Belfast Telegraph

Stuart McKinley's Irish League predictions

by Stuart McKinley

THIS is a bit of a strange weekend in that the matches are spread over a four-day period. That's no bad thing though as the big Reds v Blues battle could be the perfect preamble for Monday night's Glentoran v Portadown clash on Sky Sports. Yes, even though we are now in the seventh season of live Irish League football we still get excited by it – probably because they've all been entertaining in one way or another. All matches kick-off tomorrow at 3pm unless stated.

GLENAVON v DUNGANNON SWIFTS

(Tonight, 7.45pm)

I FIRMLY believe that the real test of a team's credentials is not when they get big results, but how they follow them up. Glenavon have won only one of their six matches since beating Portadown at the end of September and that has led to them slipping from second in the table to sixth. That run must stop if they want to stay in the top half.

After beating Linfield two weeks ago Dungannon then took three points at Ards last weekend, but this is the game that will tell us what they are really made of.

McKinley prediction: Glenavon 3 Dungannon Swifts 1

ARDS v CRUSADERS

THERE's a bit of a pattern with Ards' results this season. Over the last couple of months it's gone win one, lose two, win one, lose two more. The bad news for the Crues is that Niall Currie's side will enter this game on the back of successive defeats against Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts!

Crusaders will be confident of winning though, particularly as they are looking to clock up game number 20 in their unbeaten run. And they may actually be the team with the advantage on the artificial pitch as they are more familiar with it than Ards.

McKinley prediction: Ards 0 Crusaders 3

BALLYMENA UNITED v BALLINAMALLARD UNITED

WHITEY Anderson tells me that he hates going to Ballymena – mainly due to the arduous 70-mile journey from Ballinamallard. He's obviously been spoilt by all those motorways around Fermanagh.

Ballymena have gone from struggling to score goals to finding the net in every game since losing 1-0 to the Mallards at the start of last month, but they have conceded as many as they have scored in the last six games, so there are still problems for Glenn Ferguson to iron out.

McKinley prediction: Ballymena United 2 Ballinamallard United 1

CLIFTONVILLE v LINFIELD

MASSIVE is about the best way to describe this game – or if you're David Jeffrey then it's ginormous (yes it is in the dictionary).

The Reds are unbeaten in seven, Linfield have lost once in 13 and then there is the firepower of Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley and Andy Waterworth on show. It could be a belter (that's in the dictionary too).

McKinley prediction: Cliftonville 3 Linfield 3

WARRENPOINT TOWN v COLERAINE

BETWEEN them these two have only won one game in their last seven outings. Oran Kearney says that Coleraine are playing as well as they have done under his management, but conceding goals three and four at a time is a problem that they have to address.

Warrenpoint boss Barry Gray challenged his players to step up and show they want to be in the Premiership and they need to respond if they are to get away from the bottom.

McKinley prediction: Warrenpoint Town 1 Coleraine 2

GLENTORAN v PORTADOWN

(Monday, 7.45pm)

KEVIN who? Since Portadown put their star man Kevin Braniff on the transfer list they have gone from winning just once in seven games to picking up four points out of six – including fighting back from 3-1 down to draw with Cliftonville.

The Glens have won six out of eight since they lost to the Ports at the end of September – form that can only be matched by Crusaders – and all the ingredients are there for this to be another Sky Sports classic.

McKinley prediction: Glentoran 2 Portadown 2

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