Jamie McGonigle fires home for Coleraine against Crusaders back in September (c) Presseye


Last season's top two meet this weekend in the Danske Bank Premiership, we look ahead to the weekend's fixtures starting tonight at the Newry Showgrounds.

Friday 19 October

Newry City v Institute (venue: Newry Showgrounds; kick-off: 8pm)

The Danske Bank Premiership action kicks off on Friday night as tenth place Newry City host Institute, as last season’s two promoted teams. The honeymoon period for Darren Mullen’s Newry City in the top flight has now ended as they are in search of their first win since the start of September as they have lost their last two outings against Ballymena United and Linfield in recent weeks, however a win for the border side would take them level on points with ‘Stute.

Institute came out on top when the two clubs met on the opening day of the season at the Brandywell, as a Michael McCrudden penalty decided the match. There are three places but three points between their opponents, as Paddy McLaughlin’s side aim to bounce back from defeat at home to Ballymena United last Saturday. Saturday 20 October

Ards v Linfield (venue: Clandeboye Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Without a win since August, it’s been a tough period for Colin Nixon’s Ards side – who are avoiding bottom spot only on goal difference after their last gasp defeat Warrenpoint Town last weekend. The County Down club will take some confidence from their scoreless draw at Windsor Park earlier in the season, one of only three league games in which Linfield have dropped points.

The Blues continue to set the pace at the top of the Premiership and preserving their two point lead over Glenavon will be the immediate aim for David Healy this weekend. Defender Jimmy Callacher proved the unlikely hero with a hat-trick on Saturday in their win against Newry City – continuing the unbeaten start to the season that has now stretched to 11 games as the first round of fixtures has been completed.

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

It was a good week for Ballymena United as the Sky Blues moved up to fourth after three points against Institute last Saturday before their comfortable midweek County Antrim Shield win at home against HW Welders. David Jeffrey announced the acquisition of Ghana Under-20 international Basit Umar, but his new signing is unlikely to feature against the Swifts as he builds up match fitness.

Dungannon Swifts manager Kris Lindsay is still searching for that first win which will lift the Stangmore Park club off the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership table. The two sides met back at the start of the season in August and Braidmen were victorious, but it was the Swifts who one the big meeting between the sides back in February’s BetMcLean League Cup final.

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

They may have already played out one of the shocks of the season so far, as Warrenpoint’s comeback win with two goals in stoppage time stunned the Reds back in September. It was a first league win of the season for Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint but it has since proved a catalyst for kick starting their season, as it sparked the five game unbeaten run in the league they are currently on, for a previously pointless ‘Point side.

In the home dugout, former Warrenpoint Town manager Barry Gray will be wary of the impact of another defeat to his former club would have on their aspirations for this season. The Reds will be far from satisfied that they are currently lingering in the bottom half of the table. Cliftonville were not in action last weekend, but bounced back from their derby defeat two weeks ago with a League Cup win against Carrick Rangers in their last outing.

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

Last season’s top two meet once again in the Premiership but there has been a huge sea change since the Bannsiders steam-rolled the Crues at Seaview back in September in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Oran Kearney has since departed and his replacement Rodney McAree is yet to find the winning formula at he Ballycastle Road, with back to back defeats to Glenavon and Connah’s Quay Nomads in their last two games.

Stephen Baxter’s Crues have found their rhythm again in the intervening weeks since their defeat to Coleraine, winning four games in succession including last week’s impressive 3-0 home victory over Glentoran, with Matthew Snoddy finding the net after just 10 seconds! The task is now to keep the momentum going and close the gap on Linfield and Glenavon above them in the standings.

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

After sitting out last weekend’s fixtures, Glenavon temporarily lost their footing as league leaders but will have strong intentions of keeping their fine run going with a win at the Oval on Saturday. Mark Sykes returns from Northern Ireland Under-21 duty the hero of their win over Slovakia in midweek, while Stephen Murray will be keen to keep his fine goalscoring form going, with nine goals in the league so far.

Glentoran are only one of two sides to stop the Lurgan Blues from taking maximum points this season, drawing 1-1 at Mourneview Park back in early September. Despite their early season promise, Glentoran have only picked up one point from their last available nine and could potentially drop out of the top half of the table with a defeat on Saturday.