Irish Premiership: All 12 sides ready for 'Derby Day'

Coleraine Ballymena
Coleraine and Ballymena United met in a fiery 2-2 draw in September
Irish Premiership: Derby Day
Date: Wednesday, 26 December Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and live text commentary with in-game highlights on BBC Sport NI website

Top of the table Ballymena United will be hoping to continue their impressive season with a derby day win over Coleraine on Boxing Day.

The Sky Blues are four points above Linfield having won their last nine league matches.

Meanwhile Rodney McAree's side must win if they are to keep in touch with the leading pack.

As it stands Coleraine are off the pace in terms of title contention and sit 14 points behind their high-flying rivals.

A lack of consistency has plagued the Bannsiders' campaign thus far however Rodney McAree has already signalled his intent to be active in the upcoming January transfer window, bringing in former Crusaders midfielder Jamie Glackin.

The Coleraine boss will be hoping Saturday's win over his old charges Dungannon Swifts will be a turning point in their season.

Cliftonville v Crusaders

Cliftonville fans will have been bolstered by the news that Joe Gormley has agreed a three-year contract extension with the club.

The club's record goalscorer is in fine form once again this season with 18 league goals and is believed to have been wanted by a number of clubs including Shamrock Rovers and Larne.

The Reds are the league's top scorers but their problems appear to be at the back, as evidenced by their 6-4 loss to Institute on Saturday.

Furthermore Barry Gray is without a recognised first team goalkeeper following Brian Neeson's red card at the Brandywell.

"We have an issue to deal with, and whoever gets the opportunity to come in will have to stand up and take it, it is as simple as that," said Gray.

If results go their way, Crusaders could leapfrog Glenavon into third place as they continue to recover from a poor start to the season and seek to retain the Gibson Cup.

Stephen Baxter's side appear to have found a degree of consistency but, much like their opponents, continue to ship too many goals and have already conceded just six goals less than they did throughout the entirety of last season.

Linfield v Glentoran

Linfield will hope to inflict more misery upon rivals Glentoran, who are without a league win since October.

On Saturday Institute moved above the Glens leaving Ronnie McFall's men in eighth place before their daunting trip to Windsor Park.

Linfield Glentoran
Linfield are currently 20 points clear of their rivals

Blues boss David Healy said that he was expecting a big crowd in south Belfast on Wednesday and called upon his players to step up an keep the pressure on the players around them.

"Derby games are hugely important for the supporters," he said.

"Especially in the boxing day fixture. "

Warrenpoint Town v Newry City

For the first time in the top flight, a new derby has been added to the tradition Boxing Day line-up as Warrenpoint host Newry in a rivalry dubbed the 'Mourne Ultimatum'.

Three points separate the sides with the late postponement of Newry's Friday night game meaning that Point have played an extra game

"It is a six pointer. we have to win it and there is no other way to look at it. Hopefully the players can rise to the big occasion," said Warrenpoint manager Stephen McDonnell.

Newry currently occupy the promotion/relegation play-off spot but with a game in hand a win could move them up to ninth if other results go their way.

Warrenpoint Newry
Newry and Warrenpoint will meet in a Boxing Day top flight fixture for the first time

Dungannon Swifts v Glenavon

Glenavon were the early pacesetters this season but have since been caught by the relentless consistency of Ballymena and Linfield.

However the Lurgan Blues still remain firmly in the hunt and a win could hypothetically see them move to within two points of the league leaders.

Striker Andrew Mitchell is on fine form for Gary Hamilton's side while they still are able to call on the services of Mark Sykes who looks set for a move into full-time football.

The Swifts are still looking for their first win in December, a month in which they have also found out they will be losing the services of captain Ryan Harpur who will sign for Ballymena at the end of the season.

Institute v Ards

Institute have received plaudits for their exciting brand of football which was again on show on Saturday as they got the better of Cliftonville in a 10-goal thriller.

Captain Michael McCrudden netted four to take his season tally to 14.

The player is likely to the subject of some speculation over the next month having stated that he was open to hearing from other clubs in January.

Colin Nixon's side could certainly do with an in-form striker, have haven't scored more than once in a league game since 3 November.

"Institute scored six (on Saturday) and at the moment I can't see us scoring six in six matches," he joked on Saturday.

"But we have got to keep plugging away and hope our luck will turn."

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