Irish Premiership: Baxter ready for Blues title battle

Crusaders captain Colin Coates and manager Stephen Baxter are chasing a third straight Premiership triumph
Crusaders captain Colin Coates and manager Stephen Baxter are chasing a third straight Premiership triumph

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter is wary of the threat posed by Linfield as the top two continue their title tussle with games on Friday night.

Crusaders, who are seven points clear at the Premiership summit, make the trip to Dungannon Swifts while the Blues host bottom club Portadown.

"Linfield have been excellent, they are working hard and are chasing us down," said Baxter.

"There is a big run in to the finishing line and we'll see who is stronger."

He added: "Being seven points clear is a nice position to be in and we've worked very hard since the start of the year.

"We've led from the start of the season and that's a hard place to be because everyone is coming after you."

Blues on the up

Linfield followed up their Co Antrim Shield final success over the Crues with a 2-0 away win over struggling Carrick Rangers last Saturday.

The Blues will be expected to pick up three points against a Ports side sitting 12 points adrift at the basement.

"We've been on a good run and it is vital that we keep the momentum going," said Linfield manager David Healy.

"But the Ports are fighting for their lives and just like Carrick we expect another tough test on Friday night."

Linfield midfielder Stephen Lowry celebrates scoring a penalty against Carrick last weekend
Linfield midfielder Stephen Lowry celebrates scoring a penalty against Carrick last weekend

Third-placed Cliftonville saw their faint title hopes suffer a massive blow last weekend with a 1-0 defeat at Ballinamallard.

Reds defender Chris Ramsey was sent-off at Ferney Park and he is suspended for the Solitude clash with Glentoran.

The Mallards will hope to build on the surprise win over Cliftonville when they take on Glenavon at Mourneview Park.

Danske Bank Irish Premiership - Friday 17 February (19:45 GMT)
Live commentary and reports from the games are available on BBC Radio Ulster MW and the BBC Sport website
Cliftonville vGlentoran
Dungannon SwiftsvCrusaders
GlenavonvBallinamallard Utd
Linfield v Portadown