NIFL Championship

We’re taking a break from the top flight today as we turn our attention to the Bluefin Sport Championship, with the first set of games of 2020 taking place on Saturday past. There were five games played in the second tier with Dergview v Dundela falling victim to the weather. We start at the Bangor Fuels Arena with Ards hoping to continue their resurgence under John Bailie.

Ards 2-2 Ballyclare Comrades

Ards have been in fine form since John Bailie replaced Warren Feeney in the manager’s seat, the North Down side went into Saturday’s game against the Comrades after three league wins in a row and 14 goals in the process.

Despite their recent form the home side did find themselves behind in the 20th minute when Joe Tully scored from the penalty spot after a Jordan Malone penalty was handed by William Armstrong.

Bailie’s side fought back and equalised just over ten minutes after going behind when Kym Nelson headed home from another set-piece but the visitors regained the lead before the break when Tully added his second goal of the game.

Ards were the width of the crossbar away from getting back on level terms after a Michael McLellan strike but they did eventually get their equaliser when David McAllister’s strike on goal found its way into the path of Craig McMillan who fired past Ben McCauley.

Ballinamallard United 1-2 Loughgall

Defeat at home to Loughgall on Saturday did no good to Ballinamallard’s title hopes and in turn their chances of securing an automatic return to the Premiership at the second time of asking.

The visitors took an early lead when Nathaniel Ferris headed past veteran ‘keeper John Connolly in the 7th minute but The Mallards equalised shortly after when top scorer Ryan Campbell scored his 20th league goal of the season.

Both sides had chances to take the lead with Connolly being on hand to deny Ferris from scoring his second of the game and United were unable to force the ball home following a scramble in front of goal but eventually it was Dale Malone who scored the winner for The Villagers from a free-kick.

Defeat now leaves United trailing Portadown by six points but on a slightly more positive note they still lead Saturday’s opponents by seven points.

Newry City 3-0 PSNI

Newry have struggled at times this season against the sides below them in the table so will have been wary going up against managerless PSNI on Saturday, when the two sides met at The Showgrounds earlier in the season it was the Belfast side who took the three points.

There was to be no repeat of that result this time though as Darren Mullen’s side raced into a three-goal lead before the break thanks to Adam Foley’s 13th goal of the season and further strikes from Mark Hughes and John Boyle.

City continued to dominate the game after the break with PSNI’s young keeper being called into action numerous times throughout the second half to prevent an even heavier scoreline.

Harland and Wolff Welders 2-4 Portadown

Portadown continued their march towards promotion at Tillysburn Park on Saturday thanks to this win over the Welders on Saturday.

The Ports were 2-0 up after 30 minutes thanks to goals from Lee Bonis and former Linfield striker Adam Salley but the game wasn’t over as Luckas Gwiazda pulled a goal back for the home side from close range with just under ten minutes of the first half remaining.

After the break David Graham had a couple of chances to equalise for Gary Smyth’s side but was unable to do so and the Welders would regret those missed opportunities as Liam McKenna scored to restore Matthew Tipton’s men’s two-goal lead and Salley added his second of the game to make it 4-1.

David Graham was able to pull a further goal back late in the game but for the East Belfast side it was a case of too little too late.

Queens University 4-0 Knockbreda

Knockbreda went into this game knowing that even a draw would see them climb off the bottom of the table due to the fact that Dergview were not in action but if Colin McIlwrath’s side thought that Peter Thompson’s side would be lacking focus following last week’s momentous Irish Cup win against Linfield they were very much mistaken.

Ben Mulgrew scored the first goal of the game for The Students in the 14th minute and it was 2-0 not long before half-time as Matty Hughes scored his 12th goal of the season.

Match winner from the Blues game, Jonah Mitchell, added goal number three for Queens shortly after the break and the scoring was completed in the 78th minute through Phillip Traynor.

These results mean the Championship table now looks like this:-

2Ballinamallard United24161757233449
6Newry City22104844261834
7Queens University23101125046431
8Ballyclare Comrades2376104142-127
9HW Welders2273123649-1324


There are six games taking place in the Championship this week with the following games kicking off at 15:00 on Saturday, unless otherwise stated:-

Ards v PSNI (Friday, 19:45)

Knockbreda v Harland and Wolff Welders (Saturday, 14:00)

Queens University v Newry City (Saturday, 14:00)

Ballyclare Comrades v Dergview

Dundela v Loughgall

Portadown v Ballinamallard United