The greatest show on turf returns this week. Cheltenham? No, the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership! With two games remaining until the league splits the groupings have already been confirmed and the fixtures released for the remaining five league games post-split. The league features another live Sky Sports match from Seaview on Monday.
Ballymena United v Glentoran – Saturday 18th March 15:00
On the back of a confident performance last week against Portadown, Ballymena look to continue their pursuit of closest rivals Coleraine. Tony Kane is on a fantastic run of scoring this season, albeit with quite a few penalties in that count, and he seems to have a knack of scoring against Glentoran. Glentoran were powerless to resist as Coleraine turned them over 2-0 last week, they’ll be hoping for a more spirited performance this week as they look to overtake Ards in the league.
Carrick Rangers v Portadown – Saturday 18th March 15:00
Both teams are chasing what may seem unattainable aims – Carrick seek to escape the relegation Playoff spot and Portadown will look to catch Carrick to avoid automatic relegation with 11 points separating the teams. Carrick went down 3-0 to league leaders Crusaders last week and it could have been more if not for the fantastic first half performance of Carrick goalkeeper Neeson. Portadown looked aimless against Ballymena last week and it would take a brave man to bet against their eventual relegation.
Dungannon Swifts v Cliftonville – Saturday 18th March 15:00
Dungannon will have been disappointed to miss out on the top group split but they’ll surely look to finish the season as strongly as possible and this match present a great chance to send that message out. Cliftonville’s struggles continued with a toothless performance against Linfield on Monday, at this point they are in real danger of being caught by Coleraine or Ballymena below them.
Glenavon v Coleraine – Saturday 18th March 15:00
Glenavon have confirmed their place in the top group and will look to see themselves in the best position possible ahead of the Europa League Playoff. The Lurgan Blues seem to be hitting a good run of form just at the right time and have an Irish Cup semi-final to look forward to as well. Coleraine can overtake Cliftonville this week if results go their way and still have their game in hand of the Reds who have now just a 1 point lead over Coleraine.
Linfield v Ards – Saturday 18th March 15:00
The Blues breezed by Cliftonville on Monday nights, although it wouldn’t be unfair to say it was easier than they expected. Linfield are chasing a gap of 7 points to league leaders Crusaders and given their current form it would be unwise to write them off at this stage! Ards took all 3 points from Ballinamallard last Friday but will be up against it in this match, they’ll look to Guiallaume Keke in the hope of another strong performance to give them any chance here.
Crusaders v Ballinamallard – Monday 20th March 19:45 on Sky Sports
The Mallards will be up against it in this match and will have to pull something out the bag a lot better than their performance against Ards last Friday night. Crusaders can now concentrate fully on the league with their Irish Cup exit behind them. The Crues may get a bit twitchy if Linfield win on Saturday reducing the points gap to just 4.
Tip of the week
I’m now 1 for 2 on calling these after last week’s successful double. So this week I’m going a step further and picking Ballymena (v Glentoran), Portadown (v Carrick) and Cliftonville (v Dungannon) which offers just over 9/1 for the treble, odds provided by A. McLean Bookmakers.