BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 22 PREVIEW

It's crunch-time in the Bluefin Sport Championship as it's the last round of fixtures before the 'split' as four teams fight it out for the two remaining spots in the top half, we look ahead to all the games.

Ballinamallard United v Ballyclare Comrades (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 2pm)

It’s a huge shootout game in Fermanagh with two teams that can’t afford to lose this game. Harry McConkey’s Mallards have dragged themselves within the brink of the top six after a remarkable five wins from their last six games have lifted the side relegated from the Danske Bank Premiership last season back into contention for potential promotion, despite their difficult start to the season.

The Comrades have endured a stop-start season but Jamie Willighan’s late winner against Portadown could be the catalyst for something special as that goal gives Stephen Hughes’ men hope of a place in the top half post-split. Both sides need to win to stand a chance of finishing in the top six and hope that Loughgall fail to get anything from their game with Larne.

Dundela v Carrick Rangers (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Two clubs comfortably secure of their place in the top six are Dundela and Carrick Rangers, but it’s a battle for second place as there is only three points gap between third placed Dundela and their opponents above them, but with the Duns only needing a win. An upturn in form for Bryan McCarroll’s Wilgar Park side has brought them back into promotion contention, as loanee Ryan Nimick scored a late equaliser against Knockbreda last time out.

Carrick Rangers go into this game in second place and in fine form – having won their last four games in sucession, which has included wins over Larne and Portadown and progression in the Irish Cup against Premiership side Ards. However, Niall Currie will want to forget their last meeting against the East Belfast side though, losing 5-0 back at the start of the season.

Knockbreda v Limavady United (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 2pm)

There’s a clash at the bottom of the table between Knockbreda and Limavady United which could have major implications on the relegation battle, as the ten point gap could potentially open up into a 13 point lead between tenth and eleventh with a Knockbreda victory, or alternatively a win for the Roesiders reduces it to seven points with two further games between the sides to play post-split.

Lee Forsythe’s Knockbreda came out on top in the only other game between the two sides this season, winning 2-1 back in August. Limavady United go into this game off the back of an Irish Cup exit to Larne Tech Old Boys in their last game, whilst Knockbreda drew with Dundela last weekend, and came agonisingly close to an East Belfast derby win, but for a late equaliser.

Larne v Loughgall (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 2pm)

Crisis, what crisis? Larne have had the opportunity to regroup with a free week after two defeats in their last three Bluefin Sport Championship games in December – they got back on track with an Irish Cup victory over Newry City of the Premiership in their last game and look to improve on their 13 point lead at the top of the table as they edge closer to promotion back to the top flight for the first time since 2008.

The Villagers from Loughgall may start the afternoon in the coveted sixth place position, but they have arguably the biggest challenge of the hopefuls in securing that come Saturday evening. Dean Smith’s side were defeated 3-2 back in August but only owing to an extremely late winner from Larne defender Paul Finnegan.

Portadown v HW Welders (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 2pm)

It’s fourth versus fifth at Shamrock Park, and Matthew Tipton’s young side can ill afford to drop further points in the race for promotion. They fell to defeat to Ballyclare Comrades last Saturday and slipped out of the promotion playoff places on goal difference, but still hold a four point lead over this weekend’s opponents.

PSNI v Dergview (venue: Newforge Lane; kick-off: 2pm)

Colin Malone’s PSNI will be looking to take a step closer to Championship survival with a win against bottom side Dergview at Newforge Lane on Saturday evening. The South Belfast club swept past HW Welders on Saturday past winning 4-2 with a Nathan O’Neill double.

The Castlederg side are a single point adrift of Limavady United who they are fighting out a tense relegation battle with. A first win as Dergview boss for Ivan Sproule in the Irish Cup against Maiden City has got the monkey off the back for the Tyrone side, who have failed to win a league game since September.b

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