Larne are on the verge of the Bluefin Sport Championship title (c) Presseye
Friday, 08 March 2019
The Bluefin Sport Championship winners could be crowned on Saturday in a huge week of action in the second tier, we preview all the matches.
Dundela v HW Welders (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The Duns must bounce back from back-to-back defeats in the last two outings if they want to keep their lingering hopes of a place in the playoffs alive at Wilgar Park on Saturday. Their defeat to Carrick Rangers two weeks ago opened up a nine point gap between the sides, but they will be looking for results elsewhere to help close the five point gap to third place above them, currently occupied by Portadown.
Making the short trip across East Belfast for this derby clash, HW Welders have struggled for form since the split as defeat to Larne at home a fortnight ago meant it was three defeats from three for Norman Kelly’s side who ultimately will face the reality of accepting their position in the Championship again for another year.
Knockbreda v Limavady United (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 3pm)
A series of draws for Lee Forsythe’s Knockbreda and the form of Dergview in recent weeks have left the East Belfast side with a sweat on, they start the afternoon in ninth place but with only a three point cushion from the relegation playoff places. The last meeting between these two sides ended in a 1-0 victory for Limavady United back in January with Gary McFadden bagging the winner.
Time is slowly running out for Sean Friars and his bottom placed Limavady United side as they need to find eight points over their nearest placed club with only six games remaining to avoid automatic relegation to the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League next season. The Roesiders have been cut adrift at the bottom of the table after a season which has only produced four victories, they did though claim the North West Senior Cup last weekend on penalties following victory over Institute.
Larne v Ballinamallard United (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 3pm)
This is the day Larne fans have been waiting for, they will know that just a point will secure the Bluefin Sport Championship title with five games to spare. It will potentially be the first time the Invermen will have played in the top-flight since 2008 should they be promoted tomorrow in what is expected to be another bumper crowd at Inver Park. Though they must pick themselves up from the extra time Irish Cup disappointment of defeat to Coleraine last Friday night.
By contrast the sixth placed Mallards travel will travel to Larne from Cloud Nine on Saturday, after reaching the semi-finals of the Irish Cup for the first time in their history. Harry McConkey led the Fermanagh side to the last four of the competition following their win over Dungannon Swifts on penalties. Ballinamallard United could well be in East Antrim to spoil the party, they already have defeated the Champions-elect back in December – in a game which was Larne’s first defeat of the league season and one of only two losses suffered to date.
Loughgall v Dergview (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Whilst Loughgall may have virtually assured themselves of retaining their place in the second-tier next season. Pride will be at stake to finish the season as high up the table as possible. They also have the virtue of winning both the previous meetings between the sides this season already – including an impressive 6-0 win against Dergview back in November.
Ivan Sproule’s Dergview are one of the inform teams in the NI Football League at the minute – five successive wins have suddenly catapulted the Castlederg side from the bottom of the Championship into the safety of tenth place. They will still need to pick up points to avoid dropping back into the relegation places again before the end of the season but manager Ivan Sproule has injected some real optimism into his side.
Portadown v Carrick Rangers (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Whilst the primary focus will be on happenings at Inver Park – there is an equally huge Championship fixture at Shamrock Park as second meets third in the battle for promotion. Former Portadown boss Niall Currie takes his second placed Carrick Rangers side to his former employers with a four point advantage. Carrick Rangers came from behind a fortnight ago to win 3-2 against Dundela and delay the title party at rivals Larne.
The two sides could conceivably meet again in the promotion playoffs as they both aim to make a return to the Danske Bank Premiership next season. Matthew Tipton’s Ports suffered a 1-0 defeat to Ballinamallard United in their last outing and will be looking for their first win over Carrick this season, having lost both the previous outings back in December.
PSNI v Ballyclare Comrades (venue: Newforge Lane; kick-off: 3pm)
Colin Malone’s PSNI have dropped down into the relegation playoff places in recent weeks after their defeat to relegation rivals Dergview last time out. The loss of key players in January has not helped the South Belfast club going into the final six games of the Championship season.
The Comrades start the weekend in eighth place but have already defeated Saturday’s opponents on the opening day of the season back in August. Stephen Hughes’ drew their last game 1-1 against Knockbreda.
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