BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 12 PREVIEW

The Bluefin Sport Championship returns to full strength this weekend as a former Northern Ireland international takes to the dugout for the first time in the NI Football League, we look ahead to Saturday’s games.

Carrick Rangers v PSNI (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotels Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

It was a day to forget last Saturday for Niall Currie and his Amber Army, they became the latest side to be on the wrong side of the league leaders, Larne – losing 4-0 at Inver Park. It brought to an end a mini resurgence from last year’s relegated Premiership side, they will aim to bounce back and into the top half.

Colin Malone’s PSNI had a free week with player’s unavailable owing to the UEFA Region’s Cup last week. The PSNI moved out of the relegation places for the first time this season with a 1-0 win against Limavady United two weeks ago and remain in ninth place going into this game which could take them above opponents Carrick Rangers with a victory on Saturday.

Dundela v Limavady United (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The Duns clearly showed a signal of intent for their promotion aspirations last weekend against Portadown, a stunning 4-0 win at Shamrock Park opened the gap to six points between the sides. Bryan McCarroll’s East Belfast outfit are still currently second and will look to keep pace with leaders Larne on Saturday against Limavady United.

A free week has given Sean Friars and his Limavady United side the chance to regroup after dropping into the relegation places two weeks ago following defeat to PSNI. That was their fifth consecutive defeat in the Bluefin Sport Championship, but could climb to safety with a win at Wilgar Park on this weekend.

HW Welders v Larne (venue: Tillysburn Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Last year’s third placed side could return to the same position in the current standings with a win against leaders Larne tomorrow, if other results also go their way. The Welders have seen an upturn in their league form are undefeated in their five Championship games since defeat at Inver Park last month. Last time out for the Welders they were defeated 5-0 by Ballymena United in the County Antrim Shield 10 days ago.

Tiernan Lynch’s Larne side have opened up a four point gap over Dundela at the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship last weekend, following the 4-0 demolition of Carrick Rangers in the East Antrim derby. They also secured qualification for the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield as the club’s quest for their first silverware since 1987 continues.

Knockbreda v Dergview (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Lee Forsythe’s Knockbreda continue to hold their own in the top half of the Championship, currently occupying sixth position after ten games. The East Belfast side are yet to find a win in October though, but will be rested after a free Saturday, following their defeat to the Welders two weeks ago.

Defeat last week for Dergview spelled the end of manager Peter Allen’s tenure as manager, as he resigned from his post – former Northern Ireland international Ivan Sproule has been appointed to lead his local side to safety. The Castlederg currently are only a point above the relegation places going into another crunch fixture.

Loughgall v Ballyclare Comrades (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Peter Campbell’s double on the road against Dergview last weekend gave the Villagers their first away victory of the campaign and moved Dean Smith’s side up to eighth in the table. Earlier in the season it was the Comrades who came out on top in a 2-1 victory.

The Comrades go into the game off the back of Tuesday’s 3-0 County Antrim Shield defeat to Ballymena United, but currently sit fourth having drawn their last league game 3-3 with Dundela two weeks ago.

Portadown v Ballinamallard United (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)

A disastrous week for Portadown, as they were stunned by a 4-0 defeat to Dundela and now regroup for the visit of Ballinamallard without suspended striker Darren Murray. The gap for promotion chasing Portadown and the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship table has now stretched to ten points, so there is little margin for error on Saturday against Ballinamallard.

The Mallards, welcome back manager Harry McConkey after his exploits with the Regions Cup squad this past week with the hard work of getting the Fermanagh side off the bottom of the table, they picked up a point against Loughgall in their last outing a fortnight ago but will need to make inroads on the four point gap to next placed Limavady United sooner rather than later.

For all the latest news from the NI Football League subscribe to our online newsletter by clicking here.