TABLE-TOPPING Cliftonville are off on their travels on Saturday to the land of the lakes and are hoping they don’t come away with that sinking feeling.
The Solitude side are riding high at the top of the Danske Bank Irish Premier League with a seven point lead of the chasing pack.
But they leave early on Saturday to face a tough encounter against Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park.
Ballinamallard already got one over the Reds when they beat them earlier in the season in the league.
But Tommy Breslin’s men took out their revenge on the Mallards when they thumped them 5-0 in the League Cup.
Saturday’s encounter will give fans a flavour of what is to come when the two sides face each other in the fifth round of the Irish Cup next month.
Striker Mark McAllister returns from suspension to give Linfield a boost ahead of Saturday’s Premiership game with Dungannon Swifts at Windsor Park.
The Blues will be without Gary Browne, who has a hamstring strain, and Ryan Henderson, who is struggling to overcome a recurring knee complaint.
Niall Quinn is out with a bruised ankle and Johnny Black is still suffering from the effects of a severe virus.
David Jeffrey’s side lie sixth in the table, 14 points behind Cliftonville.
Ciaran Martyn has agreed a contract to remain at Glenavon
Lisburn Distillery go into their game against second-placed Crusaders hoping to overcome a dismal run of one win from their last 15 league outings.
Whites boss Tim McCann must plan without Dominic Melly, who serves an automatic one-match suspension after being sent-off against Glenavon last week.
The Lurgan Blues have won their last two Premiership matches against Donegal Celtic and Coleraine and were boosted this week by the news that Ciaran Martyn has signed a one-and-a-half year contract with the club after impressing since joining on a short-term deal at the start of November.
“Ciaran’s a big player and brings a lot of experience to a relatively young side – he’s a winner and it’s great news for the club that he’s staying on,” said Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton.
Hamilton’s side entertain Ballymena United, who are on a poor run of four successive league defeats, which has seen them drop to eighth position in the table.
The Sky Blues again have Gary Thompson ruled out with a knee injury, while Chris Rodgers is doubtful with a calf problem and David Cushley will undergo a late check on a hamstring complaint.
Coleraine are again without skipper David Ogilby as they seek to improve on a disappointing sequence of one win from their last seven games when they take on Donegal Celtic.
The Suffolk Road outfit have Mark Burns sitting out the game at Ballycastle Road because of an automatic one-match ban.
Portadown will hope to continue their encouraging recent form when they take on Glentoran at Shamrock Park.
Irish Premiership fixtures – Saturday 15 December – 3 PM kick-offs:
Ballinamallard Utd v Cliftonville
Coleraine v Donegal Celtic
Crusaders v Lisburn Distillery
Glenavon v Ballymena United
Linfield v Dungannon Swifts
Portadown v Glentoran