Danske Bank Premiership Preview: Crues Must Show Strength Of Character To Seal League Title Amidst Linfield Challenge

Northern Ireland

Bottom Half

Ards v Portadown

Ards’ disappointing collapse against Carrick on Saturday saw them lose ground on 7th place Dungannon Swifts. Guillaume Keke will be hoping to continue his goal scoring form into this fixture after his early brace on Saturday. Portadown’s victory over Ballinamallard on Friday has continued the delay in confirming their relegation. The Ports will be looking for a third consecutive win since the league split as they continue to play for pride.

 

Carrick Rangers v Glentoran

Carrick put in a good performance to fight back from a two-goal deficit against Ards in a 2-2 draw on Saturday, unfortunately, that result has condemned Carrick to a place in the bottom two. A point will be enough for Carrick to assure themselves of avoiding automatic relegation or should they fail anything but a win for Portadown will do. Glentoran’s second half self-destruction against Dungannon has seen the Glens drop below Ards to 9th and 4 points behind the final European playoff spot. As discontent grows Glentoran will need to pull off a result from out of the ether to avoid losing any hope of a European playoff.

Ballinamallard United v Dungannon Swifts

Ballinamallard’s disappointing loss to Portadown has ended their slim chances of reaching the European playoff but Carrick’s result has confirmed the Mallard’s safety in the Premiership for another year. Dungannon’s second half comeback against Glentoran has put them firmly in the driving seat for the final European playoff berth, the Swifts are anything but consistent so this tie could go either way.

Top Half

Ballymena United v Cliftonville

Ballymena’s loss to Linfield made it 5 games now without a win for the Sky Blues, with 6 points keeping them from 4th place and 3 points separating them from 6th place it seems that their season may well just peter out from this point should they fail to pull off a home win here. Cliftonville came from a goal behind to lead 2-1 in the North Belfast Derby but their failure to adequately deal with Jordan Owens led them to relinquish that winning position and finishing on the wrong end of a 3-2

score line. Anything less than a win will cause real damage to the Reds’ smallest of hopes of reclaiming 3rd place in the league – meaning they would require a level points finish with the advantage being taken on results between themselves and incumbent 3rd placed team, Coleraine.

Linfield v Glenavon

Linfield’s 2-0 victory over Ballymena helped to keep up the pressure on title rivals Crusaders as the Blues remain just one point adrift in 2nd place. Linfield are on a formidable run of form and it would take a very foolish man to bet against that run continuing in the final three games of the season. Glenavon’s late equaliser against Coleraine maintains some hope of the Lurgan Blues managing to catch Ballymena in 5th place but Gary Hamilton’s consistently inconsistent side will find themselves up against a force to be reckoned with in this clash.

Crusaders v Coleraine

Crusaders made a fine comeback against Cliftonville to keep themselves a point ahead in the title race. The Crues have seen an impressive lead of 9 points dissipate over the past seven weeks but their desire to get back into pole position in their North Belfast clash might give them the confidence to see this challenge through. Coleraine were disappointed to concede a late equaliser against Glenavon on Saturday but the Bannsiders remain 6 points clear in 3rd place. A point will be enough to seal 3rd place and guarantee themselves Europa League qualification for next season.