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Friday 29 Jan 2016
Danske Bank Premiership Preview

With the bottom four clubs all within touching distance of each other the visit of Warrenpoint Town to Stangmore Park to take on Dungannon Swifts really is the proverbial six-pointer.

Barry Gray's side go into the game after a blistering run of form which has brought victories over Coleraine, Portadown and, last week, a superb four goal defeat of Glentoran at The Oval.

However, Gray knows that tomorrow's game is potentially more important than any of those.

"I've said all along it's not about what we do against Crusaders, Cliftonville or Linfield, it's about how we fare against the teams around us in the table," he told the News Letter.

"We face a massive few weeks, which could well determine the rest of our campaign. We've got Dungannon followed by Ballinamallard and then Carrick."

But Rodney McAree's Swifts have been no slouches either recently. Like 'Point they have turned over the Ports and the Glens in recent weeks as well as sharing the spoils with Ballinamallard United.

The Mallards have been going through a torrid spell lately and, indeed, have to go back to October for their last league victory.

However, Whitey Anderson has been very active during the current transfer window and will be looking to recent acquisition Stephen O'Flynn to help provide the firepower required to beat Ballymena United at Ferney Park.

Anderson was delighted to secure his services until the end of the campaign before he joins Glentoran.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter, he said of O'Flynn: "He's an experienced player who I feel will not only score goals but will also chip in with a number of assists between now and the end of the season." 

The Sky Blues won on their last visit to Fermanagh back in November but will be without the suspended Tony Kane, Gavin Taggart, Jim Ervin and Johnny Taylor for tomorrow's return.

Carrick Rangers, another of those clubs separated by just three points at the bottom, face a potentially daunting task with a trip to south Belfast to take on David Healy's Linfield.

That said, Gary Haveron's side did work their way to a superb victory over Coleraine last weekend while on their last visit to Windsor Park only a late Aaron Burns goal denied them the win.

Linfield could feature Michael McLellan in their line-up, a signing this week from HW Welders, as they seek to continue a rich vein of form that has saw them accumulate 16 points out of a possible in their last six outings.

The Blues are nine points adrift of leaders Crusaders who will be hoping to continue their charge at the top of the table with victory over Coleraine at The Showgrounds.

An injury time Josh Robinson goal saw the Crues scrape a narrow win over Portadown last week while the Bannsiders have now lost two on the bounce against sides at the foot of the table but boss Oran Kearney is refusing to panic about any slump in form.

"I don't see the last couple of games as a blip or anything," he told the Coleraine Times.

"I don’t treat any team in this league any differently. When you look at the players Carrick have or the players Warrenpoint have they are good players.

"Definitely we never come into any game thinking it’s only a matter of turning up or that the bottom teams will be any easier than the teams at the top."

All eyes will be on Darren Murray as Cliftonville take on Portadown at Solitude.

Murray recently made the switch to north Belfast from the Ports and will come up against his former team-mates for the first time.

He found the net on his home debut in the defeat of Ballinamallard United last Saturday so will be no doubt hoping to carry that form into tomorrow's encounter.

However, Portadown's recent losing streak - they've ended up with nothing from their last five games - must end sometime so maybe Murray's old teammates will be keen to remind him what he left behind.

Completing the weekend line-up will be the battle of the Glens as Gary Hamilton's men welcome Alan Kernaghan's charges to Mourneview Park.

Glentoran will be licking their wounds following last week's humbling defeat at home to Warrenpoint Town which came after a further three straight league defeats.

Kernaghan pulled no punches describing how that felt.

"Last week was totally unacceptable and the players know it," he told the News Letter.

"We've had poor days, but that was by far the worst. It was embarrassing. We defended poorly, never competed in midfield and hadn't a shot on goal."

By contrast, Glenavon haven't tasted defeat in the league since November, ironically at the hands of Glentoran - and, following Joel Cooper's winner last week at Dungannon, have climbed back up to fourth in the table.


Danske Bank Premiership – Saturday, 30th January, 2016 (kick-off 3pm)

Ballinamallard United v. Ballymena United

Cliftonville v. Portadown

Coleraine v. Crusaders

Dungannon Swifts v. Warrenpoint Town

Glenavon v. Glentoran

Linfield v. Carrick Rangers