Linfield's Ross Gaynor and Glenavon's Rhys Marshall battle for the ball (Picture: Brian Little/PressEye.com)
Friday, 19 August 2016
The big games keep on coming in the Danske Bank Premiership, and matchday four is no exception.
At Windsor Park, Linfield welcome Glenavon for a repeat of last season's Irish Cup final. The Blues will relish an early chance to put things right after goals from Kevin Braniff and Andy Hall saw Glenavon sweep to a comfortable victory back in May.
Gary Hamilton's men have had a lively start to the new campaign. A Charity Shield win was followed by a crushing second half performance to defeat Carrick Rangers, then coming back from three goals down to take a point from Ballymena United while, last week, two very late goals brought victory over Cliftonville in a dramatic finish at Mourneview Park.
But Linfield have no shortage of fighting spirit themselves, as demonstrated last weekend to earn a point against defending champions Crusaders after playing the last half-an-hour with ten men following Stephen Lowry's dismissal.
Defending champions make the journey north to face Coleraine.
After finding the net ten times in their first two games, the Crues saw their goals dry up last week against ten man Linfield - but the Bannsiders won't mind a repeat following their surprising four-goal drubbing away to Dungannon Swifts.
The Crues enjoyed the better head-to-head results last season, winning twice and drawing one of the three meetings between the sides.
Stephen Baxter will have virtually a full strength panel to choose from while his opposite number, Oran Kearney, regains the services of Lyndon Kane following suspension and also, he will be hoping, defender Gareth McConaghie after injury.
Ards, in third, visit Ballymena United. They need to go back as far as February 2001 for the last time they defeated the Sky Blues at The Showgrounds - 2-1 in the League Cup - but with Niall Currie's side currently taking to life in the Danske Bank Premiership like a duck to water there could be every chance that long barren run could finally come to an end.
The visitors welcome back Guillaume Keke and Joe McKinney but will be without the former United trio of Gary Liggett, Johnny Taylor and Michael Ruddy because of injury and suspension.
When Portadown and Glentoran meet it's always a tough game for both sides. It should be no different this time as managers Pat McGibbon and Alan Kernaghan will be hoping their players respond well to disappointing defeats a week ago.
The Ports won the last meeting at Shamrock Park last December with a thrilling 5-3 victory and McGibbon would obviously take a repeat with his new look side ..... although Glentoran defender Ross Redman will be striving to remind the Portadown faithful what they're missing as he makes his return to the ground for the first time after 12 years spent in home colours.
At Solitude, Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree will be hoping for a belated birthday present from his players approach this game on the back of a thumping four-goal win last weekend. It was the perfect response to a stuttering and frustrating start to the campaign - and they will be further boosted by the return of Paul McElroy and Cormac Burke from injury.
Cliftonville, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back after letting the points against Glenavon last week slip away courtesy of two very late goals. They'll have to do it without Jason McGuinness, though, following his red card for two bookable offences against the Lurgan Blues.
And at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena Carrick Rangers welcome Ballinamallard United in a potential six-pointer between two sides tipped by many to be scrapping for survival come the end of the season.
The Mallards are still without a point having lost their first three games, albeit by a single goal on each occasion whereas Kieran Harding's Carrick will be brimming with confidence following their victory over Glentoran at The Oval a week ago.
Carrick enjoyed the upper hand last season, winning three out of four meetings including that memorable game on the closing day when a sensational Miguel Chines overhead kick saved Rangers from the drop and condemned the Mallards to a play-off.
Danske Bank Premiership - Saturday 20th August (3pm)