PREVIEW - DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP - MATCHDAY 32

Linfield can cut into Crusaders seven-point lead this weekend if they can get a victory against a tough Ards side in one of five Danske Bank Premiership games on Saturday, before the Sky Sports cameras roll into Seaview on Monday night for Crusaders clash with Ballinamallard United.

Saturday 18 March, 3pm

Ballymena United  vs  Glentoran

The last time these sides met, it really was a game of two halves.  The Glens went into the break with a comfortable 2-0 lead at the Oval before three second-half goals from Ballymena gave the Sky Blues all three points, with Johnny McMurray netting the 90th minute winner.  David Jeffrey’s side have been in fantastic form of late including a win in the League Cup Final while Glentoran are winless in five.

Carrick Rangers  vs  Portadown     

This is simply a must-win game for both sides as they battle to stay off the foot of the table. Carrick boast an 11-point advantage over the Ports with seven games remaining so a victory for Aaron Callaghan’s side could all but guarantee they avoid automatic relegation.  However the Ports are unbeaten against Carrick in their last six meetings including four wins and two draws.                 

Dungannon Swifts  vs  Cliftonville   

Dungannon Swifts have their eyes set on finishing 7th this season which comes with a spot in the Europa League play-offs, and taking three points off Cliftonville for the second time this campaign would go a long way to achieving this goal.  Swifts striker Andrew Mitchell has bagged himself all of the five goals in Dungannon’s last three matches against the Reds.  Gerard Lyttle’s men come into this game in a poor run of form with just two wins in their last 11 games in all competitions including a 2-0 defeat against Linfield on Monday in front of the Sky Sports cameras.               

Glenavon  vs  Coleraine    

Gary Hamilton’s side have won five and drawn two of their last seven meetings with Coleraine and go into this game with a top six spot secure. Both sides are in excellent form with the Bannsiders unbeaten in 11 matches (10 wins and one draw) stretching back to 31 December, while Glenavon have lost just twice in their last 12 with both defeats coming at the hands of Crusaders and Linfield.  The Lurgan Blues and the Bannsiders notched up comfortable 2-0 wins last Saturday and will be looking at the game as a bit of an insight into their upcoming Irish Cup Semi-Final tie against each other.        

Linfield  vs  Ards           

The Blues title charge is firmly back on track after cutting the Crues lead back to seven points at the top of the table.  Linfield manager David Healy’s message to his players to take it one game at a time is certainly paying off with 10 wins in their last 11.  During this 11-game run Linfield have only conceded five goals compared to Ards’ 24 in the same period.   Coilin Nixon’s side have lost six of their last nine games in all competitions but did win last time out against Ballinamallard which will have provided a much needed boost of confidence ahead of their trip to Windsor Park.

Monday 20 March, 745pm

Crusaders  v  Ballinamallard United

Although the Crues have taken 22 points from the last eight league games, they will still be looking over their shoulder at Linfield who sit seven points back in the title race.  Every win now for Stephen  Baxter’s side is a step closer to seeing them retain their crown for the third season running, and he will be asking his players to do all they can to take all three points against a Ballinamallard side whose last trip to Belfast saw them leave the Oval with the spoils.  However the Mallards have never won at Seaview, losing each of their seven attempts to date including a 5-1 defeat in September.

Danske Bank Premiership 

Saturday 18 March, 3pm

Ballymena United  v  Glentoran

Carrick Rangers  v  Portadown

Dungannon Swifts  v  Cliftonville

Glenavon  v  Coleraine

Linfield  v  Ards

Monday 20 March, 745pm

Crusaders  v  Ballinamallard United