Craig McClean (right) takes caretaker charge of Ards following the departure of Warren Feeney (c) Gareth McCluskey / Ards FC

PREVIEW: BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK 18

The Mid-Ulster Derby, a managerial bow for Craig McClean at Ards and can Knockbreda edge closer away from the foot of the table, we look ahead to another exciting Saturday of Bluefin Sport Championship action.

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

The Mallards moved into second place in the Championship last Saturday after getting back to winning ways with a convincing 4-0 away win at Dundela. The brace for veteran striker Ryan Campbell takes him to 13 goals in the league season and keeps the Fermanagh men five points behind leaders Portadown. A repeat of the 4-0 away victory over PSNI in October would suit manager Harry McConkey down to the ground as they continue their promotion push.

PSNI picked up a long overdue victory in style with a 5-3 win against Queens University at the Dub last weekend, Mark Anderson’s double a first win in eight league games for Sammy McFadden’s men. That result moved PSNI out of the bottom two into tenth place with a three point cushion now in place. The focus must be on shoring up the leakiest back-line in the division for the second half of the campaign – the South Belfast club have conceded 49 goals already this term.

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

Ivan Sproule’s Dergview have missed both of the last two weeks of action and subsequently slipped into the relegation zone and have also seen the gap closed to just five points with bottom placed Knockbreda’s victory last week. Defender remains Blaine Burns suspended for the final game of his ban.

Fourth placed Dundela suffered a convincing four goal defeat to the Mallards at home which has knocked Bryan McCarroll’s men out the immediate promotion hunt for the time being – they currently are 14 points behind Portadown with a game in hand. Inconsistency has plagued the East Belfast club since August, as they haven’t managed back-to-back league wins since the opening month of the campaign, their impressive early season form included the 1-0 win against Dergview on the opening day of the season – Christopher Watt’s late goal at Wilgar Park the difference between the two sides.

HW Welders v Ards (venue: Tillysburn Park; kick-off: 2pm)

The Welders must pick themselves back up after the disappointment of the midweek County Antrim Shield semi-final defeat to Ballymena United. Confidence will have been high in the camp after an encouraging 2-1 win against Newry City last Friday night at the Showgrounds, the East Belfast club are currently ninth in the table but will be looking up now and a win against Ards will close the gap on their former Premiership opponents to just three points this weekend.

Ards must prepare for life under Warren Feeney who announced his shock departure for Bulgaria last Saturday morning, Craig McClean will take caretaker charge of the County Down club for the next two matches – starting with the trip to the Welders this Saturday. Ards are currently fifth in the Bluefin Sport Championship table but didn’t feature last week as their game against Dergview was postponed, meaning that midfielder Craig McMillen must still serve the final game of his suspension.

Knockbreda v Newry City (venue: Breda Park; kick-off: 2pm)

It was a long time coming but Knockbreda picked up three points for the first time since the opening day of the season. Still without a permanent manager since the departure of Lee Forsythe, Breda produced the shock of the season to date with a 3-0 victory against title chasing Loughgall, thanks to two goals from David Fearon. Knockbreda still remain bottom of the Bluefin Sport Championship five points behind next placed Dergview (who have a game in hand) but will now have renewed optimism they can avoid the drop.

Back-to-back defeats in the Championship for Darren Mullen’s Newry City have severely dented the promotion hopes of the border club. The latest loss came last Friday night to HW Welders at the Showgrounds. In August there was little between the two clubs as it ended 2-2 at the Showgrounds – late goals from Neil Mullen and John McGovern sealing a point for Newry City.

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

There’s a big Mid-Ulster derby at Shamrock which could have a huge say in the destination of the Bluefin Sport Championship title come the end of the season. Matthew Tipton still has Stephen Teggart suspended but welcomes Callum Ferris back from international duty in time to face brother Nathaniel, who still leads the divisions scoring charts.

Loughgall suffered a major shock defeat to Knockbreda last Saturday, losing 3-0 to the division’s bottom placed club. The second league defeat in three games for Dean Smith’s side has widened the gap to six points on Portadown for the one time league leaders in the race for the title. It was scoreless between the sides when they met on the opening day of the Championship season.

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

Only a point separates Queens and Ballyclare in the table as both clubs will have an eye on three valuable points that could lift them closer to the top six in the Bluefin Sport Championship on Saturday. Peter Thompson’s Queens University side came back down to earth with a bump after losing 5-3 to PSNI last Saturday, the Students had risen to seventh in the table after a good run of form, and currently sit five points behind Ards with a game in hand.

For the Comrades two successive narrow league defeats to Portadown and Newry City in the last fortnight have curtailed progress for Paul Harbinson’s side. They remain in eighth position with hopes of pushing up the league if they can get points on the board, but equally knowing that only four points currently separates them from the relegation zone. A stunning late comeback on the opening day of the season unfolded the last time these two clubs met, with the Comrades coming from 2-0 down with six minutes remaining to win 3-2, they will still be without captain JB Dobbin for this game as he is suspended.