NIFL Championship

With everything at the top end of the Championship table pretty much wrapped up, all eyes are on the relegation fight at the bottom where four teams could still mathematically go down, either through automatic relegation or via the promotion/relegation play-off against the team that finishes second in the Premier Intermediate League (PIL). All 12 teams were playing on Saturday and we start first at Dixon Park were Ballyclare hosted Dergview.

Ballyclare Comrades 2 Dergview 3

After looking dead and buried at one point earlier this season Ivan Sproule’s Dergview side took a massive step towards securing their place in the Championship next season. The Castlederg side are now safe from the danger of automatic relegation and a point from their remaining two games will secure safety.

It was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Emmett McGuckin scored from the penalty spot, but the lead was short lived as six minutes later the Comrades were level thanks to a penalty of their own, which Jamie Willighan converted.

McGuckin added two more goals to his tally in the second half to put Dergview two goals to the good and even a late penalty from Willighan was too little too late for the Comrades.

Carrick Rangers 2 Ballinamallard United 1

Niall Currie’s Carrick side were already assured of their place in the promotion/relegation playoff spot, but they’ll be determined to build as much momentum as possible between now and the end of the season.

Ballinamallard may be forgiven for having one eye on the Irish Cup final at the beginning of next month, but it was they who came close to scoring first a number of times through Ryan Campbell and Sean McEvoy, despite Stewart Nixon shooting wide for Rangers.

United opened the scoring in the 43rd minute after Campbell got beyond the Carrick rearguard and beat keeper Liam McAuley, but the joy was short lived as Josh MacIlwaine was sent for an early bath following an off the ball incident meaning the Mallards would have to defend their lead a man less.

Campbell had a glorious chance to double United’s lead just after the hour mark and possibly put the game out of Carrick’s reach, but when one on one with McAuley he couldn’t hit the target.

That would be a miss that United would rue, as goals from Nixon and Caolin Coyle in the final fifteen minutes turned the game on its head and saw Carrick take all the points from this fixture.

Dundela 0 Larne 5

If people were expecting Larne to take their foot off the pedal after being crowned champions they are very much mistaken, as the Invermen made it nine league wins out of nine in 2019 with this convincing win over Dundela at Wilgar Park on Saturday.

It took Larne until the 28th minute to break the deadlock when Ben Tilney picked up the ball after a David McDaid shot had taken a deflection. Tilney rounded Duns keeper Jonathan Sergeant and put the ball into the back of the net. Tilney then turned provider ten minutes later when he crossed for Dominic Tear to score from close range.

The scoring continued ten minutes into the second half when David McDaid scored his 17th goal of the season and he was then replaced by former Glentoran and Dungannon player David Scullion who helped himself to a brace to wrap up a comprehensive win for Tiernan Lynch’s champions.

Portadown 3 Harland and Wolff Welders 1

It’s been a season to forget for the Welders but before last week’s game against Carrick, they confirmed Distillery manager Colin MacIlwaine as their new manager in place of the recently sacked Norman Kelly. MacIlwaine has been joined at the Welders by George O’Boyle, Paul Mateer and Jason Hill who were all members of MacIlwaine’s backroom staff at the Whites.

The new management team were taking charge of the side for the first time after being on a watching brief last week, but they were behind after just twelve minutes when Sean Mackle headed home a Kevin Braniff corner. The Ports controlled the first half and eventually doubled their lead through an Adam McCallum goal from another set-piece.

The Welders did give their supporters and new manager a glimmer of hope when Matthew Ferguson pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute, but it was Portadown who scored again when Chris Lavery scored a goal from long range.

PSNI 0 Limavady United 4

It was do or die for Sean Friars’ Limavady side on Saturday, a defeat against their nearest rivals in the league table would have seen them relegated to the PIL with two games to go, but as it turns out they’ve managed to give themselves a fighting, albeit slim chance of survival.

Whatever Friars said to his side before kick-off clearly worked as they were in front by the fifth minute when full-back Marcus O’Kane crossed to Ryan Logue who finished from close range.

Limavady were in the ascendancy during the first half and added further goals before the break from Gary McFadden and Ryan Doherty. Alex Pomery added the fourth and final goal for a well-deserved Roesiders win.

Knockbreda 0 Loughgall 0

The sixth and final game of the day took place at Breda Park between Knockbreda and Loughgall. Loughgall have little to play for other than pride at this point but Lee Forsythe’s Breda side are far from out of the woods yet in terms of relegation. Knockbreda’s next game is at home to Ballyclare and if they fail to win that game they could go into the last game of the season away to Limavady still facing the possibility of automatic relegation if Limavady win their game against Loughgall.

After Saturday’s matches, the league table going into the final two games looks like this:-

Pos Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Larne 30 24 3 3 80 18 62 75
2 Carrick Rangers 30 18 4 8 53 41 12 58
3 Portadown 30 14 6 10 57 50 7 48
4 Dundela 30 13 6 11 64 56 8 45
5 Ballinamallard United 30 12 3 15 38 44 -6 39
6 HW Welders 30 11 1 18 42 64 -22 34
7 Loughgall 30 11 8 11 59 50 9 41
8 Ballyclare Comrades 30 11 7 12 56 63 -7 40
9 Dergview 30 11 3 16 47 51 -4 36
10 Knockbreda 30 9 7 14 43 59 -16 34
11 PSNI 30 8 7 15 45 68 -23 31
12 Limavady Utd 30 7 7 16 41 61 -20 28


The next round of matches in the Bluefin Sport Championship are on Saturday when the following pictures take place, all games kick off at 3:00pm:-

Dundela v Carrick Rangers

Knockbreda v Ballyclare Comrades

Larne v Harland and Wolff Welders

Loughgall v Limavady United

Portadown v Ballinamallard United

PSNI v Dergview