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Live Reporting

By Mark Sterling and Alvin McCaig

All times stated are UK

  1. Is Santa a Sky Blue?

    Ballymena Utd 0-0 Ards

    Santa took time out from his hectic pre-Christmas schedule to lead out the teams at the Showgrounds.

    The 'big man in the red suit' has also been spotted at Seaview this afternoon so his allegiance is far from certain. He certainly gets about.

    Video content

    Video caption: Santa Claus leads out Ballymena United at The Showgrounds
  2. GOAL

    Institute 1-1 Cliftonville

    Institute's lead is short-lived as the Reds are level at the Brandywell.

    Stephen Garrett's cross from the right finds Rory Donnelly unmarked and he isn't going to miss with a header from six yards.

  3. Linfield look at it

    Linfield 0-0 Glenavon

    Linfield are zipping the ball about well in the early stages.

    No real penetration as yet, but the home side are keeping possession superbly so far.

  4. Sluggish start at Showgrounds

    Coleraine 0-0 Dungannon Swifts

    A low-key opening at the Showgrounds with neither keeper tested so far.

    Dungannon were presented with a free-kick in a central position but skipper Chris Hegarty lifted it high and over - not one of his best!

  5. Mulgrew's in the mood

    Linfield 0-0 Glenavon

    Jamie Mulgrew started the match with a crunching tackle after 50 seconds.

    Two minutes later he went on a run from the halfway line, the Glenavon defence parted and the skipper was just over the bar with a shot from the edge of the box.

    Good stuff from the captain.

  6. GOAL

    Institute 1-0 Cliftonville

    Institute take an early lead and it's that man Michael McCrudden again.

    The Stute skipper latches onto a Joe McCready lay-off and produces a composed finish for his 11th goal of the campaign.

  7. Let's get the ball out

    Linfield 0-0 Glenavon

    It's been a tale of matches postponed for Linfield lately, but they're back in the game now as the match kicks off at Windsor.

  8. David calls it a day

    Ards defender David Elebert announced his retirement from playing this week.

    The former Glenavon centre-half will take up a coaching role with the club.

    He's been a fine performer for both teams since making the move north from the League of Ireland.

    David Elebert in action earlier this season against Linfield
    Image caption: David Elebert in action earlier this season against Linfield
  9. Merry 'Crues'mas

    Crusaders v Warrenpoint Town

    Flag at Seaview
  10. It's not McMurray (not yet at least)

    Larne raised some excitement when they said on Twitter yesterday that they would be announcing a new signing at noon today.

    Given their previously reported interest in transfer-listed Ballymena United striker Johnny McMurray, we, like I'm sure quite a few might have, thought the 24-year-old was going to be the latest in a line of former Cliftonville players to sign for the runaway Championship leaders.

    Not the case - not yet at least. Instead, the Inver Park club, who of course enjoy the significant financial backing of owner Kenny Bruce, the co-founder of online estate agent Purplebricks, announced the signing of Sligo Rovers midfielder Lee Lynch.

    The 27-year-old has been capped for the Republic of Ireland at Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level, having begun his career in England with West Brom.

  11. Match officials released from hospital after traffic accident

    Three Irish League match officials have been discharged from hospital after being involved in a serious traffic incident while travelling to a game.

    The scene of Friday night's road traffic incident in which the match officials were involved
    Image caption: The scene of Friday night's road traffic incident in which the match officials were involved
  12. Team news

    Ballymena Utd v Ards

    Leaders Ballymena United are looking to extend their unbeaten run to a club record 17 matches and at least consolidate their two-point lead at the top of the table when they entertain bottom club Ards at the Showgrounds.

    The Sky Blues have won the two meetings between the clubs this season, in the Premiership and League Cup, both at Clandeboye.

    In contrast to their opponents, Ards have gone 10 games without a victory in all competitions since defeating Linfield in October.

    Andrew Burns for Tony Kane is the only change to the Ballymena starting team which beat Crusaders 1-0 in the League Cup semi-final 11 days ago.

    The Sky Blues' last two scheduled fixtures against Institute and Linfield were postponed because of waterlogged pitches.

    Shane McGinty is included as one of the United substitutes after almost four months sidelined through injury.

    Michael Kerr comes in for Ards in place of David Elebert, who announced his retirement from playing this week.

    Ballymena United: McDermott, Addis, Friel, Knowles, McCullough, Burns, Balmer, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar

    Subs: McCauley, Quigley, Whiteside, Mayse, McGinty, Shevlin, McMurray

    Ards: Johnston, Kerr, E McAllister, Byers, Cherry, McLellan, D McAllister, Tommons, McClean, Nelson, McAleenan

    Subs: Davidson, M Kelly, J Kelly, Mitchell, McArthur, Strain, McArthur

    Ballymena v Ards
    Image caption: Ballymena v Ards
  13. Team news

    Linfield v Glenavon

    Third-placed Glenavon arrive at Windsor Park on the back of an impressive 4-0 victory over Coleraine in front of the BBC live TV cameras last Friday night.

    Linfield are second but had last weekend off after Storm Deirdre wreaked havoc with the Irish Premiership fixtures.

    The big team news from Windsor is that there is no team news, with neither manager making any changes from their last outing.

    For Linfield that was their League Cup semi-final win away to Dungannon Swifts on 11 December.

    Linfield: Carroll, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Stewart, Millar, Fallon, Mulgrew, Quinn, Casement.

    Glenavon: Tuffey, King, Marron, Marshall, Mitchell, Sykes, Hall, Clingan, McCloskey, Singleton, Doherty.

    Linfield v Glenavon
    Image caption: Linfield v Glenavon
  14. Team news

    Coleraine v Dungannon Swifts

    Bannsiders boss Rodney McAree makes three changes from the side which lost to Glenavon last time out.

    In come Adam Mullan, James McLaughlin and Ian Parkhill with Steven Douglas, Eoin Bradley and Jamie McGonigle making way.

    It's five changes for the Swifts as manager Kris Lindsay brings in Jake Dykes, Douglas Wilson, David Armstrong, Daniel Hughes and Johnny Lafferty.

    Coleraine: Johns, Kane, Mullan, Harkin, McCauley, Lowry, McLaughlin, Carson, McConaghie, Parkhill, Canning

    Subs: Doherty, Douglas, Bradley, Crown, Gawne, McGonigle, Whiteside

    Dungannon Swifts: Moore, Dykes, Hegarty, Wilson, Armstrong, Clucas, Hughes, McElroy, O’Rourke, Lowe, Lafferty

    Subs: Teggart, Patton, Burke, Hutchinson, Campbell, Smyth, O’Carroll

    Coleraine v Dungannon Swifts
    Image caption: Coleraine v Dungannon Swifts
  15. Team news

    Institute v Cliftonville

    Institute boss Paddy McLaughlin is forced into two changes in his side's first outing for a fortnight.

    Centre-back Caoimhin Bonner's 100 per cent appearance record in the Premiership comes to an end after he picked up his fifth booking in Stute's most recent fixture - a 3-3 draw with Glentoran - while the same fate befell Aaron Jarvis.

    Jake Morrow and Jamie Dunne are the players drafted in.

    Suspensions have also hit Cliftonville with boss Barry Gray without the services of Jaimie McGovern and Ryan Catney, who reached that unwanted yellow card limit in last week's win at Ards.

    Caoimhin McConnell and Aaron Donnelly also drop out, with Garry Breen, Ryan Curran, Conor McDonald and Liam Bagnall all starting for the Reds.

    Institute: Gallagher, McLaughlin, D Curry, Doherty, Dunne, Harkin, McCrudden, Scoltock, Morrow, Wilson, McCready.

    Cliftonville: Neeson, Ives, Breen, Harney, C Curran, R Curran, Garrett, R Donnelly, McDonald, Bagnall, Gormley.

    Institute v Cliftonville
    Image caption: Institute v Cliftonville
  16. Team news

    Crusaders v Warrenpoint Town

    Crusaders skipper Colin Coates returns to the hosts' defence after injury. He comes in for Rodney Brown who is a sub today. Joining him on the bench is striker Rory Patterson, available after serving a suspension.Keeper Sean O'Neill is a late replacement for first-choice Harry Dohery.

    Aaron McCarey remains in goal for Warrenpoint, although he has signed for League of Ireland side Dundalk. The former Ross County man has been superb for the 'Point this season and his impending departure will be a blow to manager Stephen McDonnell.

    Crusaders: O'Neill, Beverland, Burns, Coates, Lowry, Cushley, Caddell, Forsythe, Ruddy, Heatley, Clarke.

    Subs: Ward, Carvill, Holden, Snoddy, Brown, Patterson

    Warrenpoint Town: McCarey, Foster, Hughes, McGrandles, McCaffrey, J Lynch, Watters, Scannell, O’Connor, Norton, Wallace.

    Subs:Turker, Reilly, O’Kelly, Sullivan, M Lynch, Donnelly

    Crusaders v Warrenpoint Town
    Image caption: Crusaders v Warrenpoint Town
  17. Don't panic - head to Seaview

    Irish Premiership teams have their last chance to snap up three points before Christmas.

    Crusaders suggest a visit to the Shore Road would be much better craic than traipsing around Belfast's retail outlets.

    Can't argue with them...

    Crusaders are at home to Warrenpoint
    Image caption: Crusaders are at home to Warrenpoint
  18. The race for Christmas number one

    Whether you're in the house with your feet up or squeezing in more Christmas shopping, we've got today's Irish Premiership covered as ever.

    Three teams have the chance to be the Christmas number one, with leaders Ballymena United, Linfield and Glenavon all knowing that a win today could take them to the top of the table.

    The game of the day is at Windsor Park, where the Belfast Blues host the Lurgan Blues, while the Sky Blues of Ballymena entertain basement side Ards.

    It's also a big day for Rodney McAree as the Coleraine manager goes up against Dungannon Swifts for the first time since leaving Stangmore Park in September.

    Champions Crusaders will be hoping to break the stop-start nature of their season so far and will fancy their chances when Warrenpoint travel to Seaview.

    Their north Belfast neighbours Cliftonville have strung a hat-trick of wins together but face a tough trip to the north west, where Institute lie in waiting.

    So there. A feast of festive football coming up. Enjoy.