Linfield are back in league action on match-day twenty two of the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership, when welcoming Ballymena United FC to Windsor Park (3pm ko, all-ticket). All supporters are urged to closely follow the NIFL covid-19 safety protocols that will be in operation throughout the stadium. This will be Ballymena’s second league visit of the season to the Park having already lost (0-1) in December. However, the Braid men did fare better with a win (3-1) when the teams met in November for a League Cup tie at the Showgrounds.
It was a very disappointing night for Linfield as they were edged out by a physical and well organised Larne side (1-0), in a highly competitive CAS Final at a sold-out Seaview. Both teams impressed creating several chances, with Linfield only denied a goal on two occasions by goal line clearances from the Larne back line. A frustrating night for the Linfield supporters was further exacerbated, when their team found themselves on what looked to be the wrong side of the officiating for the key decisive moment in the game. But a 44th Shield Final victory was not to be for the Blues, as Larne retained the trophy to take home their fourth piece of silverware in the senior history of the club.
Ballymena United have put an indifferent start to the season firmly in the rear view mirror, having steadily climbed up into sixth position in the Premiership table. A massive win (2-1) in the festive derby with Coleraine at the Showgrounds, has provided David Jeffrey’s team with a benchmark result, and a platform to build upon as they strive to gather momentum into the second half of the season. The return from long term injury of ex NI U21 international striker David Parkhouse, has been a major boost for this revitalised Sky Blues team. Whilst the Premiership title looks a bridge way too far, DJ and his team may yet make a late dramatic run to mount a sustained challenge for an automatic European qualification place.
David Healy and his players will be refocusing as they go again in the defence of their Premiership title. The Blues will be hoping to consolidate their position at the top of the table having successfully pulled just a short head in front of the chasing pack. It has already been an intriguing title race, and with many twists and turns surely yet to unfold, it may well end up going the distance to the final weekend of the season. Ballymena will be coming to Belfast believing that they can once again bring their A game to Windsor with another committed display. On paper, this has all the bearings of another closely contested game between these two well versed teams. With two opposing managers who ‘wear their heart on their sleeve’, it promises to be an entertaining afternoon on both the park and the touch line! COYB!