Ballymena United travel to Linfield this weekend in the Danske Bank Premiership (c) Presseye

DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP: MATCHDAY 9 PREVIEW

September is drawing to a close and there's nothing between the teams at both ends of the Danske Bank Premiership, we look ahead to another weekend of top fixtures.

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

Following last week’s late winner against Ballymena United, Reds’ boss Barry Gray will be pleased with the character shown by his under-fire side following the recent defeat to Warrenpoint Town. That victory moved Cliftonville back into the top half of the Premiership table, but after this gameweek, start a though run of games against Crusaders, Glenavon and Coleraine in the next four fixtures.

In the last week – Colin Nixon’s Ards have drawn with Dungannon Swifts and lost to Glenavon to drop to tenth position in the table. More concerning for Ards is the lack of goals as the County Down side have now gone four games without scoring.

Glenavon v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Mourneview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

New Swifts boss Kris Lindsay returns to Mourneview Park only days after making the move across Mid-Ulster to fill the vacancy at Stangmore Park. The Swifts will be without Paul McElroy and Seanan Clucas who are unavailable, ironically it was McElroy who was the hero in the midweek victory over Crusaders – Dungannon’s first victory of the season.

Gary Hamilton’s side moved to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table on Tuesday evening, following victory over Ards – as they continued their fine start to the season. The Lurgan Blues have recaptured their home form and haven’t lost since the opening day of the season.

Institute v Crusaders (venue: Brandywell; kick-off: 3pm)

The reigning Champions visit the Brandywell, as Stephen Baxter is tasked with picking up the pieces from Crusaders’ shock midweek defeat to Dungannon Swifts. The 3-2 reverse was Crusaders’ fourth Premiership defeat of a campaign that has failed to ignite to date for the North Belfast club.

Only one place and two points separate last year’s Premiership champions against the winners’ of last season’s Championship. Paddy McLaughlin’s side welcome the Crues, looking to halt an alarming run of three defeats in a row as ‘Stute are currently without a league win since the middle of August.

Linfield v Ballymena United (venue: Windsor Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Last week’s draw with Coleraine may have knocked Linfield off the top of the table into second, but the Blues still remain unbeaten. The success continues to be built on an almost flawless defensive record, which has seen David Healy’s side concede only one goal in their eight Premiership games to date.

The Sky Blues will feel disappointed to come away from the Coleraine Showgrounds in midweek with only a point for their efforts. David Jeffrey once again returns to Windsor Park, a venue he enjoyed great success with Linfield – still looking for his first victory at the venue with his current side Ballymena United.

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

It was honours even in Newry’s first derby game of the season last weekend against Warrenpoint Town, but Darren Mullen will be ruing the late goal conceded by his team as they search for their first win since the 1st September. City are currently ninth in the table, but only three points off the bottom.

Rodney McAree started his tenure as Coleraine manager on Tuesday night with a draw against rivals Ballymena United to keep the club’s unbeaten run going in the Premiership, but with five draws from the opening eight games – the Bannsiders will need to turn draws into wins to keep dreams of a title challenge alive. Coleraine will be without the suspended Eoin Bradley who was sent off in midweek.

Warrenpoint Town v Glentoran (venue: Q Radio Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

With four points from their last available six, Stephen McDonnell’s Warrenpoint Town may have seemingly turned a corner in their season which started with six consecutive defeats. Dungannon Swifts’ midweek victory may have dropped the border side back down to the bottom of the table, but a win on Saturday could lift them out of the relegation places.

Glentoran have quietly gone about their business this season with great success, losing only once and currently in fourth place alongside the chasing pack at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership. Ronnie McFall’s side will look to continue their good form against Warrenpoint after last week’s 2-1 win over Institute at the Oval.

For all the latest news from the NI Football League subscribe to our online newsletter by clicking here.