Joshua Robinson and Alan Teggart in action (©INPHO/Brian Little)
Friday, 14 December 2018
The weekend Danske Bank Premiership action kicks off on Friday night in front of the live tv cameras before continuing into Saturday as the teams jostle for position ahead of a packed festive schedule.
Friday 14 December
Glenavon v. Coleraine (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off 7:45pm)
The fourth live television broadcast on BBC Two this season as part of the new deal for Friday night football, and Coleraine's second in as many weeks following their loss to Newry City at the end of November.
Rodney McAree's side picked themselves up a week later to defeat Ards when Jamie McGonigle turned home a Gareth McConaghie lay-off on 53 minutes.
Glenavon's most recent outing was last week's reversal to Cliftonville at Solitude, a game they were leading early in the second half with goals from Conor McCloskey and Andrew Mitchell before the Reds hit them with three goals in the final half-an-hour or so.
Glenavon, considered by many as genuine title contenders, take a nine match unbeaten home run into the game. Their last reversal at Mourneview Park came in that shock League Cup defeat against Dergview back in August.
Saturday 15 December
Ards v. Cliftonville (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off 3pm)
Four points adrift at the foot of the table, Ards will be only too aware of the importance of this game going into the busy festive fixture schedule.
Colin Nixon's side are difficult to break down at home, however, with Crusaders and Ballymena United just about securing narrow victories while Linfield were toppled all in recent weeks.
And Cliftonville don't travel well, winning on their travels only once in their last seven outings ... but the Reds do go into the game on the back of an impressive month so far has produced victories over Dungannon Swifts and, last week, Glenavon.
Barry Gray's side also defeated Ards the last time they met, although it took late goals from Joe Gormley and Conor McMenamin to wipe out Michael McLellan's first half opener.
Ballymena United v. Institute (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off 3pm)
When Ballymena United defeated Crusaders in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final it equalled a club record of 16 games unbeaten so avoiding defeat from Institute's visit to The Showgrounds will see the Sky Blues enter uncharted territory.
The league leaders hold a two point advantage at the top of the table and have won their last 11 games across all competitions, also a club record, but all good things have to come to an end and with 'Stute bagging three goals in each of their last two outings against Glentoran and Glenavon they will be a force David Jeffrey's side will not take lightly.
United came out on top the last time the sides met. Cathair Friel and James Knowles did the damage, before Joe McCready grabbed a stoppage time consolation for Institute.
Crusaders v. Dungannon Swifts (venue: Seaview; kick-off 3pm)
With both camps suffering League Cup semi-final defeats on Tuesday night this Danske Bank Premiership clash at Seaview offers an immediate opportunity to bounce back.
Crusaders are already ten points off the pace in the title race so desperately need to defeat the Swifts to stay in touch after some disappointing results in recent weeks.
At the other end, Dungannon's need for points is equally as great. Kris Lindsay's side are scrambling to avoid being dragged into a relegation dog fight as one of five sides all within six points of each other.
The Swifts defeated the Crues by the odd goal in five last time out, thanks to Paul McElroy's 95th minute winner after Crusaders had dragged themselves back from two goals down.
Glentoran v. Warrenpoint Town (venue: The Oval; kick-off 3pm)
With only three points between the sides this is undoubtedly an important clash before the busy Christmas period during which both will face four games in 11 days.
The Glens haven't won in nine games so will desperately trying to avoid that run slipping into double figures whereas 'Point have found some form of late, losing only once in their last seven outings and that only coming at the hands of leaders Ballymena United.
On top of that, Stephen McDonnell's side booked a place in the Mid-Ulster Cup final with a 3-0 midweek victory over Portadown.
Earlier this season John Herron handed the Glens the lead after 15 minutes at Milltown, but Ciaran O'Connor levelled with less than a quarter-of-an-hour remaining to ensure the points were shared.
Newry City v. Linfield (venue: Newry Showgrounds; kick-off 1pm)
It has been a good week for Linfield. A comprehensive and important 4-1 defeat of Crusaders last Saturday was followed up by Andy Waterworth's extra-time winner in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final against Dungannon Swifts.
Only a late equaliser denied Newry victory over the Swifts seven days ago whilst, prior to that, they defeated Coleraine in front of the live tv cameras to secure their first away win of the campaign.
That means that, despite being at opposite ends of the table, both sides go into this early afternoon kick-off brimming with confidence.
Linfield do hold the upper hand from their previous meeting this season when Jimmy Callacher bagged a hat-trick at Windsor Park.
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