WITH the first three rounds of fixtures in the Danske Bank Premiership behind us, Cliftonville and Linfield lead the way with both sides yet to drop any points. 

At the other end of the table, Ballymena United and Warrenpoint Town are yet to gather any points and will be looking to change that when they kick off this weekend. 

Last seasons champions, Crusaders, will be aiming to climb up the table after gathering four points from nine, but will have to overcome a Glenavon side full of confidence after two consecutive wins.

Ballinamallard United v Portadown 

Portadown travel to Ferny Park on Saturday, hoping to bounce back from the 1-0 defeat that they suffered last time out when they faced Cliftonville. The Mallards, however, suffered a heavy loss last weekend, being on the receiving end of a 5-0 drubbing from Crusaders.

Throughout the off season Ballinamallard made a number of signings and will now be looking for their new boys to make an impact and will welcome Emmet Friars back into the fold, as he missed last weekend's game due to being on loan from Crusaders. David Miskelly may be a doubt for Portadown as he picked up an injury during last weekend's defeat to Cliftonville and had to be replaced by Billy Brennan. 

Portadown will be confident coming into this tie, as they have won six of the last nine meetings between the two sides in the Danske Bank Premiership. 

They will be dreaming of repeating the 11-0 victory that they recorded back in 2013. 

Cliftonville v Carrick Rangers

Cliftonville welcome Carrick Rangers to Solitude on Saturday hoping to pick up their fourth consecutive win after winning their first three games in the Danske Bank Premiership. Carrick come into this game on the back of an encouraging 1-1 draw with Glentoran and will be pleased with four points from nine after being promoted from the NIFL Championship 1 last season.

Fra Brennan could feature for Cliftonville after he missed last weekends win at Portadown but Tommy Breslin may again go with the same starting 11 that has brought nine points and three consecutive clean sheets to Solitude. 

Barry Johnston, who joined Carrick Rangers from Cliftonville, could make his debut for Carrick Rangers after he started last week as a substitute. Another former Cliftonville player in the Carrick ranks is midfielder, Joe McNeil. 

The last time these two sides met in the Danske Bank Premiership was in 2012, with the sides playing out an entertaining 3-3 draw. The last time Carrick Rangers recorded a victory over Cliftonville in the league was 21 years ago, when they won 2-1 in 1994. 

Coleraine v Linfield

Linfield will travel north to Coleraine full of confidence after three straight wins, scoring 12 in the process, Coleraine however, will also be on a high having won last weekend's derby against Ballymena United, 2-0, with the goals coming from Sammy Morrow and Aaron Canning.

Andrew Waterworth scored a hat-trick last weekend for Linfield in their 5-1 defeat of Dungannon Swifts while youngster Adam Salley may be pushing for a place in the starting 11 after coming off the bench and scoring last time out. 

Again, Coleraine may be without youngster Lyndon Kane who is recovering from injury while both Darren McCauley and Garth Falconer may regain their place in the starting 11 after both were on the bench last weekend.

Linfield have improved their record against Coleraine in the last few years, with their unbeaten run against them in the Danske Bank Premiership stretching back to October 2012. Linfield have collected 26 points from a possible 42 against Coleraine over the last four years.

Dungannon Swifts v Ballymena United

Last time out Dungannon Swifts travelled to Linfield and were on the receiving end of a 5-1 drubbing while Ballymena United suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to rivals Coleraine. With Dungannon only having one point from three games and Ballymena having none, both sides will be desperate to win.

The Swifts will be out to forget all about the heavy defeat to Linfield and may take the opportunity to recall Matt Hazley, David McCullough and Gary Liggett to the starting line-up. United manager, Glenn Ferguson, made seven changes to his against Coleraine after they conceded 11 in their opening two games. 

Ballymena United's last victory in the Danske Bank Premiership came at the end of last season, when coincidentally they defeated Dungannon Swifts 1-0. 

Glenavon v Crusaders

This may well be the game of the week as the two standout sides from last season face it off. Glenavon put together seven consecutive wins towards the end of last season to secure Europa League Football while Crusaders won the Danske Bank Premiership. Last weekend, Glenavon won 3-0 when they travelled to Warrenpoint Town, while Crusaders welcomed Ballinamallard United to Seaview, winning 5-0. 

With four goals from his last two games, Glenavon manager, Gary Hamilton, will once again be looking towards Eoin Bradley to do the damage for the Lurgan side. New signing, Joel Cooper, scored his first goal for the Lurgan Blues and may retain his place against last seasons Champions. Crues manager, Stephen Baxter, will bring his side to Mourneview Park looking for a repeat performance from the one he got against Ballinamallard but will again be without both Barry Molloy and Declan Caddell who are recovering from injuries.

Glenavon don't have the best of records against Crusaders in the Danske Bank Premiership, with Crusaders winning 12 of the last 19 league meetings with a further three of those ending in a draw. However, the fixture always provides goals. There has been on average four goals per game across the last 19 times they have met in the league. 

Glentoran v Warrenpoint Town

The last time these two sides met Glentoran won 5-0 and Jordan Stewart walked away with the match ball. Glentoran will be hoping for a similar result this time as they look for their first win of the 2015/16 Danske Bank Premiership season. Warrenpoint Town are also hoping for a win, after starting the season with three straight defeats. 

In their two previous Danske Bank Premiership campaigns these two sides have faced each other six times, with Glentoran being victorious on five occasions. Glentoran have scored an average of three goals per game against Warrenpoint Town and will be looking for Curtis Allen to provide the goals, as he has scored five in his last three appearances against the Point. Warrenpoint Town have only managed one goal in their opening three games so may include new signing, Shane Dolan, in the starting 11 as they look to sharpen their forward line.

Saturday 22 August 2015 (3pm)

Ballinamallard United  v  Portadown

Cliftonville  v  Carrick Rangers

Coleraine  v  Linfield

Dungannon Swifts  v  Ballymena United

Glenavon  v  Crusaders

Glentoran  v  Warrenpoint Town


By Dominic Dysart