Coleraine's Jamie McGonigle clashes with Linfield's Matthew Clarke at the Irish Cup final (c) Stephen Hamilton/Press Eye.
Friday, 13 October 2017
It's one of the biggest games of the Danske Bank Premiership season as Oran Kearney's Bannsiders put their unbeaten record on the line against Champions Linfield. We preview all the games this weekend.
Friday 13 October
Warrenpoint Town v Ballinamallard United (venue: Milltown; kick-off: 7.45pm)
Just how important could tonight’s game at Milltown be for both clubs come the end of the season? The bottom two teams square off with the visiting Mallards looking to pull themselves off the foot of the table with what would be their first win of the Danske Bank Premiership season. It was August when Gavin Dykes’ side last picked up a league point and have since suffered six league defeats on the bounce.
Matthew Tipton’s Warrenpoint are also struggling for form, sitting only three points ahead of their opponents going into this game. The ‘Point exited the BetMcLean League Cup during midweek to Dungannon Swifts but will be counting on home advantage to help kick start their season.
BetMcLean odds: Warrenpoint Town win [19/20]. Draw [13/5], Ballinamallard United win [11/5]
Saturday 14 October
Ballymena United v Ards (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)
Sky Blues’ boss David Jeffrey told Cool FM’s Danske Bank Premiership show this week that he isn’t feeling the pressure, but he will be very aware defeat to Ards on Saturday could leave the Braidmen ninth in the league table. Jeffrey will be boosted by the decision to overturn William Faulkner’s red card against Dungannon Swifts, to allow the winger to face his former club this weekend.
Colin Nixon’s team defeated Ballymena United three times last season in all competitions and will be looking to use that experience to get another one over the Braidmen. Scoring goals is still the main issue facing Nixon and his North Down outfit as they haven’t scored a league goal since the start of September and will have to face Ballymena United without forward Jonny Frazer, who was sent off in their previous game.
BetMcLean odds: Ballymena United win [8/13]. Draw [3/1], Ards win [3/1]
Carrick Rangers v Dungannon Swifts (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)
Having gone five Premiership games without a win, David McAlinden’s Carrick Rangers side caused a big shock in midweek when they won 1-0 away to Glentoran in the BetMcLean League Cup. The East Antrim side will be keen not to drop into the relegation play-off place come Saturday evening if results elsewhere go against Rangers.
Another side that won their League Cup game in midweek is Dungannon Swifts who have enjoyed a fine run of form having not been defeated since the start of September. Manager Rodney McAree will be boosted by the signing of former Ballinamallard forward Johnny Lafferty and contract extensions to key personnel Douglas Wilson, Chris Hegarty and Paul McElroy.
BetMcLean odds: Carrick Rangers win [85/40]. Draw [12/5], Dungannon Swifts win [21/10]
Coleraine v Linfield (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)
Unquestionably the game of the day and possibly the season to date. Oran Kearney’s table-topping Bannsiders could go an astonishing seven points clear against next placed Linfield in the standings with a win on Saturday at the Ballycastle Road. Unbeaten Coleraine will have had an additional week of preparation for the game owing to last week’s postponement due to Under-21 International call-ups.
Visiting Linfield will still feel hard done by in last weekend’s last minute defeat to Dundee United in the Scottish Challenge Cup. Attentions return to domestic action as the Champions look to avoid a third Premiership defeat this season – the same amount they had during the whole of last season en route to lifting the Gibson Cup. Manager David Healy will be boosted by the return of Roy Carroll from international duty for this crunch game.
The two sides met in both the Irish Cup final and Charity Shield - with the Blues coming out victorious on both occasions.
BetMcLean odds: Coleraine win [21/10]. Draw [23/10], Linfield win [11/10]
Crusaders v Glenavon (venue: Seaview; kick-off: 3pm)
Another cracking game is in store at Seaview as Gary Hamilton’s Lurgan Blues are the visitors to North Belfast on Saturday. Stephen Baxter has seemingly picked his team by the scruff of the neck with back-to-back 3-0 wins against both Glentoran and Cove Rangers in their last two games as they look to get their title charge back on track.
Free-scoring Glenavon have been in fine form to date in this campaign with only one league defeat (to Coleraine) and the most goals scored of all the Danske Bank Premiership teams. In-form Mark Sykes who returns to the Glenavon side after starring for the Northern Ireland Under-21 side in their midweek victory over Estonia.
BetMcLean odds: Crusaders win [4/17]. Draw [100/30], Glenavon win [17/5]
Glentoran v Cliftonville (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)
The form guide for these two teams has turned on its head in the last month as Cliftonville go into this one favourites with BetMcLean after a spectacular turnaround in form that has seen four wins in succession for Barry Gray’s Reds, including a two goal victory over his former club Warrenpoint last Saturday. Victory on Saturday would see the Solitude men leap frog Glentoran in the table.
Gary Haveron will be looking to pick his side up from their midweek League Cup defeat at home to Carrick Rangers with another big test against Cliftonville. After their impressive start to the Danske Bank Premiership season, it will be important for the Glens to not lose momentum after defeat to Crusaders on Sky Sports and now the League Cup loss. The two sides cancelled each other out last time they met back in February – drawing 1-1 at Solitude.
BetMcLean odds: Glentoran win [15/8]. Draw [9/4], Cliftonville win [5/4]