Action from Coleraine v Ballymena United earlier this season (c) Presseye
Saturday, 09 March 2019
After last night's result it's all to play for in the Danske Bank Premiership, we look ahead to all today's fixtures!
Cliftonville v Institute (venue: Solitude; kick-off: 3pm)
Paddy McLaughlin welcomes his former club to Solitude for the first time since his switch last month. He has enjoyed a decent start to his time at the North Belfast club with three wins from his first four games, including last week’s 2-0 win over fellow European hopefuls Glenavon, taking them within three points of Gary Hamilton’s side in fourth place.
Institute remain in seventh place, after the groundwork laid by McLaughlin in their first season back in the top flight of football in Northern Ireland. The North West side have enjoyed a week’s break to regroup for the final stretch of the season after their 2-0 win over Dungannon Swifts two weeks ago. Stute enjoyed a memorable 6-4 win over the Reds back in December in one of the games of the season!
Coleraine v Ballymena United (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)
The biggest game of the day is at the Ballycastle Road as Ballymena United have an opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table to six points following Linfield’s defeat on Friday night against their derby rivals. The Braidmen have endured a forgettable week, after exiting the Irish Cup to Crusaders by three goals without reply – David Jeffrey was dealt a major blow when leading goalscorer Cathair Friel broke his collar bone in training and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Rodney McAree’s Coleraine may be 14 points behind the Sky Blues, but it’s been honours even so far this season with two draws from the two meetings between the clubs. The Bannsiders start the afternoon in sixth place and last weekend secured a place in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup following their dramatic 5-3 win over Larne at Inver Park.
Dungannon Swifts v Newry City (venue: Stangmore Park; kick-off: 3pm)
At Stangmore Park – Dungannon Swifts have the opportunity to move into the last remaining European Playoff place if results go their way against bottom side Newry City. Kris Lindsay must pick up his Swifts after their cup exit on penalties to Ballinamallard United last Saturday.
Newry City went back to the bottom of the table two weeks ago and despite a valiant last gasp defeat to Linfield ten days ago, manager Darren Mullen will be aware the pressure is on if they are to avoid a swift return to the Championship after only one season. The Border side secured their first top-flight win against the Swifts back in August but it remains one of only four victories in a difficult season at the Showgrounds.
Glentoran v Ards (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)
There’s an intriguing clash at the Oval as Ards make the short journey to East Belfast to face Glentoran with both clubs in need of vital points. Gary Smyth’s Glentoran recorded a morale boosting 3-1 win over Warrenpoint ten days ago to move them into eighth in the table and whilst a place in the top six is no longer a possibility, they will be aiming to secure seventh place for hope of an opportunity in the Europa League playoffs.
Warren Feeney has breathed fresh air into an Ards side low on confidence since his arrival a fortnight ago. He lifted the County Down side off the foot of the table with a win over Newry City in his first game in charge and now the former Linfield boss will be looking to steer his new side closer to safety with a win at Glentoran. In both meetings between the clubs this season – the Glens have won on each occasion without conceding a goal.
Warrenpoint Town v Crusaders (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)
‘Point captain Simon Kelly proved the unlikely hero at Milltown last Saturday as his hat-trick took the border club to an historic first Irish Cup semi-final with their win over Larne Tech Old Boys. It’s back to league action for Stephen McDonnell’s side though and the visit of the reigning Irish League champions.
Stephen Baxter’s Crues will also compete in the Irish Cup semi-finals next month after their impressive three goal victory over second placed Ballymena United. The Shore Road men are just finding form at exactly the right time and there is still an outside chance they could be in the title mix should results go their way over the next few weeks.
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