NIFL Championship

On Saturday there was a full programme of games played and the game that jumped out to me the most was the battle between the bottom two sides, Knockbreda and Dergview, but we start today’s roundup in the middle of the table at the Bangor Fuels Arena where Ards hosted Loughgall.

Ards 3-0 Loughgall

Ards made it two wins from two under newly appointed manager John Bailie as they brushed Loughgall aside with ease.

The home side opened the scoring inside the first 15 minutes of the tie when Kym Nelson got the ball over the line after a David McAllister corner wasn’t cleared by the visiting defence. The lead was doubled shortly before the break as Craig McMillan converted from the penalty spot after a Loughgall defender was adjudged to have handled in the area.

In the second half the visitors put some pressure on but Brian Neeson, in goal for Bailie’s side, saved shots from Jordan Gibson and Nathaniel Ferris, and so the win was secured for Ards in added time through a Kyle Calderwood strike.

Both sides’ league positions remain unchanged after this result but Ards have managed to gain ground on 4th placed Dundela and Loughgall have lost ground on Portadown and Ballinamallard at the top end of the table.

Newry City 4-0 Dundela

Darren Mullen’s Newry City side capped off their final home game of 2019 in style with a fine four-goal winning margin against a Dundela side that went into Saturday’s game hoping to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat to Ards the week before.

Mark McCabe’s 10th league goal of the season and a Matthew Taylor strike had City two goals ahead at the break.

The home side had to be patient in the second half but the third goal did come for Newry with just over 20 minutes remaining through Adam Foley and the same man added his second and Newry’s fourth in the 80th minute to cap a comprehensive win for Mullen’s men.

Portadown 5-0 PSNI

Managerless PSNI are sliding ever closer to the relegation zone as after this heavy defeat away to league leaders Portadown, there is now just a point separating them from the bottom spot.

The Ports went into this game as favourites but had to wait until the 42nd minute for Lee Bonis to head home Ryan Carmichael’s cross to score the first goal of the game.

After this, the floodgates opened and three goals in the first 17 minutes of the second half had Matthew Tipton’s side 4-0 up and the game effectively over, with the Portadown goals coming from Chris Lavery, Adam Salley and a second of the game for Bonis.

Goal number five came after 85 minutes and Carmichael was again the provider, this time crossing for Callum Ferris to score at the near post.

This win keeps Tipton’s side three points clear as they seek a return to the Premiership at the third time of asking.

Harland and Wolff Welders 3-0 Ballyclare Comrades

The Welders went into this game not only hoping for three points to move them further away from the foot of the table, but also hoping to avenge the 8-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Comrades earlier on in the season.

It was just over a week since the East Belfast side had appointed Gary Smyth as their new manager, he returns to Tillysburn Park for a second spell in charge having left for Glentoran 18 months ago after five and a half years in charge of the Welders.

Matthew Ferguson opened the scoring for the Welders in the 38th minute and Ross Arthurs doubled their lead in the early stages of the second half when he headed home a right wing cross.

Ferguson completed the scoring just before the 60-minute mark, his 12th goal of the season, and the three points secured on Saturday opens up an eight-point gap between Smyth’s new side and the relegation zone.

Knockbreda 1-1 Dergview

The bottom two sides went into this game at Breda Park neck and neck, with Dergview holding a slight advantage due to a significantly better goal difference.

Knockbreda have had something of a revival in recent weeks after three wins from their last four league games, while in contrast Dergview went into this game with no wins in their last five games in the Championship

It was the visitors who took the lead just before the break thanks to a Mark McConnell strike but Brendan Bennett secured a point for Colin McIlwrath’s side with less than ten minutes to go, meaning neither side were able to gain any ground over the other.

Queens University 0-2 Ballinamallard United

Harry McConkey’s Ballinamallard side kept pace with Portadown at the top of the table thanks to this win in a potentially tricky tie away to Queens.

United had early chances through Ryan Campbell and Ryan O’Reilly and the former eventually gave United the lead in the 19th minute, the November Championship Player of the Month converting from a Jason McCartney pass.

Queens responded well to going behind but were unable to breakdown their visiting opponents and it was the Mallards who scored again with just over ten minutes remaining through a Matthew Smyth header from a Christopher Kelly cross.

The full Bluefin Sport Championship table can be seen below, with things largely remaining as they were throughout the table:

PosClubPWDLFAGDPts
1Portadown22154348183049
2Ballinamallard United22151653213246
3Loughgall21123643301339
4Dundela219573034-432
5Ards209473430431
6Newry City2093840251530
7Ballyclare Comrades2174103839-125
8Queens University2181124246-425
9HW Welders2073103444-1024
10PSNI2052132669-4317
11Dergview1844102129-816
12Knockbreda2044122448-2416

 

Going into the Christmas midway point it’s looking like a two-horse race for promotion to the Championship with 3rd placed Loughall seven points adrift of 2nd place but of course, the post-split fixtures will have a huge say at both ends of the table.

The following Bluefin Sport Championship games take place on Boxing day, kicking off at 15:00 unless otherwise stated:

Knockbreda v Ards (14:00)

Ballinamallard United v Dergview

Ballyclare Comrades v Newry City

Loughgall v Portadown

I’ll be back tomorrow with the latest from the Premier Intermediate League (PIL) but in the meantime catch up with Bryan’s latest club profile HERE or the latest from the League of Ireland (LoI) with Keith HERE.