Belfast Telegraph

Festive season football in Northern Ireland is all about getting some points in bag

By Stuart McKinley

December has started which means that everyone has one thing on their mind - some big matches in the Danske Bank Premiership. Cliftonville and Portadown currently lead the way, but don't expect anyone in red and white to be handing out presents when there is all to play for in the title race. All matches kick-off tomorrow at 3pm unless stated.

BALLYMENA UNITED v LINFIELD

WHEN you've just lost 7-0, the last thing you probhably want is to meet a Linfield team that is on a five-match unbeaten run.

Ballymena's form isn't good. Six of their eight defeats have come in the last nine games, with only one win in 10 and the early form that saw them collect 12 points in the first six games has deserted them.

Linfield have responded well to disappointing defeats against Crusaders and Cliftonville and all the signs point to an away win.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Ballymena United 0 Linfield 3

COLERAINE v CLIFTONVILLE

THE Bannsiders are Cliftonville's bogey team at Solitude, but the Reds play well on the Ballycastle Road and they are in outstanding form, largely down to Joe Gormley's goals.

Coleraine's defence is the best outside of the top four so they have that in their favour, but they have been more miss than hit since their mini-revival ended a couple of weeks ago.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Coleraine 2 Cliftonville 3

CRUSADERS v PORTADOWN

THIS is all about how the Crues react to their shock (if you can call it that given that they lost to Bangor three weeks earlier) County Antrim Shield semi-final defeat in midweek. They could get over that by going to the top of the table.

The Ports are on a good run and their strikers are scoring goals. If ever they are going to get a rare win at Seaview this is it, but it will be tight.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Crusaders 2 Portadown 2

GLENAVON v INSTITUTE

(Tonight, 7.45pm)

WHEN Glenavon are good they're great, but nothing is going for them and they are on a run of defeats that has seen them slip to fifth in the table.

Only for Stute's impressive start to the season they could be really struggling. They are capable of more, but losing Stephen O'Flynn in January could be too big a blow to deal with.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Glenavon 3 Institute 1

GLENTORAN v BALLINAMALLARD UNITED

EDDIE Patterson's squad is ripped apart by suspensions, with Calum Birney, Stephen McAlorum, Fra McCaffrey and Niall Henderson all missing. Putting 11 players out on the pitch could be an achievement.

With one defeat in four, the Mallards have picked up some form and it would be a major fillip for Whitey Anderson if his team could collect three points here.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Glentoran 1 Ballinamallard United 1

WARRENPOINT TOWN v DUNGANNON SWIFTS

POINT didn't get anything from their six-pointer against Ballinamallard last weekend, so they must get something from this one if they are to start moving away from the bottom. Between them these two have only won three games in the last 49, so it's sure to be a draw.

McKINLEY PREDICTION: Warrenpoint 1 Dungannon 1

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