Lisburn Distillery must beat Ballymena to avoid play-off

Glenn Ferguson and John Cunningham
Former colleagues Glenn Ferguson and John Cunningham will go head-to-head when Ballymena play Lisburn Distillery

Lisburn Distillery play in-form Ballymena United on Saturday knowing they must win to avoid the dreaded relegation/promotion play-off.

The team which finishes one from bottom in the Irish Premiership will face Championship runners-up Newry City over two legs on 1 and 4 May.

The other teams hoping to escape that 11th-place finish, Glenavon and Dungannon Swifts, play each other.

A point would definitely be enough to guarantee Dungannon's survival.

Former Distillery player and coach, Glenn Ferguson, brings his Ballymena team to New Grosvenor on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run in the Premiership.

If John Cunningham's Whites beat United for the first time this season, Glenavon or Dungannon will be in the play-off and the Swifts have the advantage of being a point better off than Gary Hamilton's Lurgan side.

Glenavon would have been safe if they had not conceded a stoppage-time equaliser at Ballymena last Saturday.

Dungannon, on the other hand, grabbed a Premiership lifeline by beating Donegal Celtic.

"The three points give us an opportunity in the last match against Glenavon," said Swifts manager Darren Murphy.

"That's all we wanted. We have that, so now it is over to the players this Saturday."

At the other end of the table, Cliftonville's match against Portadown will decide who finishes runners-up to runaway champions Linfield.

Cliftonville are currently second, one point ahead of the Ports, but fourth-placed Coleraine will grab a third-place finish and a place in the Europa League if they beat Irish Cup finalists Crusaders at Seaview.

At Windsor Park, Linfield will be presented with the championship trophy after their derby clash with Glentoran.

Blues skipper Michael Gault, keeper Alan Blayney, defender Albert Watson and midfielder Jamie Mulgrew are injury doubts.

Manager David Jeffrey is unlikely to risk playing any of them seven days before the cup final against Crusaders.

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