Irish Premiership: Ballinamallard hope to seal top six spot

Whitey Anderson
Whitey Anderson

Ballinamallard could secure a top-six finish in their first season in the Premiership if they beat Dungannon Swifts at Ferney Park and Portadown lose their derby game against Glenavon.

The Mallards lie seven points ahead of the Ports, who have one match in hand.

Whitey Anderson's side have failed to score in any of their last four league outings, resulting in a disappointing run of three defeats and a draw.

The Fermanagh outfit will be boosted by James McKenna's return from suspension.

Anderson therefore has a full squad to choose from, apart from long-term injured duo Mark McConkey and Stuart Hutchinson.

Mallards will travel to Glentoran and host Linfield in their final two games before the league split so Anderson is aware of the importance of Saturday's fixture.

"We need a result out of it and with three games remaining we need to get more points on the board," said the Ballinamallard boss.

"Dungannon are in good form so it is not going to be easy but we'll be looking after ourselves and hoping to produce a good performance - we have to believe in ourselves and we know that we have enough quality in the side to win games.

"We might not have been getting results but we have only lost by the smallest of margins - the three games we lost were all 1-0 and those were games that on another day we could have taken something out of.

"Hopefully we will be able to turn the corner on Saturday and get something out of the game. The first thing that we have to do is to work hard and then if we get a chance we have to take it," added the Mallards manager.

Swifts go into the game without Francis Brennan, who is suspended.

Meanwhile at the top of the table, Cliftonville harbour hopes of clinching the league title before the league splits in two at the end of this month.

The Reds are 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Crusaders and Linfield, and will entertain Donegal Celtic at Solitude on Saturday.

"We will go out and try to win all our matches between now and the split in two weeks' time and if that is enough to give us the title, that's well and good," said manager Tommy Breslin.

"That would take the pressure off us and allow the players to enjoy their final few games, but there is a lot of football still to be played and we won't get carried away.

"We will just try and get as many points on the board as we possibly can," added Breslin, who must plan without George McMullan.

Donegal Celtic will be without Pat McShane, Conor Downey and Sean Cleary, who are all serving one-match bans.

Linfield are missing suspended pair David Armstrong and Brian McCaul for their game against Lisburn Distillery, who must plan without Andy Hunter for the same reason.

Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has set his squad a target of beating last season's tally of 50 points as they prepare to take on Glentoran at the Showgrounds.

Mark Clarke sits out the match after being handed a two-match suspension for violent conduct.

Coleraine are without Johnny Watt, who is ruled out for the remainder of the season, for their game with Crusaders at Ballycastle Road.

Irish Premiership fixtures - Saturday 9 March - 15:00 GMT kick-offs

Ballinamallard United v Dungannon Swifts

Ballymena Utd v Glentoran

Cliftonville v Donegal Celtic

Coleraine v Crusaders

Linfield v Lisburn Distillery

Portadown v Glenavon