Action from Carrick Rangers v Coleraine earlier in the season (c) Presseye


There's five big games today in the Danske Bank Premiership, we look ahead to all the action in our preview.

Ballymena United v Institute (venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

The midweek County Antrim Shield win against HW Welders brought to an end Ballymena United’s alarming run of defeats and ensured their passage to a January final against Cliftonville. Manager David Jeffrey must now get back on track in the league starting with three points against Institute on Saturday, the Bradimen’s injury woes show signs of easing up with the return of Tony Kane and Reece Glendinning in midweek and Adam Lecky returned from suspension with a hat-trick.

Sean Connor could only watch on as ‘Stute suffered their first defeat in five league games last Saturday against reigning champions Linfield at the Brandywell. Defender Ryan Morrow will sit this game out through suspension for Institute who will remain in the relegation zone, six points behind Dungannon Swifts in tenth. The last time these two clubs met in the North West – it ended in a 1-1 stalemate at the start of October.

Coleraine v Carrick Rangers (venue: Coleraine Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

The Bannsiders relinquished their lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership with the shock defeat to bottom placed Warrenpoint Town at Milltown last Saturday. Manager Oran Kearney has demanded an improvement as Coleraine lost their first game of the season after a tremendous start, this week also marked a new addition to the squad in January as Matthew Fitzpatrick will join from Belfast Celtic. The Showgrounds outfit now start Saturday in second place, two points behind Cliftonville.

Niall Currie will be disappointed his Carrick Rangers side couldn’t maintain their good run of form by holding onto the lead against Crusaders last Friday night, as they conceded late goals to come away from that game with nothing for their efforts. Rangers remain in eighth place in the Premiership standings after an encouraging start to life back in the top-flight but will not find it easy against title-chasing Coleraine – they were defeated 3-0 the last time they met the Bannsiders at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena earlier this season.

Glentoran v Dungannon Swifts (venue: The Oval; kick-off: 3pm)

The East Belfast Glens return to Premiership action after a two week hiatus following the postponement of their fixture last week owing to Paul O’Neill and Chris Gallagher’s international call-ups. Their last league outing was the 1-1 draw with Institute two weeks ago that keeps Mick McDermott’s men in fifth place in the table, three points behind cross-city rivals Linfield after last night’s result. The Glens were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Cliftonville in the semi-final of the County Antrim Shield on Tuesday evening.

Dungannon Swifts have been struggling for form recently but will hope to recreate the 3-1 win against Glentoran back in August, Captain Seanan Clucas scored in that game but will be missing for the Swifts today. It’s been seven straight defeats for Dungannon leading into this game, the latest of which was the 1-0 defeat to ten-man Larne last Saturday in the Danske Bank Premiersihp.

Larne v Cliftonville (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The battle of the Reds at Inver Park sees Larne welcome the new league leaders to East Antrim. Sixth placed Larne come into this game off the back of a hard fought win with ten-men against Dungannon Swifts, the sending off for Tomas Cosgrove means he will sit out this game alongside influential midfielder Fuad Sule through suspension. Larne were undone by a solitary late Ryan Curran goal when the two sides met earlier this season.

It’s been a good week for Paddy McLaughlin and his Cliftonville team, not only did they rise to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday evening following their 1-0 win against Ballymena United at Solitude – they followed it up in midweek with a similar scoreline against Glentoran to progress to the County Antrim Shield final in January. The Reds have now won seven Premiership games in a row and lead Coleraine by two points in the title race.

Warrenpoint Town v Crusaders (venue: Milltown; kick-off: 3pm)

It may just be the result that kick-starts Warrenpoint Town’s season in their bid for survival. The 3-1 victory over Coleraine last week was the first league win for manager Barry Gray since his return to the club and renewed hope amongst the ‘Point fans that they can start to claw back the eight points required to move out of the relegation zone. Gray handed a surprise debut to teenage goalkeeper Mark Byrne last Saturday and he shared the plaudits alongside double goalscorer Alan O’Sullivan.

Crusaders finally got back to winning ways after an indifferent spell – winning their first league game in six attempts last Friday evening against Carrick Rangers. Stephen Baxter’s men still remain firmly in title contention as are only five points off the top of the table with plenty of football left to be played. The Crues defeated Warrenpoint comfortably 4-0 at Seaview back in August with Ross Clarke scoring twice.