Welcome back to our coverage of the Bluefin Sport Championship, which has been relaunched as of this week and will now become a regular feature again on the overtheturnstile.uk site.
Last weekend there were only two games in the Championship with four out of the six games that were due to be played falling victim to the poor weather conditions that hit Northern Ireland at the weekend and have continued so far into this week.
Nevertheless, I’ll be covering both games that did take place and taking a look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures.
We start this week with Friday night’s game between Newry and league leaders, Portadown.
Newry City 1-2 Portadown
Portadown went into Friday night’s game at the Newry Showgrounds top of the table but only leading Dean Smith’s Loughgall side on goal difference, any type of result would have put the pressure on the Villagers to get a result from their scheduled game on Saturday against the Welders the following day.
It’s been a frustratingly inconsistent season for Darren Mullen and his Newry side following relegation from the Premiership last season. They currently find themselves sitting in 5th place in the table before Friday’s game, but they will no doubt be looking back on dropped points against the Welders, PSNI, Knockbreda and Dergview who are currently below them in the table. Maximum points from those games could have had them sitting top of the league heading into this game.
City took the lead in the 18th minute of the game when Mark Hughes converted from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by Stephen Taggart. Both sides had further chances to score but were denied by Bobby Edwards in goal for the Ports or his counterpart Andy Coleman.
The home side held onto their lead until around the hour mark when an Adam Salley brace turned the game on its head within seven minutes, the Ports striker firstly headed home from a Taggart cross and then scored the rebound after Coleman had saved Luke Wilson’s initial shot.
The Ports had to work for their win though and Edwards was called into action late in the game as he pulled off a wonder save to preserve the three points for his team. A bonus for Matthew Tipton’s side was that Loughgall’s game the following day was postponed meaning they hold onto top spot on their own for a while longer in their bid to return to the Premiership at the third time of asking.
Ards 3-2 Ballinamallard United
Similarly to Newry, Ards have found adapting to life back in the Championship a bit of a challenge at teams and much like the border club they will be looking at games they will have been expected to get more points from as being a huge disappointment, this left them sitting in 6th spot and 15 points off the top going into this game.
Ballinamallard went into the game in 3rd place and Harry McConkey’s men had only suffered one defeat in their previous seven league games. The Mallards had an opportunity to move into 2nd place in the table due to Loughgall’s game being called off.
The home side took the lead in the 19th minute thanks to a Michael McLellan finish but they couldn’t hold out until the break as Nathan Cashel headed the visitors level right before half-time and six minutes into the second half they were ahead thanks to a great goal from Callum Moorehead.
Ards, however, kept plugging away and got their rewards with 15 minutes to go when David McAllister headed in an equaliser and to Ballinamallard’s dismay they were able to snatch a winner deep into injury team when Scott McMillan scored. This result means that Ards move up to 5th in the table, above Newry and level on points with Dundela. Ballinamallard remain in 3rd place, two points off 2nd and five off 1st.
These results leave the league table looking like this:-
This week there are five games due to take place in the Championship with the following game taking place on Saturday at 14:00, unless otherwise stated:-
Ballyclare Comrades v Portadown (Friday night at 19:45)
Newry City v Harland and Wolff Welders (Friday night at 19:45)
Dundela v Ballinamallard United
Loughgall v Knockbreda
PSNI v Queens University