Action from Linfield v Coleraine earlier in the season (c) Presseye
Friday, 08 February 2019
There’s two managerial bows in the Danske Bank Premiership as there’s everything still to play for at both ends of the table this Saturday, we look ahead to all the games.
Cliftonville v Newry City (venue: Solitude; kick-off: 3pm)
Paddy McLaughlin makes his bow as the new Cliftonville manager in front of the Solitude faithful. The former Institute boss is tasked with revitalising the Reds’ faltering season and potentially qualifying for Europe. He could hand debuts to deadline day signings Aaron Harkin and Niall Grace, both players he has had experience with at the North West club.
Newry City travel to Belfast after earning a midweek point at home to Glentoran which opened up the gap from the bottom of the league to three points. Their last trip to North Belfast ended in defeat on the Sky Sports cameras back in November – but they did get one over Cliftonville at the start of the season, winning 1-0 at the Showgrounds thanks to John Boyle’s strike.
Dungannon Swifts v Crusaders (venue: Stangmore Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The Swifts’ five game unbeaten run came to an end in midweek with defeat at Stangmore Park to Coleraine. Kris Lindsay’s impact at the County Tyrone club has resulted in a ten point cushion opening up from the relegation zone with the focus now shifting away from the dreaded drop to a potential place in the Europa League Playoffs come the end of the season.
The Crues had a huge Irish Cup victory over rivals Linfield but their County Antrim Shield in midweek against the same opponents was cast by the wayside of a waterlogged Ballymena Showgrounds pitch. Stephen Baxter’s side remain in third place and on the coattails of the top two but the two meetings between these two sides have been honours even in this campaign with one win apiece.
Glenavon v Ards (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The Lurgan Blues go into this game with the Danske Bank Premiership’s bottom side having not won in their last seven games. Gary Hamilton’s men have dropped down to fifth in the table having been one time title challengers, they were not in action last weekend having seen their Irish Cup sixth round tie against Dungannon Swifts postponed.
Colin Nixon’s Ards are in desperate need of points as they are currently rooted to the bottom of the Premiership and three points from safety. They have lost their two previous meeting with Glenavon this season and lost their last league outing to Ballymena United a fortnight ago to extending their losing run to five consecutive games.
Institute v Ballymena United (venue: Brandywell Stadium; kick-off: 3pm)
Kevin Doherty has been jettisoned in as the interim manager of Institute following Paddy McLaughlin’s departure to Cliftonville. The departure of the manager has also coincided with the announcement from neighbours Derry City that they have signed captain and talisman Michael McCrudden on a pre-contract. ‘Stute start the afternoon in seventh place and occupying the final Europa League Playoff position.
The second placed Sky Blues could be forgiven for the distraction caused by their pitch and the two postponements in three days this week but manager David Jeffrey will be focused on three points to keep up the chase on title rivals Linfield. The Sky Blues have defeated Institute twice already this season and could see Albert Watson make his second debut from the club following his move from KR Reykjavik.
Linfield v Coleraine (venue: Windsor Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The stand out game of the day sees the Premiership leaders Linfield welcome Coleraine to Windsor Park, David Healy will be keen to avenge the 2-1 defeat inflicted by the Bannsiders on his side on their last visit to Belfast in December. The Blues had their midweek County Antrim Shield final postponed but must regroup after a dramatic late Irish Cup defeat to Crusaders last Saturday. The Blues currently enjoy a six point advantage on second placed Ballymena United, albeit having played a game more.
Could Rodney McAree do his rivals down the A26 a favour by inflicting a second defeat on Linfield? His new look team in transition won in midweek against Dungannon Swifts to following a good week that also included progression in the Irish Cup against Dergview. Coleraine moved up to fourth in the table on Tuesday night but are 17 points behind Saturday’s opponents.
Warrenpoint Town v Glentoran (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)
Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint Town have started 2019 as one of the Premiership’s in-form teams with four wins from five games in all competitions which has left them only a single point away from the European playoff places. They were 2-0 winners in the Mourne derby a fortnight ago but were forced to sit out last weekend’s Irish Cup action due to the weather last weekend.
Glentoran missed out on the opportunity to move into seventh place themselves with a midweek point away to Newry City. The only meeting between these two sides this season ended in a 1-1 draw at Milltown, with Ciaran O’Connor’s second half equaliser earning the County Down side a point.
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