Ards manager Warren Feeney (c) Gareth McCluskey / Ards FC
Thursday, 17 October 2019
It was all change again at the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship last weekend, who could call what will happen this Saturday – we preview all the games in our look ahead to the action!
Ballinamallard United v HW Welders (venue: Ferney Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The Mallards’ ascent up the Championship table in recent weeks came to a halt last Saturday with a shock 2-0 defeat to Ballyclare Comrades at Dixon Park, it was a first league loss in five games for Harry McConkey who missed out on the opportunity to move within two points of the top of the table. The third placed Fermanagh men return home looking to build on their midweek progression to the final of the North West Senior Cup, following a 1-0 win over Limavady United.
It has also been a great week for the Welders as their season finally seems to have taken off. It started last Saturday with an impressive 2-1 win over league leaders Portadown at Tillysburn thanks to goals from Scott Davidson and Matthew Ferguson. That long overdue league victory for the managerial duo of McIlwaine and O’Boyle was backed up with a County Antrim Shield quarter-final victory over league rivals, Ards.
Ballyclare Comrades v Ards (venue: Dixon Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Paul Harbinson ensured the Comrades marked their centenary celebrations with a win last week against Ballinamallard United that lifted the East Antrim side into eighth place in the table. Back to back clean sheets will be one of the most pleasing aspects for the management staff but they will be conscious of the 2-0 defeat in the reverse fixture between these two teams at the Bangor Fuels Arena.
A dismal double blow for Warren Feeney and Ards in the past seven days places even more importance on the trip to Ballyclare this Saturday. The 5-1 reverse to Newry City was a real low point in an erratic season for last season’s relegated side – they then failed to capitalise on the opportunity to progress to the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield, losing 1-0 to HW Welders at home on Tuesday night.
Dundela v Loughgall (venue: Wilgar Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The Duns must bounce back from arguably their most disappointing result of the season to date, losing 5-2 to Queens University last Saturday, only days after their League Cup heroics against Premiership side Larne. Bryan McCarroll’s men are without a league victory since their win over HW Welders in mid-September and must get back to winning ways to maintain their current fourth place berth.
Dean Smith’s Loughgall returned to the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship table with the 2-1 away win at Dergview last Saturday. It was a third successive victory for the Villagers, buoyed by an early goal from the division’s leading goalscorer Nathaniel Ferris – Loughgall capitalised on Portadown’s slip last week to move a point clear at the summit of the second tier.
Knockbreda v Queens University (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 3pm)
Conal Delaney’s goal 10 minutes from time last Saturday against PSNI earned Knockbreda their first point in five games but with other results going against them, the gap at the foot of the table has now opened up to six points. The meeting between these two sides earlier this season, newly promoted Queens University emerged as 3-2 winners in a closely fought encounter. Peter Thompson’s Students picked up their first league victory since August in stunning style last weekend – a 5-2 victory over Dundela with Jonah Mitchell scoring twice for the home side at the Dub. Queen’s start this weekend in tenth position but could conceivably climb as high as seventh if results go in their favour on Saturday.
Portadown v Dergview (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)
The shock defeat for the Ports was a first defeat in nine games for Matthew Tipton’s side as the Championship title race opens up once again, as the Shamrock Park side find themselves in second position - a single point behind leaders Loughgall. Christopher Crane sits out the final game of his three match suspension.
It’s only been four weeks since these two clubs last met – as Portadown came away with a valuable three points at Darragh Park back in September. It was a similar scoreline last weekend for Ivan Sproule’s Dergview against the Ports’ title rivals Loughgall on Saturday.
PSNI v Newry City (venue: The Dub; kick-off: 3pm)
Sammy McFadden’s PSNI side have conceded the most goals in the division and they go up against a Newry City side that struck five goals in their last competitive outing. The South Belfast club failed to overcome bottom placed Knockbreda and are now without a win in their last four league games.
Newry City may be ready to spring into life in the Championship after a resounding 5-1 win over Ards last Saturday in the battle of last season’s Premiership clubs. That result moved City above Ards into fifth place in the table and after three wins in their last four games Darren Mullen’s side may find themselves as dark horses for promotion, they have a nine point gap to make up on the league leaders.