Irish League Preview Matchday 33 – 24th & 25th March 2017
It’s the last regular season game before the split officially takes place despite the post-split fixtures already having been drawn up.
Glentoran v Carrick Rangers Friday 24th March 19:45
The Glens pulled off a shock 4-2 victory over Ballymena last weekend and will hope to carry that form into this game against league strugglers Carrick. Carrick managed to gain some more yards on bottom club Portadown after beating them on Saturday, almost assuring themselves of avoiding automatic relegation. The Glens and Carrick are one apiece in competitive games this season with both clubs losing their respective home fixture in the ties.
Ards v Glenavon Saturday 25th March 15:00
Despite Keke’s fourth goal in three games, Ards were powerless to resist a thumping from Linfield in a 5-1 loss. They’ll be hoping the in-form Frenchman can get them firing against a Glenavon side who are consistently inconsistent. The Lurgan Blues were beaten 2-1 by Colerain despite going ahead in the early stages of the game. Glenavon will be looking to complete a hat trick of wins over Ards in the league this season having beaten them 1-0 on both previous occasions.
Ballinamallard United v Linfield Saturday 25th March 15:00
The Mallards gave up a 1-0 half time lead against Crusaders to lose 3-1 in their first Sky Sports appearance. The Fermanagh side will still have one eye over their shoulder at Carrick Rangers in the relegation playoff spot but should remain confident of avoiding any drop. Linfield’s 5-1 hammering of Ards may have sent out a message to league rivals Crusaders but the Blues remain 7 points adrift after the Hatchetmen’s Monday night victory. The South Belfast club will expect an away victory to keep the pressure on Crusaders.
Cliftonville v Ballymena United Saturday 25th March 15:00
Cliftonville had to come from behind to draw 2-2 with Dungannon after initially surrendering their 1-0 lead, it was a disappointing result that allowed Coleraine to overtake them into 3rd place. Ballymena’s shock defeat to Glentoran was compounded by only taking a point from their midweek game in hand against derby rivals Coleraine. Ballymena can draw level on points with Cliftonville with a win on Saturday.
Coleraine v Crusaders Saturday 25th March 15:00
Coleraine’s victory against Glenavon on Saturday lifted them into 3rd place in the league but they only managed to extend that lead over 4th placed Cliftonville by a point as they failed to see their midweek game out from a winning position. Crusaders made an impressive comeback in the second half against Ballinamallard on Monday night to maintain their 7 point lead in the title race, Coleraine will be tough opponents but Crusaders know an away victory here will be a significant statement in the race for the title.
Portadown v Dungannon Swifts Saturday 25th March 15:00
Portadown’s loss to Carrick has almost certainly doomed them to automatic relegation, even accounting for their 12 point deduction this season they would still sit in bottom place. The Ports have failed to register a league win since their boxing day encounter with Mid Ulster enemies Glenavon. Dungannon managed to take a point from Cliftonville on Saturday at Stangmore Park but will have been disappointed to give up a 2-1 lead which came thanks to two quick fire goals from Glenavon-bound Mitchell who will move in the summer.
Tip of the week
My fancy this week is an away double of Crusaders (v Coleraine) and Dungannon (v Portadown) which warrants a price of just over 4/1 – odds provided by A. McLean Bookmakers.