Cliftonville aim to bounce back after two defeats

Tommy Breslin
Cliftonville manager Tommy Breslin

Cliftonville aim to get the defence of their Premiership title back on track at Ballymena after suffering successive defeats by Portadown and Coleraine.

Despite the two losses, the Reds are level on nine points with their opponents on Saturday and Glentoran, who head the table on goal difference.

Cliftonville goalkeeper Conor Devlin is available to play despite being called up to the Northern Ireland squad.

Liam Boyce is likely to start after being a substitute against Coleraine.

The forward has been struggling with a back injury but is fit to resume his strike partnership with the prolific Joe Gormley.

While Reds manager Tommy Breslin looks for a reaction from his squad, his Ballymena counterpart Glenn Ferguson will hope for more of the same after his players produced a fine second half performance to overcome Portadown on Tuesday.

New recruit Michael McLellan, who scored one goal and won a penalty, could be in line for a start although Ferguson insists the player is "still working on his fitness and sharpness".

Linfield have midfielder Aaron Burns available again after suspension for their trip to bottom-of-the-table Ards, while Dungannon Swifts entertain unbeaten Coleraine.

"Our games against Coleraine always produce goals and both teams try to play football the right way," said Swifts boss Darren Murphy.

"I have a group of players who are together, get on well and work hard for each other.

"They are a young group but if they continue to play with the commitment they have shown, they will win more games than they lose.

"I think we are a better team than we get credit for. We get good players in and then the bigger clubs come and take them away."

Coleraine manager Oran Kearney will be without Derry gaelic football star Eoin Bradley, who will juggle his commitments with the Bannsiders with those of his GAA club Glenullin, until the latter have no further interest in the Derry Senior Championship.

Bradley should be in Kearney's panel for next week's match with Ballinamallard but still expects to be part of Brian McIver's Derry squad for next season as his contract with Coleraine only runs until January.

Portadown boss Ronnie McFall says his charges "have to start taking their chances" as they prepare to entertain Ballinamallard United in the wake of that defeat at Ballymena.

Mallards manager Whitey Anderson says his side "must try to stop the supply line" to the Ports' star striker Gary Twigg, while paying attention to the threat posed by the team as a whole.

Meanwhile Glenavon chief Gary Hamilton is confident his players can achieve a good result at home to Warrenpoint Town "if they show the same application and attitude as they did against Ballinamallard" on Tuesday evening.

Table-toppers Glentoran are at home to Crusaders, whose manager Stephen Baxter hopes that they can start turning territorial possession into chances.

"It's frustrating for us at the moment - we are passing the ball well and creating chances, but not taking them. We're not getting the run of the ball but we have to try and turn that around.

"Glentoran have a lot of good players, they're well organised and they'll not be short of confidence, but we'll be up for the challenge."