Irish Premiership: Crusaders close in on another title success

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter watched his side go eight points clear by beating Linfield

Crusaders continue their bid to secure back-to-back Irish League titles for the first time in their history when they face Glenavon at Mourneview Park.

The Crues will retain the Gibson Cup if they beat the Lurgan Blues on Saturday and Linfield fail to defeat Coleraine.

"We must stay focused, it's definitely not over yet and we still have a job to do," said Crues manager Stephen Baxter.

"It's important that we come away from this game with something to push us a little closer to the title."

"We had a fantastic game against Glenavon in the Irish Cup a couple of weeks ago, which could have gone either way.

"We just have to concentrate on playing the games in front of us and focus on what we are trying to do."

"We will go there with confidence after our big win over Linfield last week but we now face two testing away games and Mourneview Park is a difficult place to go," added Baxter.

Second spot now Healy's goal

Second-placed Linfield now trail the champions by eight points and Blues manager David Healy has all but conceded defeat in his club's pursuit to overhaul the pacesetters with just four rounds of fixtures remaining.

"We now have to make sure we finish second and seal a European place," commented Healy.

"Credit to Crusaders as it's often said that it's more difficult to retain a title than to win it so well done to them if they do go on and win it.

"We have a cup final to look forward to and I've told the squad that they are playing for starting places in the team for that."

Glenavon will hope to bounce back from last week's reverse at the hands of Cliftonville, a result which saw Gary Hamilton's side drop below the Reds in the contest to clinch third position.

The Solitude outfit entertain Glentoran, who will be without injured pair Calum Birney (ankle) and Chris Lavery (knee).

Battle to avoid the drop

The battle for valuable points to help avoid the drop continues at the foot of the table as bottom side Warrenpoint Town host Ballinamallard United, who are one point ahead of Barry Gray's charges in 11th.

Tenth-placed Carrick Rangers are one point better off than the Mallards but are at home to a Ballymena United side, who are now unbeaten in five matches under new boss David Jeffrey.

Struggling Portadown play Dungannon Swifts in the day's other Section B fixture.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership
Ballinamallard UtdvWarrenpoint Town
Carrick RangersvBallymena Utd
PortadownvDungannon Swifts
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound