Jamie McGonigle in action against Crusaders for Coleraine last season (c) Presseye


The top two in the Danske Bank Premiership meet tomorrow as Coleraine and Crusaders put their unbeaten starts on the line. We look ahead to all five Saturday games in our matchday preview.

Cliftonville v Institute (venue: Solitude; kick-off: 3pm)

Paddy McLaughlin welcomes his former club to Solitude on Saturday as his Reds side look to take the opportunity to move into second place should results go in their favour. Cliftonville were comfortable winners against Dungannon Swifts last Saturday with Joe Gormley continuing his fine goalscoring form which has taken him to the top of the goalscoring charts once again this season.

Sean Connor takes charge of Institute for the first time following his appointment of the struggling North West side. ‘Stute’s latest defeat was inflicted last Saturday at the Brandywell to Larne as they remain only a point ahead of bottom side Warrenpoint Town and in danger of getting caught adrift at the wrong end of the Premiership table.

Coleraine v Crusaders (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

The two sides with unbeaten records go toe-to-toe in the Danske Bank Premiership, as the Premiership’s top two meet at the Ballycastle Road. With six wins from seven games, including last week’s dramatic comeback against Glenavon – the Crues have found their mojo from the start this season. They have scored the most goals and conceded the fewest en route the summit of the table, with Jamie McGonigle in line to face his former club for the first time since his big money transfer during the transfer window.

It proved to be one of the Irish League’s most captivating title races in recent memory when Coleraine pushed Crusaders all the way in 2018 and now Oran Kearney is recreating that magic once again with his second spell at the club. The Bannsiders fought valiantly to claim an important derby point away to Ballymena United last week with nine men, but now go into this game against the league leaders without defenders Stephen O’Donnell and Adam Mullen who are suspended.

Glenavon v Ballymena United (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Gary Hamilton will be hoping this the week his luck finally changes after he watched his Glenavon side come unstuck against Crusaders last Saturday. The Lurgan Blues start the day in tenth place after a campaign which has only produced the one victory to date

Fourth placed Ballymena United will be ruing the missed chances of a frustrating week on the pitch as they failed to secure victories over Coleraine in the league last Saturday and again in midweek against Rangers Colts in the Scottish Challenge Cup. David Jeffrey will not be able to avail of the services of both Ryan Harpur and Andrew Burns who are both suspended for the trip to Lurgan on Saturday.

Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)

Despite going close, Glentoran failed in one of the first big challenges of the Mick McDermott era last week against Linfield in the ‘Big Two’ derby. They succumbed to a late Kirk Millar goal but will have to pick themselves up and go again at home to bottom club Warrenpoint Town.

Glentoran are unbeaten at home so far this season in all competitions, the two sides drew 2-2 last time they met in April – Darren Murray scoring a late equaliser to salvage a point for the Glens.

The alarm bells were well and truly set off last weekend as Warrenpoint lost 3-0 to relegation rivals Carrick Rangers at Milltown. Steven McDonnell’s side are now without a point and have only scored one goal (from the penalty) and will be without one of their few experienced players in Dermot McVeigh who is suspended, following his red card against Carrick Rangers last week.

Larne v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Larne and Dungannon Swifts meet at Inver Park only separated by goal difference in mid-table. Tiernan Lynch’s Larne got back to winning ways after a tough couple of games with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Institute at the Brandywell last Saturday. Goalkeeper Conor Mitchell was red carded in that game and will sit out the visit of the Swifts, teenage stopper McKenzie Pauley made a surprise debut between the sticks from the bench, but it could make way for Conor Devlin to return to the goalkeeping berth.

The Swifts come into this game having lost their last three Premiership games in succession as they’ve fallen away from the top of the table and now go into the weekend in seventh place. Kris Lindsay must regroup his panel for the trip to Inver Park as they look to regain the form that made the Tyrone side one of the early pacesetters in the division this season.