Crusaders v Cliftonville. Sports Direct Premiership. Monday 18th September

18th Sep 2023

Crusaders will be hoping to bag the bragging rights when they host Jim Magilton’s Cliftonville in tonight’s mouthwatering north Belfast derby at Seaview.


Crusaders occupy fourth in the Sports Direct Irish Premiership, but know a win tonight against their city rivals would see them leapfrog Larne, Linfield and leaders Glentoran to grasp top spot and once again show the fans their genuine title ambitions.


Five-goal Ben Kennedy currently leads the way, alongside Linfield’s Chris McKee, at the top of the goalscoring charts, thanks in no small part to that spectacular four-goal haul against Carrick Rangers.  After a year on the side-lines with injury Kennedy was this week awarded the league’s player of the month award.


“It's my first monthly award, but hopefully not my last.


"I have to put these things in perspective. I've had a year out of the game, I'm proud of what I've achieved and it's nice to get a pat on the back for it. I'm hungry for more, now.


“"I really want to have a good season after a tough time last year”.


Having started last season brightly, he suffered a nasty knee injury against Glentoran in August.  The 26-year-old originally hoped to make a return to the Crues side at Christmas, but further disaster struck as he needed to go under the knife to have a grumbling appendix removed, but he has come back stronger than ever.


While Stephen Baxter’s side will believe they end the night top of the pile, for Cliftonville it will be an opportunity to get their season somewhat back on track.


Having demolished Glenavon, Newry City and Carrick Rangers in their opening three games, the Reds have had a collapse in form, only picking up a single point from their last three games.  New signing Ben Wilson has been a ray of light however, striking four times in the opening six games as he fills the void left by the injured Ronan Hale.


Both sides will test the ability of the other’s goalscoring form, as they share the stingiest goals conceded award at present, each having only allowed four goals to pass their goalkeepers.  The Shore Road side go one better by also topping the charts of goals scored, a staggering 20 from their six outings.


With the game being broadcast live on Sky Sports this one should be a eye-catcher to showcase Irish League football.