Championship leaders Larne travel to Portadown on Saturday (c) Presseye
Thursday, 08 November 2018
There’s a huge clash at Shamrock Park as part of a full schedule of Bluefin Sport Championship games, we look ahead to the weekend’s action in our preview.
Dundela v PSNI (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 2pm)
Dundela kept up their fine start to the Championship season by opening up a seven-point gap in the promotion places with a 3-1 win over Dergview last Saturday. Bryan McCarroll’s side will be looking above them as they aim to keep pace with Larne above them, as they face a PSNI side that they defeated 2-1 back in August thanks to a Christopher Watts double.
Colin Malone’s PSNI side claimed a memorable victory at Newforge Lane last week, defeating Portadown 3-2 thanks to Dale Malone’s stunning free-kick. That win takes the South Belfast outfit four points clear of the relegation zone after only one defeat in their last four games, having lost their opening five games of the Championship season.
HW Welders v Dergview (venue: Tillysburn Park; kick-off: 2pm)
The Welders erratic league form continued last week with a shock defeat to bottom club Ballinamallard United on the road. Norman Kelly’s side currently sit just outside the top six but could bounce back into the mix with a win on Saturday against Dergview at Tillysburn Park.
Ivan Sproule’s homecoming as Dergview boss ended in defeat to Dundela last weekend at Darragh Park and that aforementioned game at Ferney Park, put more pressure on the Castlederg side as their cushion from the bottom of the league decreased to just two points. One of Dergview’s three wins this season came against the Welders back in August.
Loughgall v Knockbreda (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 2pm)
Dean Smith’s Loughgall have proved to be one of the hardest teams to beat in the Championship in recent weeks, having gone six league games unbeaten since mid-September. In fact the Villagers’ last defeat in the league came against Saturday’s opponents, Knockbreda, as since then they have risen away from the danger area to eighth in the table and could leapfrog their visitors with a win.
Lee Forsythe’s side may have become the latest side to fall the wrong side of league leaders Larne last Saturday, but they can still lay claim to their position in the top half of the table following their solid start to the season.
Carrick Rangers v Ballinamallard United (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena; kick-off: 3pm)
This was a crunch Premiership fixture last season and now it’s an important second tier match up, as Carrick Rangers look to build on the form that has taken them up to fourth in the table after an indifferent start to life back in the second tier this summer. They claimed an impressive 4-1 win over Ballyclare Comrades last weekend and are currently now only three points away from the promotion playoff places.
The Mallards’ immediate task is firmly avoiding back to back relegations and they finally stopped their winless run with a 2-0 home win over HW Welders last weekend. It wasn’t enough to lift Harry McConkey’s men off the bottom of the Championship table, but Ryan Campbell and Ryan O’Reilly’s goals were enough to merit their first three points since the opening weekend of the season in August.
Limavady United v Ballyclare Comrades (venue; Limavady Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)
The Roesiders still remain firmly looking over their shoulder as they hover over the relegation places in tenth with only a one point buffer. Two consecutive draws (against Dundela and Loughgall) in the last fortnight have been encouraging but Sean Friars knows they need to be picking up wins if they want to avoid getting sucked in a battle against the drop.
Stephen Hughes’ Ballyclare Comrades have fallen out of form with three heavy defeats in their last three outings, which has seen them drop to fifth in the table. Neighbours Carrick Rangers knocked four by the Comrades last weekend, which has left the Dixon Park side with the second most conceded goals in the division to date this season. When the two sides met earlier in the season in East Antrim, they played out a 1-1 stalemate.
Portadown v Larne (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Two heavyweights clash at Shamrock Park in a hugely important Bluefin Sport Championship fixture. Hosts Portadown, may have progressed with ease in the midweek Mid Ulster Cup, but they will still be reeling from their shock 3-2 defeat to PSNI last Saturday which opened the gap between these two sides to 13 points in the race for the title.
Larne continue to take each game in their stride and their 2-0 win over Knockbreda was no exception. It’s now all 13 games unbeaten for the Invermen in their quest for a return to the top division for the first time in ten years and with the best defence in the division and best goal difference they will be hard to topple. Portadown did manage to nab a point the last time the two sides met at Inver Park earlier in the season, in a 2-2 draw.
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