot of confidence to a Rangers side that is now only three points off tenth place Warrenpoint Town with two games in hand on them.
Hosts Ards, notched up a morale boosting victory over Ballinamallard United at the weekend and already have the benefit of a win over Carrick earlier back in September thanks to a single Scott Davidson goal.
Ballinamallard United v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 3pm)
It’s Fermanagh v Tyrone at Ferney Park as Ballinamallard host Dungannon Swifts in the Danske Bank Premiership. Much has been made of the Mallards hapless run which continued on Saturday following defeat to Ards, which means they go into Boxing Day with only one point from their last available 27.
The Swifts have now gone two weeks in a row having failed to take advantage to either Ballymena United or Glentoran dropping points in the quest for sixth place as they suffered a comprehensive home defeat to neighbours Glenavon at the weekend past.
Coleraine v Ballymena United (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)
This game has been traditionally massive for both teams and their supporters, but this season takes on extra significance with the Bannsiders currently top of the league and about to embark on what could be a huge year for Oran Kearney’s men. They already have the benefit of having defeated Ballymena on the road this season as part of their surge to the Premiership summit.
David Jeffrey will be out to cause an upset at the Coleraine Showgrounds, having won last year’s Boxing Day meeting between the two sides 2-0. That however, was the last time the Braidmen have tasted victory over Coleraine as there have been two draws and two defeats in the four meetings against Kearney’s men in 2017.
Crusaders v Cliftonville (venue: Seaview; kick-off: 3pm)
The North Belfast derby is one that always guarantees entertainment, and with two sides that are in the mix for the Danske Bank Premiership title.
The Crues’ determined victory over Ballymena United on Friday night kept up their superb run which has now been extended to 14 games unbeaten in all competitions. Defeat at Windsor Park on Saturday for the Reds was the first time in seven that they had tasted defeat, as they dropped to fifth in the table on goal difference.
Second placed Crusaders already have the measure of their near neighbours this season having won 2-1 at Solitude in August thanks to early goals from Jordan Owens and Colin Coates.
Glenavon v Warrenpoint Town (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Gary Hamilton’s Glenavon face a new Boxing Day opponent following Portadown’s relegation last season, with Warrenpoint Town the visitors to Mourneview Park for the showpiece festive game. It was almost the perfect preparation at the weekend with a convincing win over Dungannon Swifts, only blot in the copybook was the sending off for James Singleton which sees him automatically suspended for this game.
Warrenpoint’s schedule doesn’t get any easier as after games against four of the top five, they travel to the only outstanding opposition from that group looking to build on their tally of a single point from the last four games but some encouraging performances against the top sides, as they look to move away from the wrong end of the table and the relegation places.
Glentoran v Linfield (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)
Arguably historically the biggest game in Irish football, as the Belfast ‘Big Two’ meet at the Oval for what is already as sell-out fixture. However, fans will be treated to two teams with very contrasting fortunes. Glentoran boss Gary Haveron will be wondering what his young side have to do to find some form as they dropped two points at the weekend to his former club Carrick Rangers.
Whilst David Healy has frustrations over his own side’s inconsistencies this season, they marked a real signal of intent on Saturday as they notched up a 2-0 win over in-form Cliftonville at Windsor Park.
You can also still catch our special Christmas edition of the Cool FM Danske Bank Premiership show which previews all the Boxing Day fixtures by clicking here.