Irish Premiership: Linfield aim to keep title challenge alive

Linfield were 2-0 winners the last time they played Ards
Linfield were 2-0 winners the last time they played Ards

Manager David Healy admits Linfield's title chances will disappear if they do not beat Ards and Ballinamallard United in their next two matches.

Healy's second-placed Blues are seven points behind defending champions Crusaders with seven matches left.

The top two clash in the first post-split fixtures on Saturday, 8 April.

"That will only be a big game if we beat Ards and Ballinamallard. We cannot afford to let the gap widen," said the former Northern Ireland striker.

"It is up to us to do our job and keep the pressure on, but it is going to take an almighty collapse by Crusaders.

"They have not lost many games over the last couple of seasons and it is in their hands.

"I am sure they are confident of holding on to their title."

Linfield have had 10 victories and one draw in their last 11 matches
Linfield have had 10 victories and one draw in their last 11 matches

Victory for Linfield on Saturday would reduce the gap between the top two to four points, for a couple of days at least, as Crusaders host Ballinamallard on Monday night.

Ards are up to eighth in the table having taken seven points from their last three games.

Coleraine will hope to continue their push for a top three place when they travel to Mourneview Park to play Glenavon.

Oran Kearney's Bannsiders have won seven and drawn the other from their last eight in the league and are just one point behind third-placed Cliftonville with a game in hand.

Coleraine will meet Glenavon again in the Irish Cup semi-finals on 1 April, but Kearney is concentrating on picking up more Premiership points.

"We are pushing to finish as high up the league as we can - not thinking ahead and waiting for the cup match," said Kearney.

"There is a huge amount of football for us to play between now and then, and there are places in the team up for grabs.

Crusaders are on course to win a third successive Irish League title
Crusaders are on course to win a third successive Irish League title

"If performances are not up to scratch, there are a lot of good players waiting in the wings.

"We are at the business end of the season and I just hope we can carry on with the quality and level of performances we have had recently."

Cliftonville, with just two points from their last four league fixtures, travel to Dungannon whose form has dipped with just one point from a possible 15.

The Premiership's bottom two clash at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena where relegation favourites Portadown face Carrick Rangers.

The Ports have not won in the league since Boxing Day and another defeat would leave them 14 points adrift with six matches left.

Ballymena United, meanwhile, will try to make it three league wins in a row when they play Glentoran at the Showgrounds.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Coverage on BBC Radio Ulster 1341 medium wave
Ballymena UnitedvGlentoran
Carrick RangersvPortadown
Dungannon SwiftsvCliftonville
GlenavonvColeraine
LinfieldvArds

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