Tuesday, 03 April 2018
The Danske Bank Premiership season hangs in the balance at both ends of the table as we preview some huge clashes on Easter Tuesday.
Ards v Warrenpoint Town (venue: Bangor Fuels Arena; kick-off: 7.45pm)
Two wins from three games for Stephen McDonnell has all but assured Warrenpoint Town’s Premiership safety and given the 25-year-old a huge boost in his attempts to land the border club’s managerial position on a permanent basis. The gap between the tenth placed ‘Point and next placed Carrick Rangers is now ten points with five games to go – having comfortably defeated Dungannon Swifts on Saturday at the Q Radio Arena by three goals without reply.
Only six points separates Saturday’s opponents, as the mathematically safe Ards have shown little between the clubs this season with the two sides cancelling each other out with a win each and a draw over the course of the season.
Ballymena United v Cliftonville (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off: 7.45pm)
The in-form Sky Blues scraped into the top six by the skin of their teeth after an impressive three consecutive wins last month – once of which included victory at Solitude against Tuesday night’s opponents. David Jeffrey’s Sky Blues will be buoyed by qualification for the Danske Bank Premiership’s top six but will be doing well to finish any higher than their current sixth place – as they remain eleven points behind opponents Cliftonville in fifth.
The Reds will also be buzzing after qualification to the final of the Irish Cup, following their 4-1 victory over Loughgall on Saturday at The Oval. Cliftonville have not won the Irish Cup since 1979 and only Coleraine stand in their way of putting that unwanted record to bed next month. Winning the cup would grant automatic qualification for the Europa League but with only five points separating third, fourth and fifth – there is all to play for between Glenavon, Linfield and the Reds for third place which could prove vitally important come May.
Crusaders v Coleraine (venue: Seaview; kick-off: 7.45pm)
Please note this game is sold out
Without doubt the game of the day is at Seaview as the Danske Bank Premiership title hangs in the balance! Crusaders hold the slim advantage of two points and home advantage against a Coleraine side that has still only lost once in the league this campaign.
Crusaders’ relentless pursuit of retaining the Gibson Cup they surrendered to Linfield last season comes down to the next five games but Tuesday night will go a long way to deciding the fate of the Danske Bank Premiership title. The Crues welcome back the in-form Gavin Whyte into the side following his absence from their win on Sky Sports against Warrenpoint Town, through Northern Ireland Under-21 duty.
The Bannsiders could be on course to complete an historic league and cup double after overcoming Larne in Saturday’s Irish Cup semi-final at the Ballymena Showgrounds. This game will be a must win for Oran Kearney’s exciting young side but they will take confidence from their 2-1 win at the same venue back in August – the other two league meetings between the sides have been a draw this season.
Glenavon v Linfield (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 7.45pm)
The race for Europe continues at Mourneview Park as third hosts fourth with Linfield travelling to Mourneview Park – both teams are hoping for an upturn in form as the season draws to a close. Glenavon are without a win throughout the entire month of March but currently remain in third with a three point cushion.
David Healy’s Blues are also without a win in their last four games since their defeat at Windsor Park to Glenavon in February. Gary Hamilton has mastermined two Glenavon wins on their travels to the outgoing league champions this season but in the corresponding fixture at Mourneview Park – Linfield emerged victorious thanks to a single Cameron Stewart goal.
Glentoran v Dungannon Swifts (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 7.45pm)
Glentoran caretaker manager Ronnie McFall is now tasked with picking up his young team after their failure to reach the top six, by ensuring qualification for the Europa League playoffs, a win on Tuesday night against eighth placed Dungannon confirm the necessary that and preparations can begin for their second chance of salvaging what has been a disappointing season at the Oval. Rodney McAree’s Swifts have continued to struggle in the aftermath of their BetMcLean League Cup triumph, with their form compounded by a three goal defeat to struggling Warrenpoint Town on Saturday.
Ballinamallard United v Carrick Rangers (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 8pm)
As important as the game at Seaview is at the top of the table, the relegation clash in Fermanagh takes on just as much significance to both these clubs. Five points is the gap, with Harry McConkey seemingly breathing fresh impetuous into his Ballinamallard United side – but has it come too late to save the Ducks? They picked up notable draws with Glenavon and Linfield but followed that up with a disappointing defeat to Ballymena United last time out.
David McAlinden and Carrick Rangers will have other ideas though and a win would open up the gap to eight points with four more games to play. They will welcome back midfielder Ralf Kottoy back from international duty with the Central African Republic for a game which has proven so far this season to show little between the sides, with a win apiece and a draw in the three preceding games.