BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 16 PREVIEW

The top six in the Bluefin Sport Championship all face opposition from the bottom six in a gameweek that could shake up the league table at the mid-way point of the league season.

Loughgall v Dergview (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 2pm)

It’s now eight games unbeaten for Dean Smith’s Loughgall going into this weekend’s Bluefin Sport Championship games. The Villagers have gravitated up the table to fourth place, level on points with neighbours Portadown in third but with two extra games played. Loughgall have won four out of their last five league games including last week’s 2-0 win against HW Welders.

Things don’t get any easier for Ivan Sproule’s Dergview – the former Northern Ireland international is without a win since taking the reigns at Darragh Park. Dergview’s dismal run has now stretched to 11 successive defeats in the league after losing 2-0 at home to Carrick Rangers, which has left the Tyrone club two points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Ballinamallard United v Dundela (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 3pm)

November has been the month that the Mallards’ season has turned around with two wins and a draw in their last three games, Harry McConkey has guided the County Fermanagh club out of the relegation zone and into tenth in the league. Ballinamallard played out a scoreless stalemate with PSNI last Saturday.

It was a free week for Dundela last Saturday, as their game against Portadown was postponed due to international call ups. The Duns still remain in second place with a comfortable eight-point advantage over the Ports in third but the gap above them to leaders Larne has now opened up to eleven points, they also have the advantage of having beaten 3-2 the Mallards last month.

Ballyclare Comrades v HW Welders (venue: Dixon Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The injury hit Comrades have dropped down to eighth place after five games without a victory in the league. Stephen Hughes’ side suffered a 3-2 defeat to Knockbreda last Saturday and will be looking to claim victory as they battle for a place in the top six split come January.

The last time these two sides met the Comrades defeated the Welders 4-3 in a thrilling encounter, as Ballyclare came from three goals down to secure a late win. Fast forward and Norman Kelly’s side will now go in as favourites as the fifth placed East Belfast outfit defeated Limavady United in their midweek re-arranged fixture.

Carrick Rangers v Knockbreda (venue: Loughshore Hotel Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s sixth versus seventh at Taylor’s Avenue on Saturday as Carrick Rangers look to hold onto their place in the top half of the table. Goals from Chris Rodgers and Stewart Nixon helped Niall Currie’s side to victory against Dergview last Saturday. They defeated Knockbreda 2-0 back in August when the two sides first met this season.

The East Belfast side go into this game having prevented a third straight loss last weekend, by defeating Ballyclare Comrades at Breda Park, Tiarnan McNicholl’s late winner giving Knockbreda all three points. It keeps Lee Forsythe’s side in seventh knowing that a win tomorrow would allow them to leapfrog their opponents into the top half.

Larne v PSNI (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Tiernan Lynch’s Larne side flexed their muscles with a 6-0 drubbing of Limavady United last week to extend their lead at the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship to eleven points. The Invermen have the meanest defence in the division having only conceded nine goals all term, one of those was against this weekend’s opponents in their narrow 2-1 win back in September at Newforge Larne.

Colin Malone’s PSNI side may be unbeaten throughout November with a win and two draws but they still sit uncomfortably close to the relegation places in ninth, only four points above safety. The South Belfast club drew 0-0 with Ballinamallard United at home last Saturday.

Limavady United v Portadown (venue: Limavady Showgrounds; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s been a difficult week for Sean Friars and Limavady United – back-to-back defeats on Saturday (to Larne) and Tuesday (to HW Welders) mean it is now nine Championship games without a win for the Roesiders. One landmark in Tuesday’s defeat to the Welders was that Hugh Carlin made his 150th appearance for the club.

Third placed Portadown have had a fortnight to lull over the 3-0 defeat to Larne at Shamrock Park which may just have forced them to reassess their ambitions of gainining promotion as league champions. They had a free week last Saturday owing to Declan Dunne and Luke Wilson’s inclusion in the Northern Ireland Under-19 squad, but will be looking to go one better than the 2-2 draw between the sides back in September.

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