Action from Crusaders v Ballymena United last season (c) Presseye


With five games in the Danske Bank Premiership tomorrow, there is all to play for as we preview all the top flight matches.

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

After the disappointment of only picking up a point on their travels to Institute last Saturday, David Jeffrey will be pleased with the showing of his team on Tuesday night against Dollingstown in the League Cup. Six goals and a clean sheet against their third tier opponents secured a comfortable passage into the quarter-finals of the competition and the emergence of striker Kenny Kane who scored two goals on his full debut may just be the answer to Jeffrey’s injury hit front line as he is still without Lecky, Friel and Aaron Burns this week.

It’s been a great week for the Crues, as following their titanic televised tussle with Linfield on Friday in which Rory Hale’s superb strike proved decisive – they also progressed to the last eight of the League Cup away to Limavady United. Stephen Baxter’s side sit top of the Danske Bank Premiership with a five point advantage and the confidence to go to Ballymena on Saturday and keep their good form going.

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

Reds manager Paddy McLaughlin unveiled the signing of midfielder Mark McKee from Stevenage this week, McKee was a product of the Cliftonville Youth Academy before moving across the water and could feature for his new club for the visit of Larne on Saturday. A Joe Gormley goal and a superb late Richard Brush save combined to defeat Glentoran last Friday night and keep Cliftonville in the title mix, but they must pick up points at home if they are to close the six point gap between their North Belfast neighbours at the top of the pile.

After the highs of the stunning 6-0 win over Glenavon last Friday night at Inver Park, Fourth placed Larne came crashing down to earth with a bang as Championship club Dundela knocked Tiernan Lynch and his Larne men out of the League Cup. There’s a first return to Solitude for many of the ex-Cliftonville contingent in the Larne ranks such with Martin Donnelly, Tomas Cosgrove and Jonathan McMurray all eager to prove a point against their former club.

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

The Bannsiders remain in second place this week after another victory, this time on the road to Carrick Rangers, picking up a 4-1 victory to return the gap between themselves and Crusaders to five points again. Oran Kearney watched on in midweek as his side also knocked Glentoran out of the League Cup with goals from Jamie Glackin and Ben Doherty. Coleraine remain the only undefeated team in the Danske Bank Premiership this season to date.

The monkey is finally off the back for Stephen McDonnell – as Warrenpoint Town finally picked up their first points (and win!) of the Danske Bank Premierships season last week. Lorcan Forde’s dramatic late winner at Milltown against Dungannon Swifts may just be the turning point in a dismal season for the border club, as they now can focus on climbing off the bottom of the table for the first time this season, but face a difficult challenge against the team in second place in the table.

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield (venue: Stangmore Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The second instalment of this double header between the Swifts and Linfield reconvenes on Saturday afternoon after the Blues ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in the BetMcLean League Cup third round in midweek. It’s been a tough week for Kris Lindsay at Stangmore Park this week they were on the receiving end of Warrenpoint Town’s first league win of the season on Saturday, losing 4-3 at Milltown – Dungannon start the weekend in eighth position.

The emphatic Linfield victory will have been just the tonic for David Healy after their crunch clash with Crusaders ended in defeat last Friday evening at Seaview. The Blues still remain three games behind the majority of their peers at the top end of the table. Linfield haven’t lost to Dungannon Swifts since November 2013, Jamie Douglas goal winning that particular league encounter for the County Tyrone club.

Glentoran v Carrick Rangers (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s been a frustrating week for Glentoran as they return back to the Oval to attempt to get their campaign back on track against Carrick Rangers on Saturday afternoon. Defeats to both Cliftonville and Coleraine will have been tough to stomach for manager Mick McDermott. Those results leave the Glens in seventh place in the standings and but three points this weekend could be the boost they need to get back into the top half mix.

Niall Currie will be anxiously watching over his shoulder as Carrick Rangers’ buffer from the relegation zone has suddenly disappeared in recent weeks with both Institute and Warrenpoint Town below them starting to pick up points. Despite pegging Coleraine back last week, Carrick were defeated 4-1 at home last Saturday but will have had no midweek distractions as they prepare for an important venture to the Oval.