David Jeffrey (Picture: Brian Little/PressEye.com)


All eyes will be on the dugouts this Saturday as David Jeffrey leads his new club Ballymena United to Seaview to take on Danske Bank Premiership leaders Crusaders, while Portadown will be missing Ronnie McFall for the first time in almost 30 years as they face Coleraine with Pat McGibbon in charge.

The Crues ran out 3-2 winners in this game in November however the Sky Blues won 2-0 in the County Antrim Shield game on the Shore Road a month earlier.  Stephen Baxter’s men sit seven points clear at the top of the table and boast the tightest defence in the league, while Ballymena have conceded the most in the Premiership having shipped 67 goals in their 29 games.  Recent form suggests the home side are clear favourites with the Crues unbeaten in their last six and United losing five in a row, however with David Jeffrey back on the touchline this is a game that just might be closer than recent form suggests.

Across Belfast, Linfield welcome Glentoran to Windsor Park as the Blues look to keep up their title challenge.  David Healy’s side have lost just once in their last 10 league games and haven’t tasted defeat to their bitter rivals in the last six meetings. In comparison Glentoran have lost seven of their last 10 games including their last two.  These sides drew 1-1 here in October with a last minute Curtis Allen strike for the Glens.

Portadown will face Coleraine at Shamrock Park with no Ronnie McFall in the dugout for the first time in almost 30 years following his resignation last Saturday after a run of poor results. The caretaker manager's role has been given to ex-Northern Ireland international Pat McGibbon until the end of the season.  The Ports have taken four points from their last 10 league games and now find themselves adrift of the top six. With Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena Utd also chasing seventh place, the Ports must get back to winning ways soon or risk missing out on an end-of-season play-off spot.  Coleraine, on the other hand, come into this game on the back of a fantastic 3-1 win at Solitude and have won both Premiership encounters this season so far.

In an important game at the other end of the table, Carrick Rangers entertain Ballinamallard United at Solitude. Carrick, who have won both meetings so far this season at Ferney Park will leapfrog the Fermanagh side and out of the bottom two if they can win again.  The Mallards last six Premiership games have been win – loss – win – loss – win – loss with their last match a 1-0 win at Ferney last weekend but if they can buck this trend on Saturday they will go five points clear of their opponents.

If there was ever a bogey team for Dungannon Swifts it surely must be Saturday’s opponents Cliftonville who they welcome to Stangmore Park.  The Swifts haven’t beaten the Reds in an unbelievable 28 games dating back to February 2008 but Rodney McAree’s men go into this game having won three of their last four outings in the Premiership and have kept two clean sheets in a row at home. Cliftonville were dumped out of the Irish Cup by Linfield last weekend in a game which saw Conor Devlin and Caoimhin Bonner receive their marching orders, so they will be suspended for the trip to Stangmore.

Both Warrenpoint Town and Glenavon have identical records in their last 10 Premiership games as they prepare to meet at Milltown. With five wins, four draws and just one defeat each this game really could go either way on Saturday.  Barry Gray’s ‘Point had been written off by many as relegation certainties having accumulated just five points by Christmas, but now find themselves on 23 points and despite still being bottom of the table they have come into form when it matters with just nine games left in the season.  Glenavon have not lost an away game since November and they won 3-0 at Milltown in August.  

Danske Bank Premiership

Saturday 12 March, 3pm

Carrick Rangers  v  Ballinamallard United

Crusaders  v  Ballymena United

Dungannon Swifts  v  Cliftonville

Linfield  v  Glentoran

Portadown  v  Coleraine

Warrenpoint Town  v  Glenavon