Irish Premiership: Crues stars to return for Ards clash

Crusaders defeated Ards 1-0 in their Premiership meeting in Bangor in September
Crusaders defeated Ards 1-0 in their Premiership meeting in Bangor in September

Champions Crusaders will recall their big guns for Saturday's Irish Premiership match at home to Ards.

The Crues made 11 changes for the midweek League Cup game at Coleraine which they lost on penalties.

"We had an eye on the Ards game and that is why we mixed the team up for Wednesday night," said Crusaders assistant manager Jeff Spiers.

"We played Ards earlier in the season and scraped a 1-0 win so we know it is going to be a tough one for us."

Keeper Sean O'Neill, defenders Colin Coates and Howard Beverland and top striker Jordan Owens were some of the Crusaders first-choice players not involved in the cup exit.

The north Belfast team, seeking a third league title in a row, are four points ahead of second-placed Linfield and the top two are seeking to extend their unbeaten runs in the Premiership to six matches.

Irish League table

Linfield, having scored four in both of their last two matches, take on Cliftonville in a Belfast derby at Windsor Park.

Third-placed Ballymena, buoyed by reaching the League Cup semi-finals in midweek, will again be missing a number of key men as they host Dungannon Swifts.

"We have 10 of our senior players unavailable through injury," said manager David Jeffrey.

"It is not as if they are muscle strains. They are ligament or tendon damage and these type of injuries do not clear up quickly.

"So there will not be any great change to the squad for Saturday."

Johnny McMurray, Alan Blayney, Stephen McBride, Gary Thompson and Fra McCaffrey are some of the Sky Blues players sidelined recently.

Bottom club Portadown have a chance to cut the 10-point gap on 11th-placed Carrick Rangers when the struggling sides clash at Shamrock Park.

"Portadown are difficult to beat and I believe they were unlucky against Crusaders last week, but we are going for three points," said Carrick manager Aaron Callaghan.

"We have had some decent performances and are starting to get some players fit and back on the pitch.

"We need those extra bodies because we have got a small squad."

Irish Premiership 19 November (15:00 GMT)
Coverage on Radio Ulster's Sportsound from 14:00 GMT
Ballymena UnitedvDungannon Swifts
Carrick RangersvPortadown
ColerainevBallinamallard United