Due to the poor weather on Friday night into Saturday morning, only three of the scheduled Bluefin Sport Championship fixtures went ahead. Ballyclare Comrades v Loughgall, Dergview v Limavady United and Dundela v Portadown all ended up being postponed following pitch inspections.
With Larne already having been crowned champions and Limavady having it all to do at the bottom to avoid relegation, some may think it could be a quiet end to the Championship season. But there is still a promotion playoff spot to play for at the top end of the table and a relegation play-off spot to avoid at the other end and with Limavady having a game in hand over second-bottom PSNI. They still have to play their nearest rivals which could rule out a late twist in the automatic relegation battle.
We start our roundup of Saturday’s matches at Ferney Park were Ballinamallard hosted the Harland and Wolff Welders.
Ballinamallard United 3 Harland and Wolff Welders 0
After last week’s 4-1 defeat in an East Belfast derby meeting with Dundela, the Welders parted company with manager Norman Kelly after they lost eight out of nine league games. The club’s U20 manager Laurence Fyfe has taken charge of first team affairs on an interim basis while the club considers its next move.
With promotion being out of reach for Harry McConkey’s Mallards side and a pending Irish Cup semi-final against Warrenpoint there may have been some that felt their minds may not have fully been on Saturday’s league match. That certainly was not the case as goals from Ryan Campbell, a great strike from John Edgar and a further goal from Duwayne McManus put them three goals to the good before half-time.
In the second half, they weren’t quite as dominant but managed to restrict the Welders chances on goal to secure a comfortable victory and climb above their opponents into fifth spot. The Welders will be thankful that due to the league split, they can’t fall any lower than where they currently are in the table as currently, they have fewer points than two of the six sides below them.
Carrick Rangers 1 Larne 0
Carrick made the most of Portadown and Dundela not playing to move seven points clear of Portadown and 10 points clear of Dundela making a spot in the promotion play-offs all but certain for Niall Currie’s men.
Champions Larne started strongly and went close in the first half through Thomas Stewart and Darren Stuart but the game remained goalless until just before half-time when on loan Ballymena defender, Caolan Loughran, scored from the penalty spot for Rangers after Michael Smith had been fouled. Loughran has proven to be a surprising goal threat for Rangers this season with Saturday’s goal being his 10th of the season.
In their last 14 league games, Carrick have fallen to defeat only once, against champions Larne, and will be hoping to continue this momentum as we head towards the playoffs that they are now almost certain to be taking part in.
Knockbreda 5 PSNI 2
Knockbreda took a big step towards safety on Saturday with a thumping victory in this six-pointer against nearby PSNI.
‘Breda started the game strongly and they broke the deadlock in the 21st minute when Ciaran Dobbin headed home after he got on the end of a Jordan Baker flick on from a long throw.
The home side could have doubled their lead before the break but PSNI keeper Dean Smyth pulled off a great save to deny Dylan Wilson. The visitors got back into the game early in the second half when Mark Anderson headed in to level things up.
It wasn’t long though before Knockbreda regained their lead when Darius Roohi finished off a great team move in the 50th minute and further goals from Karl Hamill, David Fearon and a second of the game for Dobbin put them 5-1 ahead. Anderson did manage to pull a goal back with his second goal of the game but it was too little too late…
Saturday’s win puts ‘Breda five points clear of PSNI, who currently occupy the Championship relegation play-off spot. A victory on Saturday would have seen PSNI move out of the relegation zone. As it is they remain two points adrift of safety and six points ahead of 12th placed Limavady but this lead could potentially be cut to three points when Limavady play their game in hand against Dergview this Saturday.
These results leave the league table looking like this:-
This Saturday there are only two matches in the Championship, both matches kick off at 15:00:-
Ballyclare Comrades v Loughgall
Dergview v Limavady United
I’ll be back again later this week to look at Saturday’s five Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League (PIL) matches, in the meantime, you can check out Darren’s latest Danske Bank Premiership roundup HERE and Henry’s NI article HERE.