Matchday 23 of the Sports Direct Premiership sees Linfield travel to Inver Park for a top of the table clash with Larne (3pm k.o. all-ticket, sold out). The teams are well acquainted, having met 4 times already this season over 3 different competitions.
Larne hold the upper edge, winning at both Inver Park (SDP 2-0) and Windsor Park (SDP 2-1 & CAS 1-0). The Blues did, however, win a BetMcLean Cup quarter-final tie in dramatic fashion at Inver Park. (3-2 on pens after a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes).
Larne have recently chalked up wins in their last 4 league games and their Boxing Day derby 2-1 win at Carrick Rangers keeps them just 1 point behind Linfield in a fascinating title race.
Manager Tiernan Lynch has assembled a squad with both quality and strength in depth, and one to watch is striker Andy Ryan. The well-travelled Scot has played in the top 4 levels of Scottish football since his debut for Hamilton Academicals in 2011.
There was much to enjoy in Linfield's thoroughly deserved Boxing Day derby win over Glentoran. It was certainly the best Christmas gift of all for the vociferous 7,000+ home supporters who packed into a bouncing Windsor Park! The Blues were well in control of the game and the eventual 2-0 score line could easily have been doubled.
David Healy and his players will head to East Antrim determined to lay down a marker. With the league now past it’s halfway point, this is a real ‘6 pointer' for both teams, and the Linfield players will again be looking towards the travelling support to be their '12th man'.
It promises to be another intense clash between these two evenly matched sides.
By Ken Garrett.