Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson has put his players on ‘Red Alert’ for Saturday’s Premier League showdown against Cliftonville at the Warden Street Showgrounds.
Tommy Breslin’s title holders have lost their last two games and Ferguson is fearing that someone is going to pay!
“They’ll be hurting,” rapped the former Linfield striker.
“Cliftonville losing two home games in a matter of days is unheard of in recent years.
“They are a quality side and have the players to produce a positive response. Joe Gormley is in great form.”
Ferguson was thrilled with his team’s 2-1 win over Portadown in midweek and is demanding a similar type of display, a result that catapulted them to the top of the table, level on points with the Reds and Glentoran.
“If we play the way we did in the second half, we are a match for any team,” he added.
“We showed a lot of character to bounce back from 1-0 down at the interval.
“It’s nice to be top, but it’s early days, this is a very tight league at the moment.”
United midfielder David Cusley remains out with a medial knee injury.
Meanwhile, Aaron Burns returns to the Linfield squad for the game against newly promoted Ards at Dixon Park.
The midfielder served an automatic one game ban in the midweek victory over Warrenpoint Town after being dismissed against Glentoran at the weekend.
Blues boss David Jeffrey will be missing back-up goalkeeper Ross Glendinning, who is away on Northern Ireland Under-21 duty.
“I was thrilled to get our first win of the season at Warrenpoint,” said Jeffrey. “We were poor in the first half, but I reminded the players of the responsibilities at half time and we were much better in the second 45 minutes.
“This will be another difficult test against an Ards team smarting from their heavy defeat by Glentoran.”
Striker Aaron Boyd’s international clearance has finally been processed and he is available for Glentoran’s home clash against Crusaders.
With Mark Miskimmin and Mark Clarke both recovered from injury problems, Glens’ boss Eddie Patterson could well find himself in a selection dilemma.
Patterson’s team turned in a storming performance against Ards in midweek to rack up a 5-0 victory.
“Aaron’s clearance from Canada came through on Thursday afternoon,” said Patterson. “It was held up at their end, no fault of the people over here.
“We played some of our best football of the season on Tuesday night, so having everyone available will pose me a few problems, but they are problems I don’t mind.”
Coleraine manager Oran Kearney has hailed the contribution of new signing from Linfield Gary Browne, who bagged his third goal of the season in the 3-1 over Cliftonville in midweek.
Kearney is hoping Browne maintains the trend in today’s tricky away fixture at Dungannon Swifts.
“Gary had a tough time with injury at Linfield last season, we knew it would take time for him to get up to speed,” said Kearney. “But I knew we would get the best out of him if he got regular first team football.
“He has settled in really well and I think there is more to come from him.”
In today’s two other games, Ronnie McFall’s Portadown will look to hit back following the defeat at Ballymena when the roll out the welcome mat for Ballinamallard United, while Glenavon will be looking to seize the points at home to Warrenpoint Town.