Irish Premiership: Crusaders aim to extend lead over Linfield

Paul Heatley (right) scored three goals for Crusaders against Carrick Rangers on 22 October
Paul Heatley (right) scored three goals for Crusaders against Carrick Rangers on 22 October

Crusaders could extend their lead at the top of the Irish Premiership table to 10 points if they beat Carrick Rangers at Seaview on Saturday.

The Crues enjoy a seven-point advantage over Linfield but the Blues are not in action until Monday night when they host Cliftonville at Windsor Park.

Paul Heatley bagged a hat-trick against his former club as Crusaders won 3-1 when the sides last met in October.

Carrick will be without suspended defender Paddy McNally for the game.

Coleraine will aim to continue their impressive run of form which has yielded nine wins and a draw from 10 matches in all competitions when they entertain Glentoran at Ballycastle Road.

The Bannsiders have beaten the East Belfast side in both meetings this season, with an emphatic 4-1 victory at the Showgrounds being followed by a 1-0 triumph at the Oval.

Glentoran's disappointing recent sequence of results has seen them win just twice in 15 games.

Glenavon can cement their place in the top six ahead of the league split later this month if they defeat Dungannon Swifts at Mourneview Park.

The Lurgan Blues have not won two league games in a row all season but are unbeaten in five in all competitions.

The Swifts have taken just one point from their last three top-flight outings but Andy Mitchell scored an 89th-minute winner in the most recent encounter between the clubs.

"For Dungannon Swifts to be where we are, fighting to get a good league finish and possibly be part of the Europa League play-offs, while also in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup represents a big change for us from previous years," said Dungannon manager Rodney McAree.

"Usually we are always looking over our shoulder but our season is still well and truly alive in both the league and the cup."

Ballymena United and Portadown will hope to quickly overcome their Irish Cup quarter-final thumpings at the hands of derby rivals Coleraine and Glenavon respectively last week when they lock horns at the Showgrounds.

The Sky Blues enjoyed a notable double this week as boss David Jeffrey was named manager of the month for February by the Northern Ireland Football Writers, with Tony Kane collecting the player of the month accolade.

The Ports have secured morale-boosting draws from their last two Premiership fixtures against title chasing duo Linfield and Crusaders but are still 11 points adrift of Carrick Rangers at the foot of the table.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Saturday, 11 March (15:00 GMT)
Live coverage on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website
Ballymena UtdvPortadown
CrusadersvCarrick Rangers
GlenavonvDungannon Swifts

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