BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: MATCHDAY 9 PREVIEW

There was a new leader of the Bluefin Sport Championship last week, but it could all change again in this Saturday’s ninth round of games, we look ahead to all the action in our weekly preview.

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

Harry McConkey can close the gap on the top three and edge closer to a promotion playoff place as fourth meets third at Ferney Park on Saturday. The Mallards’ endured a rollercoaster League Cup tie with Linfield in midweek, eventually losing 5-4 to the holders despite leading the game going into the final stages. The Fermanagh men inflicted a first league defeat of the season to early pacesetters Loughgall last week at Lakeview Park.

Dundela claimed the East Belfast bragging rights in the Championship last week with a comeback victory over HW Welders. Tiarnan McNicholl’s winner keeps Bryan McCarroll’s side in third place in the table ahead of the long trip to Ferney Park but have only won once on their travels this season in all competitions – that was against Knockbreda back at the start of August.

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

Comrades boss Paul Harbinson is still searching for his first win since his appointment at the start of the month, his side have lost their last three outings in all competitions and sit just two points above the foot of the table in tenth place going into this crucial game against Knockbreda. Ballyclare were defeated 2-0 by Ards last weekend at the Bangor Fuels Arena.

It’s far too early to talk about relegation six pointers but Lee Forsythe knows this will be a vitally important clash at Dixon Park on Saturday for his Knockbreda team. In the short-term it provides the opportunity to move above their opponents with an away win on Saturday, the East Belfast outfit start the weekend bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship following their fifth defeat of the season to PSNI last Saturday.

Dergview v Portadown (venue: Darragh Park; kick-off: 3pm)

After an indifferent start to the campaign, Ivan Sproule’s Dergview have found a bit of form with back-to-back wins in the last fortnight over Newry City and Ards, coupled with an emphatic 6-0 demolition of Tobermore United in the North West Cup sandwiched inbetween. That has lifted the Castlederg outfit onto the periphery of the top six and a home win on Saturday could catapult the Tyrone side back into contention should they be able to pull it off.

Portadown are now the team to catch in the early stages of this marathon of a Bluefin Sport Championship season. The 3-1 win over Queens University coupled with defeat for leaders Loughgall, sent Matthew Tipton’s side to the top of the table for the first time this season and now they must lead the charge for promotion back to the Premiership, but must navigate through a tough challenge on the road at Darragh Park tomorrow.

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

Another city derby in in the Bluefin Sport Championship sees HW Welders welcome PSNI to Tillysburn Park, with the home side in desperate need of a league victory. Despite the cup heroics of knocking out Premiership opposition in both the League Cup and County Antrim Shield recently, Colin McIlwaine’s side are without a league win in their last four games and remain in the relegation zone after a 3-2 defeat to Dundela last Saturday – they have midfielder Dylan Davidson suspended for this game.

In-form PSNI will go into this game as favourites after a stunning turnaround in form since the start of the season. Four league wins in succession have lifted Sammy McFadden’s side into the top six in the table, the latest of which was their 3-2 win over Knockbreda last week at the Dub.

Loughghall v Ards (venue: Lakeview Park; kick-off: 3pm)

A first defeat of the league season for Dean Smith’s side resulted in the Villagers surrendering their place at the top of the standings to neighbours Portadown. They will look to get back on track at home to Ards on Saturday and will look to the top goalscorer in the division, Nathaniel Ferris to fire the County Armagh side potentially back to the top of the tree.

Life back in the Championship has been inconsistent for Warren Feeney and his Ards team, with only four wins from their opening eight games – the County Down start the weekend in fifth place needing a win to avoid falling further behind the front runners of Portadown, Dundela and Loughgall. Ards defeated Ballyclare Comrades 2-0 last week thanks to goals from Ben Cushnie and Scott McMillen.

Queens University v Newry City (venue: The Dub; kick-off: 3pm)

There may only be a point separating these two sides going into Saturday’s league meeting in South Belfast, but it’s been a tale of contrasting seasons for two clubs that find themselves acclimatising to a new league this season. Queens will be happy with their first season in senior football to date, but must stem the tide of three successive Championship defeats, the latest of which was the 3-1 reverse to Portadown on Saturday.

Darren Mullen’s Newry City sit a point below the Students going into this game and are struggling find any consistent form since dropping down out of the Danske Bank Premiership. They followed up their late win against Ballinamallard United a fortnight ago with a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Dergview last Saturday.