DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP MATCHDAY 35 PREVIEW

Crusaders took a huge step towards retaining the Danske Bank Premiership title last week but they face a stiff test as they travel to Mourneview Park in one of six game on Saturday at 3pm.

A Glenavon win at Mourneview Park against Crusaders could make the end of the season run-in that bit more unpredictable as Stephen Baxter’s side aim to secure the Gibson Cup remains at Seaview for another season.  With the Crues holding an eight point lead with four games left in the season, many assumed that last Saturday’s win over Linfield all but guaranteed the title but if Gary Hamilton can lead his Lurgan Blues to victory on Saturday the race for the Premiership might not be over just yet.  It was just two weeks ago when these sides produced arguably one of the matches of the season when Glenavon won their Irish Cup Semi-Final 4-3 at Windsor Park.

Linfield host Coleraine at Windsor Park and as long as the Blues can still mathematically win the title, manager David Healy will be ensuring his players pile as much pressure on Crusaders just in case they slip up.  Linfield have won all three encounters this season and will want to make it a clean sweep against Oran Kearney’s side.  Coleraine, however, will be very much aware that keeping their 5th place in the table will secure home advantage in the Europa League play-off Semi-Final in May.

Cliftonville welcome Glentoran to Solitude as they look to strengthen their grip on 3rd place in the table by beating the Glens for the 3rd time this season in the Premiership.  Gerard Lyttle’s men come into this game on the back of a convincing 3-1 win against Glenavon last Saturday, and after a friendly against Celtic on Monday in George McMullan’s testimonial all their focus will be on getting another three points against an in-form Glentoran side who have taken 10 points from their last four games. 

The bottom two meet at Ferney Park as Ballinamallard United face Warrenpoint Town with the loser destined to be rooted to the foot of the table at the end of the game.  Point won the last meeting 3-0 in February at Milltown but the Mallards won this game 3-0 when they last met in Fermanagh in October. Both sides have identical records in their last six matches with one win, two draws and three losses each.

Carrick Rangers have moved out of the relegation places but they welcome in-form Ballymena United to the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.  Gary Haveron knows that as the teams below them are playing each other, three points against David Jeffrey’s team would move Carrick further away from the threat of automatic relegation. However the Sky Blues are without doubt the team to beat in the bottom half of the table having gone five games unbeaten. With 7th place now in their possession, United will not want to give up the prospect of playing in the end of season Europa League play-offs.

Dungannon Swifts have taken seven points from Portadown this season as they head to Shamrock Park aiming to remain unbeaten in this fixture for this campaign.  These sides met just two weeks ago in the final game before the split with two late Liggett and Mitchell goals giving the Swifts a 2-1 win.  Ports boss Pat McGibbon has endured a torrid start in his time at the helm but a draw with Ballinamallard last week halted a run of five defeats.

Danske Bank Premiership – Saturday 16 April, 3pm

Cliftonville  v  Glentoran

Glenavon  v  Crusaders

Linfield  v  Coleraine

Ballinamallard United  v  Warrenpoint Town

Carrick Rangers  v  Ballymena United

Portadown  v  Dungannon Swifts