Cliftonville and Linfield meet at Solitude on Saturday (c) Presseye
Friday, 24 August 2018
Supporters can enjoy two days of top Danske Bank Premiership action this weekend with three fixtures tonight and another three on Saturday in gameweek four.
Friday 24 August
Ards v Newry City (venue: Clandeboye Park; kick-off: 7.45pm)
With no points on the board to date in their first three matches, Colin Nixon knows that Friday night’s encounter against newly promoted Newry City has become ever more important to get their season going. Last time out against Ballymena United six days ago, they lost 2-1, having gone in at the break ahead.
Darren Mullen in the visiting dugout will be pleased with how his side has quickly adapted to life in the Danske Bank Premiership, despite defeat to Glenavon last Friday the performance was encouraging that the border side will be able to compete in the division against the top teams. Those performances need to turn into points, as they lost to Glenavon last Friday.
Coleraine v Institute (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 7.45pm)
It’s a North West derby at the Ballycastle Road, with Coleraine hosting Institute on Friday evening. The Bannsiders go into the game off the back of their 2-2 draw with Glentoran and currently sit unbeaten in second place in the Premiership table.
Paddy McLaughlin returns to the club he was previously a player at under Oran Kearney with two wins from three games under his belt to date. The transition to their new home of the Brandywell has gone well with wins over Warrenpoint Town and Newry City but a tougher test against one of the league’s top sides will lie in wait tonight.
Glenavon v Ballymena United (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 7.45pm)
Arguably the pick of the Friday night games is at Mourneview Park as two clubs looking to break into the Danske Bank Premiership’s elite clubs meet. Only a point separates Glenavon and Ballymena United, with the latter holding the slim advantage and boasting an unbeaten start to the season as they continue their games away from the Showgrounds, whilst the pitch renovation continues.
Since losing their opening game against Linfield, Gary Hamilton’s Lurgan Blues have got back on track with back-to-back wins over both Warrenpoint and Newry City. They go into this game with a fine home record against the Sky Blues which included a comfortable 4-0 win last season.
Saturday 25 August
Cliftonville v Linfield (venue: Solitude; kick-off: 3pm)
It’s always a cracking game at Solitude when these two sides meet and has been the venue of title deciders in recent years. It’s Linfield currently in the driving seat, leading the Danske Bank Premiership after three games with a 100% record – something they will be keen to keep against their rivals from North Belfast.
Barry Gray was far from pleased with his side’s performance in the draw against Dungannon Swifts last Saturday. The Reds have four points from their opening three games, having also defeated Glentoran and lost to Coleraine this season, however Cliftonville memorably knocked their cross city rivals out of the Irish Cup in the quarter-finals last season.
Glentoran v Dungannon Swifts (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)
The crowds have returned to East Belfast and there is a sense of optimism that Ronnie McFall's resilient Glentoran side can enjoy a successful season. They were unfortunate not to pick up all three points last Saturday against Coleraine, eventually drawing 2-2.
Rodney McAree was strongly linked with the then vacant Glentoran manager's job last season following his League Cup heroics with the Swifts. He now takes his Dungannon side to The Oval having finally got their first point of the campaign against Cliftonville last Saturday, they will be looking to build on fixtures like this with a top six berth in sight.
Warrenpoint Town v Crusaders (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off 3pm)
The last thing you want as Warrenpoint Town following a return of zero points from the opening three games games is to entertain a wounded Crusaders team on Saturday. Stephen McDonnell must now lift his side's confidence after a winless start which has seen them ship goals, including the two without reply in last week's game against Institute at the Brandywell.
Crusaders also go into the game off the back of defeat to rivals Linfield at Seaview last Saturday. The North Belfast side's stuttering start to the defence of their Premiership title will be of slight cause for concern of manager Stephen Baxter - but if they can replicate their 5-0 win in the corresponding fixture last season which was live on Sky Sports, it may just set the Crues back on track.