Action from Ballinamallard United v Loughgall last Saturday in the Championship (c) Mervyn Smyth / Ballinamallard United

PREVIEW: BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK 20

We look ahead to another big week of Bluefin Sport Championship action as a busy month could change the promotion landscape starting on Saturday!

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

Jordan Malone rescued a point for Paul Harbinson’s Comrades last week at home to Dergview, a result which keeps the East Antrim men in seventh place in the table. The Comrades are currently only three points away from breaking into the top half of the table, they now are tasked with going one better than their scoreless stalemate in the previous meeting between these two sides in October.

The Duns also picked up a similar result last Saturday, themselves also drawing 1-1 with league leaders Portadown. They had led since the 35th minute through Eoin Kane but failed to hold out for all three points against the Ports. That point wasn’t enough though as the gap between fourth place Dundela and third placed Loughgall has now extended to seven points.

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

There’s a crunch relegation clash at Darragh Park as Ivan Sproule welcomes PSNI to Castlederg knowing that a win would move his club out of the drop zone, at the expense of their weekend opponents. Dergview couldn’t see out their lead at Ballyclare Comrades on the road last week and had to settle for a point – but it did stop their losing run of five consecutive defeats going into that game.

Recent form doesn’t make any better reading for PSNI either, they succumbed to a 4-1 defeat to HW Welders at their temporary home of the Dub last Saturday. It’s only one win in their last ten league games which has seen Sammy McFadden’s men fall down the standings, their early season form now seems a distance memory which includes a Tony Tumelty brace in the 3-1 win against PSNI back in August.

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

The Championship’s bottom club Knockbreda pulled of a shock 3-2 win against Ards last Saturday, which shows there is still life in the East Belfast outfit yet as the gap at the bottom is now cut to just two points. Another win on Saturday could move them off the foot of the table if other results go their way and it is not unfeasible given one of their three league victories this season came against Ballinamallard on the opening Saturday in August.

Harry McConkey’s promotion hopes took a knock as they dropped points to Loughgall at home, with the Villagers now breathing down their necks again with only a point separating the teams in second and third. The Fermanagh club did have something to celebrate this week as veteran striker Ryan Campbell picked up the NI Football Writers’ Championship Player of the month.

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

After a rocky period, Loughgall are definitely not out of the promotion hunt just yet after a 3-2 win against fellow chasers Ballinamallard United at Ferney Park last week. Two goals from Nathaniel Ferris moved him back to joint top of the Championship’s goalscoring charts last week but more importantly moved Dean Smith’s side within a point of second place.

Newry City ground out a 1-0 win at home to Queens University to further solidify their position in the top half of the standings, they are currently fifth in the table but sit nine points off the promotion pace if they were to return to the Danske Bank Premiership at the first time of asking. The two sides have met twice this season and have shared a win apiece with Loughgall grabbing the league points and Newry knocking Loughgall out of the League Cup.

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

Despite drawing against Dundela last week, Portadown manager Matthew Tipton has taken a further step forward towards promotion as their lead has increased to six points at the top of the Bluefin Sport Championship. The Ports have enjoyed an unbeaten November as they stretch their sequence of games without losing to seven – having already defeated Ards 4-2 at the Bangor Fuels Arena – they will certainly be looking to extend that run to eight games!

Craig McClean takes caretaker charge of Ards for the second and final time, he has withdrawn from the running for a permanent appointment as the County Down side look to appoint a permanent successor to Warren Feeney. It was a disappointing defeat for Ards against bottom club Knockbreda on Saturday past, in a season that really hasn’t got going yet – they currently are in sixth place in the table.

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

There’s an all-city clash at the Dub as Queens University host HW Welders with only two separating the clubs in the league table. Peter Thompson’s side lost 1-0 to Newry last time out and currently occupy ninth position in the standings. Despite an encouraging first season in senior football, they have already lost to the Welders this season, 2-1 back in August.

The resounding 4-1 win for the Welders against PSNI last Saturday was the biggest league win of the season to date for the East Belfast club as they made it three wins from four games in the Championship as Colin McIlwaine and George O’Boyle look to climb the table in the second half of the season. The East Belfast club start the weekend in eighth position in the second tier.