Ards' Caoimhin McConnell pictured with Alyn Spratt from league sponsors, Bluefin Sport (c) Presseye


There are likely to be fireworks in this round of Bluefin Sport Championship fixtures on Saturday, we look ahead to all six games in our gameweek preview.

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

It’s the Fermanagh v Tyrone derby at Ferney Park as the Championship’s two most westerly clubs battle for three important points. The Mallards’ victory over Newry City last weekend moved Harry McConkey’s side closer to the top of the table, they sit third going into the weekend’s games only two points behind both Portadown and Loughgall. Nathan Cashel is suspended for the home side but they can still call upon veteran Ryan Campbell to hit the target, he has nine league goals to date this season including one last Saturday at Newry.

Ivan Sproule’s Dergview by comparison are struggling for form going into the trip to Ballinamallard. Ivan Sproule’s men now sit only a place outside the relegation zone after the 3-0 defeat to HW Welders last Saturday. It’s been a third league defeat in a row for the Castlederg men who did pick up a 2-0 victory against their neighbours earlier in the season, thanks to goals from Paul Smith and Matthew Buchanan.

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

It was a shock win for the Comrades last week against leaders Loughgall, the superb 4-1 result could be the kick-start Paul Harbinson needed for his East Antrim side as they are now only three points away from breaking into the top half of the table for the first time this season. Ballyclare are now unbeaten in their last four league outings going into this round of fixtures.

Newry City make the trip to Dixon Park without two of their influential players, as Mark Hughes and Stephen Moan are both suspended for Darren Mullen’s side. Newry missed out on a place in the semi-finals of the BetMcLean League Cup in midweek after their narrow defeat to Institute - they must refocus on improving their inconsistent league form which sees them start the weekend in sixth place.

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

The Welders moved to safety up to ninth in the Bluefin Sport Championship last Saturday evening following their 3-0 away win against Dergview. The East Belfast club jumped two places after a nervous stay in the bottom two of the division in recent weeks.

Dundela’s midweek League Cup exploits came to an abrupt end with a heavy home defeat to Coleraine. Their attention must return to the East Belfast derby against their neighbours from Tillysburn as they will not want the gap between themselves and the top three to increase beyond the current six point margin. Bryan McCarroll will be without influential defender Jay Magee who is suspended for this clash.

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

The shock 4-1 defeat for Dean Smith’s Loughgall last Saturday, moved Loughgall off the top of the table on goal difference. It was only the second time that the County Armagh club have been the losing side this season – their last defeat was against Ballinamallard United in September. Nathaniel Ferris still leads the division’s goalscoring charts with 11 league goals to date this term.

PSNI have dropped into the relegation places following the 3-0 defeat to Ards – it’s now six games in the Championship without a victory for Sammy McFadden’s men. They will be looking to do better than the 4-1 defeat in the reverse fixture against the Villagers back in August.

Portadown v Knockbreda (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s top versus bottom in Mid-Ulster as despite dropping two points against Queens University last week, Matthew Tipton’s Ports moved back to the top of the table on goal difference as they surrendered a three goal lead with half an hour remaining at the Dub on Saturday past. The previous meeting between the two teams ended in a comfortable 5-0 win for Portadown but Martin Bradley is suspended for the home side this time out..

It’s all change at Knockbreda this week as Lee Forsythe’s tenure came to an end after the 5-0 defeat to Dundela last weekend. Forsythe guided the East Belfast club to two successive tenth place finishes in the Championship but now the Breda Park club find themselves eight points adrift at the foot of the table – heading into a daunting trip to Shamrock Park.

Queens University v Ards (venue: The Dub; kick-off: 2pm)

The Students from Queens University will still be buzzing from their second half fight-back against league leaders Portadown last Saturday, as they came from three goals down with only 30 minutes left to draw 3-3. Defender Ronan Young grabbed the all important equaliser for Peter Thompson’s side as they occupy eight place in a tightly contested bottom half of the Championship table heading into this weekend’s games.

It was a morale boosting win for Warren Feeney’s Ards against PSNI last week, as their 3-0 victory moved the County Down men into fifth place in the table – but remain eight points behind the front two in the race for promotion back to the Premiership. The two clubs met earlier this month at the Bangor Fuels Arena with Ards running out 3-2 winners thanks to a double Dylan Wilson strike.